It has been a while since I pointed out the underappreciated and subtle art of album or track names. It’s an often overlooked part of making and releasing music for obvious reasons: these naming conventions seem to be superfluous, merely ways to categorize a set of tracks or, in the case of track names, a set of chords and lyrics. But since we are all good post-modernists here, we know that pretending that the categorization of things is not some neutral act which happens before or after the thing itself has already finished the complex process of coming to life (that is, of being understood by us, who consume it). The titles, buckets, taxonomies, and designations we give to things influence the way we perceive them, change the things themselves because our perception of those things is inherently a part of them, of their creation. Especially when we’re discussing something as mercurial as music.
Which brings us, of course, to SEED‘s release from March of this year, the incredibly well named Dun Pageant. If you were to analyze the album from an “objective” perspective, a perspective more concerned with comparison and with classification, you would catalog the release as experimental doom. On one hand, SEED’s has the inexorable slowness of the doom genre but on the other, it is constructed along minimalist lines. There are no overwhelming chords here, or very little at least, very little fuzz, and certainly very little of the very safe, very obvious brand of occultism which doom metal seems to be about. Instead, SEED’s music is underpinned by soft, slow drums, guitar notes which echo across the musical canvas like spurts of paint, flung onto the canvas, rumbling bass guitars, and harrowing, gut-wrenching, powerful vocals. The addition of the prefix “experimental” mostly comes from the combination of those vocals with the minimal construction of the rest of the instrumentation and the pitches of fervor that the vocals can reach. From this, “objective” perspective the comparisons flow easy, like water: Dreadnought. Völur. Et cetera, et cetera.
But it is only when we abandon this “objective” perspective (which has its role and importance) and listen to Dun Pageant from a subjective perspective, from a place which feels emotions and imagines different lives, do we plumb the depths of its name. Dun Pageant is made up of two words. The first is “dun”. Dun is a grey-gold hue, most often used to describe horses. But in SEED’s case, it is the dun of concrete, as can be seen in the album’s cover, the dun of the softness of the American urban wasteland. It is the dun of slow days fading into a busy nothing, into a life lived at an aimless, and brutal, pace that is its own justification. But it is also the dun of our flesh, mercurial, a trickster pigment, unreliable, but also powerful, defiant, and fearsome. This also manifests in the music itself; what might be mistaken “simply” for languish, for lethargy, in the pondering and plodding instrumentation is much more than that. It is also a stalking rage, fit to explode when it is finally pushed too far (like it does on the excellent “Hole”, with its crescendo which might just be the loudest point of the album). The music feels like a slow-building rage but the rage is there, slow as it might be.
And therein, in that arrested potential, in the sleeping resistance that lies within our own dun-colored skin, is the “pageant” of the title. It is the pageant of expression, of artistic catharsis, of a “fuck you” to complacency, heteronormativity, and conformism. It is the bleeding heart that pumps inside SEED, a heart whose blood pumps to the surface mostly through the vocals. Those bone-chilling vocals! Pumped through the absolutely unrelenting lyrics and bestowed with a bubbling, uncontainable rage, the vocals of Dun Pageant are a synecdoche for the power that runs through the entire release. Hear them wail in rage on “Pits” or undulate choir-like on the aforementioned “Holes” or drip over every note of the massively slow-moving “Calico” or conjure up a hazy dream on “Broken Finger”. In short, hear them manifest the “pageant”, the explosion of emotions and themes that collides with the instruments to bring forth SEED’s rage, sorrow, and power.
Now we retreat from the subjective and return to the “objective” to say that all of the above cited elements, whether they be genre classifications, comparisons, or emotional analysis, come together to create one of the most unique, and overlooked, releases of 2021. Dun Pageant is masterclass in writing music that envelopes the listener, offering them multiple paths towards the pulsating core of the album that, truly, defies simple definition. It is pissed off. It is hopeful. It has given up. It rages and loses and gives up and keeps on fighting. And on the way, it creates some incredibly evocative and moving music.
Dun Pageant was released on March 5th. You can head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to grab it.