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 one Aaron Palmer, sole member of raw black metal/black n' roll entity Rage of Devils--who, incidentally, is dropping a mean album in a few short weeks. Once yer done reading this retrospective, check out Infernal Embraces' available singles here!
Written by: Aaron Palmer
I went through several years where, for multiple reasons, I wasn't enjoying metal.
One of the hallmarks of OCD is intrusive thoughts. Irrational thoughts that come into your head out of nowhere, but feel so gut-wrenchingly real that you can't help but give them credence. Mine started in 2011, and they told me that I wasn't “allowed” to like metal.
Simply saying that doesn't convey the fear that came with those thoughts. It was a sick feeling in my stomach that I was doing something wrong by listening to metal. It wasn't based in anything real; no religious background was responsible, for example. My head just told me that I wasn't allowed to listen to my favorite music, and my insides turned to water.
Another hallmark of OCD is rituals. That's the “compulsive” part. Rituals are designed to soothe the anxieties. I would scour the internet for interviews where bands said that they hoped fans liked their music. I had a whole logic train that I went through constantly. But then I would simply think, “But what if? What if I'm not allowed?” And I'd have to start all over again.
As you might expect, I just plain stopped listening. For two straight years, I listened to nothing but Irish folk music and musical soundtracks. There wasn't anything specific that made it stop, I just remember, with the thoughts still tugging at the fringes of my mind, finally being able to put on some old faves again.
But. It was only old faves.
New problem: I discovered that my tastes had changed in the past two years. I would check out new music with all the hallmarks of something that two years ago had been Very Much My Shit, and just be left cold. Bored. I felt like everything I listened too was full of riffs I had heard before. It was incredibly disheartening to finally be able to listen to music again and not like any of it. In three years, I can think of maybe three albums that I actually liked enough to listen to more than once.
Everything just sounded the same. I needed something different
I still trawled the various metal blogs, and one day came a song premiere with a very intriguing title.
“Where Shadows Have Teeth”
I clicked on the video. My jaw hit the floor.
That huge guitar, heavier than a mountain, with that eerie higher part going over it. The driving drums crashing down on your head. The hook, still one of the darkest things I've heard in music, with the vocalist hissing at you, beckoning you to come where shadows have teeth.
I dared not refuse him.
The Reverses was the first album I bought in three years. It was exactly what I had been looking for. Dark, dissonant, and most of all, different.
It's one of those rare albums where I simply do not understand how human beings made it. The music sounds less like a combination of guitar, bass, vocals, samples, and drums and more like a force of nature. I can't imagine the band members recording the individual parts, I can only imagine them standing in the studio, arms raised, and conjuring the music. It is, quite simply, the heaviest album I've ever heard. When I want to show someone how heavy music can get, I show them Terra Tenebrosa.
Although each song is distinct (another strength of this release), how I've described “Where Shadows Have Teeth” stands as a fairly good impression of the album. Gigantic downtuned guitars and bass pound the listener a good three feet into the ground, while discordant higher notes periodically come in to wail over them. The drums come through surprisingly clearly through the soundscape, and the crack of the snare in particular has a good, rough sound. And the vocals are less of a scream and more of a sinister rasp, like the soft-spoken person that nonetheless has the power to spellbind a room.
I had never heard anything like it, before or since. It was exactly what I was looking for. It showed me that metal could still push boundaries and do something crazy and different, but still be bone-pulverizingly heavy. It was the first album in forever that I sat and listened to over and over again. I hadn't done that since my pre-OCD days. Listening to this wall of dark, skin-crawling sound, I'd get lost. It would take anything else wrong going on in my life, and for the album's run time, at least, grab my worries with a clawed hand and whisper what it was going to do to them if they didn't shut up for the next 47 minutes.
Hearing this album in 2017 was when I finally started to truly get back into metal. I was able to find more bands that, while they weren't doing exactly what Terra Tenebrosa was doing (because no one can), were finding different ways to be dark and heavy. Listening to music became a favorite ritual again; I practically leap out of bed in the morning because I get to listen to music before my wife gets up. And it all started with this album.
Terra Tenebrosa - The Reverses was released June 2016 from Debemur Morti Productions
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!