Here at Blinkers Removed we try to avoid mentioning other bands in a review as much as possible, because we consider talking about other bands to be a diversion from the actual artist in question. If this album sounds like Band X, why would the reader not simply listen to Band X? However, in the case of Eric Reifinger, the man behind Carved Into The Sun, other musical acts play an important role in understanding the album. So in this review we will forego our usual policy in order to properly bring you the story of Reifinger’s self-titled record.
The story of Eric Reifinger is very much tied up with the development of the second wave of post-rock and post-metal. Playing in different metal and hardcore bands during the end of the 90s, Eric had a fascination with US post-metal act Isis, travelling all over the southwestern US to witness their shows in the early 2000s. Ever since these performances he became obsessed with the genre, seeing more shows from the likes of Explosions in the Sky, Sigur Ròs, Caspian and Russian Circles—all acts that would influence his music 20 years down the line when he started his one-man post-rock/metal project Carved Into The Sun.
What makes Carved into the Sun unique is its focus on extended guitar melodies which often involve tapping and the frequent playing of open strings. These melodic lines create a sprawling and shimmering sonic landscape that, in combination with the sparsely but aptly placed moments of heavy post-metal riffing, makes for a vivid and dynamic experience. “A Taste For Mindless Violence” draws on classic mid-2000s post-metal with its rhythmically chugging guitars while “Night Without Name” and album closer “He Says That He Will Never Die” prove that Carved Into The Sun can create soaring climaxes like the best of post-rock bands.
Carved Into The Sun was released last year in the middle of the global COVID-crisis, following Reifinger’s debut EP One, which saw the light of day at the end of 2019. Where the latter was recorded, mixed and mastered by Reifinger himself, Carved Into The Sun came about with the help of Beau Burchell, who is known for playing in American post-hardcore outfit Saosin, and Mike Kalajian from Rogue Planet Mastering. Both producers, not unlike Reifinger, have a background in post-hardcore and metal music so while listening to Carved Into The Sun one can imagine that this shared background has had its effect in creating the synergy needed to produce such a great sounding record.
“Considering the project’s origin in the obsession with bands such as ISIS, Russian Circles and Caspian, one could argue that Carved Into The Sun, with its classic sound and packaging, is an embodiment the essence of American post-rock/metal to the fullest. “
Another interesting production feature of this record are the drum parts, which were all written programmed by Reifinger himself using Logic Pro. Programmed drums are often an unwelcome necessity for solo artists who have a hard time finding fellow musicians to record an album with. The drumming on Carved Into The Sun however is phenomenal and it shows that Reifinger put a lot of time in composing them. The parts are a joy to listen to and the fact that they were composed by someone with no experience behind a drum kit gives them a certain freshness.
Thematically speaking, Carved Into The Sun does not seem to have a specific theme. The album cover, created by Albany, NY-based graphic designer Leanna White, features a moody (but typical) picture of Reynisfjara Beach in southern Iceland, and the song titles do not seem to have any sort of narrative. Inquiry with Reifinger himself however reveals that each of the four song titles are quotes from the 1985 epic novel Blood Meridian, written by the American author Cormac McCarthy. Some consider Blood Meridian to be the “Great American Novel”—a work of fiction that is said to embody the essence of America, and considering the project’s origin in the obsession with bands such as ISIS, Russian Circles and Caspian, one could argue that Carved Into The Sun, with its classic sound and packaging, is an embodiment the essence of American post-rock/metal to the fullest.
One of the great themes of Great American Novels is the idea of “rugged individualism”—a radical form of self-reliance that lives in the American spirit of freedom and independence from outside help or government institutions. In hindsight, the self-reliance that Reifinger shows in writing and recording his music by himself finds its analog in this theme of rugged individualism. While many one-man bedroom projects do indeed show this radical independence, oftentimes they fall prey to repeating themselves too much, due to a lack of creative feedback often begotten from other band members. With Carved Into the Sun, Eric Reifingerhas evaded the pitfall of these bedroom post-rock acts, creating a work of art that shines in atmosphere and musicianship. The fact that all of this sprang from the mind of but one man makes it all the more impressive.
This album is… **interesting.
Carved Into The Sun was released independently on August 28, 2020. The album is available in vinyl and digital formats via the Carved Into The Sun Bandcamp page.