Music comes and music goes.
But sometimes there comes an artist or band whose music is so powerful it transcends time.
Amherawdr are no more but they are one of those bands.
The members parted ways many moons ago.
But their essence is present in their music. It is this essence — that quintessential quality of inspiration — that makes the kind of music that can live on forever. Timeless music that spans beyond its creation into the future where new generations find new meanings. It has happened before and it will happen again.
So it doesn’t matter that Amherawdr have disbanded. The music still lives on and finds purchase in the hearts and souls of receptive black metal fans the world over. Death has no meaning to timeless music.And death shall have no dominion.
Their parting of ways is symbolic of life and death and these themes run through the album. Perhaps that is part of their hypnotic appeal. They dance with death, in the mists of the deep valleys of our Iron-Age ancestors.
Long over due, the birth of Adorned with the Figures of Snakes expresses the deep yearning of the human soul for some deeper meaning to life. It comes at a time of great upheaval for humanity, in the midst of the 2020 Pandemic.
There is unrest in many corners of the world. Many see it manifested in the physical world around them, but those who recognise the inner source, go within.
Amherawdr invite you to take that journey with them.
This talented band paint a scene of a magical, pre-christian Briton — one of rich celtic history, druidry and paganism. The melodies evoke a call to descend into the inner world of the soul, shrouded in a veil of darkness.
The album comprises two parts each approximately 20 minutes in length and cannot be considered songs in the traditional sense. They are soliloquies of a broken soul, departing on the only journey that matters in life. The one that begins with the dark night of the soul and leads to the sacred union of soul and spirit.
Adorned With the Figures of Snakes tells a story which can only be described as a two-part black metal opera seria, complete with atmospheric overture. Amherawdr masterfully set the stage for the ghosts of our ancestors to return.
Part One opens with surreal soft melody on the background of a babbling brook. Diwrnach plays a 7-string guitar and Ri Orus sings the opening lyrics with a deep-bass voice that reverberates through the speakers and through the body.
It’s peaceful, hypnotic and lulling. He pulls you in. Deeper:
Through Dumnonian woods… darkish resting veil.
Hearing the shadow’s voice speak colder than wind-blown snow,
Strewn and blown upon the wet bone grounds.
Dumnonia is the name given to a Brythonic kingdom led by celtic kings and traditions during the Iron-Age. It’s borders spanned what is now Cornwall, Devon and parts of Dorset and Somerset of the UK.
In the following lines Diwrnach speaks of the ‘deep valley dweller.’ The name given to those celts who lived in Devon during that age, alluding to the rolling hills of the county.
Already, the music gives me tingles.
The opening lines are a clear invitation to the world of Faerie. The last line of the black metal overture, ‘No more of this waking sleep,’ with it’s haunting repetition, casts no doubt that Diwrnach is lamenting the loss of something outside of remembrance..
The water of the brook returns.
It’s bubbles spring forth from the well of the inner world. Adorned with the Figures of Snakes is atmospheric black metal at it’s most romantic — yearning for the initiation onto the Path. And I am reminded of a John Cusack movie, where his character Jake speaks of the movie Dr Zhivago, saying that nobody yearns like that anymore, modern man can’t take it.
He speaks of course of humanity’s inclination for immediacy, to be sated and to be gratified rather than to live and strive to be fully conscious. To awaken from the stupor of mental enslavement of a stale, numb life with no meaning. To live in truth, divinity and essence.
The mystic traditions of the Dumnonians allowed those who so chose to live a life of greater connection to the land and gain a spiritual awareness of themselves, of nature and their place in the world. The melodies, as the story unfolds, evokes a lament for this lost way of life but goes on to offer the possibility of rebirth in the ancient ways by induction into those lost mysteries.
The head cannot remember what the heart has forgotten.
This is my interpretation of the great lamentation that Diwrnach sings and I would answer with — the heart must reawaken and learn it anew.
Humanity weeps for a loss it can no longer recall. Depression, nihilism, all feelings of irrevocable pointlessness because we have forgotten what it means to be alive. Truly alive.
The spiritual sleepwalking of humanity is not a new idea. And as Ri Orus screams, ‘Our head has forgotten… no more of this waking sleep,’ he is calling out to the ‘Other’ world… the Faery world… the world of the Sidhe… for he knows not how to wake himself as we know not how to awaken ourselves.
The story weaves through the development and building of melodies and evolution of the refrains and rhythms. I love a bit of discordant cadence with irregular rhythm and Amherawdr deliver both with beautiful stirring reverb and intense energetic double-bass drumming pushing the initiate forward, deeper into the mythical realms where the source of the brook beckons.
Ri Orus presents us with spectres of the old ones, and like Owain in the Mabinogion, he is favoured and allowed to approach the sacred waters to receive the branding of the snakes upon his arms.
Part Two begins where Part One ends. There is a seamless movement echoing the past and the present. The future does not yet exist. It is built on chaos and the will exerted in the present. The past informs and echoes in the present.
After the gift of the branding, the spectres seem to be more defined. Dumnonia more real.
Even as I write about the mystery and magic the album evokes, the lyrics remain heavily grounded in the heritage of celtic Briton. Conjuring the names of historical kings as pillars of strength that guide, such as Hu Gadarn, he who came from the Summerlands, and Beli Mawr a great king.
Both parts of this album centre around the brook and the tattoos of the snakes.
There is a myth known as the Handless Maiden, it is amongst the fairy tales compiled by the Brothers Grimm though it never gained popularity due to the dark nature of the themes.
The core of this story is that from a young age, girls are mutilated by having their hand cut off. It is ordered by a strange man, but it is her mother that carries it out. This wound stifles the ability of a woman to do anything for herself by her own means. She becomes reliant on those around her for help. It is most often women who perpetuate the cycle of keeping the vulnerable weak, ineffectual and dependent.
There are many facets to this story and I recommend the Fisher King and The Handless Maiden by Robert A Johnson if the myth speaks to you. The aspect that is reflected by Adorned with the Figures of Snakes, is this:
At the end of the tale, the young heroine’s mutilated hand is fully restored after immersing the stump in the sacred waters of a brook. The difference between the Handless Maiden tale and Adorned With the Figures of Snakes tale is that Amherawdr have been invited to the sacred waters to receive an initiation not the healing of an injury.
In this atmospheric, epic tale our hero has been guided as Owain was to the waters and, ‘Burying my arms ‘neath the brooklet I hope they will rise adorned with the figures of snakes.’
He has been blessed with the gift of soul connection. Whether it is meant as ancestral clan markings or a boon of the Sidhe, the mark of initiation is clear.
Serpents are symbolic in many cultures of the awakening of the soul. The kundalini in Buddhist traditions, and the caduceus of Hermes Tri-megestus in Egyptian Alchemy both herald the beginning of a new path of discovery and purpose. To walk with one foot in the world of the living and one foot in the world of mystery.
By the end, the refrain, ‘No more of this waking sleep,’ is less of a desperate call for awakening, and more an affirmation of knowledge earned, and peace of mind granted.
Amherawdr have written a masterpiece worthy of the Taliesin, touched by the Awen of Cerridwen. I urge you to listen to them on bandcamp if you haven’t already and show your love directly to Amherawdr on their facebook page which is alive and kicking.
If you are interested in Dumnonia, and ever journey to this part of the world. I also recommend checking out and booking on to Dumnonika re-enactments. I had a chance to see them a few years ago at a pagan festival in Dawlish and they were inspiring.
The band recorded the album with Daniel Couch in 2011. With the help of Onism Productions, this album has been released 5th June (digitally), and 20th June (CD).
Let us know at LoudStuff what you think in the comments below so we can bring you more of what you like. And don’t forget to show your love to Amherawdr directly on bandcamp!