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Song debut: Murmur – “Bull of Crete”

Watch this video of Murmur drummer Charlie Werber playing with Guzzlemug. There are a lot of highlights, but he really gets cooking around the 10-minute mark:

Now, watch this video of Werber tracking drums for Surachai‘s excellent 2013 album Embraced, which we debuted a song from. (His clip starts at 0:13.)

Years of immersion in death metal and grindcore have left me jaded about virtuoso percussionists, but I can’t say I’ve ever heard a drummer play quite the way this guy does. He’s a unique talent. Lots of metal drummers dabble in jazz/prog techniques and vice versa. For Werber, there’s no meaningful distinction between the two — he’s as much like Billy Cobham as he is like whoever plays drums in Deathspell Omega. It’s important for any metal band to have a good drummer, but few players can transform the band around them the way Werber does.

And Chicago’s Murmur have transformed on their self-titled sophomore album. Formerly a black metal band with noise tendencies, they’re now so weird that I’m not sure what to call them. The black metal and noise elements are still there, but they now share space with a great deal of dark ’70s prog rock influence. (They cover King Crimson’s “Lark’s Tongues in Aspic” at the end of the album.) This set of descriptors implies that Murmur might sound something like Oranssi Pazuzu, who also put out a great album last year. But Murmur are grittier and far less predictable. There’s no telling where their songs will go next. “Songs” isn’t really the right word anyway; the vocals play a relatively minor role, and Murmur build their tracks around dramatic dynamics rather than identifiable structure. Each is a through-composed labyrinth.

Music this diffuse can be tedious or frustrating to listen to, but Murmur draw you in rather than put you off. Much of this album is surprisingly lush and pretty, and the heavy sections aren’t so chaotic as to boggle anyone without a grad degree in jazz performance. Still, Murmur requires many listens to thoroughly ‘get.’ That’s fine by me — I look forward to spending more time in this maze. If I get lost, I can always follow that great drumming back to the surface.

Murmur will come out via Season of Mist on January 21st in North America and on January 17th elsewhere. Stream “Bull of Crete,” its second track, below.

— Doug Moore

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