Our brain tends to think that things must be the way they are, by the very force of their existence. When reasons are occluded, we simply tend to assume them, to hand-wave and let our lizard brains fill in the blanks so that we’re less worried. This often manifests in art; people approach genres and styles with simple assumptions of what they must be in order to fit in. If you’re making black metal, you have to approach it thusly. If you make power metal, you have to be dressed just so. If you make doom metal, the occult is a very specific thing, Latin only works if you quote the greats, and the style of music must flow from those signifiers.
Luckily, there are bands that resist these assumptions and present us with a fresh look on the intimacies between symbol, music, and style. Even more luckily, for us, 2018 has been chock full of bands that are willing to do that with doom; from the progressive antics of Ancestors to the occult murkiness of Messa, doom has been having one hell of a year when measured by the number of bands who put their own twist on the genre. Enter Huata and their album Lux Initiatrix Terrae. Sure, the album’s title is in Latin and there’s a faintly Catholic gentleman on the cover but if you look deeper, you’ll find an album filled with its own original take on these ideas.
First, the Latin (which translates roughly to “Light is the initiator of the earth”) seems wholly original; it’s not another flimsy reference at the normal subjects, like death, the abyss, or some other throwaway term. It makes you think, it seems to hold value greater than “this is cool”. It has a personality. Thus too the general approach to the occult on the album; you won’t find any stock references to ritual, spirits or the afterlife on here. Instead, original titles like “The Solar Work” or “The Golden Hordes of Kailash” summon a slightly science fiction, occult, and obscure sensation to the album. If I had to guess, I’d say that Huata take inspiration from the marvelous Gene Wolfe but I can’t know for sure and that’s the beauty of it; the album conjures a sense of its own, a rich world to be explored for its imagery and value.
OK Eden, you might say, but we’re four hundred words in and you haven’t even told us about the music! Well, let me put you at ease dear reader, the music is just as good as the trappings it comes in. Lux Initiatrix Terrae is a far-reaching creation of progressive doom, much like the work of the aforementioned Ancestors. Its bottomless riffs are accompanied by thick, redolent synths which weave honey-slow structures around them. Its vocals meld with plenty of backing tracks to create a certain affinity with the 70’s progressive rock approach to such vocals, all present and overwhelming.
But, most importantly of all, Huata know how to vary things up and create progressions which keep you hooked to the music unfolding around you. Take “Child of the Cosmic Mind” for example; most of the track churns along, building up tension by layering more and more ideas on top of each other. But near its end it lurches, suddenly shifting gear to allow the guitars to go even deeper into the main line of the track. By the time it bleeds into the following “The Solar Work” (perhaps my favorite track on the album), the music takes on a brooding and sinister twist which undercuts the former epic feeling of it in great ways. The bass especially plays a crucial role here, fermenting in the bottom of the mix to bring forth the other flavors in the music before the massive riffs return to crash on us, bolstered by the crawling patience of the interlude just before them.
In short, like all great doom records, Lux Initiatrix Terrae summons its own air through atmosphere, music, and a sense of a journey travelled. Its repetition belies just how much progression is there, hidden in effects, their interplay, and the rich lore which the album seems to be steeped on. All of these come together to create an album which allows you to get lost in, to explore a world like this one but perhaps slightly different.
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Huata’s Lux Initiatrix Terrae was released on November 23rd via Music Fear Satan. You can grab it via the Bandcamp link above.