Ocrilim: Annwn

A-
Album: Annwn
Label: Hydra Head

For an album made by the simplest of means, Ocrilim's Annwn poses a number of complicated questions, chief among them, "What, exactly, is heavy metal?" If metal owes its metal-ness to volume or aggression or the kind of intra-band interplay that wows readers of earnest gear magazines, then Annwn wouldn't really qualify. But if metal stands as something more like a mood—a system of melodies and progressions that signify metal, no matter how they're delivered—then Annwn might be metal distilled to its ultimate essence.

The premise is straightforward: Annwn features nothing but the sounds of electric guitars, layered in a series of leads by Mick Barr. Barr has been a prolific player-thinker with other projects, like Orthrelm, Crom-Tech, and The Flying Luttenbachers, but Ocrilim seems to be his supreme mission statement, with no decorations or distractions—nothing to answer for except what happens when guitars start to do strange things on their own accord. Barr is an exceptional technician, adept with speed, but the highlights of Annwn come when swells of noise rise and drain over what he's doing with his fingers. Halfway through "Part 2" comes a breathtaking moment when stores of accrued feedback and noise hit a critical level and start to levitate. It's beautiful and confusing—and more metal than anything of the sort might seem to be.