Astral Noize: An Interview with Urne

MDFF: Hang The Bastard were awesome right?

Everyone: Right!

MDFF: Yeah, that’s right. So you’ll be glad to hear that former Bastards bassist Joe Nally and guitarist Angus Neyra have just released material with their new band Urne, and I had the chance to interview them on behalf of Astral Noize. Read it here.

 

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Yob Song By Song: Burning The Altar

We’re putting the band back together.

We’re not on a mission from God.

Wherefore in the Year of Our Lord nine and two thousand, doom would be upon mankind, not in floods and plagues, nor in thunderbolts and smitings, nay, but truly Yob did sayeth ‘Dudes, we’re putting the band back together, we got a new album coming out, it’s called The Great Cessation, Sanford Parker from Minsk recorded it for us, it’s gonna be totally sweet’¹. And the shepherds from Profound Lore did sayeth, ‘Niiiiice, man’, and did go forth with CDs/vinyl/medium of choice into the Promised Land.

And, wherefore, The Great Cessation, as it was told it would be, was Yob’s great recommencing. (OK, enough of that). Yob having disbanded in 2006, drummer Travis Foster contacted Mike Scheidt in 2008 about reconvening. They played a few gigs, then decided it was time to really crush some hopes and dreams and start dispensing the doom again.

Burning The Altar is the track that began Yob’s second coming. Howling wind is interrupted by a bass slide into a guitar tremolo–picking with lots of reverb, discordant and thick whilst underneath the bass lumbers along with the drums. The following main riff is a semitone movement (think of the Jaws theme tune – te/doh/te/doh), a one–fret movement between Bb and A with heavy palm muting and open stabs on the downbeat. After a scream, the vocals enter Ozzy–style; ‘Burning eyes brim with tears/Heavy heart clenched like a fist/Grasping hope with hands in flames’ before the screaming starts at the chorus with ‘Burning the altar/Ashes billow across the sky’. Life is suffering, but closer to something like Cormac McCarthy’s The Road² rather than the first of Buddhism’s four noble truths:

The ignorant rule the weak
With iron law and wrathful deeds
[…]Trumpets to the fall
Hollow psalms
The drums of war
Beating the stretched skin of the fallen.

Tyranny, despotism, death, war, inhumanity – this song may as well have been called Burning The World. The riff that follows on from 7.08, which utilises an Arabic–sounding scale, features a sick descending hammer–on pull–off flourish that sounds like it’s echoing up from a stone vault. Over many listens these lyrics, combined with the lurching semitone riff and creeping lead guitar, reminded me, besides the aforementioned The Road, of :

[…] somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs
[…] what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Comparing a song largely consisting of two chords to W.B. Yeats’ The Second Coming might sound improbable, but think of this comparison on the basis of the theme of horror; the movement of these chords, combined with the apocalyptic imagery, conjures the image of a colossus ominously trudging its way to reshaping the world. Indeed, the album artwork for the remastered version that Relapse put out in 2017 is of a celestial plane being plunged into turmoil, with lightening bolts flying around and birds/winged monkeys flying up out of an abyss.

Verily, most mightily pleasing a commencing for that of a great cessation.

 

 

¹Probably.

²’He walked out in the gray light and stood and he saw for a brief moment the absolute truth of the world. The cold relentless circling of the interstate earth. Darkness implacaable. The blind dogs of the sun in their running. The crushing black vacuum of the universe.’ The Road, Cormac McCarthy.

 

Song By Song: Age Eternal

In chapter nine of Wuthering Heights Heathcliff loses his shit and skips town for three years. Eventually he reappears in God’s Own Country¹ to chew gum and kick ass, without Emily Brontë ever specifying where he went on his gap yahs. This is an important bit of character formation, but nevertheless, I much prefer it in Batman Begins when Bruce Wayne drops off the face of the earth and the film shows him learning martial arts in Bhutan, or in The Two Towers when Gandalf brawled it out with The Human Torch for one hundred and fifty–two rounds, or how The Count of Monte Cristo includes eight years of Edmond Dantès learning card tricks, weightlifting and how to hotwire cars.

Point being, what happened when Yob called it a day in 2006? Did the former members of Yob save Gotham City? Save Middle Earth? Dig their way out of prison islands? Chew gum, kick ass and become the anti–hero of a lengthy Victorian tragedy/romance/gothic novel which students of English Literature shall forever continue to endure? Travis Foster and Isamu Sato may well have done any of these things for all that anyone seems to know about them during this period. On the other hand, in either late 2005 or early 2006, Mike Scheidt formed a generally–forgotten band called Middian with Will Lindsay of Indian and A Storm of Light and Scott Headrick, bassist and drummer respectively.

Going by their own description, Middian were ‘very much in the vein of YOB, but more angry and mid–paced on average, but still with roots in slow doom and the cosmic vibe that was a part of YOB’². As such, before listening to their sole album Age Eternal, I was expecting it to be a mid–paced trudge and and a poor man’s Yob, forgotten because it was forgettable. As it turns out, I am a poor man’s critic, and Age Eternal is actually rather good.

Doom only in part, it has a different feel to any Yob album. It contains the aforementioned aggression, with opening track Dreamless Eyes coming in fast with punk discordance and the vocals entering with a head–splitter of a scream from Scheidt. It is a diverse listen, with a big slow down of pace five minutes in, and throughout the album the riffs move around a lot more than Yob’s typically do. The teak–thick ending of Dreamless Eyes gives way to the echoing, glassy guitar of second track The Blood of Icarus, just before the rest of the band enter with the sort of riff that makes it hard to move from the floor. The eponymous Age Eternal is light and fluttering where The Celebrant is aggressive, and closing track Sink To The Centre spends a while with a guitar tolling like a bell, but none of that merry shit, more like when Ice–T sampled Black Sabbath and rapped about being in the wrong fuckin’ part of town. This track is more Yob–like, slower and weirder to digest than the other tracks, eventually freaking out into a big psychedelic outro.

Scheidt with short hair. Weird.

Repeated and spaced–out listens (referring to the passage of time, rather than mental state) impressed upon me how good this band really was. It is unmistakably Scheidt playing, but Middian were very much their own band. After this one album, Middian would end under unfavourable circumstances. Unfavourable, rather than unfortunate, as they were effectively sued into paralysis by another band going by the name of Midian, based on the other side of the U.S. in Wisconsin, who issued a cease and desist order in October 2007. Only Middian’s (two d’s) side of the story is readily available, but it looks like Midian (one d) weren’t happy with Middian’s (two d’s) attempts to placate them, and the situation escalated into a federal law suit, which ended with Middian (two d’s) not being allowed (two l’s) to sell their album, being dropped from Metal Blade Records, and disbanding in December 2007.

Having done a bit of research, Midian of one d did not make good on all that litigation by giving the world some decent music. However, as Buddha probably once said, the silver lining to this cloud of shite is that the death of Middian would lead to to the second coming of Yob. As Middian wound up, Scheidt was approached by Foster, fresh from saving Gotham City, about playing a Yob reunion gig. Aaron Rieseberg was recruited to bring the four string thunder (presumably Sato was still busy saving Middle Earth). The gig was good. The gig was loud. Tracks were written. An album was planned. Much like Heathcliff, Yob were back to chew gum, kick ass and play doom.

  1. Yorkshire, of course.
  2. https://web.archive.org/web/20070420214903/http://www.middian.org:80/bio.htm/

Yob Song by Song: The Mental Tyrant

 

File:The Thinker, Rodin.jpg

Photo courtesy of Andrew Horne.

Doom encourages insight. As mentioned in Revolution, it is the metallic subgenre best suited to and most closely aligned with the concept of enlightenment. Most of Yob’s music digs deep and soul–searches, but it is in their clean, sombre material, such as Catharsis, Marrow or the first half of The Mental Tyrant, with the grace and flow of that mournful, descending C5/Bb5/Ab5 chord progression, complete with flanger and volume swells, where this sentiment really rings true.

With this introspection, it takes three and a half minutes for the intro to evolve into a distorted form, then another couple of minutes to evolve – or rather, to degenerate – again, the chord progression breaking down into ugly sludge. All in all it takes 10 minutes for the vocals to enter, the longest for any of Yob’s song. This ‘degeneration’ makes me wonder who or what the titular mental tyrant is. The lyrics, containing the lines ‘Vast fear/Disguised as wisdom’ and ‘Constant desire for virtue, the higher/Achieve the right to judge our brethren with a smile’, refer repeatedly to hierarchies. They could be about Yob’s lyrical bête noire of organised religion, but remain equivocal enough to be open to interpretation. In particular, Scheidt has stated that he has suffered from depression¹,²,³ and whilst it’s easy to write meanings into songs that the author did not mean, I did wonder if the title of this song was a reference to mental health. Given this lyrical ambiguity, whilst very much not a certainty, it’s possible, which is one of the strengths of this song; digging deep and soul searching.

Talking of strengths, I also like how after nearly nineteen minutes of riffing Yob have the imagination to put throat chanting and drums that sound like they were recorded in a canyon to tape, and then have the audacity to end for a couple of seconds before a chugging re–entry.

Closing notes on The Unreal Never Lived : this album was released on Metal Blade in 2004, just as the New Wave of American Heavy Metal was on the ascendancy. Stablemates/sparring partners included As I Lay Dying, Immolation and Unearth. While not exactly doom’s heyday (has doom ever had a heyday? Can doom have a heyday? Do the words doom and heyday go together? Does heyday go with anything?), I can imagine Yob thinking that they had ‘made it’ to some extent – after all, Metal Blade is a major label, founded by early Metallica–promoter/discoverer Brian Slagel and the one–time home of Slayer. Furthermore, although Yob’s story is an ongoing one (they recently announced the completion of recording for their eighth album), this album is considered to be Yob’s best by many. How about that – critical and commercial acclaim. Then when it came to touring to support the album in 2005, bass guitarist Isamu Sato and drummer Travis Foster quit Yob. In January 2006 Scheidt announced via press release that Yob was calling it a day. As such this was to be Yob’s last album before a two year disbandment – their own great cessation.

 

1. http://www.toiletovhell.com/yob-is-love-cats-the-cure-and-depression-with-mike-scheidt/

2. http://factoryworkermedia.com/2015/03/19/interview-clearing-a-path-with-mike-scheidt-of-yob/

3. https://noisey.vice.com/en_us/article/rpnnmr/yob-mike-scheidt-interview-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

 

 

Yob Song by Song: Kosmos

I’m not sure how this song makes me feel. Happy? Sad? Happy to be sad? Sad to be happy? Goddammit.

Listening to Kosmos, I found myself trying to figure out what makes it, and in turn, Yob, so distinctly, well, Yobbish. This track is not their fastest, nor their slowest, nor their lowest, nor their most diverse. Maybe it’s the guitar tone, but tone tends to be one of the easier things to duplicate – how many Swedish death metal and Entombed–loving bands bought Boss’s HM2 pedal after hearing Left Hand Path? – and what other band could be mistaken for Yob?

However conjured, Yob apply this feel, this density, within their continued use of that genre most eldritch, horror. As you, my loyal readers, will no doubt recall,  I described preceding track Grasping Air with another rather Lovecraft–ian term ‘pervaded with unspeakable dread’. Despite the new age title, for its first four minutes Kosmos lurks and slithers, until the pace picks up with a call and response section between the lead guitar and rhythm section three minutes in. Even then things stay trudging and dissonant.

However, when placed next to the lyrics, this atmosphere of horror presents a cognitive dissonance. I had planned to close this piece with a pithy comment like ‘You are not one with the cosmos’ or ‘I wonder what Alexander von Humboldt would make of that’ (maybe not that pithy then), but that would be to ignore lyrics like

Each breath one with the all
Hearts pulsate with the mantra
Vibrant in the kosmos

or

Subsonic sage drones reach to the stars
With ancient insights into the kosmos

I’ve said it before, but sometimes the pace of a song means more than the band showing you how fast they can play. Doom is slow, not just because its instigators want to sound like Black Sabbath and Sunn O))), but because this slowness allows for and encourages insight. There’s time to think; it’s cerebral, rather than physical. You don’t see many moshpits at doom gigs. However, where this philosophical approach works well with a certain kind of song, such as Catharsis or Marrow, here it left me confused. Kosmos oozes horror, and as such it’s still an effective piece of music, but I find it hard to align my chakra when I’m expecting Ktulu (I’m spelling it like Metallica, tough shit Lovecraft) to come flapping out of another dimension and expose me to the true nature of reality and thus drive me mad. This song is just too ugly to inspire any sense of peace.

The Winter of Our Content XIX: Alcest, Kodama

Alcest pioneered blackgaze (so I’m told¹), and black metal certainly does seem to be the point of departure for Kodama. Alcest mix tremolo picking, blast beats and snarled vocals with push and pull, echo and delay, space, instrumental sections and clean singing. And crucially, in the context of this being an album for winter–stricken times and climes, black metal’s defacto misanthropy is exchanged for melancholy. Alcest are a French band, and my French is très mauvais, but going by interviews and translations of lyrics², this is sad, not angry, music. Kodama draws from Princess Mononoke, an anime about Japanese folklore which thematically addresses being caught between two worlds. Lyrically, this adds up to themes of vulnerability, alienation and loss of ability and freedom running through the album, with third number Je Suis D’Ailleurs (I Am From Elsewhere) closing with ‘Je me sens étranger’ – ‘I feel foreign’.

Alcest could join Agalloch as spiritual playlist companions, but they could just as equally be played next to The Cure. Kodama sounds cold and feels cold, but even when frontman Neige is snarling, the tone has a lightness to it. It is illogical to describe a piece of music as simultaneously dark, melancholic and uplifting, but this duality is what defines Kodama.

  1. https://noisey.vice.com/en_uk/article/yvpydk/alcest-kodama-interview-premiere
  2. http://www.darklyrics.com/lyrics/alcest/kodama.html#1

 

Best of 2017

In keeping with that noble tradition of trying not to repeat myself so much that I bore everyone into stabbing themselves in the thigh with a biro just to feel alive again, all previous entrants have been excluded. However, there are a couple of albums which gave the REPEAT button good use this year. Joining Wolfmother’s first album in the Hall of Fame will be Hang The Bastard’s entire discography and Oceanic by Isis (please, please see link for clarification of ‘Isis’).

2017 releases

I managed to buy five albums which came out this year, which is something I suppose.

PallbearerHeartless (Nuclear Blast)

‘Want to mellow the mood in this post–Black Sabbath age? Think that doom metal needs to get real? Want to get worked up about 60 plus minutes of intense sadness? Put on Heartless and turn that smile upside down.’

Julian MarchalInsight III (Whale Records)

‘Marchal takes this concept of each song being each listener’s own insight and really makes it it work. Like the best instrumental music, the 10 pieces on Insight III tell stories without using words. The removal of the human voice gives these pieces an enigmatic quality, and with his songwriting and playing laid bare with only a piano at hand there is a poignancy and contemplative quality that are endlessly attractive.’

Left BehindBlessed By The Burn (Unbeaten Records)

‘Someone, somewhere, just got pushed into a moshpit listening to this album.’

BosskI II (Holy Roar re–release)

“Gaze into night sky
see riffs shimmer on star flight
as they pass us by.”

Bossk’s re–released I II is deep, light, and inspires questionable poetry about stargazing.

ConvergeThe Dusk In Us (Epitaph) 

The Dusk In Us can be about politics if you want it to be. What is more definitive is that this album supports the premise that it’s best to work backwards with Converge, and that the gradual shift to a more melodic approach has led to increasingly rewarding listens.

Older releases

Neva mind tha’ dreck from 2017, back  i’ 2016 we uz um some ‘ad real music, aye.

Parisos/t (Holy Roar)

Proper finger–pointing, give–me–that–microphone hardcore, but with riffs. Osmium Claw is like a hardcore version of Iron Man.

Employed To ServeGreyer Than You Remember (Holy Roar)

Also give–me–that–microphone hardcore, jammed packed with everything, in a good, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, bone–breaking way.

Bruce SpringsteenNebraska (Columbia)

‘Everything dies baby, that’s a fact
but maybe everything that dies
someday comes back’

Nine Inch NailsThe Downward Spiral (Island)

Similar to how I thought Unknown Pleasures would be fun on at least one level, I thought Downward Spiral would be straightforwardly energetic – Nine Inch Nails are half–techno, after all. Well, it ain’t. Downward Spiral clangs and scrapes and by the end it hurts.

GojiraMagma (Roadrunner)

‘[T]here were also several points on this album that started a one man moshpit in front of my stereo.’

Inter ArmaCavern (Relapse)

If you can write a song that opens with a riff constructed like a series of pillars, and then finish that song 45 minutes later by reintroducing that riff, I like you.

SamothraceLife’s Trade (20 Buck Spin)

Elemental forces meandering along the river of doom.

Cult of Luna & Julie ChristmasMariner (Indie Recordings)

We’re going on a roadtrip to space and the soundtrack’s going to be awesome.

Townes van ZandtOur Mother the Mountain (Fat Possum Records)

My previous appreciation of country music was limited to The Blues Brother (‘we got both kinds’), but van Zandt wrote some dark, haunting material evocative of being left asunder.

Bert JanschRosemary Lane (Transatlantic Records)

Rosemary Lane makes me think of corners of England that seem to have been happily forgotten and where folk music is the only kind of music (‘we don’t got both kinds’).

BurstLazarus Bird (Relapse Records)

The opening line of first track I Hold Vertigo is ‘What is the nature of this?’ It took me a while to figure out that what Lazarus Bird is, with its many facets, is progressive. This is philosophical music about and for philosophical ideas.

DeafheavenNew Bermuda (Anti–)

As I have remarked elsewhere, I’m generally not a fan of black metal. The black metal bands who I do like have invariably mixed it up with something else; Kvelertak with hardcore, Alcest with shoegaze (‘Shoefookinwhat?’), Agalloch with folk and post–rock. Here, Deafheaven have also mixed up black metal with post–rock and shoegaze (‘Shoegaze? Wha’ t’ fook is shoegaze?’). Interestingly, for 47 minutes of music which draws from two genres which are generally lighter on riffs compared to other styles of metal, New Bermuda is full of massive hooks; Gifts For The Earth sounds like something Kirk Windstein or Pepper Keenan (‘Pepperfookinwho?’) would be proud of.

Rough HandsNothing’s Changed (Holy Roar)

…talking of riffs…

Third World96° In The Shade (Island)

Roots reggae of the most uplifting order.

MastodonBlood Mountain (Relapse)

Mastodon have changed with each album ; if you want prog stylistics and duelling guitars, Blood Mountain is the album to go to.

Yoblots of everything (and then some).

MetallicaRide The Lightning

I have reached that stage with this album where I am discovering new favourite songs. The gift that keeps on giving.

Kate TempestLet Them Eat Chaos (Fiction Records)

Poet Tempest tells the story of seven unrealising neighbours over Let Them Eat Chaos’ 13 tracks, which along the way grows into a state of the nation address and story of human connections over electronic/electronica(?) beats that evoke an urbanised disaffection.

Marvin GayeWhat’s Going On (Motown)

It took a while to grow on me, what with it being a bit smoother than the d–beat I usually like to play out of my windows at the neighbours, but the soul of Gaye’s voice, and creativity of James Jamerson’s basslines, transcends this kind of behaviour.

The Duke St WorkshopTales of H.P. Lovecraft (Static Caravan)

The Duke St Workshop have recorded H.P. Lovcraft’s short horror stories From Beyond and The Hound with soundtracks, which involves a lot of synths. Don’t listen to after lights out.

Review ‘Em All: Converge, The Dusk In Us

Given that part of Converge’s DNA is punk and most likely ever will be, and that their last album, All We Love We Leave Behind, came out in 2012, I wondered whether The Dusk In Us would draw directly from changes in their home nation of the U.S. They’ve never been a political band (at least, not ostensibly; can you think of a facet of Converge that proves otherwise?), but, as little Bobbie Z once said, the times they are a changin’.

So have Converge gone political? Across its 13 tracks and 44 minutes, on a cursory listen, the answer is no. Converge’s go–to subject area for lyrics continues to be human connections; vocalist Jacob Bannon is still screaming about having heart, and there a lot of lyrics like

the little lies, the distorted truths
smeared the perspective and made me love you
queen of the garbage, prince of the weeds (Under Duress)

However, a couple of listens in, the abstract nature of this language makes The Dusk In Us is a lot more ambiguous than the first listen suggests; Year of The Quarrel contains the lines ‘the little lies, distorted truths/smeared the perspective and made me love you’, Under Duress states ‘compassion bends under duress/wouldn’t need a gun if you didn’t have one/don’t need you to serve or protect’, and closing track Reptilian starts with ‘futile wars for fruitless words/written by shadow kings’. This could all mean something, but just as equally could be but what my ears behold. The advantage of this lyrical style, common in hardcore and its derivatives, is that it lends itself to a very precise definition and feeling for its adherents (it’s about me; I can relate to this) whilst being abstract enough to be open to interpretation (be strong; be united; it’s us against them).

Something less open to interpretation is TDIU’s continuation of the more melodic nature of All We Leave Behind. A Single Tear opens with a squiggly guitar line and big band–style drumming (I wonder if drummer Ben Koller likes jazz) and the gang shout in chorus is absolutely propulsive. Under Duress has a shovelling bass intro and a verse riff that sways around, and eponymous sixth track The Dusk In Us is a mellow, midpoint break. Even the feral Wildlife is approachable in that it serves as a kind of an entry point into Converge; the imperative tone, the busy drumming, the tremolo picking, the structure – this is the verse, this is the chorus, this is the interlude. Bannon’s vocals are still quite squawky, but I can tell which songs are which. That said, fans of skronk don’t freak out; there are still numbers that sound like Taz just spun into a guitar and a mic; Year of The Quarrel is relentless, Broken By Light absolutely flies through riffs in its one minute and 45 seconds, and after the queasy hammer–on–pull–off bass intro of Trigger, it turns out guitarist Kurt Ballou is still finding those left–over Slayer riffs. There are also the curve balls; the fast, snappy breaks of Arkhibov Calm (reminiscent of AWLWLB’s Sadness Comes Home), the weirdness of Murk & Marrow (strange structure, strange noises, strangely compelling), and I Can Tell You About Pain, AKA I can tell you about weird time signatures.

The Dusk In Us can be about politics if you want it to be. What is more definitive is that this album supports the premise that it’s best to work backwards with Converge, and that the gradual shift to a more melodic approach has led to increasingly rewarding listens.

Review ‘Em All: Left Behind and Burning Up

I’m not too fussed about your threads. Not everyone is a down-for-life hesher. But goddamn, there is something satisfying about knowing without a trace of a doubt that you are looking at what could only be a metal band.

Someone, somewhere, just got pushed into a moshpit listening to this album.

Like Hang The Bastard, Speedwolf, or variations upon Percy The Pig sweets (Penny The Pig? Come on), Left Behind aren’t ploughing their own furrow with second album Blessed By The Burn. What they do, and do very well, is weapons–grade metallic hardcore. They know that riffs are the order of the day, and that songwriting will make these riffs last. They mix up tempos (opening track West By God), chuck down barrelling riffs (er, whole album), swing like King Kong (Scarred Soul), strip back layers, give the vocals some space to get to work, add layers back (Sweetness of Nothing), every now and then bust out a breakdown (Tough Love), then suddenly woah–up–there into sludge and make me want to stomp around in big circles squashing things with size 14 steel toes (again, whole album).

Furthermore, as Left Behind are happy to describe themselves on their Facebook page as ‘Five dumb motherfuckers from West Virginia’, in turn I am happy to imagine that at some point their lead guitarist (with the the exception of vocalist Zach, they don’t specify which members play what) said something along the lines of ‘I LOVE ME A PINCH HARMONIC’, because it sure sounds like it; my favourite example is Early Mourning.

Left Behind also know y’all best tell a good yarn. I get the impression that life has been hard on these five dumb motherfuckers from West Virginia; Zach, who, going by his roar, sounds like a big dude, covers suicide, mental breakdowns, addiction, and in Tough Love domestic abuse in some detail;

It’s like casting a curse
You loved making the hurting worse
Your biggest regret since the birth
Now she isn’t on the Earth

Despite the imperative feel to the lyrics and vocals, the stereotype of the tuff–talkin’ hardcore guy is sidestepped by the absence of cliches and Zach’s ability to express pain convincingly;

It’s so hard to feel anything but numb
When all I can think about is how I wanna smoke it away
Til I sway and I hurt and I ache and I burn and I taste (Sweetness of Nothing)

or, my favourite line,

Cover shit up like a bad tattoo (Burn Out)

Feel the burn for yourself and buy Blessed By The Burn from Unbeaten Records here.

The Winter of Our Content XVIII: Getting (Type O) Negative with October (Rust)

That’s right, a feature piece on an album called October Rust just in time for late November.

In an irritatingly recurring trend, Type O Negative are one of those bands I dismissed a while ago for being just a bit too goth, for looking like they were trying just a bit too hard to be gloomy. I was made aware of my ignorance by an excellent piece on their landmark fourth album October Rust at the now sadly defunct That’s How Kid Die blog, and I’m here to tell you sometimes it’s OK to be a bit of a goth.

As with several other albums I’ve harped on about for their sonic depictions of winter, if you’ve heard anything by Type O Negative, or from October Rust, you know this is an obvious choice. Despite (allegedly) having been nicknamed ‘The Drab Four’, comparatively speaking they aren’t really that dour a band next to some of the other bands I have written about in the same terms (Joy DivisionA Storm of LightRamesses, all those good–time guys). It’s more that they revel in darkness; they are one of the few metal albums to have lyrics about love that aren’t plain fuckin’ deranged (…maybe with the exception of Wolf Moon), typically focusing on loss, regeneration and vulnerability. October Rust is a lush and atmospheric–sounding album, combining Vol. 4 riffs (Burnt Flowers Fallen), ambitious songwriting (Wolf Moon) and Peter Steele’s clean baritone singing (Be My Druidess). It’s also generally quite a slow album, which, matched with Steele’s baritone, lends it a solemnity and a brooding quality.

Sleeve notes full of autumnal and winter forest scenes. I told you this was goth didn’t I?

Lyrically, the distinction between the pastoral concerns of October Rust and a band like Agalloch is that Type O Negative are focused on nature’s impact on humans;

Spring won’t come, the need of strife
To struggle to be free from hard ground
the evening mists that creep and crawl
will drench me in dew and so drown (Haunted)

Where some metal bands are all about taking the rough with the rougher, with Type O Negative it’s more that they revel in darkness. Not too goth, not too gloomy; just right.