It’s hard to find something comparable to the newly-created genre ‘chainmail’, no modern genre parallels the spiritually pure music it provides. Circleain, Sighsare, and 2hollis are the creators of the genre chainmail, a combination of medieval and modern. The collective, formerly known as OSX since the early 15th century, hails from its namesake Tenflower, deep in the heart of Farthenrift valley. If you don’t know where that is right now, that’s ok. We’ll be taking a journey there soon.
Circleain’s debut EP Estrid is a calm and confident introduction to Tenflower. The first release of the month sets a strong precedent for the next era of this group. Circleain prefers a more melodic take on the chainmail genre, for the most part at least. He leans into the hypnotic flows and chants his ancestors had repeated before him. More stringed instruments to compliment hymns and I’d be remiss not to bring up the atmospheric bells and chorus behind him in the first song “Entrance — Spindle”. I say all this being true for the most part, but he molts his own sound in the second track “Skeleton”. Abrasive dubstep and dirty anger spills into a valley where there was once peace. A calm washes over the track soon enough and a repose ends the album.
Sighsare’s reading of chainmail is much more pop-focused in his debut EP river, and while he somewhat distances himself from hymns like in Circleain ballads, his songs remain equally as hypnotic. It feels like Sighsare was invited into the year 2021 and allowed to bring home one item back to Farthenrift. When he showed up with something called a mixer with the name Yamaha painted on, claiming it was from the future, everyone thought he was some kind of mage, finding purpose in his hideaway. That’s just what it sounds like though, none of that is canon. More than anything, Sighsare knows how to build a song. Every track’s beat, samples, and vocals climb ontop of eachother like building blocks to amplify the perceived scale that chainmail achieves like few other genres. When you listen to any of the three artists, these are songs that could be chanted, screamed, worshipped even. Preferably in an echoey chamber. I believe they will be someday. But Sighsare’s songs were born to ring throughout body-cramped and bass-heavy concert venues in places further than Farthenrift.
2hollis’ debut album, THE JARL, is a fluid half hour of requiem, flex and a religious confession. Hollis heads Farthenrift as Jarl and commands with a supernatural presence over everything he might touch or speak on. Delivering the loudest distorted and raspy whisper you’ve ever heard over tracks, it reminds you of something you might hear on a SALEM album. The difference between him and SALEM is the way he commands the structured but jarring shifts in tone, a cornerstone that separates chainmail from other genres.
The titular second track is a perfect example of this, with multiple tone changes and fake outs that build up rap momentum just to calm you back down with Henryk Gorecki’s “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs.” The best comparison I found is that it’s like a scientology processing test. Hollis is open on these tracks, and the beat changes remain so emotionally-charged and impulsive because they mirror the man who’s making them. In past releases, it feels like his music was cold and angry, or to go even farther back, unserious without this “Jarl” role to take on.
Although delivering the most emotional music to date, Hollis’ full album debut feels as confused as its subject matter. It’s confident and strong for the most part, in fact the first 7 songs are some of the most impressive he’s ever released. The last three songs can’t sit well with me though, and my disposition to them almost mirrors his own focus on only the hurt he’s caused rather than the burgeoning positive force Hollis has become to his friends and community. When I look back at THE JARL in comparison to the artight masterpiece META that Hollis released earlier this year, all I can see are its handful of half-baked songs. And at the end of the day I’ll visit Farthenrift for a while, but I felt as if I lived and breathed META.