Review – “Communion” – Black Walls

communionreviewed by Michael Thomas

Losing a parent is one of the most devastating losses a person can endure. There’s no replacement for a parent’s love. When a musician begins dealing with this loss, it can often lead to emotionally powerful albums. Evening Hymns did this with Spectral Dusk and more recently, Kalle Mattson did this with Someday, the Moon Will Be Gold.

Given the already gloomy nature of the music by Black Walls, it’s hard to imagine Ken Reaume getting any deeper. Communion began after the loss of Reaume’s father, and he found himself questioning his upbringing and beliefs as he began to deal with it.

We got a brief hint of what to expect here thanks to last year’s Mary of the Shrines, which sees Black Walls’ ambient folk mixed with touches of drone and even black metal. While Mary was a lot more explosive in terms of instrumentation, Communion possesses a solemnity that can be expected given its title.

Clocking in at a little more than 40 minutes and comprised of five songs, the songs have plenty of room to breath, and seems to be just as meditative for Reaume as they can be for listeners. The album’s title track begins the recording, with thick, echoing guitar chords setting the gloomy tone for the rest of the album. Reaume’s soft vocals add an extra layer to the song, and the song changes course at about the three-minute mark, with an added focus on electric guitar. It doesn’t feel at all gratuitous—if anything it feels completely natural.

“Field Two” is a natural, calmer extension of Mary‘s “Field One,” with the same “We’ll die by the sword” lyric among the foggy gloom. It’s also the last time Reaume will sing on the album.

The middle track “PTSD” begins the meditative journey, starting again with sparse guitar chords, with the notes seemingly getting lower and lower as the song goes on. Throw in a few ghostly sounds and some feedback near the end, and the song becomes haunting. It also leaves several seconds of silence before ending, the silence almost being more crushing than all that has come before it.

“Untitled” is a brief interlude before the disorientation of “Funeral/Wake” which begins as a cacophony before getting slowly clearer as it nears the end of its 12-minute runtime. The structure of the piece seems to mimic the grieving process—anger and confusion followed by understanding and clarity.

Communion is a profound and crushing meditation on loss, and is so spacious that listeners can easily find themselves at home among the gloom.

Top Track: “PTSD”

Rating: Proud Hoot (Really Good) +*swoop*

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