Thirsty Thursday:How to transcend wheel reinvention, feat. Oathbreaker, Bell Witch, & dare I say, BMTH


If you’ve ever searched for a bootlegged upload of Until the Light Takes Us on the YouTubz, chances are, you’ve probably had the thumbnail of a camo hat-wearing Uncle Varg chilling in your suggested videos for the next month. I’ll admit, I’ve given into temptation and fallen down a click hole on his channel, The Thulean Perspective, on several occasions, particularly since he started his tell-all series on the early stages of the scene. But just when I think he’s lost me by going on about role-playing (and not the fun kind, daddy) or saying something to inflame my leftist sensibilities, he hits me with something so spot-on that I’m hit with a tick to smash in that subscribe button.

In one of his many videos discussing neo-paganism, Varg asserts that renunciation of the Judeo-Christian god via atheism is not the first step in the journey towards spiritual fulfillment, but rather, the first. Ultimately, he believes the true end entails rediscovering the beliefs and practices of our pagan ancestors. This idea, along with the fact that I talked to a goddamned ghost on Halloween, is why my relationship with magic is one that I have never been able to entirely turn my back on. While I still do not find myself in the position to do witchcraft proper justice, I’ve been taking some time out to expand my knowledge of its fundamentals. Because the path toward spiritual awakening accompanies the larger journey of life, you are bound to experience some constants, but also many twists and turns. Such a concept is exemplified through numerology; you have fixed numbers stemming from your birthday or name, but they can also present different faces of fate depending on their relationships with the development of new years and nicknames.

In other words, our roots lay somewhere, but our seeds? Lord knows where they might end up. While we all have underlying personalities that are subject to adaption, some are more willing to embrace the tides of fate than others, which often shines through in individuals’ art. These evolutionary currents have been particularly piquing my interest as I’ve been preparing for an exciting upcoming project with Xasthur, which has transformed from one-man atmospheric black to an acoustic folk three-piece. After considering evolution both within heavy music and individual bands, I’ve come to the conclusion that there are certain bands like, say, Crowbar, where I can take comfort in finding a consistent sound. But, there are certainly other occasions in which certain subgenres or artists could stand a hard look in the eye and an “okay, I get it already.” What follows is a look at the art that’s mastered the art of avoiding precisely that.


If you didn’t catch one of Skeletonwitch’s October dates with Iron Reagan, you really missed out. Openers Payback, who would be a great addition to your next street fight, and Homewrecker, whose lead guitarist was 100% dead ass sporting a Korn shirt, made me happy that for once in my life I managed to sober up enough to get to a show early. And, of course, the Skeleton-Reagan ticket packed a high energy punch. As Oathbreaker, it would have been easy to have gotten lost in the middle, but the four-piece out of Belgium had a perspective that managed to come up in every conversation I had the rest of the night. First and foremost, vocalist Caro Tanghe started off with acapella clean singing that managed to permeate through her cloak-wrapped ten feet of hair and grab the entire venue by the dick. Every phone was neglected, every conversation ceased, and for a moment, I was reminded of why it is I still drag myself out to shows – the hope of catching a gem like this instead of another Watain cover band.

Of course, transcending traditional black metal does not automatically lead to being a core-shaker within post-gaze whatever-the-fuck; just look at Oathbreaker’s former labelmate, Deafheaven, who has managed to make a mockery of themselves by collapsing under the weight of their own bloatedness. Like a lot of prototypical post-art, much of it seems to fall victim to laziness thanks to its creators wanting to take the weird for the sake of being weird route and capitalizing on a feigned air of “we’re not Darkthrone” superiority. It’s when the desire to offer something new within black metal grows organically it produces Oathbreaker’s seamless transitions between delicateness and abrasiveness that’s accompanied by their humble as pie attitude. If there’s one thing I can truly appreciate, it’s when new concepts are interjected accessibly. After all, the only thing worse than the kid feeling superior for his Bathory patch is the kid feeling superior for his Sunn O))) vinyl (is it three closed parentheses? I’ve never cared enough to remember).
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Bell Witch

When I was a gal, two-piece generally meant one chick on guitar and one dude on MacBook while black and white scenes of industrial wasteland played on a projector behind them. Now, more black, doom, and blackened doom seems to be pairing off. Bell Witch is the gold standard of this observation, suggesting that it was a conscious decision and not the product of a shortage stemming from everyone and their racist uncle trying to start a doom band these days. While the latter is still a real possibility in Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman’s home state of Washington, the duo takes listeners on a unique experiential roller coaster, one that only plunges downwards, suggesting that distinct perspectives can still emerge out of oversaturated pools.

Even the untimely death of original drummer/vocalist Adrian Guerra, surviving member Desmond managed to push forth with their music following suit, shrouding itself with a tone of fragile optimism that is largely otherwise absent from your average doom outfit. Other distinct tones include the range that Desmond manages to produce through bass alone. That’s right, there’s no lead guitar or anything of the sort. Having known little about them during my initial listens to Longing (2012), I had very much assumed otherwise. The day I found out the truth I hit the ground and started convulsing like I was possessed in a mega church. I suppose we’ve gotten ourselves to a point in doom in which we can simply cut out the middle man and get right to the heavy. As a favorite across the Graveyard, I implore anyone in the Midwest US to check them out this Saturday at the first annual Doomed & Stoned fest in Indianapolis. I was planning on making the trek, but I’ve rescinded my plans, as I am, well, more than a little bit frightened by that area of the country right now.

You can support these guys at thier bandcamp

Bring me the Horizon

One of these things is not like the other, I know, but I feel compelled to discuss them nonetheless. BMTH illustrates a very interesting edition of an age old question – when a scene dies, where does it go? In the case of scene/emo/core, its musical and aesthetic potential was more or less exhausted. As I’ve discussed in the past, a fair amount of bands out of this ilk went to the prog side, not really out of clean evolution, but rather out of a desperate attempt to stay relevant. Forced complexity is an oxymoron that led many bands to falter instead of becoming the Dream Theaters of the new millennium. BMTH, however, diverged from this path, instead transitioning slowly and gracefully into a kind of atmospheric alternative outfit.

I discovered this change through a friend of mine who remained a staunch BMTH supporter long after hanging up the Chelsea Grin snapback. We were out joy riding when he replaced Kevin Gates with “Drown,” and I nearly fell over out of disbelief that this was the same band I felt cool chugging Monsters to when I was a 14-year-old dipshit. The tired breakdowns and and chuga-chuga nonsense of the metalcore age had been replaced with riffs with some actual depth, albeit not, say, Scale the Summit level of depth, but depth nonetheless (and if you’ve been following the drama with those guys lately, you know that being super pro in your tab books doesn’t necessarily translate into immunity from Instagram beef). Also worth mentioning is Oli Sykes’ lyrical development, having gone from describing dousing your emo kid crocodile tears in Four Loko to the hardships of the living, breathing self-fulfilling prophecy that was his drug and alcohol addiction (which clearly managed to resonate with my friend who had been to AA and back).

All in all, BMTH seems to be doing pretty damn well for themselves despite having started in a now-dead scene as young kids who were bound to have their growing pains spill over and out. While I can’t say I have the burning desire to listen to them daily, I, as a scene survivor, am happy that they’ve managed to find their niche. For those of you giggling into your Napalm Death patches, you can save your “the world would have been better off if they would have just disbanded trololololol” for the I Heart Powerviolence comment section. And for those of you yelling “fuck those faggots” into your Five Finger Death Punch t-shirt, you can direct your name calling here:


5 responses to “Thirsty Thursday:How to transcend wheel reinvention, feat. Oathbreaker, Bell Witch, & dare I say, BMTH

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