Alone Together 

Ealdor Bealu releases dark, fiery new LP

click to enlarge EALDOR BEALU
  • Ealdor Bealu

Ealdor Bealu guitarist Travis Abbott has long been interested in folklore. In one of the numerous books he's read on the subject, he once came across a description of the wendigo—a man-eating monster said to dwell in the Northeastern U.S. and Canada—as a "spirit of the lonely places."

"I knew it could be used as a title for something someday," he said. In his view, it "embodies everything that comes from wilderness-type situations. When you feel alone, there's that sense of dread—there's that sense of loss—but I also believe there's a sense of having to stand your ground and get up on your feet. It's that duality that's there: Yeah, there's some devastation, but there's also a task to complete."

The phrase—or Abbott's interpretation of it—suits Ealdor Bealu's sophomore album, which augments the group's somber vocals and gloomy tunes with muscular rhythms and massive, Black Sabbath-esque guitars. The local "atmospheric heavy-psych" band will release Spirit of the Lonely Places (self-released, 2019) with a show at Neurolux on Saturday, July 20. Darkwave duo CRY and chamber-folk project Wend will open.

As with their debut LP Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (self-released, 2017), Ealdor Bealu's members drew inspiration for Spirit of the Lonely Places from the landscapes of Idaho and Nevada.

"We all like to get out in the mountains," said guitarist Carson Russell. "My family's got property in the mountains; I've grown up there. Travis grew up in the desert in Wells, you know? Travis gets out into the Sawtooths way more than we do... I think we're all inspired by our surroundings, and it's what shows up lyrically."

Though the band is upfront about the influence of the environment on its music, seeing that influence at work can sometimes catch its members off guard.

"That first album had a lot of elements tied in with water, the water cycle, oceans and rivers," Russell said. "We'd actually talked about changing it to another elemental thing for this one, and then we didn't really think about it too much. And I was just typing up the lyrical content... and I realized that fire is in every single song that we wrote. That wasn't deliberate; it just kind of came out."

This thematic unity is a sign of how comfortable Russell and his bandmates—Abbott, bassist Rylie Collingwood and drummer Craig Hawkins—have become since the release of Dark Water two years ago.

"Most of those [songs] were written before we had the whole band together," Russell remembered. "I had written the five main tracks, was teaching Rylie bass, brought in [original drummer] Alex [Wargo] and then brought in Travis. We went with those five and finished off what we needed for a record."

By contrast, Spirit of the Lonely Places was, in Russell's words, "much more evenly spaced. Travis came in with 'Sink Like Stone' and 'Smoke Signals' in their bare forms, I came in with the other two in their bare forms and we built them up. Each of us had good riffs and stuff like that, and the lyrics were kind of split all between us."

Even the dirge-like reworking of "The Four Horsemen," a song by the 60s Greek prog-rock group Aphrodite's Child, sounds at home on the new album. When BW asked Russell and company about the offbeat cover, it took them a minute to recall whose idea it was.

"I don't know," Russell and Abbott said in unison.

After a few seconds of laughter, Abbott asked Russell and Collingwood, "Wait, you guys don't know? You're the ones who had the idea."

"Yeah, it was probably Rylie or me," Russell replied. "We were listening to Aphrodite's Child a lot."

"I think it must have been you," Collingwood added, "because I didn't know about that band until after we started doing it."

According to Russell, other cover ideas didn't make the cut.

"We tried a Carly Simon cover, which was great," he said. "It was really slow and really heavy."

"We should still do it," Abbott said.

"What was it?" Collingwood asked.

Russell sang the opening line of "That's the Way I Always Heard It Should Be."

This bonhomie bodes well for the Neurolux show and Ealdor Bealu's west coast tour, which will take the band through Nevada, California and Oregon in September. After that, the group will work on new material and devote some time to side projects. Russell hopes to complete an album with the sludge-metal duo Ghorot while Abbott will write more songs for his haunting neo-folk project, Sawtooth Monk. Collingwood might start her own side group as well.

"It's been nice to be able to express myself more on my instrument and then write my own lyrics," she said. "It's just all about honing that skill, and I'm excited to see what awaits for us next."

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