The map is not the territory. Thus, we here at the blog can write thousands upon thousands of words about music, the scene, its trends and its histories but it would be worth nothing if we didn’t have the music backing us. We’ve gone on at length about the sparks of hope that we find in the ailing post-metal community; we’ve dredged the past few years for the glimmers of resuscitation and awakening. While we could indeed find those points of light, it wasn’t a conflagration; we didn’t suddenly discover a whole network of fires burning in some smaller, more indie community below the post metal mainstream. We found light but our search left us hungry for more, craving for any addition to this luminescence.
Suddenly, there shined a cold, bright light. Latitudes erupted into our ears, blaring their Old Sunlight for everyone to see and follow. To say that this record inspired hope within us would be absurd: it’s one of the most forlorn and ice-cold releases of the past few years. However, its stark, focused and remorseless light pierced through our hearts and dug into the core of us, stimulating the vain and somewhat pretentious diagrams we had drawn in the past. Old Sunlight is nothing but a masterpiece of where post-metal is today, both a guide and a trailblazer into everything the genre should preoccupy itself with nowadays. It utilizes a massively successful melange of emotional capacity and blistering impact, resisting the urge to split the two into distinct yet communicating halves.
Instead, each track bears both of those classical elements of post-metal. “Body Within A Body” is perhaps where we should start. The second track relies on heart-breaking vocals to set its emotional field. Seriously, if you can listen to those passages without your throat catching then you’re a stronger person than us; the vocals are drenched in a certain sense of loss, bewilderment and resigned defeat that echoes through the chambers of your heart long after the track is done. However, instead of leaving the track as a quieter passage, marking it as the classic “quiet track” on the album, it places these vocals within two heavier passages. The first is a more agile take on riffs from “Ordalian” , the previous track, and relies on adept hands and a certain boundless energy expressed in lightning fast drums. Fast, large guitars churn out a rough, aggressive riff as the cymbals dance above them, the production emphasising the overall reverb and treble oscillation of the band as a whole.
The vocals are prefaced by mysterious, ponderous synths that emerge from the deep, swallowing the energy we had garnered in the previous passage. The vocals hit like a brick wall collapsing, the whole experience a one-two punch combo that robs you of your breath as you crash from the heights of the opening passage into them. The intonation continues, the vocals beating upon our already defeated form. Suddenly, the other instruments rush in; all our pent up emotions are released into catharsis in the form of slow, massive chords. Interestingly enough, where other bands would have changed the lyrics, Latitudes continue with the same words from before, this time shouted and screamed, bearing a completely different timbre than before. When the riffs from the beginning of the track are re-introduced, everything has taken on a new feeling, blending the entire track into a whole.
This blend is what sets Latitudes apart and crowns them as absolute masters of the post-metal tradecraft. Too often bands set apart segments, compartmentalizing their albums into quiet passages, heavy passages, screamed passages and so forth. In the mediocre cases you can even feel when the segments pass, marked by a certain riff or other progression within the track. “Now comes the part where we’re sad” they seem to say. Latitudes have no need for such rough markers: their music does the speaking for them and it talks in a complex, subtle and rich voice. Take “In Rushes Bound” for example, a little further down the line. In any other band, this would have been one of the more furious and aggressive tracks on the album: the guitars are fast, the drums hit hard and the bass is galloping. Everything signals power, rage and struggle.
But the vocals, the vocals still contain grief, loss and abject melancholy. They clash and contrast with the other instruments, defying calmly the image of screaming defiance or sharp violence. Throughout the album, these ideas live side by side, loss, bewilderment, anguish and pain mixing with indignation, resentment and fury. By the time the album coalesces into its stark, simple and bear summation in the form of “Quandary”, so much has passed, an intricate yet succinct elixir of ideas, feelings and colors.
Old Sunlight does not relent; track after track, it surprises you with its tenacity, its refusal to be charted and dissected into disparate parts and their corresponding emotions. Instead, it utilizes the beautiful emotional chaos it creates to swing when you’re flat-footed, to collapse when you’re still gathering your senses, to end when you’re still reaching for more, to push at the exact moment when you’re off-balance. It’s everything that post-metal should be: brave, varied, disconcerting, impactful and, most of all, emotionally illuminating and revealing. They say light is the best disinfectant and this is the kind of cleansing post metal needs. This is the territory beyond the map, the vibrant actuality that breathes truth into virtual designs. This is the new wave of post-metal at its best.