The Left Hand Path



A Column

Fashion: turn to the right! Fashion: turn to the right! Beep beep! We are the goon squad and we’re coming to town. Beep beep!

“History repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce” – Karl Marx

The currency of hate is on the rise. According to The Independent: “The number of hate crimes recorded for the last two weeks in June has spiked by 42 per cent on this time last year. A total of 3,076 incidents were recorded across the country between 16 and 30 June – a dramatic increase on the 915 reports recorded over the same period in 2015.The biggest number of recorded incidents came on 25 June – the day after the result of the EU referendum – when there were 289 hate crime related incidents.

As a lifelong socialist; a progressive Marxist; an advocate for social justice; and a humanist, recent events in the country of my birth have left me sad, angry, and fundamentally ashamed to be ‘British’. However, I’m not going to bleat on about the injustice of the referendum; the uber-power of the elite; the malign influence of hegemonic media control; or the seemingly unenlightened perspectives of my fellow country people. The result stands: only a progressive alliance can stem the march of the right, argues George Monbiot: “Unless something drastic and decisive happens, the next election threatens to become a contest between the Tories and Ukip: in other words, between rightwing technocrats owned by the banks and rightwing demagogues owned by Arron Banks. What is this drastic something? A progressive alliance”.

The Left Hand Path is thus the path I have made by walking it: from the awakening of my political/social consciousness, back at the height of the punk wars in late 70s Britain, to this very day. If that pathway has an accompanying soundtrack, circa July 2016, that soundtrack is the desolate despondency and harrowing beauty of Ustalost, Ancion, and the roster of artists huddled around the House Of First Light milieu.

Ustalost, the new side-project from Brooklyn, New York’s Will Skarstad (Yellow Eyes), has issued its opening statement of intent: ‘The Spoor of Vipers’, an album that flaunts the signature songwriting skills of Skarstad, yet delivers a distinctly different flavour of desperation to anything that has come before it. ‘SOV’ is a vaguely unnerving prospect: one rapt with the suggestion of both the justified, and the ancient. Baroque keyboards and arpeggiated guitars sliver and weave through the gloom, shimmering and shining from an essentially bright mix. The bass guitar has a lightness of touch that is vivacious in places. The threat of impending violence that underpins the core of Yellow Eyes work is here replaced with a veil of sombre despair. Rhythmically, the album crawls along at mid-tempo, piling tension upon tension to oppress the listener with weighty images of hopeless dread. Appearing through the miasma like rods of lightening from the heavens, moments of melody issue forth from the quagmire. It’s these elements that ultimately shape the record: Ustalost indeed share much with Yellow Eyes, but they create something ultimately unique from said palate. ‘SOV’ is currently available on cassette or d/l from the link below; Sibir Records; and expected on vinyl from Gilead Media before the year dies.

Progressing thematically, we embrace ‘Exegeses’ (Gilead Media), the debut full-length from Brooklyn black metal band, Anicon. Nolan Voss and Owen Rundquist began sparring together for what would become this band back in 2010. The duo originally planned to name their first EP ‘Anicon’, with the project itself remaining untitled. The experiment exponentially expanded into a full band, however, with the recruitment of drummer Lev Weinstein (Krallice) and bassist Alexander DeMaria (Yellow Eyes). ‘Exegeses’ has developed ergonomically over the last two years, building on the triumph of May 2015’s ‘Aphasia’ EP. ‘Exegeqes’ represents somewhat of a rebirth for Anicon. Although extant champions of the USBM sub-genre, their approach delves deeper into the alchemical, conjuring elaborate composition from the cauldron of the ancient Northern European templates that define black metal fundamentally. ‘Exegeses’ was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Colin Marston (Krallice) at Menegroth in November 2015. A triumph from beginning to end.

House of First Light, finally, are at war with the existant, its defenders, and its false critics (an attitude we here at tMx both respect and share). Through the music of Hand Of Glory, Imperial Trumpet, Sanguine Eagle, Vilkacis, Vorde, Mongrel, and a handful of comrades in dark arms, this NYC micro label has close association with the likes of Yellow Eyes, Vanum and Krallice. trakMARX is reliably assured that a compilation record is imminent, and that a bandcamp page will rocket from the tomb to improve HOFL’s hitherto compromised communication skills to allow aficionados of the left hand path unfettered access to the blackened magic of this New York horde.

Jean Encoule - July 10th, 2016

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