I try not to read a whole lot of text written by people who try to describe how music is supposed to sound. I have read the quote, “Where’s the song?” so many times, it makes me want to punch every person who says it. Exactly who decided songs were supposed to sound a particular way, and any deviation from that path leads to making music incorrectly? What a load of horse shit.
Isn’t music supposed to be a form of expression? If that’s so, then why does it have to adhere to structure? Structure is boring. When you’re sad, must you cry a certain way? When you’re angry, must you yell the same thing every time? Can you imagine if you had to reel in your shit just enough so that you made sure you expressed your emotions in the correct way? We might as well be robots. So when I hear someone theorize that songs need to have certain elements or the music just isn’t worth one’s time, I think it’s coming from someone with very little actual imagination.
I’m not suggesting bands that follow certain rules or parameters don’t make good music. Truth be told, most bands do walk a certain path to get an end result, and as long as the passion, creativity and quality is there, who cares how they got from point A to point B? But why must we turn our shoulder to those who do things differently? What’s wrong with taking 10 cans of paint, tossing them at a wall, smearing the contents all over it and yourself, and creating something primal and human? I love when bands do that, and that’s one of the things that drew me to San Francisco’s Sutekh Hexen, an unholy alliance of three musicians that conjures darkness you’re perhaps not ready to experience.
The band is comprised of Kevin Gan Yuen (of the awesome Circle of Eyes) on guitars/electronics/samples, Scott Miller (ex-Circle of Eyes, ex-Cattle Decapitation) on vocals/ guitars/other noises, and Lee Camfield on tape manipulation and electronics. That probably sounds like these guys make electronic, non-human music, what with all the non-traditional instruments especially when it comes to black metal, but what they create on their second full-length “Larvae” is astonishingly real, affecting and from the tortured, deranged soul. As noted, they don’t make songs in the way rigid thinkers demand them. Instead, they make dark, suffocating, ghostly, terrifying soundscapes that capture you and crush you from the outside. They make true scary music in a time when causing listeners’ skin to crawl has become a lost art. They spread their terror and noise like a deadly swarm, and their art may make you think of bands such as Sunn 0))), Xasthur, Leviathan, Palace of Worms and Khanate (this effort is mastered by James Plotkin, so…), but only loosely. There really is no accurate comparison out there. How refreshing.
“Larvae” is only three songs long, but it’s completely mesmerizing and chilling for its 30-minute duration. The band’s desire to wretch sounds and hidden dark bile buried deep within them has never been more impactful. It sounds like these guys plugged in and just let things go where they may. These cuts don’t sound composed, and that’s not a criticism because I like what sounds like very damaged spontaneity. “Isvar Savasana” opens the collection with eerie, washed out ambiance before scrapes and other noises slither in, and doomy passages and hellish screams come to pass. “Lead Us in Warfare” erupts in drone, hissing, and thunder, as melodies set themselves up in a most calculated fashion, disappear, rise up again, and suck every bit of light from the room. “Let There Be Light,” that clocks in at a few ticks over 15 minutes, is even odder than what precedes it, as folkish, unsettlingly calm acoustic guitar playing sets the stage, warbling dialog in the vein of Mike Patton and Tom Waits stands as the incantation, and, eventually, static-fried doom bludgeoning tears a hole through the whole thing. If you’re like me, you’ll need a few minutes after it fades away to collect your thoughts and digest what you’ve just encountered. If you have the cold sweats, that means it’s working on you.
There are no hooks, no sleek choruses, no real structure and no safety on “Larvae.” If you’ve followed this band on their many smaller releases and their first full-length “Luciform,” this won’t surprise you. This is an example of true, honest expression with no regard for how things are “supposed to be done,” and because of that, this music comes off as more horrific and genuine. Sutekh Hexen won’t make sense to all heavy music fans, but for those who can connect, every trip you take with this thing will be entirely different. Who could ask for more?
For more on the band, go here: http://www.myspace.com/sutekhhexen
To buy the album, go here: http://www.handmadebirds.com/store/HB-034.CD.php
For more on the label, go here: http://handmadebirds.com/