Metal has always been the place for outsiders to congregate. Not just outsiders in the way we we look, what we like, or how we feel, but for those who wanted to shift the balance of power away from all things conventional. We struggle with what is called "the norm," and have sought to turn it on it's head. In 2015, more than any other year in recent memory, it's happening in deeper and more profound ways. So much so, in fact, that one of the most common themes in critical review is the dreaded "you can't DO that in metal," questioning time and time again if what they're hearing is truly metal by the most abstract of definitions. But this is where we are now. lines are being blurred, if not erased completely, and the boundaries once thought impossible to circumvent are going by the wayside. It allows a band, such as New York's own So Hideous, to do exactly what many wouldn't think they could. Laurestine is a statement, loud and clear, that the old way of thinking is dead.
The album itself is a short film waiting to happen. You follow the songs like characters; the living, breathing, and evolving people you watch from a perch on high, following their every move and thought. And, like those characters' lives, the songs are connected at the seams. As Yesteryear rises from the most elegant piano strokes into a boisterous, booming orchestral romp, it feels like something more. And, in fact, it proves to be. With every gut punch, every exasperated screaming vocal line, you are hearing it change through massive expansion. By the time it rolls over into the quiet uneasiness of Here After, it's too late to turn back. This won't be the album you put on to hear one or two songs, clicked on at random or through your phone's shuffle setting. It just isn't built to be dissected so casually (read as: recklessly).
You may even begin to think you know how this story will move, even how it will end. But one of the great successes of Laurestine is in it's ability to build upon itself without becoming repetitive. The pacing changes, and it forces you to change with it. In Relinquish, the biggest blow isn't an immediate one. In fact, it takes a full three and a half minutes before you finally get what your mind knows is coming. And on an album inundated with double kicks and ear-shattering screams, the most astute music school graduate would have a hard time predicting that the most stunning and moving moments come from the orchestra itself. The strings move you in ways unthinkable in years of metal past, even with the most minimalist approach. Falling Cedars cascades into The True Pierce, likely to become one of the most sonically mesmerizing songs of the year. The sheer pain and triumph that you find in and around the four minute mark is staggeringly beautiful. And the way the album ends, A Faint Whisper that is anything but, would bring a black tie crowd to their feet in applause.
Think back to the moments in your musical awakening, the ones that changed what you thought you knew about music and how you felt about it. Every moment in that series of moments shared one thing in common: you knew it was significant, even at the very second that it was happening. Good or bad, you knew that something in you or about you had changed. For many, Laurestine might bring on another one of those types of moments where you let our a deep breath and mumble, "I didn't know music could do that." It can. And So Hideous have produced what could be a landmark for what heavy music is in 2015. It's fearless, boundless, and, quite frankly, everything you never knew you wanted it to be.
But maybe in our effort to claim this work for the outsiders and take ownership in the name of all that is metal, we've mistaken it for something it isn't. Maybe this isn't the metal album highlighted with sweeping classical passages that we want to it to be. Maybe, just maybe, this is the cinematic, classical masterpiece that took a much darker turn, the way Wagner would have wanted. It's all about your vantage point. But from whichever angle you choose, it's an achievement you won't soon forget.
Bandcamp - https://sohideous.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/sohideous