Welcome back to Genre Genesis. For newcomers, here’s a brief overview of how this works. Four of the other editors – Nick, Scott, Jonathan, and Eden – have partners who are, shall we say, not nearly as invested in heavier music as we tend to be, and so their knowledge of the sort of stuff we tend to cover at Heavy Blog is almost entirely secondary. To that end, Sarah, Lauren, Kinsy, and Ronnie – the significant others of Nick, Scott, Jonathan, and Eden respectively – have volunteered to be part of this running series, where I give them a song and they catalog their thoughts about said song and attempt to label it with a genre based on their working knowledge of heavy music. Besides being a fun diversion from our usual content, this also serves somewhat the purpose of taking the piss out of metal and being a benign way of poking some fun at a community that is way too stuffy about how and why people enjoy various parts of the culture.
On this auspicious third entry (the charmed one, or so they say), we’re taking a hard left turn from the previous two tracks. Where Converge and Wolves in the Throne Room are vastly different bands in their own right, both offer up music that is… relatively straightforward. Gigan, on the other hand, are pretty batshit ridiculous with their brand of tech-heavy psychedelic death metal, as the album name Undulating Waves of Rainbiotic Iridescence may suggest. Themes range all the way from existential dread (in space) to cosmic terror (also in space), and their songs often feel like bizarre meditations on some astral plane. In short, they’re fucking weird, and that’s why they’re a great fit for this column. Read on to see just how they get labeled by our genre creators!
Do you guys remember Ghostwriter? Gigan’s “Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum” reminds me of the aural embodiment of one of the baddies from that glorious show.
Mainly I want to give this guy a cough drop and then back slowly away. This track is very much more what I expected from this column – hard-to-understand lyrics, lots of guitars sort of thrown together. When I looked up the lyrics, they were SAT words – just shift-F7 enough to be slightly outside most folks’ everyday speech. This type of music sort of feels like the members of the band all sat down in a room and played riffs without regard to what the other was doing and said to themselves, “Yep, done!”
Perhaps my librarian’s soul just needs more order, but Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum feels like it lacks structure and organization, yelling and riffing around to an unsatisfying conclusion. They seem to be technically proficient musicians, but they lack discipline and forethought. This song reminds me of my early college essays, when I convinced myself that writing without editing was just how I wrote. Editing for content as well as for structure is helpful, friends.
But as I’m listening intentionally and attentively to more metal as a result of this column, I’m noticing a theme of attempted renewal stemming from discontent. It reminds me of people who write in to advice columns who messed up some interpersonal relationships and want to just move to a new city to try and start again, this time will be different. It will not, buddy. Gigan is looking for, “Lava flowing black / Flowing / Rolling / Burning clean to start anew.” What you’re going to find on your hands after the magma cools quickly, Giggy, is a pile of the same old stuff, now with more white igneous rock. Black lava flow cools grey-white, which may sort of ruin the doomy aesthetic you’ve trying to cultivate here. Thanks Dr. Hawkins for the igneous rocks lecture from Geosciences 102, spring 2009. I’ve been waiting to use that information for so long!
Genre: Doom (of Our STEM Education); Technically Proficient Death Metal
This song does a lot and it does everything, loudly. Based solely on the lyrics (that I had to inevitably look up despite having listened to the track at least four times in a row) I would not have expected the sound that was associated with them. Their talk of “tumbling into the void” and “feeling the weight of the miasma” invoked thoughts of meditation and oneness with nature, not metal growls, heavy guitars, and intense percussion. The wave-like sound of the guitar in the introduction does give a feeling of forward movement, and the magnitude of the track, both in sound and length, could be representative of some sort of expanse like the cosmos.
But overall, “Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum” fell short for me, as there was a lack of variation in intensity over the duration of the song. It felt like one long block of an unrelenting, fast-paced metal maelstrom where blast beats, indiscernible vocals, and hurried guitars were thrown at me one after the other. As a novice metal listener, I quickly became tired of trying to keep up and lost interest midway through the track, catching myself staring off into space, if you will. It started to sound like many other songs Scott puts on, making it seem more generic than it probably is.
Maybe THAT’S the cosmic theme Gigan was going for here. “Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum” is its own unique entity, yet it is every metal song. Much like the feeling of existential doom that the vastness of space and time raises in us mere humans, it is simultaneously in your face, yet easy to ignore. “Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum” is you. “Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum” is me. We are all Plumes of Ink Within a Vacuum.
Genre: C O S M I C metal
I would like to begin my assessment of the song “Plume of Ink Within a Vacuum” by Gigan with a disclaimer… I do not know the first thing about the different genres of metal. Not a thing. Even after simply reading this first sentence aloud, Jon corrected me and said “you mean subgenre”. Case in point. The closest thing to metal that I was ever really into was hardcore. Well, here I go. This is going to be interesting.
From the very beginning of the song, I fell into a sort of trance. It starts off a little trippy, and as the song develops and the vocals come in it continues in this vibe. There is more to this song than mere craziness, though. There is a consistent musical theme throughout. Even as the song goes through various technical changes, it holds steady to this theme throughout the song. It is complex and technical, but feels rooted and consistent.
My immediate assessment is that it has a house music feel to it. I know I may have just freaked some people out with that statement, but that is honestly what I thought after listening to this song the first time. It is not that it sounds like house music as much as there is a consistent, repeating element that holds the song together, even in the vocals.
Based on Jon’s admirable attempt to explain some of the different types of metal to me, I would guess this more of a death metal band. But as Jon also explained that there are TONS of subgenres, I have decided to make my own label up.
Genre: House Death Metal.
I’m extremely confused.
My general issue with metal is that at some point, it all sounds the same. I can’t figure out any melody or patterns through the rapid drum beats, screeching guitars and growls. It’s too loud, fast and crowded for my uneducated ears. This track is the epitome of that.
There’s no intro, no mellow fade-in. It just starts. I have no time to gather my thoughts and start processing anything. It somehow manages to be repetitive and lack any discernible pattern at the same time. How does one move to this music? Do you bang your head and jump around frantically until you break something, or do you just stand there and let the music wash over you? Neither option sounds fun. Maybe you have to be high to get it.
The vocalist sounds angry. I guess you could say that about most metal vocalists, but I’m taking whatever I can get here. There’s a lot of vibrance and glitter in the lyrics, and the beginning of the track has some whoosh sounds that I’m going to interpret as space music. Maybe this is what the young people of Mars will listen to when they plan their rebellion against Earth or something.
Who would enjoy this? Maybe an alien living in another dimension where time goes faster.
Genre: I’m going to label this “Angry Speed Space Metal”.