Entering the Underground #25: Tideless Combines Death Metal and Shoegaze on “Adrift in Grief”
A certain section of the death metal community has always ignored what other people think. In 1980s Los Angeles, it was Sadistic Intent playing their hearts out to crowds that would "horseshoe" around the stage to avoid seeming like they were watching Sadistic Intent play. In 1990s Mexico, it was The Chasm giving up on shows altogether for a time because of a lack of interest in the local scene. Timeless and forever, these are the works of art that live in our hearts as special monuments in the genre. California death metal tyrants Deathevokation perhaps put it best on the back sleeve of their album, The Chalice of Ages–"Music that doesn't follow trends is meant for the ages."
In their heart of hearts, San Diego dreamers Tideless know that sentiment to be true and put everything they have into their singularly unique music. Their debut album Adrift in Grief is sentimental in a way that’s obvious from the album title but has an execution that belies most of the comparisons fans make to bands like The Chasm or StarGazer. Instead of being a nostalgic return to the death metal of old, Tideless is something new altogether, a beautiful cascade of shoegaze that intermarries gloriously with black metal melodies, death/doom, and, yes, maybe some riffs that would make you think of StarGazer or The Chasm.
Though that sounds like a combination that should not work–and indeed, other attempts at fusing shoegaze and death metal that I've heard have all been absolutely awful–Tideless has the deep understanding of both genres that it takes to make them seamlessly flow together and make it work. Droning melodies stir up images of the pushing and pulling water, gorgeous soundscapes intertwining with mean snarled vocals and heavy, pulsing drums; the complexity of the music is matched only by how natural it feels, equal parts psyched out jam and diligently constructed machine. The production is rougher than might be expected by the sound but it works, letting everything wash together in such a way that it takes repeated listens and focus for the many layers on Adrift in Grief to reveal themselves, and the result is pure magic.
Read below for an interview with Tideless guitarist and songwriter Carlos Gautan and give Adrift in Grief a listen.
When starting this band, was the unusual stylistic approach ever something that felt like it could be a roadblock for fans and labels?
Kyle and I used to joke in the start about how by the time Tideless got any recognition we would probably be in our 50s. So it was always in the back of my mind. Just from experience alone I had always known that the road I was taking would never be the easiest. But carving out my own path was the only option when it came to my music. Even if it went over people's heads, I had to be able to express myself completely and freely. As a teenager I remember watching a Chasm interview with Daniel and, to paraphrase poorly, he said, "music must come from the heart." As a teen that really shocked me, it had never crossed my mind that one was even "allowed" to do that in metal. So for the last 10 years everything from finding a stable line-up to even getting added to a bill let alone any type of label supporter has been sparse.
Do you feel like things have changed at all with the release of Adrift in Grief versus the earlier years of the band?
It has been night and day to be completely honest. After the last EP , Zane moved and I
lost motivation. We had just done a tour up the west coast and I was burnt out so I took
some time off. At the time Kyle was going hard at school so I figured it was the right time.
Some time later Kyle came back from Montana and was like let’s start it up again so we
did. The only new song I had to write for the album was Vast and Empty all the other
songs we had right up to the "break." Adrift in Grief was recorded at our 10'x10' lockout with almost zero hope of anyone one giving it a chance, purely based on the production
of the album. But things eventually caught on from getting shows to eventually it being
released on an actual label instead of just on Bandcamp. Probably one of the proudest
moments for me and also Kyle was Oscar from Cenotaph hitting us up for the eventual
release on Triangle Circle Records/Chaos Records. But on top of everything it feels like
people are more open to the music than in the past. Back when we released the Sea of
Tears demo the simple fact that it had shoegaze tagged on to it made it a target of
ridicule. Fortunately six plus years later people are starting to recognize that the merging
of those influences aren’t that bad.
Is that feeling of validation and support inspiring? Would you be able to keep it going the way you have without it?
As a band it has been amazing. Keep in mind that we all have careers and have extremely busy lives. Tideless is something we do for fun and getting the feedback we have has been clutch. We recently finished recording our second album and already putting together the third. Without the current support we for sure won’t play live as much as we have in the last year. Without it we would keep at it but maybe at a slower pace.
At what point did the idea first come together for a band blending shoegaze and the more emotional side of death metal?
I would say that the idea was always there but it wasn’t fully implemented until I switched from playing drums to guitar. To understand that you would have had to deal with people that were open to the metal aspects but really didn’t get the shoegaze side of things. Which was pretty much how my previous project Ruminations played out. Once I made the switch, I was able to fully realize what I heard in my head all along. A depressing marriage of death/doom with shoegaze.
Does a feel for percussion from your drumming experience help with putting together song ideas?
There are aspects where it comes in handy to know a thing or too. Though as a drummer
I know that getting told what beat to play can get old in a creative setting. At the start of
Tideless it was just me and Zane so at first I was trying to do everything but eventually I
learned to trust the process. By the time Kyle took over the drums I was committed to
allowing him to do what he wished. Apart from maybe a transition here and there the
songs flow best when there is no set perimeter.
Are you writing stuff mostly in the room with Kyle these days? How has your songwriting process changed over the years, if at all?
First I take a ten dollar acoustic I have in the closet and whenever I have some free time I play. As soon as I have a skeleton of a song (3-5 riffs) then I’ll hit him up. We jam it and it eventually becomes a song, at least a very simple version. In the past I would have been pretty strict about counts and such but Kyle and I have such a great chemistry. We get in there and just jam. Which is partially why the second album is so damn long. At the same time I’ll show Aaron what I’m doing since he typically plays all the base riffs.
By this point I will start to write the second guitar and from that Javier figures out what he needs to do so the song sounds right. While I still write the bulk of the songs I can’t give the other guys enough credit for their contributions and work. Aaron added two riffs in the new album and everyone had full artistic freedom. The vocals have always been Kyle’s domain, one take and that’s it. Some overdubs here and there but he gets those done himself in no time. Hopefully we can have Diego do his thing on the third one.
There is just one rule and that it is:
Sad riffs only, Make America Sad Again.
In faster sections on songs like "Cascading Flesh" I hear melodies that remind me of black metal bands like Volahn. Is black metal part of your stew of influences?
Would have gone with the far superior Arizmenda. But yes, black metal is an influence for sure. I will say that apart from the HOTFL, CW, and BTC bands I tend to stick with bands from the 90s. Tons of east block bands, Bethlehem, Fleurety, Ved Buens Ende, the list goes on.
Outside of death/doom, black metal, and shoegaze (as if those aren’t enough!) are there any influences that might surprise people in the Tideless mix?
Might not be that big of a shocker but Prog, but I’m only talking about old shit like King
Crimson, Magma, and Yes. I can say that the same goes for Kyle his a big fan of Eloy and
Mahavishnu Orchestra. As for the more “out there stuff” anything that’s beautiful and
lush sounding. There is a lot of Dream Pop that I’ll go like “you know some growls would
take it to another level”. Cocteau Twins is a big one, if I could take those song and just
add a bit of metal elements there would be no new for me writing any music. Bands like
Beach House, Difference Engine, Alison’s Halo, Crumb, Astrobrite, Starflyer 59, Yawning
Men, Stella Luna, and many more make up the bulk of my listening time nowadays.
Adrift in Grief released April 23rd, 2021 independently via Bandcamp.