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Underground Unusualities #3: Arboricidio’s “What We Leave Behind” Fears, but Fights

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In this series, Jenna scours the musical expanse for unusual (but fitting) albums to soundtrack life’s tumult.

Considering the most rudimentary elements of our existence can be nothing short of panic-inducing. Every decade there’s that meteor that comes within a few lightyears of Earth. The polar bears are living out live versions of Titanic as they grapple with who gets to float on the last sheet of ice. Then there’s that fun fact from eighth-grade science class that still haunts me: every species goes extinct, and sentience knows no immunity. Life is so ludicrously fragile that you must laugh in order to avoid breathing into a paper bag. Yet, the threat of your last breath feels much more personal when it’s not your environment in peril, but rather, your very own vessel.

When I turned 20, it was like a switch flipped in my body. It started with pins and needles creeping through my palms as if my blood was repeatedly trying to stick a button through thick canvas. Oddly, the feeling followed suit into my feet and even my tongue. Leaving class one day, it felt like my hips were giving out from underneath me. An avalanche of pain and fear, I collapsed into my couch upon returning home feeling as if I had just lost a boxing match. Research produced a list of possible degenerative disorders, but the one that seemed to fit my symptoms spot-on was multiple sclerosis – a frequently debilitating condition in which your immune system attacks your nerves. My doctors, however, were less than concerned.

“You’re probably just stressed” proved to be the constant suggestion, even though I was no more considerably spent than I was at 19. As I perched on the edge of examination tables wringing my hands from the burning pain, I was met with questions about changes in lotion and laundry detergent as they failed to comprehend that my discomfort was coming from the inside. After having to ask to see an additional specialist, comprehensive blood work was finally conducted. I tested positive for antinuclear antibodies, which can indicate that an autoimmune disorder is present. Yet, no conclusion was reached; the investigation allegedly needed to be halted until I got older, and my symptoms, more overt.

As age 25 looms in October, my nerve pain has grown unbearable, and my muscles ache and spasm from the time I wake up until the time I go to bed. Leaving another class — by now, a graduate-level course — I felt a familiar sense of dread as lights flashed in my left-hand peripheral vision. I didn’t know what to do, so I just kept doing what I was going, walking down the street with one of my classmates to get dinner. I have grown adept at pretending like things like these are not happening, but I know I am getting too old for denial. At a recent visit to a new doctor in a more forward-thinking city, I confessed the events of the past four-and-a-half years. She listened, nodded and spoke candidly, citing the possibility of lupus or MS. Sometimes believing women can be as simple as trusting that they know how to listen to their bodies when they’re screaming out that something is wrong.

With referrals under my belt for some of the best doctors in Oregon, I am finally preparing to find out if my body is at war with myself, or, in the worst-case scenario, if there is a golf ball teed up in my brain. While I would be lying if I said I’m not scared, my approach to being betrayed by my own flesh-prison has changed since I was a young woman not yet old enough to drink. My foray into a third decade was when my romance with DSBM was ignited. I would stare absently out of the school library window listening to Xasthur’s “Prison of Mirrors” by day, and by night, I would lay in the darkness of my room glued to black metal documentaries. In some ways, I was facing my own mortality full-force, while in others, I was slipping away into a fantasy outside of the captivity of my rib cage. But as the first half of my twenties come to close, I dwell on a deep-seated desire to retain my mobility.

Perhaps more than any genre, crust-fused metal is a reminder that while you may overcome a desire for death committed by your own hand, what’s written in the human form is not always so forgiving. While many bands channel the intense, torturous heat of trying to survive, ​Arboricidio‘s new​ What We Leave Behind achieves the melancholic undertones of sheer struggle. When the hand you’ve been dealt leaves much to be desired, a one-ton rhythm section and harrowing melodies build the foundation for a house that must stand. “The ice is melting / the currents are strong / sweeping through the barren lands / the sun is burning all life out” cries the ominously atmospheric track “Waves of Bodies.”

Inching closer to inevitable disaster, arteries disperse toxic waters.

In my latest bout of bloodwork, I laid raw and ready on the exam table — a far cry from the dramatic writhing needles used to induce in me. My free arm clutched my stuffed marshmallow Peep rabbit, his neon pink fabric jarring against my skin’s black linework. Knocking forever off its high horse, the ink is suspended in time that will cease with my body’s wholeness. What We Leave Behind chugged quietly in my right ear as I squeezed the stress ball in my opposite hand to an erratic d-beat pulse. The specs of ailing life preserved in its thick liquid steadily poured out of me like the waterfalls of neo-crust riffs. Indeed, what was being spilled was the blood of a fascist; the one residing in me, irrigating a genocide against its own people.

The nurse loosened the tourniquet and I weakly began to rise. I stumbled over to the counter filled with jars of gauze and cotton swabs and reached for my water. The adjacent mirror captured Peep and I staring back at ourselves like American Gothic. I quickly grasped the ledge, steadying myself. One line lingered in my tingling brain: “You try to run but fall / cracked bone, smashed face.” I avoided gazing into the realities of my future by reaching into my bloodshot eyes.

Warrior, worrier. Fight, fear. Two parts of the same body growing weaker every day.

What We Leave Behind is out now on Bandcamp with a May 31st physical release via Alerta Antifascista Records. Follow Arboricidio on Facebook.

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