“The Negationist”: Æolian Ponders A Tortured Earth’s Next Move (Early Album Stream + Interview)
As scientists mark the passing of the point of no return on climate change reversal, environmentally conscious albums like Æolian’s second full-length The Negationist feel increasingly more like a "what if?" as opposed to a "how-to." What if, rather than plowing onward as though consequences didn’t matter, governments and corporations had chosen to respond differently and prioritize sustainable development over what we’ve instead received?
This is the sort of question Æolian probes at across their upcoming record – itself a triumphant pillar of semi-blackened melodic death metal. Though many of the songs take a pessimistic, almost resentful view, the band remains on the whole optimistic about the future of the planet, a mood ultimately reflected in the album’s atmosphere and melodic choices.
Stream The Negationist in full right here with our exclusive premiere:
I remarked last year that we were in the midst of a melodic death metal resurgence, and the latest from Æolian confirms that this movement has yet to slow down. The Negationist offers a cohesive and measured take on the genre, brimming with leads and melodies from not only the guitar but occasional strings as well, and accented with plenty of blast-beat passages and impassioned yowls. Mournful acoustic guitar interludes see Æolian reaching to folk influences to round out their chosen palette.
To get a fuller picture of the ideas fueling this record, I sent over a few questions via email, answered here by bassist Leoben Conoy and guitarist Raúl Morán. While we don’t quite agree on several key points — the role of capitalism as a primary driver of climate change, the viability of nuclear power — the urgency of their message is nonetheless critical: climate change is happening now, and it requires immediate action.
I understand that the new record examines the detrimental effects of humanity on the environment, but can you elaborate on this theme? What exactly are you exploring with this album?
Leoben Conoy (bass): Somehow, we try to reflect that relationship with our environment from a human perspective. In our first album, we saw how our behavior affected nature from the perspective of nature itself. In this album, we have tried to turn the concept around and see how what we have done to the planet affects us, and above all how it will affect us if we continue to behave as if the Earth were our playground — where it doesn't matter what we do to it.
So we have explored different consequences of our behavior from a purely anthropological perspective. Some of the lyrics inevitably touch on social, political, and sentimental issues, but in general, the concept of the album revolves around all those who deny what is happening and who deny the harmful influence of human beings. Some authorities do believe that all the damage we do can be absorbed by the ecosystem...but the reality is that it is starting to affect us in a very threatening way.
Take me through the record with a brief track-by-track. What’s the story that you’re creating? How does each song on the record contribute to the overall narrative and message?
Conoy: Although there are connected themes, each of the lyrics is linked to different ideas and feelings that emerge from the music of each song. The story is not conceptual in the "usual way" albums are, but it is a fairly cohesive album.
"Momentum" tries to describe and connect with the present moment, which for us is a key moment in the history of mankind. It is a kind of "now or never," a point of no return where our inability to manage our progress has led us to a terminal velocity that is difficult to stop. The song is trying to make us aware and unite us at the same time to start stopping the train of wild progress that is leaving a trail of misery and rot.
"We Humans" would be the portrait of our history throughout the centuries and how it has led us to the present moment, of how we have not been able to escape from our destructive and predatory nature. "Animals Burned" came from the reaction of all nature lovers to seeing millions of creatures burning in the fires of Australia. It's not the first time, but being able to see how these animals held onto life and, at the same time, wondering how some people still deny that we have changed the climate of the whole planet is a dichotomy that brings out very intense emotions through the melody of the song.
"Unseen Enemy" began as a song in tribute to the victims of the pandemic; unfortunately we have had to lose close relatives. In Spain, COVID has had a huge impact, so we had to see how the places where we played as children became improvised morgues. This pandemic has to do above all with how humanity now shares the same problems due to overpopulation and overexploitation of natural resources.
"Blackout" contains visions of the future, and a dreamlike experience where the protagonist sees a future without a solution, exhausted and sunk in the immensity of the Sea due to global warming, surviving under the earth without being able to see the light of the sun. This nightmare could be very real, and we have tried to reflect it to see what is plausible if we don't take care of what we do with Nature. "Golden Cage" has one of the most negative messages of the album; it links to that dystopian and apocalyptic future, and plays with the figure of death that reminds us of everything we lose by not taking care of what keeps us alive.
"Bleeding Garbage" puts on the table a theme that is beginning to be very relevant since everyone has found seas full of waste, garbage in the middle of mountains, and clouds of pollution. The planet vomits our irresponsibility and gives it back to us with every breath. I guess we have screwed up so much that I see it as we have made blood, and that blood is the rot that floods us. "The Flood" is an allegory of the flood seen from an environmental point of view. If we keep warming the planet and keep melting the poles, we could soon have a cataclysm of those same proportions, as the tsunamis have shown us over the last 20 years.
"Children of Mud" tells the story of the damage we are doing to ourselves, to our fellow human beings, and for not having planned our "expansion" as a species. Children around the world suffer the consequences of our savage exploitation, and blind consumerism is a large part of the problem.
"Ghost Anthem" has some connotations about mistakes that serve as a pivot for assuming that millions of beings perish because of our inaction or as a result of our way of life. "Reborn" is the theme that comes closest to hope: human beings placed in a sustainable future and closing the cycle with a timeless look to understand that everything that happens on our planet is our responsibility, just as it is to repair what we have destroyed over the centuries.
Juanjo Castellano Rosado’s cover art for this record is as haunting as it is gorgeous. What initially drew you to his work, and what was the process like working with him?
Raúl Morán (guitars): From the beginning, I had in my mind an undersea landscape full of cold colors. The idea was to show the exuberance of nature after the extinction of the human race. In my opinion, the earth will regenerate itself when humans stop polluting. That's why you can see some ruins of buildings in the background.
When I talked to Juanjo about the idea, he was really excited about it. He is well-known for his cool old-school death metal artwork, so he liked the idea of drawing something a bit different for us. Working with him was amazing. He is a great professional and an awesome guy.
What role does music play in the ongoing struggle for climate activism and other forms of social justice?
Conoy: Music is a very powerful communication channel; it has always been used to communicate ideas or messages in the form of catchy phrases — harmonies that extol a feeling or an idea that comes through rhymes or words with a force or meaning that connects with different personalities and cultural particularities. We are trying to make our environmental message reach all possible circles through a musical genre that defines with intensity each of the traits with which we identify.
It’s easier to write songs about topics linked to fiction, but self-criticism and constructive vision about the environmental problem was much more attractive and interesting for us. If many bands unite around a theme, as with civil liberties in the ‘60s or with the social protests of the ‘70s, we can say that they form a set of opinions that makes the rest of society turn their heads and at least listen to those groups of people claiming for justice, rights or a sustainable and peaceful future.
Governments and corporations alike are eager to foist the responsibility for fighting climate change onto everyday consumers, urging people to avoid plastic straws, reuse shopping bags, and so on — but aren’t we in this situation largely due to imperialist governments and unchecked capitalism? Or would you describe our circumstances differently?
Conoy: To understand the differences between laws written for citizens and laws designed by international order for countries and governments, we have to integrate a lot of disciplines in law, political science, history, etc. As you say, governments dump the responsibility on citizens while they burn tons and tons of garbage every day. They fine and impose taxes of all kinds, and even go so far as to prohibit the consumption and use of alternative energies that escape the control of large energy companies.
For me, capitalism was never the problem. It’s the means and the way in which power and politics serve as a curtain in the theater of international politics and supranational organizations — those real goings-on that shape the scandals we see every week in terms of human rights, economic alliances, tactical wars, and so on. Politics should (one day) give way to a new order based on direct democracy, where representatives will do their public service led by citizens and not the other way around, where the environmental agenda will be the first order of the day and not the last.
Given the outcome you want — a world in which people live sustainably, politicians act as direct representatives of popular will, and preserving the environment is a priority — how do you see society reaching that point?
Conoy: It's a question of will, I guess. We're just a rock band, and from our position any comment would sound a bit pretentious, but I love the position of writers like Noam Chomsky, who has been warning for many years about the collapse of modern civilization and the political corruption rooted in our governments. From his perspective, it is easy to choose the right path if we know how to recognize the mistakes we have made so far as a society.
If, for example, we enter into titles like Manufacturing Consent, we would already have described the basis for analyzing and understanding how the tools of communication work and how they polarize mass opinion, to avoid what is happening with climate change.
Society will be able to reach a balance when we all understand that what we have received can be taken away from us in the same way. We are extremely fortunate with the planet that we have been given, and I believe that it is a matter of giving voice to and voting for the right leaders, and above all giving voice to the children who will be the adults of the future, those will who govern the world. What has happened around Greta Thunberg, for example, shows the fear that the power establishment has of a committed youth that has come to change everything.
Regardless of everything that has been seen in the media about Greta's case, at least thanks to her action, the focus has been placed on the problem, and the new generations have been given a voice. She’s shown a reality that we were all passing through, and that is the beginning of the road to reach a social change of our environmental consciousness.
What do you see as the most necessary or effective actions and solutions for climate change in the short, medium, and long term? What needs to happen today? What does a successful long-term plan for addressing climate change look like?
Conoy: In the short term, electric vehicles are being promoted as a first step towards avoiding dependence on fossil fuels. This is not a perfect solution, since it uses resources gained from the exploitation of rare lands that end up destroying river ecosystems, but it is a beginning.
We also have food production and manufacturing — obviously, if we continue to consume meat products in the way we do, the resources needed to feed livestock will drain the hydrographic reserves of drinking water. We will have to find alternative means to produce healthy food and end animal overexploitation, and this is something that must be organized in the medium term and will require a reprogramming of our eating habits.
In the long term, we will have to begin to understand the impact we have on the planet and seek alternatives on a global energy level. It is not encouraging to see how nuclear power plants continue to be built and maintained. What happened in Fukushima is only a sample of the destructive power of atomic energy.
I personally believe that the only way to begin with all these changes is to rebuild what we have destroyed, starting by ending logging in the rain forests, respecting selective fishing, generating plans to abandon plastic as the primary material, and supporting respectful biological food production. That would be a good beginning indeed.
I hope that at least, this album will inspire and give strength to so many people who want to make a better world and make a difference.
The Negationist releases on November 20 via Black Lion Records.