There’s a great interview with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, courtesy of Anna Blumenthal of the Earthquaker Devices blog, where he discusses the length of his songs. Anna asks him if he “[sets] out to write long songs” or if it’s a naturally occurring phenomenon. Mike responds in a characteristically zen way: “there’s a certain amount that’s just math and physics – playing slower makes things longer.” He goes on to say that he does tends to approach music in a way that lends itself well to writing longer pieces, but it’s the first part of this answer that always really sticks with me. I find myself returning to it often; it’s hard for me to listen to anything now without intentionally examining exactly how the song utilizes the physics of momentum to create a certain mood, energy, impression for the audience at hand.
Metal’s slowest and most tense subgenres – I speak, of course, of doom, sludge, and drone – give us quite a lot to analyze in this regard. I would argue that they present the purest case for understanding these physics: everything else is stripped away; all that’s left of the music at hand is this pure act of riding the inherent underlying current of momentum as far as it will go, creating as much inertia and friction as possible to stymie any sort of acceleration. Movement is slow, dragging, and painful. Each note and drum hit ring out to their fullest potential, creating an intoxicating pendulum-like effect as the music undoes itself.
Thus, we come to German doom/sludge/drone upstarts Eremit, and their debut album Carrier of Weight. Eremit channels the greats: the hypnotic buzz of early Earth, the nihilistic lurch of Corrupted, and Bell Witch‘s monolithic presence all spring to mind as immediate comparisons for the style we see Eremit enacting on Carrier of Weight.
“Dry Land,” the first of the three movements that comprise Carrier of Weight, shows Eremit at their most hypnotic: almost the entire 23 minutes of this track are spent pulverizing a single melody into dust with rigid, unflinching consistency. The heave-ho sway between clean and distorted guitars creates what might be loosely termed a sense of dynamics, but the single-minded resolve with which each new development in the instrumentation approaches the same basic idea means the quiet parts feel less like the emergence of something unexpected and more like a brief respite from the overwhelming thrum of the amplifiers.
The methodology Eremit enacts on “Dry Land” most notably brings to mind for me Black Boned Angel: the two share in their simplicity an exact, surgically-precise knowledge of when to let the next note loose in a way that keeps the underlying rhythm ever so slightly beyond the pale of the listener’s comprehension. The glacial slowness is exaggerated even further in this regard and each note hits with the same sharpness as the last, even as the song drags on past the 10-, 15-, 20-minute mark. It’s a constant pull in and out of a hypnotic state that adds a powerful edge to drone metal’s already-bludgeoning sound, and Eremit knows how to accomplish this perfectly.
All told, Carrier of Weight is fucked-up good for a debut album, and “Dry Land” shows off exactly why. Be sure to check out the album in full when it comes out through Transcending Obscurity Records on the 25th of February. You have time to get through “Dry Land” at least three times during the wait.