I’ve been swarmed by new short releases that I want to write about. I had a list of five that I’ve been listening to this week, from which I wanted to pick one for this Saturday post. And then the new Shroud of Despondency EP de-railed those plans. I only meant to give it a minute or two this morning, just to get a sense of what was going on, and, well, here we are.
For those unfamiliar with the project, it’s the brainchild of musician Rory Heikkila, originally from Upper Michigan and now a resident of Wisconsin. Prior to this new EP, the last studio release was a double-album from earlier this year entitled Tied To A Dying Animal, which featured a mix of metal and acoustic songs. This new EP does, too.
The EP also marks the beginning of the end of the project. It’s a way-station on the road to the band’s final album, the recording of which is nearing completion, before Heikkila turns his attention elsewhere (to folk music, it appears).
Defective Overpass includes two songs. Heikkila explains: “The common thread between the songs is the idea of confession. Both songs mock and accept the idea”. There is another common thread between the songs: It’s tough to get them out of your heard once you’ve heard them.
“In View of Birth”
“In View of Birth” will appear on the final album. For those in need of a genre tag, black metal would come closest, but it’s a multifaceted song with a changing mood. It moves from a high-speed torrent of blast-beat drumming, pulsating bass notes, and raking tremolo riffs (accompanied by a mix of wretched, throat-scarring shrieks and low roars) to a slower segment of bleak guitar chimes and warm bass tones that bubble like lava.
That takes you to the mid-point, when the song shifts again, with an acoustic guitar melody set against a haze of noise and voices acting as a bridge to the song’s remarkable finish. For the final two minutes, Heikkila spins out a beautiful guitar melody (beautifully complemented by the drum and bass tracks) that’s somehow both wistful and uplifting, conveying (at least to these ears) sensations of both yearning and acceptance.
According to Heikkila, the second song on the EP won’t be included in the new album, which will concentrate on black metal, but more likely will be reworked for his follow-on folk music project. On the band’s Facebook page, he also wrote this about “Valleys”:
I put about a half hour of work into this song. This includes writing it. I maybe mixed for another half hour so an hour worth of work. Some people hate this idea. Some people nit pick and fuss about what people hear. I am not one of those people. I enjoy vomiting out a song out of necessity and having that song represent a moment in my life. A moment where my thoughts went dark and I wrote to overcome. How it sounds to you is of little concern. Such moments do not need polishing to anyone that has honestly experienced them. Take this song as it is and enjoy it.
“Valleys” is somewhat rough around the edges, but it’s still humbling to think that it was the result of only an hour’s worth of work. The music is a duet of clean male and female vocals accompanied by acoustic guitar and bass. True to the band’s name, there’s an air of despondency and grim resignation in the melody of this folk song, and in its lyrics. Its shoulders are bowed under the weight of regret, but the music is memorable for all its bleakness.
Defective Overpass is available as a “name your price” download on Bandcamp, and you can listen below. If you like what you hear, Rory Heikkila has been posting stream links to other songs from the final album, in various stages of completion, on the band’s Facebook page.