There’s a lot going on on The Weight of Sunlight, and I don’t just mean musically – song titles like Cultivating the Cosmic Tree and Feathers on the Breath of God will alert the hip listener to the fact that there’s a great deal of metaphysical postulation and inner debate going on here as well, giving the listener far far more to contend with than the usual goat-obsessed black metal album.
Of course, you don’t have to get involved in the spiritual digging. I’m a pretty shallow soul if truth be told, as long as there’s cider on offer I’m generally pretty happy, and so for people like me it’s down to the music to prove the worth of Marsh Dweller. And that that music is pretty successful in doing just that.
The whole album is for the most part the result of the conception and execution of one man – the hugely talented John Owen Kerr, who drums, sings and guitars with success in all fields – although you’d never guess from merely listening to the huge metal canvasses the man constructs that this is largely a one-man band.
The Dull Earth for instance, transcends black metal with some beautifully fluid, melodic soloing to go alongside Kerr’s wounded howl and simple but effective drumming. Generically it’s probably what you’d expect from spiritually progressive black metal, the hints of Bathory here and the flashes of Obsiquiae in other places confirming to the listener what it is he or she is actually listening to, but there’s an otherness shrouding the music that draws the ears in and keeps them there whatever type of music is coming at the ears.
At its most primitive, as on the thunderous Where the Sky Ends, there’s nothing for it but to give in to the maelstrom, and that’s fine as far as that particular pursuit goes, but there is much much more here to get your teeth into, and it goes far deeper and far beyond what a simple man like me can explain with mere words. Primitive at times – primal, even, but richly, emphatically sophisticated at others, this is about as satisfying as it gets for a black metal album in 2016. No frills, no gimmicks, just soul, heart and guts. I love it.