Numenorean – “Thirst” (Stereogum Premiere)
Calgary’s Numenorean self-categorize as “post-black metal,” a term that is often used interchangeably with “atmospheric black metal.” Popular bands that play this style of music are, for example, Deafheaven, Wolves In The Throne Room, Alcest, Panopticon, and Agalloch, to name a few. I like all those bands a lot, and I can see Numenorean as being part of that lineage, but to me, the Canadian five-piece belong more to the atavistic subgenre called “depressive suicidal black metal.” These days, you don’t see many bands claiming the DSBM tag — probably because they’ve mostly realized that it’s hard enough to get people to listen to tsunami-sized, tremelo-picked scream/blast epics that last longer than your standard student film even without advertising the fact that the music evokes/inspires “depressive/suicidal” feelings. But if we’re being honest here, nearly all atmospheric/post-black metal bands derive from the depressive suicidal school. (The rest typically derive from the folk/pagan school, which is traditionally home to most of your neo-fascist/separatist types. Good times!)
The irony is, depressive suicidal black metal often sounds anything but. The subgenre deals in sweeping, pulse-raising, triumphant-sounding anthems. (It’s no accident that many of these artists are compared to Explosions In The Sky, a band that got famous soundtracking a heart-in-throat football movie.) Beyond its cinematic qualities, this style is typified by song structures that tend to feel chaotic or dreamlike, an unhinged and arhythmic vocal delivery (a sort of ambient banshee-wail), and utterly unintelligible lyrics addressing themes such as futility, isolation, and despair.
Numenorean are a young band; their forthcoming LP, Home, is their debut, and it’s preceded only by a two-song demo released in 2014. Yet they do this stuff with rare confidence and craftsmanship; their songs shift terrains with fluidity, power, and grace, moving with furious speed to gorgeous melodic climaxes that somehow feel both unexpected as a car crash and inevitable as a sunrise. These tricks aren’t easy to pull off, but nobody listens to this kind of music for degree of difficulty; they listen because it’s stirring, evocative, exciting. They listen because it hits a nerve or a sweet spot or a deeply buried, deeply personal truth. And Numenorean hit hard.
Today, we’re premiering a track from Home called “Thirst.” Here’s what Numenorean bassist Rhys Friesen had to say about the song:
On “Home” we explore deeper into a more cognizant existentialism. As we gain knowledge in life that dreadful awareness tightens. “Thirst” deals with the loss of stability one experiences when the promises of tired religions and philosophies fail to provide any real comfort. As knowledge and logic chisel away at superstition and faith, the promises made to us as children rot and fester in our minds. Once again as a child wandering through the chaos of one’s own mind. This spiritual vertigo can result either in complete mental collapse or the first courageous step into the abyss.
Sounds bleak, right? But it doesn’t sound bleak. Here, listen.
Home is out 7/22 via Season Of Mist. Pre-order it here.