USNEA – USNEA
by Daniel Neagoe
If there was a band that has impressed me so much and had me hooked from the very first minute of listening, that band would have to be Usnea. And these guys have left me in pure awe.
And their music is oh so hard to describe, lots of funeral doom influence, actually a mixture of doom styles. Black metal has a big impact on the vocal delivery and the feeling and atmosphere of the music. There is also a fantastic range of drone and experiments of noisy unstructured phrases that do add dynamic and dimension to the songs.
What does the word Usnea mean? thanks to Wikipedia, widely distributed lichens usually having a greyish or yellow pendulous freely branched thallus.
A bit of research led me to find out the band had been formed in August 2011 in Portland, Oregon and the line up is:
Zeke Rogers – drums
Joel Williams- bass/vocals
Johnny Lovingood- guitar
Justin Cory- guitar/vocals
The album. Four immense tracks of so many styles combined together for a fantastic whole of howling and lit despair. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The music is extremely inspiring, ascending towards empiricism, to the philosophical testing doctrine, experimentation, and towards a more specific meaning of senses in experience. And this is truly an experience, the band manage to encapsulate a huge range of feelings, thoughts and introspection of individualism.
Philosophical – some might say, but even after the fourth spin, this album manages to leave me perplexed and amazed by the ingenuity with which these musicians strike over and over again.
“Chaoskampf” is the album’s opening track, a conglomerate of mournful leads and soul crushing riffs,with an excellent tone and intonation, abundant in low ends,a perfect combination with the despaired, raging growls which remind me of Mindrot (Anguish).
The pace is maintained, carrying the torch of these howling sounds, until that culminating point where the black metal influences take over and everything turns to pure chaos in the most brilliant way. Vocals change to high pitch screams, denoting pure exasperation and torment. It is clear that these guys know how to handle slow paced passages with insanely chaotic elements, dropping then to a sludge, drone-y riff which suits the track perfectly.
Amazingly how twelve minutes are going by without noticing, that’s how captivating the music is.
“Brazing Bull Of Phalaris” is the milestone of sludge in my opinion, a beautiful Utopia measuring over seventeen minutes, a real masterpiece where all instruments are perfectly balanced, it’s actually insane and addictive and denotes such negativity and grief. Another little research of interest revealed that the intellectual stimulus and lyrical themes are inspired by writers such as Richard Dawkins, Carl Sagan, Philip K. Dick, Ursula K. LeGuin, H.P. Lovecraft (minus his racism and class-ism), Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Naomi Klein, etc.
About four minutes in the song there is a small guitar passage that reminds of Mournful Congregation or Evoken, before bursting into one of the most depressing riffs I’ve heard lately. This is pure doom at its best, and even though it might be a personal taste, it can be proven only by listening to the record.
My most favorite song has to be one which the album ends with: ” Empirical Evidence Of A Deranged God”, track that ends in a majestically funerary way, the ending riff is just too much to take after listening to the entire material.
This is a truly exhausting album, yet so beautiful. Beautiful by its restless feeling, negativity and exalting – I have quite the depressing feeling of not being able to articulate. An awesome band with huge and rare talent, who have gained my respect and admiration. A sincere 10/10!