Who doesn’t have a lot to do these days? Who doesn’t have a millions irons in the fire? This is where I’d like to make a 47 percent joke, but I try to steer clear of politics on this site. And another rib poke over that would just be piling on at this point, right? We’re all busy and have ultra-consumed schedules, and I’m baffled when I see someone who can go 80 hours a week and not drop over dead. It’s either tenacity or insanity, but whatever works.
It’s been a pretty active year for Locrian, the Chicago-based drone masters who have captured many minds and hearts, including here at Meat Mead Metal. I often refer to their style of art as “reading music,” and I hope that isn’t taken as an insult. In order to read and absorb, I need music. It’s essential for my process and learning, and it doesn’t take just any type of music for my reading experiences to be fruitful. For example, as much as I like them, Pig Destroyer would be a horrible choice if I’m at work trying to read and edit content. Pretty sure I don’t have to explain why. But I always have something in my ears when I’m at my desk, so it has to be something intellectually stimulating, otherwise I’m just spinning my wheels and getting nothing done.
Luckily, because Locrian have been so damn busy lately, they’ve given me a lot of sound to move me along. Last year they offered up “The Clearing,” a record that made my Top 40 favorite metal albums of 2011 and one that still gets a lot of play now. It helped that this past year the band has hooked up with Relapse and the album was re-released as an extended package called “The Clearing/The Final Epoch,” an expanded set that includes an extra disc of bonus, previously unreleased material. It’s great Relapse expanded this effort’s reach, because it is awesome stuff. In addition, Relapse is re-releasing “New Dominions,” the band’s collaboration with Horseback, a sort-of, kind-of like-minded band we’ve also covered at great length. So that’s a lot of Locrian around which to wrap your head.
But wait, there’s more. Handmade Birds is putting out an interesting new project Locrian did with Christopher Heemann, a German minimalist musician who most notably worked with H.N.A.S. and Current 93, as well as on his own. The joining of these two forces for this album, a part of the Dark Icon Series and an effort limited to 500 pieces of both CD and LP, makes a ton of sense on the surface, but it’s not until you start peeling back the dark, disturbing layers of this whole thing that the true magic shines through. At times the music is beautiful and calming, but it is so in a way that makes you wonder if you’re not relaxing while a sinister forces sneaks up behind you. Because of that, any moment of serenity is ripped apart by what might be lurking in the distance and what catastrophe might befall our world next.
The four tracks on this album all are epic in length, but they’re paced quite nicely. They set up an atmosphere, sometimes provoke, often leave you wondering what’s coming next, and always enthrall. I’m not sure if this is Locrian’s direction, if Heemann influenced this, or if it was a combination of the two, but the music is more grounded, ambient, and middle tempo than Locrian’s most recent work, and the moments of true metallic wonder are few and far between this time around. But that’s totally fine. Both camps have proven over time they are capable of many personas and approaches, and what they achieve here is typically breath-taking.
The record opens on a curious note with “Hecatomb,” a track that has spy movie-style horns at the beginning, before taking on a Western feel, with acoustic guitars, some noise buzzing, simmering noise, and light, unassuming drumming. “Loathe the Light” is the one example where true ugliness is allowed to surface. While the song begins with a mystical, trance-inducing haze, that eventually gives way to frightening, twisted shrieks, eerie keyboards, and doom melting over your body to make sure not one inch of you feels secure. It’s an example of something truly unsettling because it feels so honest and is the only representation of such raw hideousness on the whole record. “Edgless City” comes in and stays in something of a foggy holding pattern, as the tempo takes on a crawl, sounds pulsate and bleed, and the poison makes its way for your lungs slowly and torturously. “The Drowned Forest” takes us home, opening with a long section of repetitive chants, a buzzing low-end hum, and more ambient patterns to soundtrack the world disappearing into ash.
Locrian have proved in the past they are incredible creators of mood whether they’re on their own or with collaborators. Heemann often has been that final piece to a complex puzzle. Together, they make for a dreamy, unnerving pair that can make Armageddon seem like such a gorgeous proposition. But make no mistake, you’re going to burn. It’s only a matter of when and for how long, so ponder that while Locrian and Heemann lure you into a false sense of security.
For more on Locrian, go here: http://www.myspace.com/thelocrian
For more on Christopher Heemann, go here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christoph_Heemann
To buy the album, go here: http://www.handmadebirds.com/store/
For more on the label, go here: http://handmadebirds.com/