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Long regarded as one of the area’s heaviest and most engaging bands, Albany, NY based Maggot Brain are set to release the long awaited follow up to their 2012 LP Stop and Breathe. Their new album titled Illumine, drops on Nov 6, 2020 digitally and on vinyl via Fuzz Records and finds the band navigating a sonic landscape that extends well beyond the typical borders of hardcore and metal.
With Illumine, Maggot Brain deliver a painstakingly and meticulously constructed set of songs that explore the liminal spaces between trauma, catharsis, and re-emergence. The band brings the listener through cycles of crushing turbulence that dissolve into passages of calm and even euphoria. Principal songwriter Ryan Slowey engineered and produced the record and describes the thematic arc of Illumine this way: “...the image and metaphor of a flower blooming through concrete. The perseverance and strength that would require something so delicate to achieve. There's a line in "Spiraling" that says "like a new blossom emerges from cement sidewalks echoes the resilience of spirit". And I think that idea binds the songs together. Trying to reckon with and unburden ourselves from trauma.”
The aforementioned track "Spiraling" is the album’s opener and encompasses the theme of the record in microcosm. It begins with static and noise bursts that eventually resolve into the languid, bluesy doom riff that dominates much of the track and leads directly into its pounding, punishing coda. From there follow a group of seven songs that bleed into and out of each other and through modalities both ominous and sublime. The ominous side comes in the form of songs like "Sharp Teeth" and "The Beast", furious and raw and scorching the earth as they pass. Tracks like these are contrasted with pieces like the title track "Illumine" and the album’s closer "Eidolon", which are dominated by unfurling waves of reverb drenched guitar and hazy, distorted atmosphere.
On Illumine, Maggot Brain has created a holistic piece of art. Beyond the songs themselves, Slowey’s engineering presents each instrument clearly and distinctly within the larger sonic texture. This has the effect of making the nuances of each song clearer with every listen, and reveals the complexity in their construction. The album’s artwork lends stark images to the music, like the photograph of a blazing torch that adorns the cover - pushing back at the darkness with a flame.
Stylistically, Maggot Brain occupy a niche that brings together elements of bands like Neurosis, Disfear, and Pink Floyd and combines them into a cohesive sound. Illumine has a dark intelligence behind its primal pummeling and woozy psychedelia that is not often present in heavy music. It is worth the time and attention to unwind it fully.
1. Spiraling
2. Sharp Teeth
3. As The Crow Flies
4. The Beast
5. Illumine
6. Paradise Hill
7. The Sea
8. Eidolon

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