Bless Them That Curse You is an understated masterpiece, a spectacularly successful collaboration between two innovative groups from the underground and experimental rock realms. The album represents the perfect marriage of artists who craft work at the truly ingenious end of the musical spectrum.
Faith Coloccia founded Mamiffer to create ambient, minimalist and neo-classically inspired works. Her work with partner Aaron Turner, of Isis and Hydra Head Records fame, includes metallic drones, tender piano compositions, chorale vocals, flecks of darkened, Earth-like Americana and thrumming electronics. Mamiffer’s releases have been hauntingly beautiful, and its panoramic landscapes have been widely celebrated by both the avant-metal and avant-garde sets.
Locrian, while similarly experimental, has concentrated on more grinding soundscapes. Where Mamiffer has focused on ethereal ruminating suites, Locrian set its sights on more eldritch dominions. While no less meditative than Mamiffer — and with an equally impressive discography — Locrian has harnessed a raft of influences to create the band’s dark tones. Combing elements of black metal, noise, drone, Krautrock, ambient and proto-electronica, the band has never released an album that sounds the same twice, continuously searching with an audacious vision.
News that the two groups were working together was greeted with delight, although concerns that one band might dominate the other certainly lingered. It’s understandable that folks were nervous, considering that expectations for the album were astronomical, but thankfully, such anxieties were completely misplaced. Not only does Bless Them That Curse You represent the perfect synthesis of two distinctive voices, but from that fusion something beautiful and bewitching has arisen.
The album’s success comes down to the many moods it evokes — the way it reaches out to soothe, to scorn or to spark the fires within. As expected, the album has a deeply meditative pulse. What is unexpected is how all the different ideas have coalesced into such a singular vision. It’s breathtaking, and speaks not only of powerful imaginative forces at work, but also of the incorporeal interconnectedness of the artists involved.
It’s all there on opener “In Fulminic Blaze”, which begins with a shadowy blackened drone and throat-chanted vocals. An acoustic guitar and piano soon take over, before the layering on of tones, textures and tension culminates in a swirling crescendo. It’s obvious from the very first track that Mamiffer and Locrian have found fertile pastures to till. In the past each band has ploughed its own course, but this album represents collaboration in its truest sense.
With each band sharing its talents freely, Bless Them That Curse You is everything fans could have hoped for. Mamiffer’s gentler visualizations fuse flawlessly with Locrian’s corrosive might on the epic final track, “Metis / Amaranthine / The Emperor”. Ghostly vocals and gentle piano from Coloccia sweeps the track to halfway point, when its exquisiteness crashes into feedback, dissonance and harsh roars. All life is crushed from the song and it ends not with a roar but a sigh — a magnificent coda to the death of expectations and beauty.
The album revels in introspection, yet never becomes sulky, instead sustaining an extraordinary ambience throughout. Rich and unfolding atmospheres are found on the creeping majesty of “Lechatelierite”, where Coloccia’s piano rings out from among the distorting drone gloom. On “Corpus Luteum”, where swells of synth and strumming guitar counterpoint the feedback and melancholia, the track’s disposition remains tantalizingly hopeful.
Bless Them That Curse You illustrates the full potential of two idiosyncratic and hugely creative entities working together harmoniously — seeking out the ties that bind. Mamiffer and Locrian have crafted a work of art here. Each has stripped its sound down to its core elements and offered it as a gift to the other. The result is an album that’s deeply rewarding, both musically and emotionally. Bless Them That Curse You is hypnotic, elegant mastery, and it is all you could ever have hoped for from two such visionary groups.