Lyrics just aren’t that important.
Yes, Robert Smith from the Cure preaching that “It doesn’t matter if we all die” may have piqued my pimply teen interest, and these days when Taylor Swift starts rapping about “this sick beat” it’s great to sing along.
But the thing that really gets me going is how the music alone makes me feel. It’s visceral rather than lyrical. It could be a songs “sick beat” (Black Steel In the Hour of Chaos by Public Enemy ), or the simmering intensity of a track like Tool’s Stinkfist. Mostly though it’s about the sonic power a song wields that gets me jumping (or at least swaying and swooning), like Nice Day For An Earthquake by Hawkes Bay instrumental trio Jakob.
Ah yes, instrumental metal is my ideal.
Not that Jakob can be defined as strictly metal – they’re as much beautiful as they are heavy – but their power to make you swoon and sway is why they are one of my favourite New Zealand bands.
And every now and then an instrumental metal album – or post metal as the label goes – comes along that has the Jakob affect on me. Bands like Kiwi instrumental destroyers Kerretta, and Russians Circles and Pelican, are worth checking out. Most recently Auckland trio Mothra released its debut album, Decision Process, and it has a wonderfully belligerent yet melodic temper to it.
With support slots for everyone one from Dillinger Escape Plan to Earth, it gives an indication of the breadth of Mothra’s sound. Opener Awake The Machine sets the scene with its ebbs and flows of beauty and brutality, Escapism escalates into deep merciless thuds akin to Tool, and Cataclysm is a mangled beast that fires shards of heaviness in all directions.
It’s 7 minute epic Elements of Sleep where Mothra show their true mettle by stretching a song out to its extreme limits with a mix of delicacy, grunt, and power.
There’s another more selfish reason I like Mothra too. They are named after a song by Godflesh, a band that shaped my love of heavy music. And it’s Godflesh who is to blame for my passion for instrumental metal. Because while Justin Broadrick from Godflesh sings (well, kind of), it’s the unbridled and extreme instrumental heaviness the band conjures up that makes me beat my chest with primal joy. Music is about summoning power.
Sorry. Got a bit carried away there.
Put it this way, I would be happy if some of my favourite bands – Deafheaven, Isis, Tool – did instrumental versions of their albums. I could listen to a whole Tool album without Maynard’s vocals, even though I love his voice and it’s an instrument all on its own. But I’m happier getting down to a sick and brutal beat matched with a wild guitar slaughter. That sounds like far more fun than singing a song.