Review: A Million Dead Birds Laughing – To The Ether 7

  • A Million Dead Birds Laughing
  • To The Ether
  • Tech Death/Grindcore
  • Melbourne, Australia
  • 2019
  • 7/10

Bandcamp

A Million Dead Birds Laughing initially caught my attention with their 2012 LP Xen, which was a radical sound to me at the time, having not really explored any grindcore or mathcore. Now that I have caught up quite a bit they’ve gone ahead and wandered away from that genre description almost entirely, which definitely caught me off guard. AMSBL are recognizable by their use of interesting imagery on their covers across their discography that pair well with the esoteric track titles. There’s been a growing sense of European mysticism… if that makes any sense. Is that a sound? This doesn’t sound like much else in Australia. I’ve always appreciated their subversive nature but for me this is one of their less original releases on an international scale. There’s obvious comparisons to be drawn between To The Ether and releases last year by Rivers Of Nihil and Rolo Tomassi.

“Black Hole Spirit” alone gives me a strong Akercocke vibe. What used to be more straight up metalcore/deathcore vocal hysteria is now significantly measured and patient, offering up only portions of the older style in small playful moments. The new style isn’t better or worse, I wouldn’t bother comparing them – what is evident is the growth as musicians, particularly the vocals which feel matured now. A lot of wide higher notes used, similarly to Cattle Decapitation‘s inclusion of cleaner vocals on The¬†Anthropocene Extinction. There’s also really deep death vocals that I’m guessing are somehow reliant on the mic, it’s a very unnatural but still really cool sound. It almost merges into humming or shamanic choir at times. The only meta comparison I will make is that their EP released prior to this, Umbilical Dystrophy / Air Missile Defense Battle Lab, felt like a quicker and tighter version of To The Ether. One thing they’ve dropped in this album is the goth rock moments which I consider a shame as they were always an exciting transition. I guess that’s the cost of rapid experimentation.

I like this subtle cover art by View From The Coffin. Big fan of triangles, of course but I also really like the archway used in the framing and the mystical purple smoke. It doesn’t demand your full attention at first glance but does reward those who look longer which I’d say is also a suitable description of the album as well. It’s always good when these two things line up. There’s an element of “simple complexity”, is that a thing? I need to stop making things up.

“Pink Smoke // Vacuum Rot” is the highlight for me. This is when it feels like the album is kicking off again after a long lull. Some kind of caustic cosmic event taking place inside the ether, their impulsive side presents it’s self here – a violent awakening. It can’t persist the entire track though, every time they ramp up they seem to get taken by dreams yet again. They always find a way to release the chaotic energy back down to a sleepy or melodic tone, like the release of a graceful bird. It reminds me of I Loved You At Your Darkest by Behemoth in this theatrical way. The only issue is they pretty much objectively overused the ambiance and didn’t provide enough of a boner. It doesn’t need much more spice, just a pinch to finish it off nicely.

As an entry point to this band, it could be a really solid release for many people this year. If you do enjoy it I would encourage you to then look back through their discography and get a sense of their style history. They have a lot of variation but they’ve always been committed to radical ideas in music. I think it’s pretty awesome that they started off as something inaccessible to most metalheads and now they’ve ended up quite palatable. I wouldn’t count on that for long though, who knows what they will produce next.

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