By Justin C. Last week I told you about Ash Borer's long-form black metal, but on their new album, Terra laughs at those tiny 12-minute songs. Why stop there when you can push the 20-minute mark? Just seeing those durations is going to be a turn off to a lot of people, but like Ash Borer, Terra makes these lengths work. Aaron included Terra's self-titled album in a Short and to the Point earlier this year.By Justin C.
Last week I told you about Ash Borer's long-form black metal, but on their new album, Terra laughs at those tiny 12-minute songs. Why stop there when you can push the 20-minute mark? Just seeing those durations is going to be a turn off to a lot of people, but like Ash Borer, Terra makes these lengths work.
Aaron included Terra's Untitled in a Short and to the Point earlier this year. I was pretty taken with that work, but the band's pushed even further on Mors Secunda (Latin for "The Second Death"). Atmospheric black metal is probably a fine way to describe the music, but it's a bit more. There's an element of shoegaze, but without ever drifting too far into pretty. There's an element of drone, which as a genre I usually can't stand, but again, they make it work. I found this two-track album fascinating in a way because I could let it wash over me while I was driving, thinking whatever nervous thoughts I'm prone to, but I could enjoy it just as much listening to every nuance in a dark room. The melodies, like the songs themselves, are epic in scope. Sometimes they resolve nicely, sometimes they bifurcate into dissonance. The vocals, a mid-range shriek, make no pretense of sounding like human language. Like the melodies, they operate in a more complex emotional state.
As with Untitled, there is a misstep or two, mostly in the form of overly long outros. The first track, "Apotheosis," features over two minutes of more or less formless feedback. If you're in drifting drone mode, it doesn't matter so much, but sometimes I found it annoying enough to skip ahead. "Nadir" does a better job with its outro, keeping some form and movement. Sure, it sounds a little silly to say, "This 20-minute-long song would be better at 18 minutes," but that's where I was left.
But I don't want to end on a negative, because this album is a true gem, likely to get lost in the end of year shuffle, and I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the drumming. I'd be hard pressed to name a recent metal album that had drumming that I enjoyed as much. Only the percussion-centric Botanist would be in the running. The drums here are fascinating, with surprising accents and rhythms. In fact, I'd say the percussion is often integral to the melodic line itself, which is no mean feat when you're working with a non-melodic instrument. The best analogy I could come up with is kind of a nerdy one: Older cars (and modern trucks) typically were built by making a chassis--the backbone of the car--and then adding the body on top. It's a perfectly workable design, although not great in terms of safety and weight. In most bands, the rhythm section is the chassis, and the melody is the body. But most newer cars feature a unibody design, in which the chassis and body are part of an integrated whole. Terra have gone unibody, with all the parts adding to the structure of the music, making a stronger whole.
Automotive engineering analogies aside, it works brilliantly. Whether you want to zone out while you're listening or bring in your laser focus, Terra's got you covered.