Composing an album with the backdrop of other media is a daunting task. As we discussed earlier this year with our review of Ehnahre’s Theodore Roethke-referencing album The Marrow, it’s difficult to create music that accurately conveys the emotional context of the source material while also extrapolating enough to create a unique voice that can stand on its own. This is particularly true for albums that reference movies and similarly complex texts; whereas a novel or poem contains just text to decode, films contain several more elements that need to be interpreted, most challenging of which is the pre-existing music already linked to the visuals and script. In these types of situation, it’s a smarter bet to draw inspiration from a film while pursuing a larger thematic ideal, which is exactly how Bolt Gun succeed on their colossal, one-track album Man Is Wolf to Man. By drawing influence from a myriad of sources that bolster a stated pursuit—particularly Soviet and Ukrainian filmmaker/writer Konstantin Lopushansky’s dystopian film Posetitel Muzeya (Visitor of a Museum) as well as works by Soviet filmmakers/writers Andrei Tarkovsky and Krzysztof Kieślowski—the band realizes the grandiosity of this endeavor with an excellent display of thematic metal aimed at capturing the “existential horror of Stalinist Russia.”
The allure of extreme music, for most, comes from its roots in counter culture. The hippy-dippy era had no idea what the hell was happening when Iommi picked the first distorted tritone. Fast forward all the way to the present day and a lot of extreme music can be branded and catered to specific groups. Counter culture is consumer culture. Honest extreme music is much more difficult to come by and much more difficult to consume when it finally shows up. It doesn’t get much tougher to swallow than this. Primitive Man are the embodiment of an “acquired taste”; the Denver residents playing doom that most fans of doom can’t even stomach. Consumption of their new full length Caustic is not advisable for anyone of a weak disposition.
Writing a standout doom metal album is a difficult task nowadays. This isn’t due to an overall lack of quality within the genre’s modern progenitors, but because of the antithesis; more and more excellent doom metal albums seem to enter the running for our year ends lists with each passing year. MONARCH! (Monarch from here on out) has never struggled with this endeavor over the course of their 15-year career, particularly when it comes to their recent output with the eminent Profound Lore Records. Yet, while Sabbracadaver was certainly a doom highlight in 2014, Never Forever sees the band returning this year with their most colossal and grandiose album to date, presenting a masterful synthesis of drone metal with doom’s more macabre characteristics. We sat down with the band to discuss the process of writing their latest epic, as well as a handful of other topics related to their past, present and future within the shifting landscape of modern doom.
Managing an album’s length is more than just a numbers game. As important as the song count and run time of a track list may be, an album’s experiential length is more closely linked to the content contained within each track. More specifically, this is defined not by the quality of an album’s ideas, but the quantity of those ideas, as well as their organization. As an example, consider your standard 20-ish minute, 20+ track grindcore album—though it may be shorter than most people’s morning commute, a band with the the most simple genre formula is introducing the listener to roughly two dozen song ideas, and if these ideas are executed poorly, the album is going to drag and lose its appeal despite presenting bite size compositions. This isn’t relevant to Never Forever because it suffers from an ineffective length; to the contrary, MONARCH! (Monarch, from here on out), have crafted an album with perfect pacing and structure that enhances the impact of the record. But the band operate in a genre rife with overindulgence, as evident by the sheer number of doom and drone metal albums comprised of a handful of tracks that each rival the entirety of a grindcore album while presenting barely enough ideas to rise above being musical melatonin.
Being a writer for Heavy Blog comes with a lot of perks. Unlimited beer in the break room fridge, the annual staff retreat to Bora Bora, an on-call office masseuse – these are just a few of the major draws for blog employees. But probably the most personally rewarding benefit…
Literature has been one of the foremost sources of inspiration for metal lyricism and composition alike, regardless of subgenre. The list of examples is significant—Ernest Hemingway and Cobalt, Georges Bataille and Deathspell Omega, H. P. Lovecraft and seemingly everyone, and so on. Drawing inspiration from a novel is a challenging but relatively structured undertaking; a plot can be interpreted into numerous sonic and lyrical directions but will always follow the same trajectory of its narrative. Poetry contrasts this process by its very nature, as its natural code of symbolic meaning and suggestive prose necessitates musical decoding drawn from a strictly thematic place. Even poems with a decipherable narrative are often told in a verbose, indirect manner that challenges metal lyricists and composers to write with a liberated hand, looking beyond the words on the page to a deeper understanding of the poem’s true meaning and mood. Agalloch’s interpretation of W. B. Yeats is a stellar example of this process being executed beautifully, as is the latest offering from Ehnahre, a Boston-based avant-garde metal collective who count Kay Dot alumni among their ranks. Their incredible four-part song cycle on The Marrow captures the essence of Theodore Roethke’s eponymous poem* through consuming landscapes of avant-garde death-doom that are as ridden with despair as the poet’s initial musing on whether or not life is worthwhile.
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.” – Aristotle There’s a certain magic to place particularly when viewed through the lens of the human position in it. Specific places can speak to us in hushed tones only available when we allow ourselves to be…
Over the past several releases, New York-based White Suns have crafted an abrasive and esoteric noise rock formula. Rather than operating in the genre’s standard fare of “noisy rock,” the trio of Kevin Barry (vocals, guitar), Rick Visser (guitar, electronics) and Dana Matthiesen (drums, electronics) have opted instead for a seamless marriage of noise and experimental rock, with an elevated mood of unease conjured by Barry’s cryptic lyricism and spoken word delivery. It’s a peculiar formula which unfolded spectacularly across nine disorienting tracks on the band’s previous effort, Totem (2014). The album presented an abundance of these unhinged noise rock bastardizations accented by extended passages of dark ambiance and industrial noise that created a painful degree of suspenseful dread before the band finally released the listener back into its chaos-ridden assault. It’s the styling of these moments that composes the bulk of Psychic Drift, a four-track bludgeoning anchored by a nightmarish lyrical* journey as disturbing as the music that engulfs Barry’s narration.
Eliot’s The Waste Land is a masterpiece of poetry. It is stark, vast, singular, and dreadful. At once immediate and unknowable, it is a tale of desolation, decay, and death told in hallucinatory fragments. Poetry is often like this. So also is music. Though, obviously, not all of it. Most popular music pushes back against this concept by creating sounds that are pleasant and accessible, though they may not always leave a very lasting impression. It isn’t intended to confuse or disturb. Instead, it thrives on its lack of offensiveness, opening itself to the widest swath of listeners that it can for maximum outreach and effect. This is not an inherently bad thing, by any stretch. Accessible music is no less valuable because of its ease of approach. But there are times when music almost ceases to feel like music at all, but instead a shattered mirror reflecting musical impressions rather than solid, knowable forms. This is music that digs itself deep into the subconscious with its unrelenting strangeness, leaving the listener exposed to sounds that give no shelter, no relief. Gravetemple falls squarely in this most peculiar of musical spaces, and Impassable Fears begs the listener to abide in this space of abject peculiarity. It is as frustratingly obtuse and unsettling as it is sonically rapturous. Like Eliot, it creates a strange noise, and is all the more wonderful for it.
One of the main missions of music is to influence how we think and feel. The scientific possibilities for music to create altered states in humans transcending the aural into the psychological and beyond into physical manifestations have been studied at length. That the Journal of Music Therapy exists, among…