If you’re new to Bees Made Honey In The Vein Tree your first assumption about the group from Stuttgart could be that they are some kind of Earth tribute act. And both the Drone as well as the more laid back Bees Made Honey In The Lion’s Skull sound of Dylan Carlson are indeed part of their DNA. But those strands are also only a small fraction of everything their third studio album has to offer.
I’ve had the pleasure of following at least a bit of this band’s evolution over the course of several shows now and it’s no exaggeration when I count them among my favourite German live acts in Metal and adjacent genres. Not only their fantastic 2019 album Grandmother, but also last year’s live album Harvestmen impressively confirmed that assessment. The latter already gave us a taste of the then unreleased nine-minute track “Threatening” and one might think that’s quite a big chunk to give away beforehand. But now this song has grown larger to twelve minutes and it’s embedded into a huge eighty(!)-minutes album, on which four tracks crack the ten-minute mark and one even passes twenty. So ultimately everything is relative, isn’t it?
The one favour I cannot do you is to warn you where this long Beeast gets tedious, because it simply never does, despite its deep ventures into genres which traditionally don’t shy away from asking the listener for patience. To achieve that it helps immensely that Bees Made Honey In the Vein Tree always try to go into a slightly different direction with each and every song, which also makes it impossible to put them into one specific box for long.
But of course there are a couple of threads keeping this trippy heavy album together. There are many long instrumental passages, and the lyrics - once they occur - are short, evocative and cryptic. But most importantly there’s just no room for half-assery, no matter which way the band takes a song. You’re never under the impression that they’re venturing into realms unfamiliar to them, because they so confidently make them all their own. While the arrangements serve the overall picture and don’t draw your attention too much towards anyone specifically showing off, the individual performances are indeed great. Take the drums for example: On first listen you probably won’t realise what an animal Marc Dreher actually is - at least not nearly as soon as during a live show, where seeing him perform while also delivering lead vocals makes that clear immediately. For the listening experience of Aion this ultimately means that - while there’s no doubt about the quality of the songs right from the first impression - there are many subtle layers to lift once your ear starts investigating what actually makes all of this so awesome.
But let’s not approach this too intellectual! First and foremost this is a giant, elegantly drifting space whale of Doom.
When an album can engulf you in bliss without a dull moment for one hour, that’s already impressive. Aion does this while moving from soundtrack-ish floating Ambient textures to pulsating Heavy Psychedelic, from Drone Doom and ethereal Post Rock to dry fuzziness, which sometimes – in a good way – feels like dressing up as Slomatics (including the singer/drummer shouting like a prophet from a holy mountain top).
But then, after said hour, after “Scouring the Land” in complete peace of the soul, when nobody would complain if it was over, these Bees are still ready to play their greatest card with their by far longest track. You can effortlessly picture the great “Grey Wels” majestically sliding through his realm in hazy dark waters all through this song, while waves of epic guitars, atmospheric keys and dreamy harmonious vocals wash over you and finally lead you into a climax which sounds like a crossbreed of Mike Vest’s Bong and the wild French Psych Rock sensation Slift. And if you know those names and that destination alone isn’t worth the journey for you… well then I guess you just wasted your time even reading as far as this? Or do you always peak at the bottom of the review for the conclusion first? Sneaky!