Psalm Zero occupy a weird and exciting place in today’s metal landscape. As we mentioned in our writeup of their song “In the Dead,” the band is part of the conversation when we talk about metal, but they’re somewhere off to the side, lurking in the shadows where industrial noise and other genres mix freely and can even drown out the qualities that make a song particularly “metal.”
Last year, the duo of Andrew Hock (of the disbanded black metal band Castevet) and Charlie Looker (ex-Extra Life) put out The Drain, an album that barked forth mechanized and stripped-down oddities that borrowed from Godflesh, epic black metal (I’ve seen guitarist Hock wear a Summoning shirt while performing with Psalm Zero more than once), and elements of new wave and goth. That’s an unusual mix, and on The Drain, angsty and rigid passages, overlaid with ominous clear vocals from bassist Looker, gave way to lush synth crescendos and caustic screams provided by Hock. The whole thing seemed to move in some strange, halting lockstep driven by thundering drum machines and pounded bass, like twisted and dissonant chants from some alternate reality. We voted The Drain to be one of the best metal albums of the year.
“Real Rain” is the first single from a forthcoming trilogy of Psalm Zero cassette releases coupled with videos; the whole thing is titled The Birthright Trilogy, and this video is “The Birthright Trilogy Part I: Real Rain.” (Listen to Looker, and you’ll hear him sing about fathers and brothers pretty often.) The song’s name is taken from the film Taxi Driver, a reference to a De Niro monologue in which he talks about an apocalyptic flood that will come to wash clean the blight of New York City. In true Psalm Zero style, “Real Rain” is eccentric, meshing bold melody with hammered-out beats, but Psalm Zero aren’t always this catchy. Knowing the song’s cinematic point of reference, some of the prettier moments and crescendos come off a bit gleeful about the prospect of wiping everything out and starting over, like a giddy kid with a magnifying glass and an anthill below. The song features backing screams from Paul Delaney of the New York City black metal band Black Anvil (and formerly of the hardcore band Kill Your Idols).
As for the video, on the surface it’s an unlikely clip for an unlikely New York City anthem. From morning well into night, it navigates a series of moments stolen from New Yorkers. It’s unnervingly voyeuristic at times, a reminder that privacy is often non-existent in a city of nearly nine million where lives are lived in public. After a few watches, it grew on me — the city’s buzzing activity seemed reflected in “Real Rain”‘s humming chanted refrain. It was directed by Winston H. Case, who has previously done work with Wolf Eyes and Grimes. Watch.
“Real Rain” is available to preorder in an edition of 100 on a new Irish label called Black Mass, with other Birthright installations to follow.