Naming the Unnameable
So, yeah. We're kind of approaching the last bridge from here to the unknown regions. Girded and ready to enter the realms of eternal shadow. We used to get hated on for liking Amorphis, because they weren't extreme like Darkthrone nor over-the-top like Manowar. Still, we dug the folkish lost total-immersion vibe. Along with so many of our outer-indie-inner-hesher peers (there ought to be a personality-type engine for this stuff, and there probably is, and it's probably been linked on a billion Livejournals), we've gone down various roads. My far reaches are goregrind, which, to be honest, is most of what I've listened to so far this summer. But this morning I put on the Aghora record.
Clean vocals? Oh yeah. They got a woman singing now, big gothy low-vibrato soaring stuff. Complex melodic song structures? Yes sir. Long-ass songs with extended drop-outs. Two-handed bass solos? Umm, yes. Fans of Umphrey's McGee and Dream Theater alike will find something to like on the Aghora record, though it's not as gee-whiz as the latter nor as postive-vibration as the former. Evil? Extremity? Token "out" qualities in the production, guitar tone, singing, image? No, no, no, no, no, and no. But dreamy instrumental segments that suggest a very stoned Al DiMiola in a progressive metal band? Yes.
Well, there, I've said the word. "Progressive," I mean. After a brief Genesis engagement in freshman year of high school, I, like every right-thinking young Lou Reed fan then on the planet, learned to shun anything that strayed beyond verse-chorus-verse. I clung to this longer than most, and didn't jibe with all the blunted instrumental explorations of the mid-nineties. While my indie peers were reaching for bongs and the vinyl edition of Millions Now Living, I remained a big ol' hater.
One grows out of all one's hater tendencies eventually - people who haven't gotten there yet should take my word for it: the day's coming when all that vibe will wash off you like dead skin. And although I still can't get behind long-Can-influenced-jams, yet I wondered while enjoying Aghora a lot on this early summer afternoon, floating along on its drifting-slow-leads crisp digital production*: why is it that the indie-gone-metal crowd isn't very interested in prog-metal?
I think it's the vocals, to be honest. All the prog-indie stuff of the late nineties wisely didn't go so far as to bring in proggy vocals and lyrics; when they did (Faust), they met with very limited success. Indie dudes do not want much to do with the proggy vocal style. Its artifice is extremely uncomfortable, since it's neither the of-course-it's-fake-you-big-dummy directness of pop nor the of-course-I'm-winking immersion of most indie-approved doom. Instead, it's kinda Lilith Fair After Midnight: engaged with its own tropes at too deep a level to allow anybody in who isn't willing to check their cool at the door.
It's an interesting subject, and I'm not trying to throw stones, just lift a couple of rocks and see what kinda bugs are crawling around underneath. Why doesn't technically accomplished, remarkably moody, gorgeously realized stuff like Aghora capture the interest of outsiders the way Mastodon's 'core-gone-prog leanings have, or the way arty black metal does? Is it something as simple as "I'd rather not have to look this stuff directly in the face"? Where are people drawing the line when it comes to their interest in metal, and why are they drawing the line there? Are people still keeping some skeletons in their closet: are there indie dudes who're waiting to confess that they dig Evanescence? Are people who love big spacey death metal guitar solos willing to branch out into even better solos when they occur within a fairy-princess-of-the-mountains sorta narrative framework?
I wonder, is all I'm saying. The new Aghora album is kinda great; certainly the guitar work is no-modifiers-needed great. I, too, am uncomfortable with the vocals, with this not-extreme/not-edgy/not-clever vibe. That may be part of what attracts me to it. At the end of the day - at the literal end of the day - I'm still going to be rocking some goregrind and feeling no pain. But I wonder why I'm probably the only indie guy listening to Aghora on a June afternoon. I wonder a little.
*by "crisp" do I mean "lifeless"? I don't know. Maybe a little. At the same time, music like this is well-suited to the sort of stark-relief presentation that I associate with recording and all-analog-instruments band on a digital rig. Room sounds are factored out, pure tone-for-its-own-sake is pushed through.
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