Nestled deep within the obscure tones and periodically vicious churn of I Klatus‘ Kether is a sense of questioning and resistance that the Chicago trio have mirrored in the themes at work in the songs. Across the 56-minute expanse of Kether, drummer Chris Wozniac, guitarist/vocalist Tom Denney and bassist/vocalist John E. Bomher elicit a bleak, genreless swirl crushing in its heft but fluidly moving within psychedelic headspaces, like a lava lamp in black and white.
Songs like “Portals (Under the Lake)” and opener “John of the Network” offer alternately jagged and melodic glimpses at a worldview determined in its position against, so that even in their harshest aural stretches, I Klatus never lose the sense of meditative focus that unites the widely varied material on Kether, no easy task in charting a route from the tribalisms of “Tree of the Sephirot” to the oozing lurch that starts “By the Coercion of Marduk,” which itself reads like a history lesson on Chicago’s heavy underground, from deathly influences crossover push to post-metal plod.
The band released Kether on vinyl last year and gave it a wider digital issue in late March, so it’s entirely possible you’ve run into the record in another context, but streaming it in full, here we see Wozniac, Denney and Bomher offer their own perspective on the movement from beginning to end in a complete track-by-track breakdown. I think you’ll find that as Kether and the three-piece’s explanations progress, both find suitable culmination in “Dark Commitment to the Ceaseless NON.” Please enjoy:
“John of the Network”
John E. Bomher: The evolution of this song took shape at a time when a personal tragedy struck in the form of the ironic and gruesome death of a family member. A relative of mine who had worked in a power plant for years and years and was essentially the person who would layout power line architecture from the power plant to your home appliances tragically passed in a car wreck/electrocution.
He was driving along an icy road on a wintry Michigan night when his van hit a patch of black ice, turned on its side and smashed into an electrical pole alongside the road, disconnecting the power lines. Unscathed, he kicked out the back window of the van and began to trudge through the snow up the road towards a nearby house. Unbeknownst to him, the live power line was actively flailing around in his general vicinity and it reached out across the road and grabbed him on the arm, instantly taking his life.
The irony of this tragic event was that he had spent so much of his time and energy propagating electrical energy that it eventually took his life in such a strange and fantastic spectacle.
The concept behind the song began there and throughout its arrangement you can hear subtle sounds of what might be the background noise of an active power plant until the big climax part in the middle which symbolizes the car wreck and escape from the vehicle. The buzzing sound in the background emulating what the sound of the electrical wire flailing about might sound like.
The power grid/network desperately searching for and eventually finding its creator, being positively charged towards him and wanting so badly to merge their essences.
At the moment of his impact with the downed power line, I imagined his life force, his soul being sucked into the power grid to live on forever within its matrix… Looking out at us from all the television screens, microwave ovens and other common household appliances… a new sort of “becoming.”
Sometimes, now, when technology refuses to accommodate or cooperate with us… I imagine John, hiding just below the surface of some piece of technology… pushing buttons and pulling wires and laughing at us – a master to us, the slaves to his network…
Chris Wozniac: A mine flail is a vehicle-mounted device that makes a safe path through a minefield by deliberately detonating landmines in front of the vehicle that carries it.
John: This bizarre song formed around a literal soundcheck of drum tones.
I took Woz‘s attention-deficit approach to drumming and composed bass, guitar and vocal parts around it and imagined what it might be like to have a battalion of flailtanks ravage through my neighborhood… I heard an interview from a flailtank driver in World War II and he said that the German soldiers would almost always surrender immediately after they would clear a minefield with a flailtank. If you can imagine a line of tanks approaching across a nearby field, clearing the mines out of its way with these huge apparatus spinning around ahead of them with the explosions and the dust flying everywhere, it must’ve been terrifying.
Tom Denney: Imagine how this weapon would be deployed upon a group of Anonymous protestors waving picket signs against capitalist-agenda-driven banks, flailtanks mowing down women, men and children as they straddle the horizon, driven by madmen obeying the “law” poised to mow your life away.
Tom: It’s about chemtrails. Inspired by looking up to see grids in the sky where no previous flight patterns were observed. This seems to happen time to time right before massive rainstorms. Reported all over the country, these seemingly intentional spray patterns delivered by unmarked airplanes leave either cloud-seeding debris or massive amounts of barium, pathogens and asbestos in the sky. What are these chemtrails? What are they for and who is creating them?
Tom: Literally means “Before the Flood” recognizing the multiple cultural histories which point to a massive and ancient flood which wiped out a previous Earth culture, more advanced spiritually than our own. The different changes in the song represent the rising of tides and the crumbling of a magical prehistoric society. A lot of the lyrics came from a particular dream, where the band was unearthing musical instruments and statues from deep under ink-black waters. The concept of trying to remember this ancient knowledge, perhaps buried deep within cellular and cultural memory to bring that message into the present and unearth the secrets of our ancestors and forefathers. The idea that we are not the height of technological evolution on this planet and that we as a culture are simply rediscovering an esoteric wisdom which was lost to the ocean’s depths and vibrationally, spiritually and musically, we are responsible for assisting in its reemergence.
Woz: We recorded many songs with Tariq [Ali, former bassist who committed suicide in 2009] on the album, but we actually wrote this song with him during and around our tour in December 2008.
“Model Prisoner Interlude”
John: This one is a dark number envisioning a gross and exaggerated police state, wherein society’s freethinkers and rule-breakers might find themselves rounded up and imprisoned in various regional, government-run reform camps. How easy it could be to herd all the fearful and brainwashed masses into camps like this during some staged attack on America in which martial law might come into effect. Prison camps are not a farfetched concept considering our recent spectacles on the world stage.
“Model Prisoner Revolt”
Tom: It’s about summoning the strength to rise above the walls of the slave state (prison for your mind) and claim sovereignty as an individuated fragment of the consciousness of God the Absolute, while refusing to kneel before an oppressive authoritarian construct; We fight for the freedom to live without silencing the next generation and beyond.
“Portals (Under the Lake)”
Tom: About the city we came from, Chicago, IL. There is something different about the energy of that city, one that has one of the highest murder rates in the nation. There is a blanket of fear and oppressive energy which seems to veil the city at all times, choking it off from positive growth. Off the coast of Lake Michigan, there is an intersection of several Earth energy lines or “Leigh Lines” which create a vortex which sucks energy from the nearby city. This is why there are so many millions of weary, downtrodden people in Chicago (that and the brutal winter). This song is all about psychic attack and energy vampirism. In a place where the very life force is drawn out of the surrounding area, the people are left in a state of despair in which they feed off of one another emotionally, psychologically and physically. The tones at the beginning represent the subtle mind control beacons which exist throughout the city, disguised as cell phone towers and electrical lines. These emit nearly undetectable subharmonics which agitate and disrupt the human body’s natural ability to interact with reality, leaving its citizens distraught, destitute and without hope for any future other than the drab horizonless void that is the urban epicenter of soul dissolution. There may well be a real plot to subvert the peoples of this great metropolis, to keep them down and devoid of the possibilities of evolution. All of the soul growth literally gets sucked into the portal under the lake.
“Pillar of Boaz”
Woz: Boaz and Jachin were two copper, brass or bronze pillars which stood in the porch of Solomon’s Temple, the first Temple in Jerusalem. You can see this referenced in ancient and modern architecture all over the world. We recorded this in L.A., at this killer studio with James Doser while we were all in town for Tom’s 30th birthday in 2009. It all started with a noise loop that John created to a click, and we all just started laying down tracks. Leon Del Muerte contributed some badass, driveway shoveling vocals on this one.
Tom: The Pillar is an esoteric journey through the Tarot. On the path to the light, or on the way to awakening, we meet the Air. This is the dragon, or the devil of indulgence in earthly distraction. This is the story of that confrontation and the inevitable absorption of the shadow within the pillar of truth which upholds the understanding that deep inside you this urge for soul freedom rings true in a way which we all can feel. The roots of oppression of our forefathers seem to bind no more as the Entrancer of the Martian war-mind dissolves to the will of the true temperance, that of unity-mind. This is that moment, where you come through the tempest, in your deepest DMT trip to that place of serenity, the OM state where strife no longer matters and the struggle comes to its most dramatic culmination. The stillness and the calmness overwhelms, unites and heals the weary traveler on the path toward the omega.
“Tree of the Sephirot”
John: The Tree is composed of symbols which represent the cosmos and its multitude of parts but also the prototypic Adam. Akin to DaVinci’s The Divine Man, it is a metaphysical representation of the universe and its vast degrees of separation and togetherness. In this band and in life, it seems that the artists I like to surround myself with are willing to explore the depths and distances of polarity. Darkness and Light are really just different from each other by degrees and through meditation and positive focus I believe that you can change vibrations in one direction or the other… down toward the darkness or up toward the light, toward kether… the crown chakra or the pineal gland… again this is a prototype, a symbol which I am speaking of and we are evoking positive upward motion forward through the cosmos with the tribal, entrancing breath work of this piece.
“By the Coercion of Marduk”
John: This is a reference to Planet X… an invisible planet or asteroid which may or may not someday effect or destroy planet earth.
A doomsday fantasy.
“Karma and Forgiveness”
John: Two notions we are constantly in reconciliation with. The give and take of the universe and the struggle with oneself to let go of past wrongs and make a conscious effort to take action to perpetuate good karma and positive forward progress in the lives of those around you. The idea that you must give it away to get it back is very prevalent in this theme.
“Dark Commitment to the Ceaseless NON”
Tom: This is about Quantum Physics and the hidden priesthood in place which understands its principles and harnesses it as a tool to control reality and keep the human race in a state of constant subversion. Here we find the Keys to step over Pyramids, the pyramid being a symbol employed by this secret priesthood. In the song, the lyrics talk about a desire to impregnate the universe with a burning, boiling planet. This is the metaphor for the thalamic will being imposed on a fertile universe. The inspiration, the rising idea within humanity giving birth to the creation of material progressions.
John: Around the time that we created this song a friend told me in a tarot reading that I would be “married to the darkness” for another decade of my life… and according to the sagely wisdom and guidance of the stars and the constant growth opportunities that the universe has provided for me, through meditation and surrender my life has vibrated more and more and more out of the darkness of depression, despair and loss and into a vast and limitless manifest destiny… I have always been a huge fan of a massive crescendo up and up and up… I like to think of life in that same way… we vibrate in this way and that, ever upward back toward our source, somewhere out there in the cosmos…Chicago, I Klatus, I Klatus Kether, Illinois, Kether, Tom Denney, Unsigned bands