Mostly Yelling #9: Victory Over the Sun’s Black Metal Goes Microtonal on “Nowherer” EP
Upon first listen of Victory Over The Sun's new album Nowherer, you might notice that there's a certain extra crunch to the music: it's something that's not readily apparent, but the extra skronkiness is there. Then, you might catch a video of Victory Over The Sun mastermind Vivian Tylinska playing through some music from Nowherer and notice Tylinska's guitar and bass have quite a few more frets than most do. What I'm getting at here is that Tylinska is bringing microtonality to metal and it rules.
Tylinska's instruments split each octave into 17 note (also referred to as "17EDO") instead of the usual 12 found in Western music, something she said became of interest to her after releasing her previous album Tessitura.
"I had revived interest in a more death-y metal sound in the month or so prior to its release and recently made my most functional 17EDO guitar to date, so I had written a few microtonal riffs and thought it might be fun to write a short, more straightforward metal EP in a slightly different vein than past Victory over the Sun releases, potentially under the name Nowherer," said Tylinska. "Of course, in the next few months, as I continued writing, the songs expanded in length and complexity and started to feel more in line with the general vibe that I associated with Victory over the Sun, so I decided to consider it another Victory over the Sun release."
Despite Nowherer coming out in 2021 and its inception being in 2022, Tylinska said her interest in the 17EDO configuration predates both. She later added that the guitar used on Nowherer was refretted from an original mode, while the bass used features a fretboard made from scratch.
"I had started gaining interest in microtonality in 2017, and chose 17EDO as the first tuning to refret a guitar in back in early 2018. Despite having tried many other tunings, 17EDO feels the easiest to write in, especially for metal. Without going into too much detail, 17 has fairly similar fourths and fifths to 12EDO, which allows for the guitar strings to be tuned quite similar to how one would tune a regular guitar (i.e., in fourths with a major third), so general chord shapes feel fairly similar to those of a standard guitar."
"Further, the fifth is a staple interval of metal music, so having a similar, though slightly brighter fifth allows for the nice crunchy distorted power chords that give metal a lot of its power and characteristic sound. While 12 sports two different 'flavors' of 2nds & 3rds (and their inversions) —major and minor—17 has three: a smaller, darker, more "minor" subminor, a brighter, larger, more strident supermajor, and neutral, a strange, almost exactly halfway between major and minor interval."
"That said, writing in 17 felt significantly harder than writing in 12—where virtually every combination of notes has been explored in 12, in 17 it still felt like certain combinations or sequences of notes felt 'wrong,' mostly because of their unfamiliarity, even to someone who has been playing in 17 for a few years."
"Occasionally I would lean in to the unfamiliarity, but a lot of the album I held back and used slightly more familiar feeling progressions, which in 17 still have a slightly different quality. But as far as non-12 tunings go, 17 feels much easier and more intuitive than quarter tones (24EDO) or 22EDO, largely due to the fact that 17 isn't that many more notes than 12."
Tylinska said her influences for Victory Over The Sun included listening to a lot of Hissing, Celeste, Sumac, Coffinworm, and Rorcal. She notes that she was also playing drums in a death metal band for the past year, "so I think more of that style seeped into my subconscious."
"Jute Gyte was also a notable influence - especially during the two polyrhythmic chromatic sections in 'Oscines'. However, I stopped listening to metal almost entirely a few months or so into the writing of Nowherer, and upon realizing I had written a more traditionally metal album (compared, at least, to my prior releases), I wanted to do whatever I could to make it less classifiable as 'metal.' In the end I didn't change the album that much, just adding in some synth parts and writing a different ending to 'Oscines.'"
Lyrically, Nowherer is about living in a capitalist society.
"Nowherer is about life under capitalism, a lament about those disenfranchised and those whose stories are absorbed and rewritten by the system that exploits them, those who control this system for their own immediate and narrow gain, and an entreaty to come together to dismantle this system.
“'Alveromancy' is a more abstract poem about sound and words, about the drive to distill meaning from the ore of language, to try to find beauty through the permutation of objects and concepts in the vain hopes that truth might emerge from chaos. 'Oscines' is a surrealist love story about dreams, birds, and transformation. I learned that the family Oscines, or songbirds, are not born with innate knowledge of the songs they sing but have to learn through listening."
Nowherer is currently available on Bandcamp, though Tylinska hopes she can do physical releases soon.