BLAK - El Tall d’Escil·la


El Tall d’Escil·la is an invitation to feel without eyesight - BLAK

It’s no secret that one of the highlights for me this year was going to be the new album from the guys of Roda De Ter, Catalonia. I’m talking about the Instrumental virtuosos BLAK. Very occasionally, there are albums that get released without any drama or fanfair but as soon as you hear it, it speaks to you on a level that is hard to explain. Back in 2017 Between Darkness and Light did exactly that, and since that release I’ve been keeping a close an eye on this very talented collective. To further add to the allure of this forthcoming release, BLAK are also part of the Elusive Sound family, a record label that deserves all the accolades they’ve received over the years. Put the two together and you have a match made in “post music” heaven. I am also hearing that this could well be one of the last albums to grace the Elusive Sound hallways, which makes this release all the more special for me.

So, let me give you the idea behind the new album’s title. El Tall d’Escil·la (Scylla’s Cut) ,tells a story of Nisos, who was the king of Megara and he possessed a single lock of purple hair which granted the city invincibility. His daughter, called Scylla, fell in love with Minos, king of Crete when he invaded Megara. In order to win his heart, Scylla cut off her father’s purple lock from his head and presented it to Minos. Minos, disgusted with her lack of filial devotion, tied Scylla to the bow of his ship until she drowned. It’s a sombre and hearbreaking end to Scylla’s life, however this kind of tragedy can play into the hands of bands like BLAK, who can musically narrate and express the despair and dejection with great skill and elegance. BLAK have the gift of reaching into the depts of your soul and bringing out all the emotions you have concealed and kept under wraps. Music is a powerful tool when it’s in the right hands and BLAK are craftsmen for sure. It will all make sense when you immerse yourself into Sylla’s cut, and let the music take hold and carry you to where it needs to go.

The opening track “Contra nosaltres quan siguem forts” (Against ourselves when we’re strong) begins with the most humble and haunting tremolo guitar work that just rolls and sweeps along in sympathetic melancholy. Its heart-breaking tone is BLAK at their unmistakable best. Dense hollow drums march forward, paraded alongside guitars that literally weep through every string and chord. Like a marionette, BLAK’s music has a tight grip of your heart strings from the outset. They have complete control, flexing and tugging on every emotion, releasing pulses that propel moments of utter joy and equally, heart-breaking lows. This kind of emotion is something that BLAK mastered on their debut release Between Darkness and Light and have purposefully continued here on El Tall d’ Crashing drums release a mini crescendo that quickly falls to a gentle guitar passage allowing the percussions take a step back and fall deep into the background. Some classically influenced guitars continue their sweet lullaby as the strings reverb and shimmer on contact. When the track finally does explode, the riffs are heavy and intense with drumrolls and a rich bass guitar orchestrating proceedings. The music drifts between passages of hard-hitting power notes and soft delicate recesses. Everything about this track is beautiful however, the melody is the star of the show as it soars and navigates through the great wide open. The notes hurtle skyward like a ball of fire that combusts and burns off into vast open skies.

“Descens al Pathos” (Descend into the pathos) doesn’t hold back as the intro whips up a storm of heaving riffs and thrashing drums, that somehow manage to harmonise effortlessly and bring a gorgeous and emotive wall of sound along with them. The rhythmical flow soars and dips, throwing out beautifully melancholic symphonies that could quite literally break your heart. It’s four minutes of thundering, unadulterated bliss, with trademark orchestral passages that bring serenity and calm to everything, as guitars continue to wallow and weep their requiem. It doesn’t take long before you are once again engulfed in heaving beauty and passionate swells as the track riffs and chugs its way to a thunderous finale.

After the blistering highs of “Descens al Pathos”, “Mig de tot” (half of everything) cradles you back into its arms with dark forlorn guitars and soft solemn drums, all wrapped in a downtrodden bass line. The patient build-up is as always, full of sentimentality and emotion. The drums are almost procession-like as the track plods its route to its resting place. The crescendo’s ascent begins without ever reaching the climatic flurry you anticipated, instead it releases itself, and fades out into the black.

Tremolo playing is nothing new in post-rock and has been used by so many bands and in so many compositions. When it’s done right however, it’s a thing of beauty. In my opinion, BLAK are truly skilled artisans. Their melodies are sombre and tormented while their timing and pitch is precise. On the final track “Trepitjar el buit” (step into the void) the guitaring talent is evident for us all to admire once more as it merges beautifully with a deep brooding bass guitar and rolling drums. As it’s the final track you can sense that the closing crescendo will reach fever pitch and you are not left disappointed. The track shifts through several key changes while all the time building on that sweet and captivating melody. Just when you think the emotion and passion cannot possibly be surpassed, something truly wonderful and unexpected happens. Like a cannonball through your chest, a vocal proclamation detonates and caterpults the track to an intocxicating and delirious place. Its impassioned scream is both volatile and frenzied. It’s truly unexpected but damn it hits hard and has you clenching your fists in utter aural euphoria. Screams of “Sento que caic, I alla baix tot se’m fa massa nou, tot se’m fa massa fosc. M’ensorro I alla dalt tots m’esteu mirant soc un pes mort?” (I feel falling, and down there everything’s too new, everything’s too dark. I collapse and up there your all looking at me. Am I a dead weight?) raises every hair on your body. It’s all hugely exhilarating and incredibly uplifting.

As I said before, nobody can bring emotion to music like BLAK. It seeps from every pore and rolls down the sleeves that bear their hearts. For me, this band has something very special within them. Blending rock with beautiful tremolo picking and classically influenced song structures, they can catalyse emotions far beyond the music. On a personal level Between Darkness and Light was a very important album for me, and it’s an album that remains close to my heart, but it needs to be said that musically, El Tall d’Escil·la has surpassed it. The song writing, the compositions, the production and the execution have all been intensified. There are so many powerful albums already released that are favourites for being the albums of the year, one such album being from their Elusive Sound comrades. But I believe I have just listened to, and written about my album of the year. 2021 has just gotten a whole lot better, and I cannot wait to see what magic Elusive Sound will summon up with the vinyl release.