Heavy Song of the Week: Dryad Conjure an Icy Gust of Midwestern Black Metal on “The Abyssal Plain”

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Heavy Song of the Week is a new feature on Heavy Consequence breaking down the top metal and hard rock tracks you need to hear every Friday. This week the honor goes to Iowa black metal band Dryad’s “The Abyssal Plain.”

Winter is upon us. The days are short, and the trees bare. A seasonal depression creeps in as we stay indoors to escape the cold. No wonder black metal was pioneered upon the tundras of Scandinavia. Otherworldly howls and walls of guitar that recall the bitter arctic wind — it just sounds right this time of year. A life indoors also means more time to consume, perform, write, and record music. Ideal circumstances for those looking to indulge the dark arts and channel whatever thoughts, negative or otherwise, through the escapism and personal journey black metal provides, both as an artist and listener.

Iowa City-based quartet Dryad know a thing or two about cold weather. A staple of the Midwest metal underground in recent years, they’ve been steadily churning out raw black metal of a quality rarely seen in the region. Prosthetic Records took note and signed the band, which will drop its label debut The Abyssal Plain on January 20th.

The searing title track is the centerpiece of the album’s themes of ecological and political disaster. Inspired by the ancient glacial lakes that once covered Iowa and the fossil-covered cliffs left behind, Dryad take us down to the “sinking down the floor of the Abyssal Plain itself,” as they put it. “A realm where creatures of the void reign supreme, and the light above is naught to be found.”

An intro of murky arpeggios makes way for a scalding blastbeat workout and the harsh vocals of Claire Nunez, who also provides subtle bed of synths. One does get the sense of being swallowed in darkness, as the disparate sound of the guitars and synths swirl into an all-consuming sonic whole.

Where Dryad achieve brilliance is in the ability to meld that atmosphere with tangible anger and disillusionment toward the state of the world. You can hear it in Nunez’s delivery and in the urgency of the guitars. The sad part is that it sounds like a lament. Perhaps, we’re already lost. To the abyss we must return.

— Jon Hadusek,
Senior Staff Writer

Honorable Mentions:

Majesties – “The World Unseen”

Majesties is a new project from the same auteurs that brought us the medieval black metal of Obsequiae and Inexorum. Rather than retread old ground, they masterfully apply the key elements of those bands — namely, the lush and literary guitar leads — to what label 20 Buck Spin hails as “mid-’90s Gothenburg style melodic death metal to rival the prime years of In Flames.” Majesties debut single “The World Unseen” hits that description spot on, sending us into the not-so-distant past when this enchanting and — dare I say — pretty-sounding heavy metal ruled the distro mailorder forms.

Oozing Wound – “Hypnic Jerk”

Chicago DIY mainstays Oozing Wound keep chugging along. The band is set to drop its new album We Cater to Cowards later this month via Thrill Jockey and served up the track “Hypnic Jerk” as an early taste. And a delightfully bitter taste at that. The grindy stop-starts are anxious and brutal — the perfect bed music for harshly spat lyrics about the decline of society. Self-described as “a rock-band wolf in metal sheep’s clothing,” Oozing Wound’s sense of humor and reluctance to indulge overtly metal tropes keeps them in a grungy-noise-thrash gray area. But tracks like “Hypnic Jerk” are as vitriolic and razor-sharp as the most extreme examples of those aforementioned genres. Let that wound keep on oozing.

Periphery – “Zagreus”

Djent is inherently difficult by nature — progressive prog metal, if you will — and as someone who favors more traditional styles of metal, it’s a bit over my head. But for the sake of objectivity, we can’t honestly leave Periphery’s “Zagreus” out of this week’s roundup. Even a non-prog head like myself can appreciate the utter skill and mental fortitude required to both pen and perform material like this. Periphery themselves appear to be self-aware of their ridiculous level of talent, dubbing their new album Djent Is Not a Genre while proceeding to drop some of the most djent-y djent this side of Meshuggah. Odd-rhythm riffs and intricate timings are woven into a dark, eight-minute tapestry, and the somber asides provide a calming reprieve among the fray.

Heavy Song of the Week: Dryad Conjure an Icy Gust of Midwestern Black Metal on “The Abyssal Plain”
Jon Hadusek

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