Happy Halloween, 2017, from your nefarious friends at Kvlt Kolvmn! Hard to imagine a better day for this column to land near, what with all the ghouls, spirits, demogorgons and Eleven’s traipsing around with their sugar receptacles and real world terror encroaching from every corner of this planet. God, what a miserable year in so many ways. Thankfully, that misery has not extended into the world of black metal, which continues to drop sensational releases month after month. October is no exception. This month saw the release of several exceptional albums that not only continued to solidify the importance of black metal’s existence as one of the premier subgenres within the metal universe, but also its ability to offer complex, fierce statement of countercultural urgency. That last component is important for one particular album that screams thoroughly against some of the prevailing philosophical dogma that runs rampant in the darkest corners of the subgenre. Despite the most truly reprehensible portions of its collective ranks, black metal can indeed speak the language of justice. But enough talk. Let’s metal.
The music industry is huge and can be intimidating. It’s complexity, breadth, and depth is unmatched by any other entertainment industry. That massive output can be quite discouraging if you really want to keep up with everything. As someone who recently transitioned from being an average listener to a serious writer of music, I totally and completely sympathize. Every week, there seems to be some new big happening with music, some new album, some new hype, and if someone tunes out, even for just a week or two, it seems like an eternity has gone by. Trends live fast and die hard in music, making it easy to feel left out. This is totally by design based on everything previously discussed. Labels are trying hard to make something stick and curators are trying to keep up with their massive output. Here’s a little advice to listeners (and journalists) who feel burnt out constantly listening to new music:
Laurel Brauns never really managed to emerge from the fog of singer-songwriters clinging to the U.S. West Coast. True to the genre, her 2001 debut album, Swimming, was recorded in basements and released to little fanfare. But there’s a peculiar magic wreathing the album that makes Laurel stand far above the litany of artists straining to be loved. Her album is a simple one. It’s a young woman and a guitar, spiced with violin, mandolin, and cello provided by her musically inclined friends. Nothing revolutionary. The reason Laurel Brauns is a fantastic singer-songwriter is simple as this: she is a fantastic singer and a fantastic songwriter. Her singing is the best I’ve ever heard.