I don’t know specifically when the tides turned in extreme metal, but it seems increasingly clear that the larger labels are intent on releasing a staggering array of garbage whilst ignoring the incredible wealth of impressive and inspired new music that is currently spread out around the globe. Of course that can be expected, they do have to keep up with the trends in the industry or become obsolete, but with Relapse Records finding interest in Chicago’s growing avant-metal scene as evident by their support of artists like Locrian and Horseback, perhaps it’s only a matter of time before these labels make a definitive return to, well, good taste. However, for the time being it is the generally smaller labels and independent artists that are taking the spotlight now, and I’m increasingly blown away with the quality of music coming from unsigned artists whom simply give up and press their own release. A great example of this is San Fransisco’s own Burnsred, a new trio in Robin Koytcheff, Ryan MacArthur, and Kevin Conway whom feel no need to fit within well-defined boundaries and simply allow themselves be defined by their own breed of elaborate and complex extremes.
The project lists a few of their influences as being various elements from Neurosis, Asunder, Burning Witch and Godspeed you! Black Emperor. While all of these influences are certainly apparent and heard in abundance within the melodic equation that makes up Burnsred’s sound, I can hear equal amounts of the anthemic guitar approach of Grayceon, sparse moments of Novembers Doom (specifically in their rarely used clean vocal style), and perhaps even subtle psych tendencies that remind of Nachtmystium. Their sound is certainly unique to their project though, bridging the gap from down-tempo groove-laden doom to a distinct focus on melodic rock guitar (hence the Grayceon comparison). The song-writing isn’t straight forward in the sense that the rhythm section is tight between themselves while Koytcheff seems to go off on melodic tangents at times, but is equally tight on the impressive rhythmic backbone of the tracks when the guitar needs to be drawn back again. MacArthur doubles on bass and Keys / noise programming, though the latter doesn’t seem to have much of a presence in the album as a whole which is a shame as the abrasive quality of noise could add a lot to the doomier, less-full moments in the mix of tracks like “Standby”.
Lyrically, Burnsred is largely introspective, typically speaking either from Koycheff’s own personal anguish or to specific entities, be it one person or general commentaries on humanity. They are also, for the most part, very fragmented to the point that they’re either simply difficult to follow or so personal that they become abstract. “Mirror” brings up images of Khanate’s “Dead” which, for anyone who has seen the video and also read the lyrics for “Mirror”, it probably can’t be helped. Throughout the album, the lyrics are written intelligently and seem to reference similar if not recurring themes. Death, descent and ascendance, judgement and deliverance, illusions and veiled truths, they all combine to not only shadow a mystery that lies within the words and is often at odds with itself, but speak largely of struggle and frustration — two parts of life that anyone who listens to this style of music can potentially identify with. To say that Burnsred has a promising future is a bit of an understatement, but there are moments that could use improving including the previously mentioned lack of depth to the production in the more down-tempo moments and perhaps a bit more coherent lyrical approach. Other than that, this is a project that is flirting with eventually breaking through into something incredible with the style they’ve created.
03) Cleanse CMXCIX
04) A Sentence