Welcome to Michael Robbins' new metal column, and listen to the exclusive stream of "A Buried Sun."
Welcome to my new metal column All Day Permanent Red, named for the late British poet Christopher Logue’s version of the first battle scenes in The Iliad. Who I am: a poet and literary critic, mainly, but I’ve also written about music for Spin and The Village Voice and elsewhere. My metal cred has been established by the most dubious source imaginable: The Weekly Standard wrote that my first book of poems, Alien vs. Predator, required a knowledge of, among other stuff, “seventies and eighties pop music and recent death metal.” Of course, the reviewer also refers to Slayer as an “atheist/satanic death metal band,” so who knows what he’s counting as “recent death metal”—I mean, it’s The Weekly Standard.
Anyway, this column will be devoted to metal, including recent death metal (Gorguts!), not to my press clippings. But my definition of metal is obnoxiously elastic, so don’t be surprised if I write about a country song or something from time to time (as Chuck Eddy has pointed out, Nashville sounds like Bon Jovi or Cinderella now).
For this first installment, I’m thrilled to be able to host the exclusive stream of a new track by In Solitude. “A Buried Sun” is the third song on the Swedish vintage-metal faux-occultists’ forthcoming third album, Sister. (No relation, I’m assuming, to the Sonic Youth record of the same title, but remind me to tell you about the time I met Johnny Crime in southern Mexico while I was listening to that album on my Walkman.) Their last record, The World. The Flesh. The Devil. (“cryptically named,” according to Allmusic, whose writers are apparently unversed in Christian theology), was one of my favorites of 2011, a spiky throwback to Reagan-era mirror-axed melodicism that answered the question what if Mercyful Fate had a human singer.
I’ve listened to Sister a couple of times—it’s a warhorse of a different color, entirely confident and adventurous. The band have hit upon a combination of riff and rhythm that meets cute on metal’s borderlands—some of these riffs wouldn’t sound out of place on a Pretenders record. (That’s always a good thing.) The title track locks into a disco propulsion groove that someone should loop into a club mix. I can’t swear Pelle Åhman is singing “She holds her horse’s head, the cunt of coals” on “A Buried Sun,” but that’s sure what it sounds like. The retro charms of The World are still there, but they’ve been alchemized. Sister is more than the sum of someone else’s sounds. (In Solitude does sound a lot like fellow spooky-Swedes Ghost sometimes—I refuse to call them Ghost B.C.—but there’s a very good reason for that, ahem.)
I want to note that Erik Danielsson, frontman for Swedish black-metal animal lovers Watain, says in Decibel magazine this month that Sister is "filled to the brim with desperation, evil, oppression, guilt and sorrow. And for such albums, the people should gather in awe, sit down to sew shut each other’s mouths, as the world turns silent around them and a sun goes up in the night. Yes, it is that kind of album."
No offense, dude, but that kind of album sounds like it sucks. Danielsson was kind enough to answer some questions for an article I’m working on, and I can’t wait to see Watain and In Solitude at the Bottom Lounge next month, but I have to say: Sister is filled to the brim with joy—it’s in the guitars—and for such an album, people should gather in delight and stand around saying things like “God, I love this song,” as the sun, like, shines on plants and stuff. During the day.
But it sounds great at night, too. See you in a couple weeks!
Michael Robbins is the author of the poetry collection Alien vs. Predator (Penguin, 2012). He's at work on a book about poetry and popular music, Equipment for Living, forthcoming from Simon & Schuster. Find him on Twitter — @alienvsrobbins