Sometime in the second half of 2011, I took a chance and ordered a number of cassettes, sound-unheard, from a new cassette-only record label that had made an announcement on a black-metal message board saying they were ready to start shipping their first batch of releases. It wasn’t a huge risk: Priced at five or six bucks apiece, it seemed like a good way to hear some new music and support underground metal. I picked up tapes (each pressed in a limited edition of 100 copies) from Aksumite, SADOS, Obliti Devoravit, and A Pregnant Light. They were new bands, with strange names, putting out their debut releases on Colloquial Sound Recordings, a label that — I couldn’t have known at the time — would become an almost guaranteed source of genre-bending, incredible extreme music.
That first haul (I’ve been back many times since) included a little bit of everything from across the underground-metal spectrum, from crust punk to droning experimental black metal. The most impressive tape in the pile, though, came from Grand Rapids, MI’s A Pregnant Light, who operate under the guise of a black metal band, but have proven, over the course of a discography that spans eight releases in less than two years, to be much more.
A Pregnant Light is a one-man band whose lone member performs under the name Deathless Maranatha (that’s pronounced Mar-an-a-Ta). The band has never performed live and Deathless Maranatha has said doing so would require some thinking and a unique approach. “It wouldn’t be the metal-five guitar stuff,” he told me. A Pregnant Light releases seem to materialize at random and in what would most easily be called single or EP formats — months will pass, then an email from Colloquial Sound Recordings will announce one, sometimes two, APL tapes, generally including somewhere between two and five songs, limited to as few as 33 physical copies.
Many of the aforementioned qualities (one-man band; releasing music primarily on cassette; not playing live) are shared by a certain subset of deliberately obscure underground black metal acts, but there’s little else connecting those bands to A Pregnant Light. Hell, the band’s unofficial color is purple and one of its most memorable songs is a cover of Madonna’s “Live To Tell” (featuring Sigrid Sheie of VHOL and Hammers Of Misfortune, and Kris Force of Amber Asylum). A Pregnant Light’s first album (and only full-length), The Feast Of Clipped Wings, is perhaps the most “metal” of the band’s releases, but even there, APL shows a strong penchant for punk, post-punk, and hardcore. Subsequent EPs range from expansive shoegazing to raucous hardcore to a sparse and moody approximation of alternative rock. The band seems to be constantly reinventing itself, evolving to reflect fluctuations in mood and different states of mind, from disgust and rage to longing and self-reflection, all while maintaining a clear, distinct identity.
Part of that identity is a product of the lo-fi sound employed by Deathless Maranatha; APL’s music often sounds like it was recorded from a distance in a basement that may or not be carpeted. He told me that, for now, he records at home and uses a variety of analog and digital recording methods, whatever seems appropriate at the time. The light fuzziness of the material is enhanced when experienced on its intended format, cassette. There’s also something especially intimate about listening to the material on a tape pressed in a limited quantity, as if each were an offering from Deathless Maranatha himself. (Early editions of A Pregnant Light tapes were hand-numbered, and some of the band’s later releases have been packaged in envelopes or card stock tied with twine.)
Of course, you don’t need to hear the songs played through a boom box to recognize their excellence. We’ve got a handful for you here to stream, including new song “Glint, Glimmer, Glow,” from APL’s just-released split with Deeper Wells. The songs below are a representative sampling from A Pregnant Light’s young but fast-expanding discography. And you don’t need a tape player to hear more; several A Pregnant Light albums have been made available as digital downloads. Listen.