Written by: Continuous Thunder
I’m pulling something from the deep recesses of left field for you today. But when you’ve listened to as much music as I have, left field can provide welcome, refreshing, if sometimes puzzling breaks from the norm. (There’s a reason music critics praise experimental music so highly.) The harsh sounds of heavy metal’s more extreme sub-genres make them excellent sonic palettes for experimental artists. The best artists will recognize the similarities in different styles of music and bring them together, or they will contrast two very different genres that otherwise would never mix. The latter can be found in Fire-Toolz, who juxtaposes the clean, hazy, and nostalgic sounds of vaporwave with the harsh and oppressive sounds of black metal, noise, and other extreme genres.
For those of you who haven’t left after that description, Fire-Toolz is a project of Chicago-based musician Angel Marcloid, and Rainbow Bridge is her fifth album under that name. Contrasting vaporwave and black metal has been par for the course on all of Marcloid’s Fire-Toolz albums, but none have quite reached the levels of extremity present on Rainbow Bridge. The album opener, “Gnosis .•oºOzing,” serves as a blunt introduction to the bizarre world you’re about to enter. After a heavily processed vocal sample, you’re met with a deathcore breakdown, Marcloid’s harsh vocals, and blisteringly fast programmed drums which are quickly contrasted with chime-y synths. The whole thing blows by in barely more than a minute before you’re into the next track.
However, if I were to pick one track as representative of the entire album, I’d pick “It’s Now Safe to Turn Off Your Computer.” This track goes through five distinct movements, starting with a pretty straight-forward vaporwave sound. About a minute in, distorted guitars and harsh vocals are introduced, which then devolve into an abstract collage of industrial noise. This then morphs into more of an ambient electronic soundscape and then ends as another collage of electronic sounds. And with that, we’re only two tracks in. Confused yet?
The good news is, this brain-twisting combination of clean and abrasive sounds is not present on every single track of the album. That would get exhausting and uninteresting really fast. Some tracks lean more on vaporwave and others more on metal, but none are completely without either. Even the most serene track, “angel (Of Deth),” has skittering, glitchy noises appear as it deteriorates to its conclusion. Marcloid has sequenced this album to take you on a journey of peaks and valleys, with moments of brutality and passages of calmness.
Another notable track is “(((Ever-Widening Rings))),” which has an instrumental that resembles a new wave synth ballad with a few jazzy chord changes and a guitar solo reminiscent of Steve Vai. This, of course, is contrasted with harsh vocals. Other noteworthy tracks include “ᴍɪᴄʀᴏtubules,” with an instrumental that starts off almost like a Com Truise chillwave track with heavier percussion; the experimental ambient duo of “Dreamy #ex Code” and “ER = EPR ~ EoE (EP Δ P = ER);” and “觀音 Prayer For The Abuser (abridged),” that leaves you with one final dose of brutality before the ambient closer.
Many of the lyrics on Rainbow Bridge deal with death, various interpretations of the afterlife, and grief, all delivered in a harsh, black metal style. Marcloid has said that much of this album was written after the passing of her cat, and was a way of processing the grief (hence, the album art). A fact that could explain the increased harshness and extremity compared to her previous albums.
All of this adds up to a very interesting, if sometimes jarring, listening experience. I realize that this is not going to be for everybody. In fact, I’m sure there will be readers that will actively hate it. But if you’re tired of the same old thing and want something very, very different, or if you want to get into experimental music, you could do worse than Rainbow Bridge. If you end up enjoying it and want more, I highly recommend Fire-Toolz’ previous album, Field Whispers (Into the Crystal Palace). It’s slightly more palatable and even better than Rainbow Bridge.
Fire-Toolz - Rainbow Bridge was released on May 8, 2020, on Hausu Mountain Records
Continuous Thunder reviews even more music both inside and outside the realm of metal on his own blog, conveniently entitled Continuous Thunder. Now that you're done reading this, you should head over there and check it out!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!