Recent trends in metal have seen bands look beyond genre trappings to incorporate a wider sonic palette, and as the genre diversifies that trend has become more noticeable. It is especially evident on the recent split, Ancestral Memory by The Sun Came Up Upon The Left (TSCUUTL) and Everson Poe, out now on the politically progressive Trepanation Records. Both sides to this album immerse themselves in samples from the Internet Archive and experimentation with the doom and black metal templates to offer an early contender for album of the year lists.
TSCUUTL open the album with a vocal sample pleading, “I feel like I’m disappearing, I’m lost, I’m scared” which sets the tone amidst foreboding guitars and synths, stranding the listener in the album’s wilderness. Towards the end of the first song, A Dream Upon Waking’, the guitars open up but refuse to offer any respite as the vocal sample returns among more schizophrenic use of voices. Here we reach the point of surrender, as TSCUUTL invites the listener further into their fragile mindset on ‘The Loss Of Self’ and ‘Clouded Mirror’, reminiscent of dissociative states and the fear that your sanity is fading, or of medicine failing to ‘correct’ that feeling. ‘A Coward’s Expression of Doubt’ is a claustrophobic interpretation of doom and black metal, incorporating some light shoegaze affects in similar vein to An Isolated Mind by Jesu.
Through the darkness a sterile, clinical light breaks through that doesn’t offer hope as much as it reminds you that hope is a faded dream. TSCUUTL leave it up to the listener to ascertain whether these four songs are biographical or not. In either case they force the listener to confront any feelings of grief or regret, while displaying a command of the rhythm section and melody that often feels like self-flagellation, or having to put your fingers down your throat to make yourself vomit. It’s on ‘Clouded Mirror’ where TSCUUTL offer their own kind of resolution, as they place the shoegaze inspiration at the front while singing amongst a wash of reverb “It all seems so far, that clouded mirror, will I see again, can these thoughts before I fly”. A suicide note perhaps, but hope for something nonetheless as the guitars start to soar towards the end of the song.
On the other side, Everson Poe uses their experience as a transwoman to imagine a midnight covenant of witches. On the opening song ‘Malleus Maleficarum’ they intone “you’ve forfeit your soul, I will guide thy hand” and “make the bargain, you’ve lost control”, but the result is not one of surrender; instead the guitars display a tinge of acceptance and inevitability while a vocal sample invokes Magick of Olde. Towards the end Everson Poe’s guitar work calls for the moon as it rises above the doom riff below. While they use screamed vocals, their clean singing is inviting, and at the same time their playfulness with the guitar further depicts the sorcery that thematizes this half of the record. Before ‘Becoming Part II’, we’re treated to another invocation: “I raise the chalice of ecstasy and partake in the elixir of life”. Where TSCUUTL use their sonic palette to depict a turning away from life, Everson Poe intends to make theirs an affirmation. “Becoming Part II”, the longest song of the album is also its most diverse, as its meditative intro quickly turns menacing as they draw from black metal influences, although the song as a whole still displays her playfulness with her instruments. Eventually the song transforms into a celebration of accepting the magic within and the radiance of moonlight that inspires it.
Ancestral Memory is out now via Trepanation Recordings and can be ordered here.
Words: Joe-Julian Naitsri