In a way, I’ve been waiting for a record like this since I first heard the Last Exit debut album back in 1986. The record was notable for being free improvisation played in the style of metal and hardcore. It opened up a door that John Zorn, most prominently, went through, with bands like Painkiller. But it also promised a push toward abstraction that never really materialized, except in the general sense with Sunn O))).
Bloodmist has fulfilled this dream, and more, with their debut release. The band is clarinetist Jeremiah Cymerman, guitarist Mario Diaz De Leon (both of whom are developing promising careers as contemporary composers), and bassist Toby Driver. The band’s name and the record title implies dark metal, a sense of malevolence, and the music doesn’t disappoint in that regard, but the style is not at all what you are expecting. The atmosphere is indeed dark and heavy, but the actual music-making is full of space.
This is a particular kind of space—this is free improvisation, and each of the musicians concentrates more on listening to each other than on playing. The space, which is substantial, is fibrous, woven out of echoes and reverberations of previous sounds, stitched with the anticipation of what might come next. And what comes next is consistently surprising and satisfying. The playing is so full of care, so intelligent, so refined, that the music is extremely beautiful. This is not only one of the heaviest records I’ve heard in years, but one of the most beautiful ones.
The final track, “The Mad Road,” has the kind of pretentious, clichéd, obviously dark spoken narrative that I commonly find puerile and embarrassing. It’s a measure of how much I love this record that I gladly listen through the whole thing, and start it again.
Sheen is available on CD through 5049 Records, or digitally through Amazon or iTunes.