Best of 2012 — 2. EAGLE TWIN, ‘The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale’ (Southern Lord)

eagle twin cover
Eagle Twin’s sophomore record “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale” was an instant classic the first time I heard it. A sludgy, doom-infested record that combines crows, snakes, Biblical Adam, and destruction sounds about as metal as it gets, and the Salt Lake City-based duo’s approach toward their art is unique, unsettling, and maybe even a little too abrasive and weird for some audiences. Maybe that’s why this masterful record hasn’t ended up on more best-of lists. That has to be the reason, because I can’t figure out any other logical explanation for why adulation hasn’t been showered down on this album. That’ll be our job, then, as I cannot say enough good things about this great document.

Guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley and drummer Tyler Smith not only comprise an impressive and powerful band in the studio, they also become a totally different beast live when they reinterpret their music. It’s anything goes, a 30-minute, non-stop slab of improvisation and inroads back to their albums. Seeing them live on their tour with Earth provided that hammer-home moment for me, when I realized just how great “The Feather” is, and it was a soul-moving experiences hearing this stuff performed by the duo on stage. I’ve had this record since late summertime, and it’s been in regular rotation for me, be it in the car, at work, or at home on my turntable. It’s one of the most impressive albums I’ve heard in some time, a collection that elevated the band in my mind to one I really liked to one that is one of my favorite groups in metal.

Today, we celebrate “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale,” a crushing piece of doom that also will have your mind and heart racing and, if you’re as intrigued as I was, you going for some books. If you haven’t checked this thing out yet, do so right now. See if your world isn’t as devastated and quaked as mine was after spending ample time with this masterpiece. We had a chance to ask Densley some questions about the record, the band, and the mysterious liner notes in their record jacket that seems to put their future in question. Thanks a million to him for taking the time, and to his band for this great record.

eagle twin

Meat Mead Metal: We’re naming Eagle Twin’s “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale” as the No. 2 metal album of the year. It’s a really killer record that I’m surprised hasn’t gotten more adulation than it has. How do you feel about the final product?

Gentry Densley: We are very happy with the record!  We had it done a year before it came out.  I guess that gave us a chance to get everything just the way we wanted, which was a blessing.  The sounds we got were great and everything was expertly captured by Randall Dunn. There was a lot of dark stuff we were working through in our personal lives, and it made its way into this record and intensified it.

MMM: Your lyrical references certainly are steeped in Biblical folklore, Adam, the origins of humankind, serpents and crows, judgment, death, etc. It also sounds quite involved and personal. What inspires this story? What are you trying to say on this record, and how does it relate to what went down in “The Unkindness of Crows”?

GD: We been brought low by certain circumstances, suffering for no good reason, like Job.  Poisoned by knowledge best left unknown.  The lofty bird had been turned into the lowly snake.  The music at one point imitates the mutation.  The material for the record became entwined in our lives, and I wasn’t sure whether it was life imitating art or vice versa.  We thought we should take the album in a direction that brings us back to the Crow.  That material always felt more … like us, like where we wanted to get back to.  Crow doesn’t care about society or God, he just does his thing, and sometime has a bit of fun while doing it.  So we made a conscious choice to influence our lives by changing the end of the album.

MMM: It also, from the liner notes, seems to indicate this is the end of one phase of the band and the start of a new. Please explain. And what can we expect of the Smith Twins, Rowan and Adler? Will the
continuation of the story perhaps signal a different sound or approach? A different name? Am I reading too much into this?

GD: Every ending is a beginning of sorts.  The conclusion we speak of was the end of the dark times we were going through that this album chronicles.  Rowan and Adler are Tyler’s twin boys. They definitely bring some light and new life into the picture.  Things will change but we will continue on in much the same way.  We have an EP brewing of some alternate tangents from the “Feather Tipped…” material.  And a third album is taking form as well.

MMM: In addition, you pay homage to the Bible, poet Ted Hughes, Gene Roddenberry, and Fredrico Garcia Lorca, who obviously wrote about Adam. How specifically did these writers inspire the band and the story of “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale”?

GD: All of them wrote about Adam. Ted Hughes has great many poems about the serpent, and the garden, and all. Crow even makes an appearance in some of those.  The bonus track for the vinyl was adapted from Roddenberry, a “Star Trek” episode where they try to reach planet Eden. One of the space hippies sings about “The Way to Eden.”  All these sources are working in the same fields of storytelling and allegory. The Bible, “Star Trek,” the Crow, all drawing from these universal myths.

MMM: I caught you guys live recently with Earth, and it was just a pummeling, unique performance. Is each night’s show a little different from the last? Do you do a lot of improvisation, because it felt like
you guys were just going off, and now and again you’d bring it back to one of the songs? Really good stuff. Please explain.

GD: That’s how we do it live.  We try to keep each other on our toes. It keeps things interesting for us and exciting for the audience. Nothing is predictable, believe me.  We have learned to go with it. We go off cause we can, and it’s a blast! We always strive to be musical and give the audience a good story and a better performance.

MMM: You both seem to have a cosmic connectedness playing live. There’s a synergy there that I don’t experience with many bands. It’s hard for me to put in words, but it feels like every move the band makes on stage is almost telepathic. Where does that come from?

GD: Many, many years of working together I guess.  We’ve developed a kind of language – no hand signals or cues really, just subtle things in our playing.  We know how to get the other to react and we know how to react to each other.  On the road, on the long drives, we actually practice reading each other’s thoughts.

MMM: What does Eagle Twin have coming next? It seems there’s a pretty wide open future.

GD: I mentioned the EP, the “Crow/Snake Addendum,” it has some alternate endings and tangential material from the “Feather Tipped…”  album. The third LP is also taking form, a more mammalian form, with hooves and horns and wolves and tusks and a more elemental return, all over seen by the birds. As we saw in the end of the last record, Crow still has some battles to fight.

For more on the band, go here: http://us.myspace.com/eagletwin

To buy the album, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/store.php

For more on the label, go here: http://www.southernlord.com/