In the rush to cover the constant waves of new music, we all too often neglect discussing the releases that leave the most substantial impressions in our lives. As such, we recently invited some bands and artists to wax poetic about an album that was deeply impactful or influential to them, either musically or personally. The next guest in line to graciously offer a retrospective in this series is Llaves of thrashy blackened outfit Witchurn (a band which we incidentally A. love and B. wrote about here!) Read on:
Written by Llaves:
Back in 2016 I was perusing the vinyl collection at Earwax Records, a record store in Madison, WI dedicated to metal and punk (which has sadly closed its doors). I had been through a few independent record stores with a few token thrash or NWOBHM releases, but this place had all kinds of stuff I’d never heard of.
Flipping through some of the black metal collection I found Portals to a Better, Dead World by Cara Neir. I’d heard the band name before but had never actually sought them out. The cover alone sold me, a grim portrait of a decaying man chained to a wall. Weirdly perfect for my first winters in the Midwest, cold, isolated, frightening. It felt right.
I put the needle down and 40 minutes later came out of a fugue state.
This was black metal, but unlike any I had heard before. “Peridot,” the opening track, bombards with cleanly produced guitar tracks, bouncing off snare-heavy, catchy drum beats and an authoritative bass line. Its structure is labyrinthine but natural. The vocal delivery is desperate, consistent, and almost saccharine. Nothing ought to have fit together but it all did, as a singular piece.
This theme continues on through the rest of the record. Constantly cycling through different emotions and tempos, it feels both scattered and unified. The drums stay a consistent highlight, never settling on the easy blast beat, always moving in new, complex directions that bolster the feel of the track. The stereo spectrum is constantly put to use, the track “Dust Collector” exhibiting some of the richest use of left and right channels I’ve ever heard.
This album simply puts all the rest of us to shame. Composition as rich and multi-layered as any Brian Wilson cut, production that is not servile but its own instrument, vocal tracks as relentless as they are cautious and selective. On top of all this it’s a masterclass in drum sequencing, showing programmed drums to be completely limitless in the right hands.
The closer “3,380 Pounds”, with its heavy synth pad opening and overwhelming bass, is the perfect summation of the work on this album. Disciplined, sporadic, and emotive. Cara Neir leaves its most surprising twist for the end, subverting the relentless depression of the film Melancholia by selective use of its dialogue.
“I know we’re alone.”
“I don’t think you know that at all.”
Cara Neir - Portals to a Better, Dead World was released Oct. 2013 by (the now defunct) Halo of Flies. Cara Neir can be found on bandcamp.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!