“The desire of the moth for the star,
Of the night for the morrow,
The devotion to something afar
From the sphere of our sorrow”.
-Percy Bysshe Shelley
Hiraeth, or so Wikipedia tells us, is a Welsh word that doesn’t quite translate into English. The above snippet of a poem might serve as a starting to point to understanding it; it is a kind of sadness, a longing, a sorrow and a pain mixed in one, all subject to a place you once knew and the modes of life you practiced within it. This emotion, we’re now here to tell you, is the basis for so much of the music that we as a community create and consume. This inexplicable and yet all powerful sorrow afflicts and permeates much of metal. Consider melodic death metal and its cries for a forlorn, winter’s space or black metal and its longing for a connection with nature that will never return.
However, it also seems that hiraeth arises even more frequently with instrumental music. Specifically post-rock and post-metal harp on this emotion, this building mist of sorrow and wanderlust that takes hold of your heart as delayed guitars and dark phrasings sound over ambience. Post-metal especially seems to live off of this fine balance between loss and hope, where as post-rock often leans towards the latter part of that equation. As such, the bands within it which manage to tap into that unique emotion are usually the ones who can elevate their brand of music from simple, derivative repetition into evocative acts of music. If you look through the article we wrote on this sub-genre a while ago, you’ll find hiraeth in nearly all of the examples we listed there.
One of those examples is what brought us here today. Telepathy‘s follow up to 12 Areas. is one of the releases these two writers have been most anticipating. Lo and behold, just short of a European tour which Heavy Blog is proud to sponsor, the band have released “Hiraeth” and an amazing video to match it. Unsurprisingly, like much of their former work, it’s a chilling, dark and moving addition to the annals of post-metal. By returning again and again to this elusive feeling of bereavement, by strumming the strings of this particular, morose heart, Telepathy use the tools of post-metal in a convincing and original way.
This distinction is important; the emotional delivery is not divorced from the musicality of the track. It doesn’t exist in some aesthetical, philosophical void which some bands might imagine is enough to evoke ideas and states of being in the listener. Instead, the musical core elements of post-metal are the channel through which such impact is managed. Put more simply, “Hiraeth” is clearly a work of post-metal with all of the elements and trappings of a classically post-metal song, but it uses those elements more potently, managing to employ and subvert those expectations.
As many tracks of this nature do, the first few minutes of the piece slowly build and swell off of a simple vamp, a combination of a thunderous bass line, propulsive drum rolls and hits, churning guitar, and more meditative lead lines on top. Rather than simply building off of that with a couple of anti-climaxes and extra crescendos thrown in, Telepathy simply use it as a starting point before bobbing and weaving into multiple compositional turns. The structure is free-flowing, transitioning effortlessly from one thought to another, all piling on top of what was previously played to form a mammoth structure. There is a real sense of story told through here, not just elements of a standard long-form composition applied in a paint-by-numbers fashion like so many other instrumental bands do.
It helps that the video, produced by Prismatik, matches the foreboding and consistently cascading flow of energy of the track. We see a stereotypically grim black and white performance-style video subverted by what we don’t see. The entire video is comprised of medium to close shots of the instruments, never giving us a glimpse of the band beyond hands, limbs, and silhouettes. And the contrast-heavy and strobing lighting further obscures what’s visible. It’s mysterious, relatively simple, and beautiful but also perfectly captures the intent and energy behind the performance and track itself.
In short, this is but a taste of what Telepathy have in store for us with their new album. However, it’s a taste that gives us every reason to believe that they will make good on the promise and stock we’ve placed in them these past couple of years. Their ability to reach out and squeeze one the heart of the listener is unparalleled and a genre which flounders in the shallows of its own cliches is hungry for such an innate gift. Telepathy are well poised, past the firing shot of their career and before their peak, to inject much needed energy into a scene that desperately needs it. Along the way, they’ll also make us feel lost, wandering on a path to a home we never even knew, filled with hiraeth and the smell of distant wood-fires.