Metal, it hardly needs pointing out, is an art form that revels in the darker corners of the human condition. Despite entire genres raiding medical textbooks for song titles, the institutionalisation of personal mental illness is a relatively untapped topic from which to draw inspiration for an entire record, perhaps due to the historical, occasionally hysterical, obsession with machismo and outlandish displays of apparent strength and dominance. Without wishing to grade individual experiences, even artists like Shining often seem to use mental health and illnesses more as a performative prop for cathartic rebellion than as a muse.
Enter Kameron Bogges, a Californian whose solo project An Isolated Mind channels his experiences of mental illness and its treatment rather less clumsily than projects like St. Anger could manage. Following a layered soundscape introduction that Rhys Fulber himself would admire, ‘Afraid of Dissonance’ jolts into life, shards of feedback and tremolo juxtaposing with waves of crescendo, before collapsing into the first of many ambient passages that establish an undertow of hopelessness.
Post-rock looms large here both stylistically and structurally, best demonstrated by the ambitious synthesizer work of ‘Eternity In A Minute’ that evokes Mogwai to connect a frenetic death metal opening salvo with a galloping, soaring conclusion. A similar structure marries the next two songs together as the narrator writhes through ‘Pathologized Existence’ to stumble towards the elongated culmination of ‘I’m Losing Myself’ and ‘I’ve Lost Myself’. Harrowingly reminiscent of both Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper and the extended ending to Nine Inch Nails‘ The Downward Spiral, the latter track provides no emotionally uplifting note, only ghostly frailty writ large across twenty-five overwhelming minutes, dragging a heavily-sedated shell of a patient out to the barren wastelands beyond clinical sanity.
Beyond the many platitudes spoken about mental health awareness, to hear the limitless despair that characterises these diseases twisted into creative energy is as impressive as it is morbidly refreshing.
I’m Losing Myself is out now. Pick is up here.
Words: Stuart Saint