Record Swap: Rolderathis VS. Theophrastus Bombastus
Welcome back to Record Swap, where adversaries do battle in the aural arena of beloved albums. The orders issued forth are so simple even you can understand: select a record, one unknown to your foe, and attempt to harvest the crops of their commendations. Who will reign supreme when the din dies down? The aspiring alchemist, or the Horatian hooter? In this edition, Rolderathis and Theophrastus Bombastus create volatile chemistry with albums from Hello Meteor and Hamferð.
Rolderathis’ Assignment: Hello Meteor – Comfortable Loneliness
I open my eyes and see a marble statue of a woman standing before me. A spear rests on her shoulder, and her eyes watch me from within a bronze helmet.
“Who are you? How’d I get here?” I ask.
“I’m Athena, Greek goddess of wisdom, crafts, and warfare. You’re dead. My notes state that…” she says, pulling a small notepad from her meticulously chiseled robes, “you listened to Cormorant for 96 hours straight without drinking any water. This is Heaven,” she says, gesturing behind her towards a door of shimmering lights.
“Drat. Isn’t the concept of Heaven referred to as Elysium in Greek mythology, though?”
“It’s called kitsch, little owl. Didn’t you write for a blog called the Toilet ov Hell back on Earth?”
“Solid rebuttal. Alright, let’s get on up in them pearly gates I guess.”
She guides me through the opalescent doorway to the greatest bounty I’ve ever seen.
Golden trees grow to the horizon, and all around, the euphonious tones of Hello Meteor‘s Comfortable Loneliness ring out. I look to Athena for permission—she gently prods me with her spear, and I stumble in disbelief towards the forest.
As I approach the shining boughs, my feathers begin crystallizing; a frightening prospect, becoming entirely translucent. Luckily, a fellow owl is there to greet me. He plucks a live muskrat from a low-hanging branch and holds it out to me.
“Hello friend, don’t worry about the new duds. That’s just part of listening to the -wave genres. You only really need to be concerned if you start seeing everything in color gradients. Plus, you can do this, which is pretty fun.” He licks the edge of his wing and brushes it in a circle on top of my head, producing a loud whistle.
The muskrat is delicious; by the sheen of its watertight pelt, I can tell it had just been out for a swim. The bubbling arpeggios and pellucid synths of “Empty Rec Center” and “Dusk Weather” are perfect accoutrements to this first course. Choral vocals and compact, muted drums give way to something more propulsive as I stroll to the next aisle of trees. Another owl, this one adorned in fake dreadlocks and spike bracelets (all neon, mind you) is there to greet me.
“This’ll really get your talons tappin’,” she says, placing a freshly-harvested hedgehog in a shopping cart that inexplicably appeared at my side. Strangely enough, the critter doesn’t curl up into a ball of spines; it merely lays back with a smile and dons a pair of tiny songlasses, nodding in time to the beat.
Much like this little weirdo, “Cozy Mart” presents a sharp exterior, all tape crackling and glitch synths that wouldn’t be out of place on an industrial album. But underneath? Comforting clusters of keys and bass swells that wrap your ears in a cozy blanket. Even in its most sonically aggressive moments, Comfortable Loneliness hits like a down pillow and some well-placed tickles. (A refreshing change from the very serious, very evil realms ov metal.)
By this point in my paradisal promenade, most of my vocabulary have been replaced with forms of “vibe”. I vibe on over, vibingly, to the next aisle, where yet another owl, this one decked out in aviators and a power suit, passes me a bunch of pygmy shrews. “We ran out of cocaine, so these will have to do,” he blurts before pulling out a cellphone the size of his head. Bit of an American Psychowl vibe going on there, I think.
“By the way, we didn’t snort all of the coke, our hearts always beat 20 times per second,” squeak the shrews in unison. “A Blue Incredible” floats to my ears, an ethereal ’80s throwback, replete with brutally distorted snares (think Michael Sembello‘s “Maniac“) and crooning vocals more sexy than they are angelic.
As I continue through this mammalian shopping mall, I start to remember bits of my past life. Who was this Theophrastus Bombastus again, and what had he done that’d seemed so unfair? A vague sense of betrayal clouds my mind as the insectile chirping of “The Exoplanet Environmental Trust” concludes. That’s it! That no-good, dirty, sonofabinturong! Challenging me in the ring, knowing very well it was nigh-impossible for me to avoid the overwhelming charms of Hello Meteor!
Just as soon as the anger rises, it’s gone. It’s just me and these fresh and funky friends here. No pains. No stress. Just moods. I dance, cart in wing, into the pixelated sunset. I am light as air.
TheoBomb’s Assignment: Hamferð – Támsins Likam
For TheoBomb, I knew I needed to pick something Amenrawesome. He’s the kind of father of toxicology who likes things somber, direct, and haunting. Oh, and sprinkle in some absolute despondency to taste. (Theo can have a little existential dread, as a treat.) Bonus points if the band sings in a language that is almost certainly fictional—Hamferð hails from the Faroe Islands, where 72,000 intrepid souls speak the Faroese tongue. Mixing crystalline vocals with the suffocating weight of doom creates a sound both beautiful and harrowing, an alchemical reaction leading to gold. My only regret is that there’s no spoken word here. I know how much he likes that. -Roldy
I had an old friend in town over the weekend. As old friends do, we cavorted over a few too many pints of ale and enjoyed a few rounds of Pipe-weed. When I awoke, I perceived the waking agony of a hangover, yet somehow far worse: my head felt stuffed with cotton; my mouth was full of ash, and from on high came the sounds of dolorous guitars. I opened my eyes to a landscape of fog-shrouded figures and knew this was far more than a hangover. Something was terribly amiss—I hadn’t awoken in my home, but had embarked on a Stygian journey to the sounds of Hamferð, my soul now entrapped within the body of felled hero Támsin.
A smooth, operatic voice filled the pea-soup sky. Though unaccustomed to such sounds—in life, I typically favored hollow shrieks and Balrog howls—I was captivated by the voice’s sorrow. And then the mood turned, and the voice unleashed a bellow of ancient rage. Fell crows made arcs in the sky (“Fylgisflog“) and I found myself drifting to the water’s edge, where a boat sat motionless, clearly waiting for me. As the skeletal boatman ferried me across, I passed the broken bodies of warriors floating in the slime. Like me, their grand identity was meaningless in this oppressive place. The voice bid me continue, and a chill ran through what remained of my corporeal presence as I realized Dante was right—hell was not a lake of fire, but a place of wretched cold (“Frosthvarv“).
The beautiful, terrible voice above read a litany of my sins (“Hon syndrast“). Moved almost to the point of defeat, I felt my last solidity failing, my soul slipping its bounds. No, I thought, no—I will not be subject to this fate. I snatched a rusting sword from the eye socket of a spectral warrior and swung with all my might at the forces ensnaring me. “Vápn í anda!” I cried. As the rotten blade hit a solid surface, a beam of light erupted, for I had struck at the very fog itself, freeing my figure from the frigid limbo. I blinked—a white ceiling, a ray of sun.
My head pounded. It was just a hangover, after all, and I was overdue for listening to that album Rolderathis sent me. When I put on Támsins Likam and felt its doomy reverberations fill my living room, I knew I recognized that voice from somewhere. But how to capture such a gripping sound when I was used to harsh vocals and abrasive textures? How to do justice to that titanic weight, that hammer of death beating its ageless anvil?
I opened my laptop and began to type.
Today, there were two victors. Today, the Swap has smiled upon us. Who will enter the ring next? Could it be you?