Photo: Bailey Kobelin
Welcome to Curating Resistance, a new series designed to promote bands, artists, labels and more from the world of heavy music, with a particular focus on those who use their platform to promote progressive causes or speak out against injustice and bigotry in the metal scene and beyond.
Black metal is often described as cold, as if in its malevolence it is entirely uncaring, devoid even of the sentimentality that makes us human, but Californian duo Ragana take the genre’s icy heart and give it life – though only in the most nihilistic sense. Their latest release We Know That The Heavens Are Empty takes its name from a line in the poem ‘The Toast Of Despair’ by early feminist and anti-capitalist icon Valtairine De Cleyre, a poem that purports that God is a lie and thus celebrates death almost as an act of salvation. The band’s music poignantly encapsulates the mood of this poem, teetering on the edge of beauty and desolation just as nihilism can be both a pathway to liberation and a source of utter despair.
Blending sparse doom rhythms with serrated guitars and desperate howls that emanate up into the infinite vastness of an uncaring universe, the duo create music that is all-consuming in its captivating power, often starting with elegant croons to lure you in before the quiet sorrow turns to all-out desperation and despair. Their early material, stretching back to 2012’s All’s Lost, should not be overlooked (with that release in particular sounding like a punkier take on Chelsea Wolfe‘s ethereal style) but it is their recent material that has set Ragana out as one of the finest bands in the modern metal scene.
2017’s You Take Nothing is an absolute masterpiece, merging blackened doom with minimalist post-metal to encapsulate an enduring sense of desolation, and on 2018’s Let Our Names Be Forgotten the duo teamed up for a split with sludge heavyweights and Astral Noize favourites Thou, which features some of Ragana’s best material to date. If this is a band you’re currently unfamiliar with, it’s time to change that.
Ragana’s music can be found on their Bandcamp page here.
Words: George Parr