The day may come when we no longer need to identify musicians in metal (or in other artistic genres) as women or men, as black or white, as queer or straight, but simply as performers, whose creative talents will speak for themselves, for better or for worse. But that day is still far away. And so we will note that one of the two people in Modern Rites is a young American black man, Jonny Warren (who is also behind the experimental metal band Kuyashii).
But we make that observation not only because black performers are still a rarity in metal but also because Warren’s personal experience is at the heart of “Black Wolf“, the song we’re premiering today from Modern Rites‘ debut album Monuments in advance of its August 27 release by Debemur Morti Productions.
Warren has explained that the song’s lyrics were inspired by his “frustration with continuous oppression of minorities, particularly in the US, and the systemic constructs that enforce it”. The song, he says, “is from the perspective of someone who has been told time and time again that they do not belong. But despite the adversity they face they find purpose along the path less traveled to a salvation they can call their own.”
On this debut full-length, Warren (a.k.a. Archytekt) performs bass, synths, vocals, and rhythms, and he is joined in the Modern Rites collaboration by guitarist Berg (a.k.a. Katalyst), who is also a member of the Swiss atmospheric black metal band AARA. Their music harnesses elements of industrial and black metal, but isn’t really beholden to specific genres. Lyrically (to borrow a description from the press materials), “the songs explore the bleaker aspects of the human condition, diving into psychology, isolation, conflict, and the ever-evolving shadow self.”
In the case of “Black Wolf“, the music is rough and rumbling, jittery and jarring, but also expands into a panoply of soaring and streaming synths and tremolo runs, backed by pounding percussion. The music darkens in its tone and becomes simultaneously more harrowing thanks to the scalding fierceness of the vocals. The interplay between the riffing and the drumwork is riveting, providing contrasts in momentum and energy as the music veers among sensations of feverishness, conflagration, despondency, and grandeur.
And yes, although the music’s intensity and moods are often harrowing, there is indeed a feeling of magnificence when the music ascends. The panoramic aspects of the song extend to a guitar solo that’s mesmerizing yet also downcast. And while the song could be rightly called “atmospheric”, the dynamic drumming and the recurrence of that jittery opening riff give it a visceral, nerve-firing aspect that makes it all the more gripping.
This song is the second one to be disclosed so far from Monuments. A little further below in this article you’ll find a stream of the first one, “Self Synthesis“. It swells in sound, like what you might hear if gradually approaching an industrial metal-mangling machine, and then erupts in a hammering, scalding discharge of instrumental and vocal intensity — with eerie, wraith-like tones swirling in sorrow above. It eventually revisits those mangling sensations, which begin to seem apocalyptic….
Monuments was recorded by Modern Rites. Joseph Calleiro took care of the mixing and the mastering at Dungeon By The Sea, USA. The fascinating cover artwork was designed by Jonny Warren (whose creative talents obviously extend beyond making music). The album is available for pre-order now from DMP, in 12″ vinyl, digipack CD, and digital formats: