These are some uncertain and unprecedented times. None of us is sure what the hell anything is going to look like at the end of this potentially very long, very dark tunnel. Artists, performers, and musicians are in some especially dire straits at the moment.
With an endless cascade of canceled tours and postponed gigs, the revenue that hard working, independent bands rely on through live music has dried to less than a trickle over the course of a week.
Even every big festival you can think of has been canceled or postponed, and the bands that are going to be hit hardest are the smallest and most independent.
We are all pretty unsure of ourselves right now. Many of us are doing everything we can to support those around us, whether it be our family, friends, neighbors, or communities, but if you have some extra care and money you have been waiting on sending out to your favorite bands, now (literally Friday, March 20, 2020) is the best day to do it at this moment.
Bandcamp, the online music hosting and streaming website that has taken over much of the niche that used to be serviced by sites like Purevolume or even Myspace Music, is very graciously forgoing their fees for TODAY, MARCH 20, 2020 so that every single dollar you spend is going directly into the pockets of the bands that you love- the bands who have carried you through all your hardest spots and lifted you higher at every height.
Art and music are important. During the most doomsayer-y moments of the last week, music and art, I would be willing to bet, have been what you have turned to for succor. Please help support an entire industry that is in need of some help at the moment. If you have the extra cash, if you feel like you need to do more to support independent music (because good lord we know Spotify and Apple Music aren’t doing it), please consider picking up some music from Bandcamp!
For a preview of what I will be picking up, read on, dear reader!
Bliss Illusion – “Leave-Abharassara-Deva” and “Shinrabansho”
Back in the 90’s, bands like Shelter and 108 championed a brief but passionate movement in the hardcore scene dubbed Krishnacore, which is exactly what it sounds like—a furious melding of Hare Krishna philosophy and hardcore ethic and sound.
There was a bright but brief moment where a small scene flared in the darkness of the 90’s underground scene before it burnt out, leaving only 108 behind (and Ray Kappo, of course, who recently brought Shelter back out on the road in between stints with his main band, Youth of Today).
Why the blend of dharma and extreme hardcore and metal, which seem so clearly to go hand in hand, has been so few and far between (Bands like The Effort and Eigthfold Path have both come and gone in the intervening years but not many more than that) perplexes me to no end. Cue Bliss-Illusion, a Chinese buddhist black metal band from Beijing.
While obviously the band takes more influence from black metal bands (and indeed more modern versions of those) like Wolves in the Throne Room, Agalloch, Deafheaven, and even Envy, it’s the often direct correlations to buddhist sutras and teachings that further elevate this black metal into something heavenly. “Leave-Abharassara-Deva” is their new single/EP, which takes an even stronger melodic blackgaze route that borders on Alcest’s grip of melody and texture.
Los Angeles’ own Kristin Hayter released hands down my favorite record of the year. Caligula is an odyssey of pain and anguish and rage and redemption that is utterly unlike anything my ears have ever encountered.
She recently had some rough health news involving the need for several surgeries and her label graciously put all of her merch and music up for purchase with all the proceeds going towards her healthcare.
If you missed that sale (as I did and am quietly praying the do another pressing of Caligula on vinyl), then now is the time to nab this miracle of a record.
Thunderclap – “Inebriocean”
This was another 2019 release that somehow utterly snuck by me.
Massive and thundering, just as their name would imply, Inebriocean lumbers with the same gargantuan gait and swagger as one of my favorite bands, Kylesa, but manages to cut that heaviness with a subtle withdrawn-ness that gives their music a bit more of a spaced-out feel than the hard-driving Kylesa.
At its absolute heaviest (and good god, is Inebriocean gloriously heavy) it crushes and obliterates while still remaining playful. At its most melodic, it soars and sparks like Kyuss or early Baroness. It’s a record that, had I known about, would easily have made my top ten.
Converge – “Endless Arrow”
Converge are, without question, one of the best bands that has EVER existed. Its simply a fact. No other band has been as consistent, as subtly influential, as utterly in control of their process, or as quietly and consistently progressive in evolution.
They’ve been around for…more than a quarter century now and have shaped independent music around their paragon-like example, showing what it means to be a band, what it means to be in the hardcore scene, what it means to be an independent musician, and what it means to be a consummate professional at literally everything you do.
Endless Arrow is a 30 minute exploration of texture and atmosphere that sounds akin to frontman Jacob Bannon’s “Dunedevil” project or some of the more ambient tracks of Converge’s various side projects like Supermachiner or Irons.