Editor’s Choice #1: Where to Start When the End Beckons?
If ever humanity was to realize a total dystopian nightmare -- to actually do it, to actually manifest Orwell and Huxley and all the others in the most potent formula possible -- it'd look like exactly what's occurring on Planet Earth America as we speak. I won't lie, I feel like some kind of freak-haired "I figured it all out!" proselytizer even describing it, yet I feel it so strongly that I simply cannot deny: surreality has for the most part replaced reality, facts have become fiction and vice-versa right before our very eyes, entertainment and especially money dominate way too many aspects of life, and runaway capitalism has resulted in humans becoming expendable labor fuel for the machinery of pointlessly endless production for equally pointless endless consumption, yada yada yada.
And then there's Donald Trump, the bombastic coward and cartoon of a man, the epitome of profit-at-all-costs ideology, the human incarnation of money-in-theory itself, the vile caustic spew of evil come alive in a most revolting form. Fucker.
Yes, it's all real, and it's all happening. And so is the coronavirus pandemic, yet another gargantuan fold in this maddeningly complex equation of world-shattering events. We also can't forget about the uncontrolled acceleration of climate change, the threat of school violence and gun violence at large, the deep threads of money-fueled corruption in our government, and so much more. I mean, there are fucking nazis in our streets, for fuck's sake. It's almost been 100 years since the rise and fall of Hitler and there are still fucking nazis in our streets. How can I be writing this in 2020?
My point is: it's impossible to sum all this up in one swoop of the pen. No mind, no matter how brilliant, can fully grasp this monumental collision of variables. It takes teams of brains far superior to mine to flesh out just one angle or informed take from all this new and freakishly divergent information. Sometimes it's just way too overwhelming, and I think the vast majority of people reading this will resonate at least with that sentiment. Mental goddamn exhaustion. I'm hoping, so desperately, for that upswing in things that we so desperately need. Otherwise, I feel incredibly weighed down, and many close to me have opened up about the same.
Counterintuitively, though, I've felt a re-electrifying of my heavy metal spirit, especially with respect to journalism -- this music of ours is more important now than ever. Whether it's escape or serenity or ascendance that metal brings to your mind, we listen for a good reason: it improves our state of being, both acutely and chronically. Coping with the harsh terrors of reality requires a developed personal method for taking care of the mind during those all-important and increasingly rare moments of downtime. Music is inherently therapeutic, I think, and for us at Invisible Oranges, heavy metal fits the bill more times than not.
I like to think of music's various genres as differently-shaped and angled reflections of the same truth, and I'd argue that heavy metal's own dark and shattered illumination is especially appropriate for these days of our lives.
There's no way music, and especially heavy metal, will save the world. But the role (new) music plays is absolutely profound: it communicates the raw essence and emotion of modern life on wavelengths untouched by other media. It offers human connection on a level unachievable with mere words, and an exceedingly intimate one at that. I remember my best friend being brought to tears by an incredible doom band at a festival. I remember the foul taste of the sweat whipping off a guitarist's windmill as I stood inches away utterly beholden to the power his band wielded in a hot, dingy basement. As the virus pandemic continues, we're still shuttered out of those all-important social spaces where we make real our heavy lives.
My goal continues: Invisible Oranges will continue to bring cutting-edge and well-written coverage on the best of the best in heavy metal. In addition to the weekly upcoming metal releases column, we'll have in-depth interview features, expansive reviews, exclusive music premieres, and a ton more coming in the following weeks and months. I'm pleased to say that our team now -- including our contributors at large and the overlords at BrooklynVegan -- represents a monstrously impressive array of talents and tastes across heavy metal and beyond. We're weathering this pandemic storm as best we can, working day by day to keep our heads up.
As for this column, check in at the beginning of each month for my album pick and some thoughts on whatever's on my mind at the time. In the meantime, hang in there with us, and we'll all have a beer and smoke a joint on the other side.
-- Andrew Rothmund
Ulcerate's Stare Into Death and Be Still (subtle, right?) marks the point when the band began communicating not in mere notes and passages but giant undulations of intensity and waves of contorted sound. Despite the meshings of instrumental complexity, though, Ulcerate manages to emerge with stupendously powerful melodies that characterize their music now as more melodic than not. Never has this band been so coherent, devastating, and utterly ultimate in every dimension -- Stare Into Death and Be Still is like a gorgeous field of flowers growing right in the fiery midst of hell.
What ties Ulcerate's latest release with the sense-feeling of today's hyper-complex world of tragedies: its uncanny ability to be both abstract and concrete at once. Ulcerate hasn't lost the mind-twisty, anti-melodic choke of their prior albums; instead, they juxtapose it with a significantly denser atmosphere and, as a result, a literal fuckton of noise. Stare Into Death and Be Still is a lot at once, and this will certainly preclude full listens on some occasions -- likewise, in a world of insane advertisements and reality television presidents and rampant viruses and etc., the abstract and concrete can definitely merge in your mind as you try to digest it all. What's true, what's false? Am I listening to chaos, or cohesion? Can anyone make sense of this goddamn shit?
"Dark" is used to describe a lot of metal, but few albums literally absorb light. Stare Into Death and Be Still is a black hole of emotion, a vast expanse full of vacuum and emptiness. But from that void emanates a silence so loud that mere description does no justice; instead, it takes albums like these to explain the true depths of despair and hopelessness in life. Whether it's emotional devastation or trauma or economic slavery -- no matter what has you pinned up against the wall or down in the corner -- Ulcerate's latest album captures that claustrophobic sense of dread in sonic form. Catharsis, right?
It's perfect, and if we had ratings on Invisible Oranges, it'd get ten out of ten oranges. This is the album of the month for me, bar none. Check out more of my thoughts -- plus monthly selections from six other IO folks -- over in our April 2020 release roundup.