When Carson Russell was starting a new band, the singer-guitarist wanted a name that suited the music he and his bandmates had written.
"I was really interested in ancient language, as far as having it be a part of the project," he said. "I think the music, to me, is kind of melancholy. It's finding happiness in sadness—finding light in dark, I guess."
Eventually, Russell found ealdor-bealu, an Anglo-Saxon word that captured the feeling.
"I've seen definitions [of the word] as 'vital evil' or 'necessary evil' or ... 'evil in life,'" he said. "I think the idea of having something negative but necessary is a really interesting concept."
The name Ealdor Bealu is well-suited. The band's debut album, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (self-released, 2017), is both dazzling and menacing. It combines solemn melodies, measured tempos, sinuous guitar lines and roaring distortion to create a sonic blend of beauty and power.
Most of Dark Water was recorded at a house in the coastal town of Yachats, Ore.
"We use a lot of sampling from rivers and stuff like that; we've done that kind of stuff from the beginning of it," Russell said.
The house not only gave Ealdor Bealu members the chance to relax and record for long, undisturbed stretches, the coastal landscape also fit the themes of the album.
"We started to see we were writing a lot about water," singer-bassist Rylie Collingwood said. "We wanted to take it back to where it started, and what better place? All the water evaporates, it goes back to the ocean, it comes back through. It's just cool to be in a place [where] you walk outside and the tide is in, then you walk out, and it's gone."
Water isn't the only element that plays a large part in how Ealdor Bealu thinks about its music. The high deserts of Idaho and Nevada inform the band, too.
"I think we're all on kind of a similar plane," said guitarist Travis Abbott. "It's like the barren desert makes you bored, in a way. I don't know, when it comes to me, it just makes me want to fill it with something less boring ... like watching a spaghetti western. That sound almost subconsciously has an influence on a lot of us, I think."
People may not be familiar with Ealdor Bealu and its music—at least not yet—but the band's roots go back to Russell and drummer Craig Hawkins' high school days.
"We never really did a whole lot of gigs, but we were doing a lot of jamming and stuff like that," Russell said. "We ended up getting a space at the Bomb Shelter in Boise about five or six years ago and really threw everything we had into music."
Russell, Hawkins and Collingwood formed rock band Mother Shipton with original Ealdor Bealu drummer Alex Wargo in 2012. Russell said he remembered being impressed by several Boise bands formed around that time, including Abbott's post-rock project, Obscured by the Sun.
"Obscured was one of the first [Boise] bands I really liked ... I remember seeing Travis early on and hoping maybe we could play in a band someday."
His chance came in 2014, when Mother Shipton disbanded and Russell began writing what would become Ealdor Bealu songs.
"When that project finished, I was listening to a lot of heavier stuff," he said. "I was really influenced by Chelsea Wolfe, Earth and Mark Lanegan. I really wanted to do things slower and more thoughtful—heavy, but not in a metal sense."
The music may be heavy but the members of Ealdor Bealu made sure recording Dark Water wasn't.
"I was terrified the neighbors were gonna be like, 'What the hell? We're finally at the Oregon coast for this relaxing vacation, and we got this group of scumbags,'" Collingwood said. "People reacted so positively. Everybody [around us] was from Boise, and it was awesome because they were like, 'You're in a band? Ooh!'"
Collingwood and his bandmates will soon embark on an eight-day Northwest tour, and they're also working on new material for which the Idaho landscape should provide ample inspiration.
"Everything here has such an amazing ability to adapt to extreme conditions," he said. "There's a lot of beauty in that."