solitude by lord snow (2013)

one night last month, my friends and i went on a 1 am drive through the empty back roads of central █████. all the way (which was actually quite short as my friend drives incredibly fast, though she denies this relentlessly) we took turns loading songs onto the aux, which included everything from mind-melting shoegaze to sax-driven experimental rock. near the end of our escapade, however, two tracks came on that left me breathless for their entire duration: lord snow’s selfish sleep and dark cloud. frantic, arhythmic breakdowns ebbed themselves in between stretches of screeching feedback while a vocalist screamed beneath what seemed like several thick layers of snowfall; and then, the ensemble found stability only to rip it apart again to the accompaniment of crashing cymbals. i sat there in speechless awe for several minutes afterward. and then i put lord snow on repeat for the next three weeks.

it’s difficult for me to describe what i like about this album – about the whole hardcore/screamo genre, honestly. a lot of it has to do with the nostalgia of growing up in the metal scene, my dad having been a well-known guitarist for several bands and even allowing me to go to a couple of his shows (as long as i wore huge clunky headphones to protect my ears the whole time). the rest of it, i think, has to do with a certain envy for my dad: his presence, his confidence, his physical prowess. maybe that’s something a lot of kids feel and don’t talk about – the first time you recognize how small you are in comparison to a grown man. of course, my dad has always been gentle and kind at heart (he’s a taurus after all), but his hulking silhouette onstage, commanding the attention of an entire leather-clad audience, was something i always secretly wanted to evoke. all this may be to say that metal/hardcore on the whole is defined by masculinity – but i don’t necessarily think this is so. rage is felt by all living things. and beneath that rage, fear, the desire to protect oneself from danger, the desire for lasting peace at any cost. i don’t like labeling that “masculine” when it is so intrinsic to existing as a mortal being.

of course, hardcore can be divided into theoretically infinite subgenres, each claiming a different form of catharsis. lord snow, on their bandcamp, labels themselves screamo; yet they are so unique to so many other screamo releases. what stands out to me, i think, is their rhythmic freneticism. throughout solitude, patterns are created and destroyed over and over again, or overlapped chaotically with each other – and it feels purposeful. even in the most unexpected moments every instrument remains in sync. and then there is the lack of tonal clarity; between the barely-intelligible vocals and the habitual hissing and screeching of the guitar (which is only occasionally contrasted with semi-melodic interludes), i find myself struggling to grasp any form of stability for the duration of the album. it fizzles and burns through my fingers constantly, leaving only this residual sense of anxiety and frustration. and that sensation is so hard to successfully execute. in fact, many screamo albums frustrate me not because they tonally invoke frustration, but because they fail to do so in favor of perfectionism or (even worse) shock value. they don’t feel honest to me – and honesty is the whole point of the genre, no?!

lord snow gets this. they don’t shy away from the anxiety of existing, of being small, they lean into it – and that is apparent to me down to the very fabric of their sound. this is what i want out of every hardcore album. not the image of strength or prowess, but the failure of it. the panic and turmoil at the loss of it. the weaponizing of the self in response to the weapons of daily life. and, somehow, when one feels most cornered, most powerless, a form of power is finally achieved.