Metal dudes sure have something for twisting and subverting the traditional music of their homes. Viking metal fits in Scandinavian tunes, Negură Bunget breaks up its blackened tunes with frequent pipe solos, and it seems like all of Neurosis have been involved in their own county project at one point or another. This last group, the ones peddling burnt Americana, are the most successful, and it’s understandable why: the landscape of America’s music stretches to the darkest corners of the continent, murder ballads and crossroads and “Cocaine Blues.” It may not sound like heavy music, but its soul is bleaker still.
This is where the power of a band like Lux Interna lies. Though moments of down-tuned distortion and bludgeoning percussion pop up on there is light in the body, there is blood in the sun, the San Franciscan’s newest, the group matches these with sections of relative quiet, which prove even denser and harder to unpack. Their pedigree stretches from Nick Cave to pitch-black interpreters of American music like Those Poor Bastards and Murder by Death, if not back to Howlin’ Wolf and Son House. They make music that understands a lack of volume won’t stop a song from rattling your ribcage.
This comes to mean that dynamics aren’t what the band places its emphasis on. Rather, Lux Interna find a way to subvert more traditional means of generating drama, emphasizing ebb and flow rather than tension and release. An impressive amount of percussion pushes each song along, shakers and cymbals and hand drums and snares, sometimes pounding, sometimes lilting. “Seed” maintains its fractured samba groove for the entire run, allowing male and female vocals, in addition to guitar stabs, to unfold overtop. “Tongues” roils and breaks over a rolling bit of tom work that would make Swans proud. Working a genre that either eschews drums or uses them simply, LI explores the rhythmic edges of their music, and brings back something that struggles with life. It moves.
All Photos by Matthew Grant Anson
San Francisco’s Deafheaven has eluded obnoxious genre trapping since their inception, doing so with a towering hybrid of sound. Second full-length, Sunbather is nothing short of an achievement, blurring lines between black metal and shoegaze, post-rock and screamo. Crafting these disparate wholes into a greater work, it is clear Deafheaven is an ambitious entity. With the overwhelming response Sunbather has received, vocalist George Clarke and guitarist Kerry McCoy found time to shed light on their work, inspiration, shows and future.
CVLT: How did the recording of Sunbather differ from Roads to Judah? Did the reputation the band garnered have an impact on the recording?
DFHVN: We were definitely much more nervous going in. Not necessarily because Roads had gained some recognition, but because we had a desire to fully out-do ourselves.
CVLT: On the grounds of scope, Sunbather belittles Roads to Judah, however they also come off as pieces of a greater whole. From an evolutionary and aesthetic standpoint, where do the two albums differ and where are they alike?
DFHVN: We took the same motivation as we had for Roads but heightened it as better musicians with a clearer, most constructed idea of what we wanted to accomplish. The aesthetics are similar, but more thought out and intelligently executed this time around.
CVLT: The artwork of Sunbather is the antithesis of typical grim, wintry imagery of black metal with its sunset hues and ribbon strands. Was this an apathetic response to metal reactionaries or even a response at all?
DFHVN: It is a move that is often misconstrued as a response to “typical” black metal imagery. I’m a fan of various types of art and simply do not want to be confined to one style. We have plenty of imagery that reflects darker themes. I simply did not find it fitting with this release.
Ah, “supergroups.” How hit and miss they can be. What’s that old saying? Too many cooks spoil the broth. It can certainly be the case when a team of esteemed musicians from different avenues congregate on the one square for a new band. Often the hype and hyperbole around the project is ultimately its undoing, but refreshingly, this hasn’t quite happened with Palms, the new band from former Isis members Aaron Harris, Jeff Caxide and Clifford Meyer, joined by Deftones’ Chino Moreno on vocals.
In many ways, Palms sounds just as you would imagine. Moreno’s voice-as-an-instrument presence is an otherworldly facet, crafting an ethereal atmosphere, maintaining his ghostly melodic croon throughout the album. Meanwhile, the instrumentation borrows from Isis’ final two albums Wavering Radiant and In The Absence of Truth, specifically those records’ more lighter shades.
Toronto’s BriefcaseFest calls itself a celebration of extreme music in Ontario, with a bill loaded with some of the province’s most intriguing heavy acts, with some friends from Quebec and even further afield calling in for a visit. The diversity across the two nights is quite staggering too, from math to black metal and doom to noise. Sometimes a bill as mixed as this can feel a little forced, but not here, as despite the disparate themes and styles on display, BriefcaseFest flows just right.
Kicking off on a Friday night in The Silver Dollar Room, noise mongrels Catamites are playing their first show for the lucky few that have made the trek in early. The duo offers up a caustic serving of noise rock with grinding guitars and utterly frantic drumming complemented by maniacal shrill vocals.
Meanwhile, Blastronaut deliver a similar sort of meandering chaos but from a different approach. Their mathy post hardcore is a little like Britain’s Alright The Captain filtered through a few hardcore records, with their largely instrumental pieces complemented by the occasional gang vocal.
Pretty Mouth totally up the intensity though with a breed of experimental grinding dissonance that grows and grows in barbarity throughout the set, as the crowd in the venue begins to grow with it. Special note must be made of the employment of an eight string guitar that adds thick, devastating layers to the assault.
Moving on, Akroid return us to plains similar to those explored by Blastronaut, with their angular post hardcore tinged with erratic melody that’s short and sweet. Next, things take another turn for Ayahuasca, in the best possible sense. Their psychedelic-imbued sludgy rock is a real grower with its unabashed melodies and sleek lead guitar work.
Eight Bells is the new band from ex-SubArachnoid Space members, Melynda Jackson and Chris Van Huffel. Haley Westeiner joins them on bass and they released their debut album, The Captain’s Daughter, back in February. A spiraling album, filled with diverse influences from a wide variety of different genres. If you have not listened to it yet, you should check it out here: http://www.eightbellsband.com/
Hi Melynda. First of all I want to thank you for finding the time to do this interview, really appreciate it. Do you want to introduce the band?
I’m Melynda Jackson I play guitar, Haley Westeiner plays bass, and Chris Van Huffel plays the drums.
Even though “The Captain’s Daughter” is your debut album, you are definitely not new on the scene, given that you and Chris Van Huffel were both members of SubArachnoid Space. Do you consider Eight Bells to be a continuation of SubArachnoid Space or a completely new entity?
Melynda: Well, you can’t really run away from yourself- In other words, it is totally different but obviously my style is my style regardless what project I play in. Style changes as a person grows. I feel that there is always room for growth as a guitar player-but some parts of what I do are just the way that I play.
Chris: There are elements left over from SAS, but I think EB has evolved into something different. I know my playing and perspective have changed quite a bit since SAS. Haley also brings something to the table, which SAS didn’t have before.
And so, it appears Locrian, the longtime masters of Urban Psychedelia, have deemed to announce their arrival at the Relapse stable with possibly their finest work yet. Coming on like the soundtrack for a sci fi epic yet to be made, “Return to Annihilation” is the glorious result of a band who have historically taken a more cerebral approach to heavy music pushing themselves further, without for one second abandoning atmosphere or emotion in the process.
There’s been a vaguely 70′s feel on some of the last few Locrian records, and it’s perhaps made a little more explicit both sonically and conceptually here.
Spectres of prog rock, John Carpenter and Riz Ortolani style soundtrack work, and the pastoral musings of Popol Vuh and Comus flit through the album’s inner workings respectfully, though as per usual the band are still far from plagiaristic. A perfect example is the unexpectedly beautiful opener – take away the distorted, banshee like vocals and it’s sun drenched synths, rolling rhythm section and tasteful interjection of dual guitar is weirdly reminiscent of Peter Gabriel era Genesis at their dreamiest.
This has been brewing a while. It’s been three years since Year of No Light’s last full-length Ausserwelt and in that time the French soundsmiths have crafted out a new niche for themselves thanks to their collaborative record with thisquietarmy and a split LP with Altar of Plagues. Vampyr sees the band continue an intriguing metamorphosis that began to take place with Ausserwelt, their first album with the current line-up and one that saw them go entirely instrumental, trading vocals in for more layered guitars and a second drummer.
No artist sounds like Wreck and Reference. Maybe my musical interests and knowledge are a bit narrow, but I doubt I’m wrong about my previous statement. Last year’s
Youth was not only one of my favorite records of the year, but one of the most intriguing and genuinely different things I came across. As the band’s progressed, we are given Content, an EP that has many of Youth ‘s attributes, but brings them into a whole new world.
“Absurdities and Echos,” the opener for the EP, is a water logged subterranean cloud of swirling textures – both haunting and otherworldly – organic drum work and the band’s best vocals yet. The vocals are augmented in a way that they reverberate in a lower tone and sound like the singer is trapped far below ground and yelling to the surface through an old well. They ebb and flow over the rich drone of effects that come through as a dark hum, sparkling static, and stabs of some type of melodic synth.
You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me is Thrill Jockey’s latest record to be released onto the world and it’s definitely a veritable feast for the ears. Under the pseudonym of Wrekmeister Harmonies, this music is the creation of JR Robinson and his collaboration with notable guests such as Bruce Lamont, Jef Whitehead, and Sanford Parker to name a few, all exploring different aural vistas in the shape of one 38 minute movement.
Originally this collective gathered in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago to perform this meandering and avant-garde piece to a sold out crowd. Soon they congregated once again, this time in the studio belonging to none other than a certain Mr. Steve Albini, and recorded what would become You’ve Always Meant So Much To Me. Needless to say, the story is an interesting one and the music itself is even more intriguing.
Vestiges and Panopticon aren’t new names in extreme music. Both bands are incredibly well-known for their effortless ability to bend genres and weave together songs that are both unnaturally powerful and aesthetically pleasing. For that reason alone, I believe this split to be an attractive one for various kinds of extreme music fans as it allows both musical accessibility via the incorporation of many genres and the proliferation of new, underused, or overlooked ideas to seep into the ears of listeners.
Vestiges contributed two songs to this split, each flowing seamlessly into an eighteen minute monolith. Vestiges give listeners exactly what they’d expect from a colossal sounding band– stark, powerful instrumentals accented and then hollowed out by various overtures and churning drum work. While most of Vestiges contribution is without vocals, I didn’t find this to be a strike against the band by any means; it adds a fullness in terms of atmosphere, sacrificing vocal intensity for deeply layered, prolonged movements that are not only emotional, but physically affecting. Essentially, “VII” is the prelude to the storm that is “VIII.” “VIII” is rife with all of the common black metal tropes; tremolo guitar work, ridiculous percussion, and the characteristic shriek of black metal vocals. However it doesn’t retain this convention for long as it slips into moments of doom and switches from a guitar-based drive to a bass-laden thunder. The tracks are without a doubt the most alluring and emotionally vexing of the split, giving listeners an insight into the more bleak yet horrifyingly beautiful aspects of extreme music.