Northumbria: All Days Begin as Night
Altar of Waste Records

Unlike the untitled debut set issued on TQA Records in 2012, All Days Begin as Night isn't a full-fledged Northumbria collection but rather a forty-three-minute remix set featuring one original by the Toronto-based outfit and four versions of other Northumbria tracks by Theologian, Famine, Witxes, and Aidan Baker. A so-called “ambient metal” duo, Northumbria was birthed in 2011 by guitarist Jim Field and bassist Dorian Williamson as a vehicle for improvised dronescaping drawn from influences as diverse as industrial metal and post-rock.

As stated, Northumbria contributes a lone original to the release, but it's a good one, with “All Days Begin as Night” offering a haunting representation of the duo's carefully sculpted dronescaping. Wielding nothing else but amplified guitar and bass and recording live, the one-time Holoscene members serve up a scarred dystopia of guitar moan and bass throb for eight ultra-brooding minutes. As strong is Theologian's treatment of “The Sanguine Moon,” which perpetuates the foreboding mood set by Northumbria, Theologian peppering the material's still-simmering ruins with repeated blasts until the whole swells into a crushing assault of terrifying proportions.

Less harrowing by comparison, Witxes' “Bewitxed” makeover of “Black Sea of Trees” unspools at a more controlled level without betraying the essence of the Northumbria sound, while Aidan Baker's “Isolation” remix of “Lux Lunae” shudders ominously, with Baker holding its slow burn to a level of simmering immolation. In an arguable misstep, Famine errs in grounding its otherwise fine “Threnody” treatment with glitchy electronica rhythms, a move that dilutes the impact of Northumbria's music by tethering it too solidly to earth. Though All Days Begin as Night includes but one Northumbria original only, it's powerful enough to make one eager to hear more from the group.

January 2014