Locrian Rewakens With “Cenotaph To The Final Glacier” (Video Debut + Interview)
Hey cool, Locrian is back! It's been a long time since we've heard from this displaced Chicago trio, and, now separated into multiple parts of the country, Terence Hannum, André Foisy, and Steven Hess reconnect with their long-standing band's experimental underpinnings to create the abstract New Catastrophism. In some ways hearkening back to Locrian's earlier days and, in the case of new song "Cenotaph To The Final Glacier" (streaming below), even earlier, New Catastrophism's futuristic take on something called "drone metal," a mixture of drone, krautrock, and power electronics with a metallic edge, brings Locrian's past into the present. Echoes of their debut Drenched Lands' impressionistic and (traditional) percussionless sounds are certainly a backdrop here, but, as drummer Steven Hess mentions in a new interview which can be read below, Locrian also looks forward with a stronger "jam'' sense and years of experience guiding these semi-improvised passages. Watch a video visualizer debut for "Cenotaph To The Final Glacier" and read a lengthy excerpt from an interview whose transcription was botched by technology below.
We could start with the obvious: it's been a long time since we've heard from you guys, so I was wondering if you could account for that period of time, and what made you want to pick up Locrian again?.
Terence Hannum: Well, it never really ended for us. It's been seven years but it's been seven years of… I mean literally like I think. Recently I was going through emails and realized we have tons of just back and forth about ideas, songs, demos. Getting together or you know, whatever so it was never idle time. There's always been something, whether it's sharing a book or an article or an idea or riff. It's never been like we're not doing something, it just kind of got to the point of what we have to do something, we have to actually make something.
André Foisy: And I mean at the end of 2016 I moved out of Chicago. I took a job in Virginia, I bought a house, I moved out of Virginia, I moved back to New York state, which is where I'm originally from, I started a new job. I started a PhD program. I became the President of this national assessment association at Tampa at the same time, and I started this other job that was more demanding on my time. And so time wasn't available for me to dedicate to doing all the things that I do in Locrian so we've been working, but just in a different way and excuse those things. I mean we never really stopped, but like the things that you know we just we just stopped sharing things with the public for a bit and it's never something that I intended on ending, but it was something that you know we just were working in a different way for a couple of years, for I guess seven years and it seems like it's flown by and COVID happened.
Steven Hess: We all have things that we need to do, and we always talk, we talk like every week or every other day.
TH: Every day,
SH: And you know, we had been discussing and writing stuff for a new record. Before COVID and we had demos, and we were getting ready, we were getting ready to go into the studio. We wanted to go into Electrical Audio here and then go what happened and that put everything you know kind of on hold, so we couldn't do the record that we wanted to do. So we uh we all just kind of sat.
TH: I mean it's just so hard to make plans, I mean. Even now I think we're kind of in this weird like make believe moment where it's again we're gonna have a million tours and we're all going to be like it until someone gets sick on your tour it's like, then what you know, like we're in this very strange time.
AF: We didn't end up making the record that we planned on making for a few years. We ended up making the record that we needed to make for ourselves. If people think it's more of like an homage and to our early fans, I think, in a way it's like the location, looking back at where we started and sort of like synthesizing all of the things that we intended on doing when we started out and so that's New Catastrophism and Ghost Frontiers.
So with this returning to this older style with everything you've learned, thus far, what was it like kind of returning this older mindset, this is partially improvised drone and electronic sound.
AF: We had very little planned, but when we were in the studio were like, "All right, here's this next track and we came up with a semi structured plan for each track," and it's this plan that I think exists in our gut more than anything. So what you're hearing on this record is really just like coming directly from our gut really rather than from meticulous planning over the last seven years, and I think that's what we need.
TH: There were a handful of things that were in the ether. We practiced a little bit of one of the songs, but it was like a total jam. The studio has been such an important instrument to us that this was neat. This was just a great way to dive in with very little expectation at the beginning that became exciting to make. Every day was like it was building up with all these ideas and energy. In some ways, it was like I think it was like freedom, you know, in a way, like it was like we didn't have to make a song, we could do these moods or textures that we wanted to make.
SH: Going back to the old days you know or to the fans who like the early Locrian. I also think that we're pushing a little bit forward to this–it's not all like, you know,
TH: After the seven years we kind of came back to different things that we were experimenting with even on our really structured records, something like a track like "Heavy Water" that kind of ends Infinite Dissolution.
So with this seven year period y'all hadn't really performed with each other, being in different states, so it was it like coming back and becoming that cohesive unit again
TH: So we actually had toured.
Oh wait that's right.
TH: We actually were planning on an album that had riffs and structures and we had jammed these things through and spent weekends together just you know eating crabs and chicken here in Baltimore and eating oysters and stuff but, like you know, it was like we just knew that this wasn't the time to try and like nail down this like tight, riff-based record or something so now…
SH: But it felt good when we finally got back together again into the studio for this. It just felt natural and everything kind of happened. It'd be like… this is one of those moments where you think, "Oh it'd be really cool if this happened," but it actually really happened and it felt great. There's no being super nervous. It came together so quickly and the ideas just constantly flowed and bounced off of each other. It also helped that Jay [Randall] was super helpful. He was open to tossing ideas or suggestions and that was great. It felt good for all of us. It'll be great when we can play shows and stuff like that, but you know we're working on that. Baby baby steps.
I wanted to go back to something that you said, Steven, about this idea of extremity or being extreme. You had mentioned it in the way that the album was performed was extreme and people think of Locrian as a metal band at this point, with a few metal albums under your belt but what do you think about the extreme when thinking about New Catastrophism?
SH: Do people think of us as a metal band? I don't know. Every time I look at a description or something like that it's always "Chicago drone metal band." I guess they say metal, but…
AF: Let me just say that, like I don't really care about this, but I think it's funny that our band has been denied from the Encyclopedia of Metal several times. It seems to be like a very conservative approach to metal and that's something I'm not interested in. To me, when I think of the things of metal that are in our album it's almost like if Derrida was to start a metal band–it's like a deconstructivist metal band, and so on this album they're like these elements that I think are very like very metal, but then we pair those elements with something that's very maybe not in that traditional conservative mindset and when I think about like our approaching our early type of approach to making music I think about it… like we're men in our 40s and 50s approaching that style and we've developed it musically and artistically in that time. So, even when i'm listening to like Stephen and Terence's contributions it's so much different than those contributions were when I started playing with those guys. Stevens approaching percussion in this very interesting abstract way, where he was using some different software programs to create these beats that were just like really unpredictable but very interesting to me, and Terence's vocals, like, man… he barely sang when we first started playing and now I'm just like holy shit this is so brutal!
SH: It's extreme.
TH: I think we can attribute our early friendship to understanding metal had to break a certain boundary to be worthy of our conversation. It had to challenge us–something had to be different with whatever band. It couldn't just be boring. I think all of us can probably name a band in any subgenre of metal operating currently that we admire, but we also have to admit, at some point, that it's kind of repeating what happened from their subgenre 20, 30, 40 years ago, right? There are very few that you can say, well, that is the change. That's very difficult, I feel maybe a band like Hissing is a death metal band I look at real like that is pretty weird and definitely challenging.
SH: Chaos Echoes, I think.
TH: There's a ton of bands that are really great at what they do, but you start to think will I be challenging that subgenre and I think when when André and I started Locrian I think a lot of our it's weird because we would literally like hang out with a bunch of other weirdos and just listen to metal records that we thought were weird. Like some of the guys from Minsk and some of us are good friends and like we just would play records that we thought were strange and kind of challenging. Sometimes it would be either you're trying to party, it's not "puts on Khanate's Capture & Release" or something like that.
SH: Or there's Ulver.
TH: Party's over, man. But if you love metal for that extremity then you're like there's that thread in that album that you're like. They have an appropriate context, but "this records awesome," you know, and to me extremity is relative. I come from noise and power electronics so it's like metal's not that extreme compared to Sewer Goddess' or Puce Mary's releases or something. Those ladies are really challenging and making challenging music that I think would really test the patience of a pretty conventional metal listener. However, I go to the Maryland Deathfest every year since I live in Baltimore so I love the extremity. I love that part of it.
I think with Locrian we're just trying to find that boundary. I think when we started it was always " what is the boundary of [style]?" For us it was bands like Sunn O))) or bands like Orthrelm or Wolf Eyes. These extreme artists are doing interesting work that was kind of not "happening." It was somewhat popular and, obviously, these bands are much more lauded now or whatever, but I think at that time that was extreme.
AF: So early on, we were like yes, Sunn O))) is amazing. Love Sunn O))). I've got a seven string guitar. I can play super low stuff and we were like let's not redo what Sunn O))) has done, so let's play like really fast drones. So we have a new archival release, which is coming out or just came called Plague Journal, which is our early interpretation of "metal drone," but not in a way that Sunn O))) would do it and, of course, other people can critique and they can write about that, but that's our interpretation. That has been an interesting lens into looking at how to approach metal and really just the music that we want to play, which pulls in a lot of metal influences.
New Catastrophism releases August 12th via Profound Lore Records.