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Lungs Inhales Life Itself, Exhales “A Blessing, A Curse”

lungs cover

For many post-metal bands, quiet sections are a means to emphasize heaviness, but they’re not captivating by themselves. The soft moments in the new Lungs song “A Blessing, A Curse” (music video premiering below) — and throughout the band’s upcoming album Estuary — are dense and jazzy, creating a hypnotizing calm. Lungs’ towering metallic riffs destroy that hypnosis, sending listeners onto the battlefield.

Making Estuary was a battle in itself. “It was almost like the universe didn’t want it to happen,” says drummer-vocalist Jeff Nicholas, who also plays drums for Northless. Hailing from Minneapolis, Lungs has been releasing music since 2008, and Estuary is the follow-up to 2015’s As Dust Reaches the Earth. Guitarist Sean Michael Tobin is a veritable force on that album, contributing greatly to its verve.

During the writing of Estuary, Tobin left the band, still remaining friends with the members of Lungs. Not long after, he passed away at the young age of 31, leaving a hole in the Minneapolis metal scene and the hearts of his loved ones. Estuary is dedicated to Tobin, and the record’s ethereal quietude and tectonic riffage is a fitting homage to the guitarist.

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The video for “A Blessing, A Curse” depicts a suited man in handcuffs as he treks through a field of tall grass. The video then shatters into juxtaposed imagery: with bloodied hands, the man flees, as if trying to escape not only one misdeed, but a history of cruelty and violence. Musically, the track begins with tense violin and string instrumentation before catapulting into earthen metal in the vein of early Mastodon. Each member of Lungs contributes vocals to the song, which creates a brutish call-and-response between their growls and screams.

But the track spends much of its time in sparse quiet that’s carried by mournful choral vocals. Nicholas says that Tobin’s death, “put the band in limbo for a while as we grieved.” That sense of mourning comes across clear as day in the extended soft section of “A Blessing, A Curse.” The band bursts through that sadness with slow, volcanic sludge that gains momentum and shapeshifts into the song’s opening riff. This time around, the riff is pushed by Nicholas’ double-bass flurry and machine-gun fills. Guitarists Dan Lee and Jonas Kromer Yela play and yell with a visceral rawness that pierces the internal organs as the song comes to an end.

Following Tobin’s death, Lungs’ bassist Mike Cushing left the band, and then the new bass recruit PJ Randol moved to New York. The group nevertheless moved forward, eventually finishing the masterful Estuary. It’s been a difficult road for the band for sure, but the members of Lungs live and breathe music, which is why they’ll always continue onward.

Estuary releases next Friday via Entelodon Records. Preorders available now via Bandcamp where you can also stream another single “Oak.”

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