As I sit in my pajamas looking out the window on the rainy valley Wednesday, both core members of Brooklyn‘s Inswarm — vocalist/programmer Fade Kainer and guitarist/bassist/vocalist Joshua Lozano — are on tour in Europe with Jarboe, getting ready for a show in Helsinki on their way to Poland Friday. Their debut full-length under the moniker (they used to be Still Life Decay), Surely Death is No Dream showed up here a little while back and although I’d been avoiding putting it on because I anticipated not being into it and then feeling guilty about it because somehow it’s my duty to like everything not signed to a label, once I finally listened, I found myself intrigued and engrossed by their industrial post-metal turmoil.
Kainer mostly screams his vocals, though there are some ’90s-style Euro industrial sung parts on opener “This Moment,” and his voice is appropriately tortured throughout, adding a very human element to the otherwise cold and somewhat mechanical musical approach on the limited to 200 copies release. Live drums on “This Moment, ” “Tribulation” and “Drift” are contributed by Carl Eklof, bass comes from The Cutest Babyhead Ever‘s Brett Z. on the same tracks, setting up Surely Death is No Dream‘s variety of sound and ambience. There are three interludes (two named “Interlude”) and electronic noises throughout all the songs, distinguishing the stylistic/aesthetically-conscious Inswarm from generic post-metal or even more laptopped bands like Rosetta. The result is dark and well-suited to its album cover, with plenty of room for further creative development in any number of directions.
The overblown drum machine sounds on “Black Veil” and screamed vocals atop a churning, stop-start riff make the song a standout, as is “Drift,” which was clearly intended as the apex of Surely Death is No Dream. The last of the full-band tracks, it is surrounded by the two “Interlude” ambient pieces and precedes 14-minute instrumental closer “Desperation for Oblivion.” There is a thick bass groove toward the end of “Under” with some atmospheric guitar lines on top, but the whole of the album — as you can see from some of the titles alone — is centered around frailty, hopelessness and a kind of darkly post-modern spiritual emptiness evident in lines like “There’s a burden in my heart/There’s no god who is my friend/When did this all begin/When the hell will it end?” from “Tribulation.”
Still, the act of listening is far more interesting than depressing, since Inswarm manage to carve a genuine niche for themselves in their crowded genre. The flow of Surely Death is No Dream runs from each track to the next and the consistency in mood and tone — and the diversity within that range — makes the album a success on just about every front. Because they’re so unique, I’m not sure what label they’d fit on, but in a world where Relapse signed Tombs, anything is possible. A run with Inswarm, those guys and fellow Brooklynites, Batillus, would be a really great match for pulling in an open-minded crowd. In the meantime, I’ll spend many fewer weeks procrastinating my reviews of future releases. Promise.
Tags: Brooklyn, Inswarm, post-metal, Unsigned bands