Posts Tagged ‘radiant’

Hell Yes

Hell Yes

This is the phenomenally lovely cover from an album entitled Wavering Radiant. The band is called Isis. They are not just any band, but a heavy metal band. Not just any heavy metal band, but a sludge heavy metal band.

…I must be honest.

I am not into metal. This sentence will never escape my mouth: “Hey, guys, I am so into sludge metal lately and I really need to hear some growling right now! Get something with deep screams and pounding drums!” It’s just, it’s not going to happen. I keep a pretty open mind and will listen to just about anything people suggest. Someone gave me a “power violence” cd once, and for about three minutes in the car we had a blast. Then my natural instincts kicked back up (or more drifted since they are too unaggressive to get rambunctious and dominate the scene) and inside I was all: “Hey, how about some ‘Gang Bang Suicide’ by Broken Social Scene?!” Yeah, that sounds wild!

That would definitely not be true. It is the antithesis of hardcore. It is spacey and marvelous and beautiful and it is not for people who don’t enjoy taking lots of naps (I do). So automatically: crazy-devoted. I will maybe think about going to one of the metal shows I’ve been asked to someday (I suspect it will include me saying things like: oh, this is unusual and No! of course I don’t wish I could find a place for a nice little catnap). But there’s no use pretending my attempts at being open-minded means I am in anyway knowledgeable about something like metal. I am too passive and I kinda hang out around Neptune.  I respect what they do because most metal artists, when I read about them, are fucking interesting and out there and way smart. Plus the metal dudes I’ve met are by far some of the calmest, sweetest, and most thoughtful people I’ve encountered; something which was only a surprise to me since I grew up with boys whose love for metal was only rivaled by their dedication to creating trouble, and occasionally being overprotective of nerdy young ladies (me!) down the street. Point: our musical tastes are just different.

So I saw the cover illustration above and went: “whoa! this is fucking fantastic art work to my untrained eye! I am wild about this!” Then I read the review and it was: Isis. Metal Band. Me: Oh. Huh. The album is entitled Wavering Radiant. Again: “fucking gorgeous, I love it!” But then… is that a joke? Is a title as dreamy as Wavering Radiant an attempt to have all the space cadets of the world flock to it and be suddenly “Oh… I was not prepared for so much howling.”  Am I too earnest to realize this could be some mild mockery of people who get starry-eyed and flock without thought to something with a word like ‘radiance’?

Because, man, some words do get me like a magnet (see ‘snort’. Ha, oh man!) My personal adoration for the word ‘radiance’ came into being when I was a young lass of 17 and encountered the band Athenaeum and their album Radiance.

These Guys Are Not Metal.

These Guys Are Not Metal.

Man, I loved them. My sister and I (who for the rest of the time I write this blog shall be referred to as SisterSister until I forget) drove down to North Carolina to see Athenaeum multiple times (not a short drive). It was not the coolest thing we could have done. Athenaeum was, well…. let’s say Gin Blossoms-esque. I haven’t listened to much Athenaeum for a while except ‘If Baby’s Gone’, a totally dreamy song that pretty much embodies radiance. While I have moved on from nearly all the music I first went nuts over (People born in New Jersey are born in love with Bruce Springsteen. It is a pure love we never leave behind), still, deep down, sitting very patiently and quietly next to my interest in spacey Icelandic music, is a pretty solid desire to listen to some lovely pop songs on a patio in North Carolina on a gorgeous evening.

So it’s strange to see a word like ‘radiance’, which is attached to a lot of shit for me, used by a band whose music I couldn’t associate less with the word. But I’m into this. We need words such as ‘beautiful’, ‘good’, and ‘light’ because they can refer to nonphysical Ideas as much as solid shit so perfectly; they also are such unspecific adjectives that people reach for them too often and the words become vague and meaningless.  ‘Radiance’ summons up a much more precise image while retaining the sort of superlative quality that ‘beautiful’ and ‘light’ bestow. Since I elected to become crazy-devoted to the word it seemed it’s usage increased (though I probably just noticed more). I worried it would get used up and worn-out since it’s pretty, evolving into an object of ridicule for people who despise the cheesy, the sentimental and the simplistic.

I think of heavy metal musicians being the sort of people who call out “bullshit” because they are good at detecting insincerity and big egos. They seem to take special aim at it. So I wondered if an album with what seemed to be quite a few guttoral ARGHHHs might not have been named Wavering Radiant cos they were feeling cheeky towards the people of the world who were all: radiant = mellow? Yeah! I don’t think this interpretation would be silly to someone who knew nothing about them:  Isis referred to this as their “pop” album. Excuse me, but I know me some pop songs gentlemen. I grew up with pop songs. Your songs are no pop songs. I would like to assure you that, to me, you will always absolutely be sludge metal. If you want to. Or not. Please, don’t sell yourself short, do what makes you happy. I just think you have way too many screaming riffs to create and howl around the world before anyone comes close to confusing your music with Justin Timberlake or Coldplay. I do not want to seem patronizing: I decided to learn a little bit about you. You guys are pretty fucking interesting. When I was thinking ‘radiant’ seemed a little out of place in a title by a metal band, I forgot that no one (except people with bizarre priorities) enjoys having themselves defined by others. Plus, it’s been quite a while since I’ve thought about metal. Let’s just say I’m rather out of touch about with that scene.

But Isis, I’ve grown. ‘Radiance’ doesn’t make me think of heavy metal? Who gives a shit! And I am not saying that because one of you was in a band called Agoraphobic Nosebleed, I promise (though that does give me sincerely warm feelings for you all). I have been won over by other winning traits: your complete unconcern for people who insist on defining and categorizing everything. The fact that you are influenced by the likes of Jorge Luis Borges and Jeremy Bentham. Your interest in creating narratives and themes for your album about women, water and the danger of mega-corporations and life in a surveillance society. Guys, I never want to see you live. It would be intriguing, but I’m fairly certain I would be kinda terrified. I listened to some of every song off this album. The title song was very pretty, and I am quite impressed by how you slid with ease from that ethereal piece into a sound which, personally, I wouldn’t quite describe in the same way.  Maybe I will listen to some more of your album one day if someone will hold my hand and tell me the sound of impending doom is intentional and I shouldn’t be hiding under my desk. But you know, I love what you’re doing though I can’t really listen to it. You’ve made an album that delights a lot of people. I like that this is, to you, your pop-ish album that needed a pretty cover and title. I appreciate that you are capable of moving between sounds and can pick and choose between them, cos I can’t move between all musical genres with such ease myself. So I think this is goodbye for us right now, but I really do think you are super.

So Isis is a sincerely weird band defying limits and genres: sweet. What I like best is how they use a word, one which doesn’t normally come up when talking about metal (dark slamming psychedelic guitars! mmm, i feel so peaceful and isn’t the light right now so beautiful), and their usage shakes it of all it’s tiredness and hands it back to the audience as something new. I fell in love with that word from a 90s alt-pop-rock band and it won my heart. Repetition began to dull it, and then Wavering Radiant recreated its potential. Now my subconscious will add ‘strange heavy metal group’ to the connotations I have with ‘radiance’, and I like that. A lot.

I’d like to make one more point which doesn’t have much to do with Isis or Athenaeum, though they got me thinking about all this. This is about how we all think and react to music in different ways. We all love stuff that we’re well-aware others can’t stand, have no interest in, or feel substantial sarcasm towards. I think this is a good opportunity to be honest from the get-go about secret passions. Sure, I can play The Replacements and the Rolling Stones and the YYY’s all night. I love to drive places shouting along to ‘Wolf Like Me’ and ‘Ceremony’ and do a half-dance, half-jumping out of the car thing. I get crazy-devoted and think about the genius of Broken Social Scene and KC Accidental and Do Make Say Think for hours straight. But there’s a part of me devoted to some shit I don’t really brag about. Like, a part of me which has a few drinks on Friday with SisterSister and ends up watching every Maxwell and Boyz II Men video, and not in the ironic too-cool-for-school-I-still-love-Motownphilly way. No, in the I must sing ‘Water Runs Dry’ from the bottom of my soul three times way. A part which wonders if the day will ever come when I hear ‘November Rain’ and actually get out of my car to run errands instead of circling the block till the song finishes (I LOVE ANTHEMS). Will I admit that Mr. Big is a cheesy hairband and it is time to get rid of their album (…albums? Don’t be silly, stop prowling around my room)? Of course not. What? I had an enormous crush on Steven Tyler? I don’t know what you’re talking about. No, I didn’t suggest we get silk pajamas and re-enact TLC’s ‘Creep’ video. That would be strange, leave me alone.

I’m talking about it because as much as I love listening to good music, and as much as I roll my eyes at myself when I’m listening to bad music, bad music makes people happy. It unites people when they find out they share a secret obsession, it reminds us that no one has perfect taste and we should tolerate other people’s passions with grace. People can share great songs, but the bond formed between two acquaintances when they realize they both love, oh, Dexter Freebish: that can create a real fucking friendship, because, no joke, you get that the other person has stuff they love they don’t share with the world too. It’s like when Vanilla Ice comes on at the beer and wine store and all the customers get disproportionately excited: they’re sharing something they love that is so bad and they can just chill out and be dorks together. It’s the best. When no one feels a need to prove how cool and awesome their taste is then people can sit down and get serious about how much they love ridiculous songs, and that is one of my favorite activities. I can’t help but sometimes feel I must let someone know how much I wish I was back in Houston driving on 59 out to Victoria with acres and acres of green grass and low trees…and singing ‘Fast Cars and Freedom’ by the Rascal Flatts with fucking passion.

So though there may be writings about social justice and good books, it’s so good to ramble and rave about shit that makes me happy, including the not-too-hip shit which isn’t always at the forefront of my mind, but is always waiting for me to remember it and go nuts for it all over again. There should be a place in the universe for people who love fine literature and get irrationally angry about Dan Brown’s writing style… and yet have Robbie Rob’s ‘In Time’ from Bill & Ted on their computer and listen to it more than sporadically. Bonus: no one can be too disappointed or frustrated with my ideas and writings, because, if you actually read all of this, you now know I have a soft spot for the Rascal Flatts. My judgment cannot be entirely trusted. It’s not all diamonds, in case My Favorite Moose didn’t clear that up.

This was a long post about how I liked an album cover and title. I need to drink less caffeine and study more.


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