I don’t know about you, but when I’m presented with a fresh issue of Decibel, I tend to skip right to Neill Jameson’s column, Low Culture – not necessarily because I agree with every last word he says, but because he gets me thinking no matter which way the coin flips. In April’s issue, he expresses resentment towards those who bitch and moan about how most metal isn’t widely welcomed by popular entertainment, largely on the grounds that it’s a great realm of dribble and therefore unworthy of our association. This time, the coin landed on its side, because hey, check it out – I don’t give a shit if metal’s mainstream or if it’s not. Like within a lot of genres, a lot of it isn’t and some of it is. There’s Happy Days and then there’s Five Finger Death Punch. It is what it is.
But I do have one wish, and that’s simply to give a bit more credit where credit is due – at least within the scene, if nothing else. Ever motivated by my own selfish desires, I want the dank bands I like to get attention and inspire new dank bands for my earholes to jack it to. Recapping my thoughts over the past few weeks involving post-black in particular, I think that while Deafheaven garnering attention throughout the music scene paints a rosy picture for innovation to come within black metal, it is a shame that they’re held as the champion of post-black when there are other faces just as, or even more so, deserving.
If this year’s releases have been any indication, we’re on the cusp of something pretty damn exciting, and it’s sure as hell a something to fucking acknowledge and celebrate. The countdown is on to Ghost Bath’s Starmourner—follow-up to the beautifully divisive Moonlover (2015)—and if single Ambrosial is any indication, it’s going to deliver their unapologetically goat-wrenching take on compelling depressive influences alongside an exploration of their psychedelic side. I think I also speak for everyone when I say I’ve been left utterly shooketh by last week’s dropping of Pallbearer’s long-awaited Heartless – a record that delivers all that one can ask of a modern doom outfit while also asserting some progressive-experimental vibes.
It all goes to show that, times, they are a-changin, and I hope that widening the spotlight to include others besides Deafheaven will continue to keep evolution within black metal, and even metal more generally, on an inspiringly fresh track. So, here they are: some other champions of post-black to keep the momentum going:
Right off the bat, ISOTM wastes no goddamned motherfucking time. We dive right into brightly-toned tremolo – the seeming contradiction that’s becoming one of post-black’s greatest achievements. Subtle folk influences add depth without impeding on tonal clarity. There’s a tug and pull between fast and slow interludes that keeps you from becoming too absently comfortable in one or the other. Finally, ISOTM serves its own take on depressive-style wails by taking it to a full-on shriek, but also by pulling back into more of a shout on occasion, hopefully making things less overwhelming for the old schoolers who get triggered by too much Goat Bathing. Personally, I also possess emotional gratitude for the sentiment of “help me off the ground.” Even though surrendering to sadness—a common thread of traditional DSBM—often feels right in the moment, it ultimately takes its toll. Eventually, you want to dig yourself out, even in the face of some kind of up-hill affliction like the woman in the album art endures. Hey, that kind of sounds like that escaping struggle narrative that Deafheaven allegedly patented, except in this case it’s actually communicated effectively. How bow dah.
An Autumn for Crippled Children
I was three mimosas deep into brunch with my sister when I saw that my good pal Robin had sent me some promo material for these guys. Needless to say, I spent a good minute choking on my tofu scramble. It’s a name that’ll catch you off guard, that’s for sure. But, after doing some research, it proved itself to be less overstated of an identity than I had originally thought. As it turns out, the name is a play on a really fucked up banger by Ebony Lake, An Autumn to Cripple Children. I know some people get real butthurt when bands take names from other bands’ work. One interesting case study of this pattern can be found in the comment section of any video by A Diadem of Dead Stars. He’s ripping off the Wolves in the Throne Room album or blah, blah, blah.
Personally, I don’t see anything wrong with elaborating on the thought of another. In fact, I think that tactic is pretty on-brand for a post band. We’ve been left to deal with the consequences of what’s come before us, and we’ve had to carve out a new, dare I say, “safe space” to cope, a space we gradually struggle to maintain as the decay of winter impends. Musically, An Autumn demonstrates how post-black is a term to be used loosely because there’s sure as hell a lot of genre bending going on. In this case, experimentation has led to the formation of a melting pot of gothic rock and metalcore. Sans cheese, though – synth is present, but serves as another layer instead of the main base; solos are scattered, but contribute to a sense of intelligence rather than an overstressed plot device. So, swallow any pretenses and give Autumn a chance.
The best way I can describe Nemus’ contribution is pretty plain and simple. They’re a post-black band for people who don’t like post-black. Allow me to explain, and if you’re a member of the “if it’s not Gorgoroth, it’s garbage crowd,” listen up. This album right here is true experimental grit. Wails are limited and the major key remains largely unexplored, but the chord progression is extremely consistent within the cutting edge without abandoning the old school tone. The vocals especially give off that no fucks attitude that say, Hellhammer, mastered, but seem to be used as a distinct tool within Nemus’ overarching narrative.
Black metal has always done a really good job at beating us with the “we’re just insignificant humans be-bopping around in the larger sphere of nature and we probably should have just killed ourselves yesterday” bat, right? Well, Nemus takes that and offers a new vision of humanity’s relationship with the natural realm – a much more reciprocal one. Again, the harshness of the almost of punk-reminiscent vocals—intensified by the gutturalness of German—is interwoven within atmospheric breaks. The melded contrast reminds me of how within our cities, we delegate our natural spheres to confined places through the use of parks and urban planning, all while our cities are being delegated to confined places within the context of the earth as a whole. Within the sphere of a post-industrial, post-modern, post-whatever the fuck world, it’s all become more complicated than ever before – so much so that even black metal is turning grey.