Text and Photos: Charles Nickles
I am sitting in the backyard of some pleasantly bourgeois Williamsburg establishment sipping something summery and bitter with an inoffensive name. Airdrop, maybe? Doesn’t matter. To my left are two EPs (one from an agency, the other from a production company) and across the table is a pair of music supervisors/directors (one has “executive” in his title as well). We’re here to discuss a short film about football but mostly we’re just swigging beer, reminiscing about Philly squats and record shops, sweaty van days and the evolution of Mayhem from the grisly end of Dead through Maniac’s resurgenc to the Attila of today.
Whatever, man. The picture will get made.
Soon the chatter turns to Sumac and the behemoth that they’ve raised from the ashes of the ISIS massive and the wax fortune of Hydrahead and what a motherfucker it is that tonight’s gig has been sold out for days and so I’m the only soul at the table able to brave the shadow-wood braggadocio and, you know what? That feels pretty fucking all right because the dudes in my company have seen and raised some serious shit (from black-out parties at Fort Thunder to intimate correspondences with Helvete) and I play straight, by trade, so its nice to be the odd man looking up into the ether, half-drunk and eager to be swallowed by trembling earth.
Short horns, whispers and patience paced. If I were a better man, I could name the instrument but I feel safe to say that Nordra is a singular vehicle of elliptical peace, well-oiled and thoughtfully hinged. A static plaint that’s so soothing I almost forget the death worm’s looming.
I love the corpse blues. I do. The vanguard desert swoon, skinned and twisted for maximum aridity. The cruel cool of Morricone sans symphony. The rattlesnake racket. The Peckinpah end game. The kill and be killed. Jaye Jayle’s got the whole sanded apocalypse in comfortable check with a brooding rhythm maw and hell-cracked hallow-body sound that honors a good (and not so good) man’s scars.
Sumac is seismic. Sumac is tectonic. Sumac is legacy. Sumac is pedigree. Sumac is self-reliance as battle cry, a righteous path through the tempers of an ungentle night. And I could ply you all day with vulgar, elemental hyperbole trying to equate their sonic weight into something, somehow tangible and – honestly, I’ve been trying for days – but the band is just too goddamn titanic.