Wednesday, April 10, 2019

The Long Hundred 008/100: The Angelic Process - Weighing Souls With Sand which a visionary iconoclast bucked conventions to create doomgaze.

[This is part of a series of posts dedicated to 100 albums I feel lucky to have heard. The full list and a more detailed explanation of the series can be found here.]

The Angelic Process made some of the most unique, moving music I've ever heard.

Along with Earth, Nadja, and Black Boned Angel, they represented my entry point into the world of doom-drone. As with most things, I discovered TAP late; the band had already released two albums and an EP by the time I stumbled upon Weighing Souls With Sand. Other than their name, I had nothing to go on when I first heard them - which, in retrospect, is the best way to discover music.

But The Angelic Process weren't a typical drone band; while most of the genre's adherents maintained a glacial pace and almost painful lack of variation, TAP were all about the push/pull of extreme dynamics. Certainly, there's a similarity to other doom-drone artists when the songs slowed to a crawl. But quite often, the band pushed their recording meters to the red, resulting in a sensory overload that's quite unlike the subsonic minimalism of Earth or Sunn O))).

TAP also had a fondness for single chord chugging, which was very much in vogue at the time - the band's discography is firmly ensconced within the "metalcore" era; though I'm guessing Godflesh's Streetcleaner and Neurosis' Through Silver in Blood were their big "metallic" influences (sharing the austere mechanical riffing of one and the tribal drumming affectation of the other).

The band's primary songwriter Kris Angylus often employed a bow instead of a pick, which gave his guitar lines an ethereal, quasi-orchestral quality. And his vocals - plaintive, often struggling to stay in key - point to the band's shoegaze influences; as do the band's lo fi recordings. TAP was ahead of the curve when it came to combining metal with more Pitchfork-friendly music; in fact, their genius lay in melding influences that had seemingly little in common.

The Angelic Process wasn't around for very long after Weighing Souls With Sand was released. When a hand injury made it impossible for Angylus to continue writing and recording, he put the band on hold. He died tragically soon after.

Since its release, the album's reputation has only grown. A decade after Profound Lore first released it, Burning World issued both a vinyl edition and a 2018 re-master (courtesy of James Plotkin - a man with a history of albums that weren't appreciated in their time). To his credit, Plotkin didn't attempt to clean up or add definition to the band's sound; the power of the music lies in what the listener feels, and not necessarily what they can hear, and the remaster preserves its obfuscating brilliance.

In the years following TAP's end, there have been a number of bands who've emulated their blend of black metal, shoegaze, doom and drone - resulting in the sub-sub-sub-genre doomgaze. Few things from the previous decade have aged as well as The Angelic Process and their final album. Even if I discovered The Angelic Process late, they helped me discover a new sound at its infancy.

How To Build A Time Machine:

Head of David - Dustbowl