Kwaidan become one with the storm on ‘Make All of the Hell of Dark Metal Bright’


Fog, doom, and storm clouds have been pretty regular visitors the last week or so in my parts, and in fact, the forecast for the week ahead calls for even more of the same stuff that makes sun-worshipping people kind of sad and awfully annoying to be around. I kind of like these days, especially if they happen to occur while I’m at work and will be confined to a building anyway.

I’m sure you know where I’m going with this since I often make connections to the weather and what I’m listening to at a particular time, and you’d be right. For these times I like to immerse myself in dark, moody, shadowy music that mimics the surrounding atmosphere. I don’t need something storming and violent, because it’s not like trees are being uprooted (thankfully). Instead, I want something that makes me imagine being transported along the fog as I stare out at obscured scenes and mist that practically demand something that helps me dream and wonder.

Kwaidan_coverKwaidan is one such band that aligns perfectly with weather like this, and their debut album “Make All of the Hell of Dark Metal Bright” has been an excellent companion. The cover to the album depicts a snowy, frigid scene, either new dawn or dusk, with a single red beacon shining into the sky. It’s a pretty arresting image in its simplicity, and it goes along well with the music contained inside. Yeah, I know we’re half a year or so from snow, but it still works really well. The music is an atmospheric display of ambient melodies, with sparks of black metal, doom, and post-rock, and it really is a collection you need to absorb all at once, front to back. There are no pull-out cuts on this record, and nothing here logically will make an addition to anyone’s random playlists, so by all means, commit yourself to the adventure and you’ll be fuller for it once it unfurls in front of you.

As for the band’s members, some may be familiar to you. André Foisy is a member of the great Locrian, with whom we visited last week, and he’s a huge contributor to Kwaidan along with Mike Weis (Zelienople) and Neil Jenson. The Chicago-based trio may just be on their first long player together, but they already have a cohesion and musical spirituality among themselves that you’d think they’ve been creating music together for ages. The way these six songs seamlessly flow together–especially the opening triptych–suggests they were meant to create these passages together and, despite having commitments elsewhere, could have a rewarding future together.

As noted, the first three songs are stitched together as one and makes for a really enthralling opening that lets you stretch out and get settled as the clouds encircle you. “Evening Bell” is the first third of the mini-journey that’s rich with drone and panic, with noise pulsating and floating outward. Sounds continue to bubble and float, and they make their way into “Gateless Gate,” that has a generous share of tapping, chimes, and otherworldly ambiance. Guitars split off and start to rise up, threatening to take over the scene, but they dissipate and play their part, bleeding into “Ostension.” This track is both calm and volatile, like a breeze pushing through when you can see dark clouds over the horizon, and you’re left to wonder if the storm will strike or pass. The sound builds in intensity, they bend and scrape, and they eventually subside, ensuring your narrow survival.

The second half starts with “The Iceberg and Its Shadow,” a noisy, whirring trickle of space-age wonder, leaving a cold, isolated feel in your soul as you wonder your place in the galaxy. It’s a shorter track, but it makes the most of its lifespan, and it leaves plenty of room for “Space as Support,” that kicks open with tribal drumming, swirling noises, and guitars that thicken and shake. That cut drifts along, pushing you into stardust, and it’s a challenger that’s perfect for helping you contemplate the night. Closer “The Sound of This Bell” is the epic of the collection at 12:14, and while it starts hinting at serenity and inner peace, that comes to an end when sounds begin to boil over, looking for terrain to flood. The guitars bubble and burn, and the power continues to grow and stretch its shadow, finally drawing the sense of danger and your personal journey to an end. It’s a stunning adventure you might not realize lasts as long as it does because it flows so well.

This first trip from Kwaidan is a riveting one that can feel like a murky out-of-body experience at times. These three musicians meld to form a mind-altering unit that embodies that foggy storm stretching over your humid town as you wonder whether to watch or take cover. Their excellent debut should stick with me for a long time, and if you’re into ambiance, drone, and doom, you’ll love to slip into this psychosis over and over again.

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