Laocoön is an interesting figure of Greek mythology; although not mentioned directly by Homer, he figures in many other accounts of the Trojan War, most prominently in Virgil’s “Aeneid”, which, if you ask me and somewhat heretically, is much better than anything Homer ever wrote (if he even existed). The priest of Poseidon (so Virgil’s story goes) strikes the Trojan horse with a spear, in an attempt to expose clever Odysseus’s ruse. For his attempts to expose the truth, the gods punish him by sending huge snakes to kill both him and his sons. In Sophocles’s version, however, he is killed as punishment for impiety or an act of love in a temple, both crimes against the gods.
So, in one version we have a man being struck down for knowing and trying to expose the truth, a truth the gods do not wish exposed. In the second, we have a man rebelling against their law, a priest of all people, and being struck down for his impiety. What better format to study this interesting duality than a massive post rock album, filled with nuance and subtlety? This is exactly what Ravena did in 2016 when they released Laocoön, an impressive foray into the realms of cinematic post rock and post metal. We spoke about them recently on the blog when I covered the Open Language post rock compilation (second part coming soon!). I had extolled their virtues there but I felt that their music warrants a post of its own and so, here we are!
What is Laocoön like? First and foremost, it’s an album which breathes and takes its damn time about. Like recent releases from bands like Telepathy or Labirinto, it features a drawn out and massive version of post metal, drawing from the unfurling structures of post rock. The opening track linked above, “Teraphim”, even sinks into the doom/drone realms of Earth at points, as chords untangle and undulate from the core of the track’s composition. Near the end of the track, Ravena flirt with noise and static, as everything collapses into chaos. By the way, if the tones sound familiar to those who follow the blog, you have one Scott Randle to thank for that; he’s one of the key members of Subetroth, on which we shone a light not long ago.
On the rest of the album, you’ll find reiterations and explorations of these ideas; the expanse of distortion, the feeling of descent that comes from circular riffs, the mixed elation and oppressiveness that comes with any good melange of post rock and metal. Laocoön is an ambitious album and one which manages to pull off its promise to the extreme. Even without the source material considered, it is a ponderous and deep album. When you add in the literary context, you get an even more convincing diatribe on existence, punishment, the gods and morality. Just spin the damn thing, will you?