It’s that time of year. Yes, ‘tis the season for pumpkin spiced everything’s, knitted scarves and socks from your grandmother, and gorging on avian flesh in the name of antiquated traditions. To be perfectly honest, I’m not above the bullshit holiday thing. I just like spending time with my loved ones, cooking and eating tasty food, and enjoying a cocktail or two (or three). Normally, this is the time of year where I like to snuggle up with something that parallels the decay of leaves like some classic doom or maybe even some black metal ahead of the icy winds that freeze the snot before it escapes my nose – the season all but wills it. But like all traditions, sometimes it’s worth a changeup. This is the year I break tradition. This year, I turn to darkwave.
Specifically, I’m thankful to have At The Heart Of The World’s January release, Rotting Forms, to ring out the year. There’s a special inorganic, inhuman, eardrum-shredding something-ness about the Portland duo’s take on industrial metal and power electronics. The unpolished, spartan grit is isolating, raw, and as confrontational as you’d hope it could be (read: very). Guitarist/programmer Danny Porter serves up a nice variety of textural interplay with planet-disintegrating synths and harsh distortion, plus some righteous riffs. At high volumes, you can really feel the grain of the synths in tracks like “Golden Cross” and “Fear and Peace” as the guitars provide a wonderfully crunchy reinforcement or melodic counterpoint – this shit is definitely intended to be felt as much as it is heard.
Vocalist Joshua Green’s blackened barks ensure that the aural and physical abrasions aren’t for naught. His performance is tortured, with threatening screams that can only emanate from heartfelt malice and pain. (Holy shit this dude is intense.) Though much of this is channeled through repeated, anthemic lyrics that stick like burrs, it adds a human element to the distorted, mechanized landscape. Tracks like “Embrace the Cripple,” ““If I Have Loved You I Have Failed You,” and “Shackled” feature traditional doom motifs, lending the feel of Atriarch by way of Ministry, or even approaching something in the ballpark of a slower, more deliberate “band version” of Master Boot Record (sans baroque flair). It’s unabashedly lo-fi compared to most of the synthwave stuff that’s all the rage these days, but I dig the unrefined throwback feel on Rotting Forms, especially when those who champion this style often pursue a more danceable, unilaterally appealing rendition. There’s something more visceral, pissed-off, and genuine about what At The Heart Of The World are doing, and we should be lucky to hear more.