Tag Archive for ‘Music’

“Nothingness” by In the Company of Serpents

A labor of love I put together for one of my favorite metal bands, In the Company of Serpents.

The first time I heard “Nothingness” live was at The Oriental (in Denver) when ItCoS opened for Godflesh. Some of the images you see in this video popped into my head that night as they played. It was an amazing experience, and I wanted to share what I saw in my mind that night. Metal on, my friends! \m/

Photography and video by © Mike Yost [ hidden void photography ]

“Nothingness” by In the Company of Serpents
From their album, Ain​-​Soph Aur
Music used with permission. (Thanks Grant!)

Bandcamp: https://inthecompanyofserpentsdoom.bandcamp.com/album/ain-soph-aur
Metal Archives: https://www.metal-archives.com/bands/In_the_Company_of_Serpents/3540344071
(Support Denver Music!)

The Dancing Dead in Denver

The Dancing Dead in Denver

After a 16 year hiatus, the talented and diverse group of musicians known as Dead Can Dance (DCD) returned with a much anticipated album entitled Anastasis, followed by a world tour.  On August 19, they played to a packed Buell Theater at the Denver Performing Arts Center.

ImageLead vocalists Lisa Gerrard and Brendan Perry formed the band thirty-one years ago in Melbourne, Australia.  Incorporating instruments from all over the world, the duo have crafted a plethora of albums that run the gamut of musical influences from Ireland to Africa to the Mediterranean to China.

But the real power behind DCD comes from the vocals of the duo.  Gerrard is renowned for singing in Glossolalia, an evocative expression of emotion through voice that has no defined language.  Gerrard has stated in interviews she feels language to be too restrictive, and Glossolalia to be a more authentic expression that communicates to all who listen, regardless of language or culture.  Her songs are ephemeral, haunting, and painfully beautiful.

Perry grounds DCD with his solemn vocals and introspective lyrics. Many of his songs originate from centuries-old ballads, reliving the struggles humans have endured in love, loss and that ceaseless search for meaning and purpose. “We are ancient, as ancient as the sun.  We came from the ocean, once our ancestral home,” sings Perry in one of their latest songs, “Children of the Sun.”

The show opened with DCD percussionist David Kuckhermann sitting alone on stage.  On his lap was a mysterious-looking instrument called a hang.  Created in Bern, Switzerland, the instrument consists of two large metal bowls sealed together.  Kuckhermann would strike the top side with his hand, producing different tones depending on where he hit the pitted surface.  The hang was tuned to a specific eight-tone scale.  The audience grew overwhelmingly quiet as he played, the single percussion instrument filling the entire auditorium with eerie, otherworldly music.

Soon the entire band took to the stage and the crowd was on their feet, cheering before the first note was played.  DCD opened with songs from their latest album, Perry’s voice booming through the theater just as strong and stirring as it was thirty-one years ago.

The energy of the fans (mostly the older fans) swelled when DCD began playing pieces from their previous albums.  The celebrated song “Rakim” began with Gerrard playing the yang-ch’in: a stringed instrument of Chinese origin in which padded bamboo sticks are used to strike a series of strings corresponding to specific scales.  Perry accompanied the yang-ch’in with his own Glossolalia.

As the concert moved forward, the music stirred many audience members out of their seats, several finding their way to the back of the auditorium to dance.  Others leaned forward in their chairs, closing their eyes and allowing the music to saturate the senses.  A few even wiped away lingering tears from wet cheeks.

The Latin phrase Tempus Fugit (time flies) was analogous to the audience’s experience.  Almost too quickly the entire theater stood and applauded as the band left the stage.  But as the auditorium remained dark, the adoration only grew louder and more intense.  Soon DCD returned, Perry signing a fan favorite, “The Ubiquitous Mr. Lovegrove” with the sound of sitars weaving through his dynamic vocals.   Still, the crowd was insatiable and cheered after another exit of the band.  And then another, Gerrard returning for the third encore with her mesmerizing voice accompanied only by a keyboard player.

At the end of the concert, though Gerrard’s voice could carve canyons with its intensity and precision, she quietly leaned forward into the microphone, whispering a thank you to the audience, followed by “you are all beautiful.”

ImageAnastasis is fitting lexicon not just for the new album but for the entire concert experience.  Coming from the Greek word meaning resurrection, DCD brought to life long forgotten music and ancient instruments from all over the world, bringing with them the spirits of those musicians who lived and died centuries before Denver was even a city.

And in the back of the Buell Theater, where audience members stood and sang and danced, you could see the dead dancing right along with them.

The Dreaded E-Word

As many of you already know, the word epic is used far too often.  And not just in metal reviews.  Some examples you might hear are as follows:

TV Commercial:  “If you’re thirsty, try (insert shitty sugary sports drink here) to quench that epic thirst!”

Movie Review:  “Bruce Willis stood in front of the White House in a torn, bloody t-shirt while firing machine guns and bazookas in slow motion with explosions raining down all around him as terrorists were being blown away by the dozens.  It was fucking epic!”

A Friend:  “So then, we go to (his or her) place and start having sex on the kitchen counter, and (he or she) pulls out this epic glass dildo from the cupboard!”

As Islander has lamented in previous posts, the word epic has proliferated metal blogs to the point that its overuse has the opposite effect.  Epic now equals insipid.  Superficial.  Commonplace.  I become very skeptical about an album when I see it in a review.  I can’t help but think it’s being used to compensate for music that’s just plain bad.  Or maybe the author of the review was just too tired after a long day at work and passed out at the desk looking for a thesaurus.  (I’ve been there.)

This is unfortunate.  Because there are a few bands out there who are epic.  There are a few albums that are epic.  Even a few songs.

The first time I listened to the song Crimson by Edge of Sanity, epic was the first word that came to mind.  Holy fucking shit! were the next three words that came to mind.  When the song ended, I just came.

To begin, there are some talented fucking musicians at the helm:  Dan Swanö and Mikael Åkerfeldt.  Those names alone should give you a raging boner, and an idea of the professionalism and epic talent behind the music.

Shit.  I used the e-word.  Awesome talent?  No.  Massive talent?  Meh.  That works.  I’m tired.  Next paragraph.

Crimson is forty minutes long.  A one-song album.  When any song runs longer than the average television show, a number of assumptions might be made:  The song contains tasteless, long-winded solos that are less about art and expression and more about the musicians showing off.  The riffs become mind-numbingly repetitive.  There are probably large sections of creepy ambient noise and samples from bad horror movies linking transitions in the song to add to its length.

Crimson avoids such pitfalls, keeping the listener engaged form the beginning, punching you in the throat right at the start.  A nice pace is established as the song vacillates between well-placed clean vocals and growls.  The song develops not unlike a caterpillar morphing into a beautiful butterfly—an evil fucking butterfly that will chew out your eyes as you scream helplessly, your muscles paralyzed from the venom which digests your flesh just before its slurped up by the insect.

Anyway, as you listen to the song, you get the sense that you’re part of some epi – . . . part of some legendary struggle.  Maybe fighting alongside Ghangis Kahn’s army as you clash with the soldiers of Vlad the Impaler in a macabre orgy of death to determine the fate of all mankind.

Which isn’t too far from the truth.  Crimson is a concept album, the lyrics outlining the narrative of a future kingdom in which the human race is fading away.  Bearing a child has, for some unknown reason, become impossible.  The king of this vanishing empire dies.  Then there’s a successor.  The successor is challenged.  Battles.  Bloodshed.  Betrayals.  A single miracle child.  Malevolent deities drinking the blood of men.  Reminds me of a Greek tragedy.  Only with really loud guitars and very angry actors growling out their lines.

There’s even a section where the dead king returns as a ghost urging his dejected soldiers to fight on, Dan’s voice layered in this ethereal reverb that punctuates the scene nicely.

Even the artwork on the cover of Crimson is epi—. . . remarkable.  Duncan C. Storr draws a surreal, psychedelic chamber of stasis pods that contain the leaders of the kingdom.  They have been frozen until a resolution to the impending doom can be found.

Doom.  Almost as bad as the word epic.  How about the word calamity?  Impending calamity.  That works.  Next paragraph.

It’s important to note that Crimson was recorded in 1996.  This was before the popularity of “progressive” metal was as it is today.  Take just about any current band that combines growls with clean vocals and you can hear the similarities.

Like any good story, the song unfolds naturally like acts in a play.  By the time it comes to an end, the body count is enormous.  The future kingdom lies in ruins.  But it has been saved by a brave few . . . sort of.  I won’t spoil the ending.  Just know that your brain will be mush from banging your head so hard for so long.

There is art.  And there is exceptional art.  Crimson certainly falls in the latter category.  (Its sequel, Crimson II, is an excellent follow up, but lacks the authority of its predecessor).  So, I argue that Crimson reclaims the power and substance behind the word epic.  Conquers it, really.  Dismembers the word and bashes your skull in with the bloody limbs—and it does this for forty epic minutes.

Note:  The word epic is used fourteen times in this review.  The irony is palpable.