Cameron Davis, aka Cicada the Burrower, set up Blue Bedroom Records with one mantra – “We play sadness.” This is easier said than done with so many interpretations of sorrow and melancholy. The best artists must answer one question when expressing the depths of their emotional pain and inner turmoil – does this music capture the same heart flutter as the opening piano notes to Beethoven’s ‘Für Elise’? Of course, the answer will always be no, but those that come close might glimpse the genius of what it means to speak the language of music. Cicada the Burrower is close to this greatness.
You know within seconds of hearing the dreamy guitars hammering on and pulling off the strings of jazz scales that this music is special. The china splashes and snare shuffles on ‘The Fever Room’ radiate with the illustrative beauty of a late autumn shower in a woodland of brown sycamore trees and fragrant acorns. Listen to the bass guitar explore the frets like a lonely instrument deprived of the friendly embrace of a pocket drumbeat. Cameron’s vocals ghost through the mix like darkwave legends, Lycia, and turn fierce in their black metal roar when you least expect it.
This is an album of aching contrasts, just as the author of this music faced his/her own internal pain in the transition between 2017’s The Great Nothing and this record. In the intervening time, Cameron Davis transcended her gender from man to woman and realised the great identity crisis of her life was the source of her maudlin anxiety. You can feel this monumental realisation that there is no turning back on ‘Glamour’. This is the moment when you lick the seal of an envelope and process the importance of what you’re about to do. There’s no turning back once you break off relations with your lover and post the letter. The hardest thing to surmount will be those glorious memories of the past and the euphoric sadness that made you feel alive. For we must suffer heartache and anguish to know what it means to be alive. Cameron Davis understand this and expresses this epiphany in a welding of sorrowful lounge jazz, distorted guitar arpeggios and palm-muted passages that speak of a love for the sonic power of metal.
Sadness is ubiquitous on this record. The tear-drop delicacy of the note choices on ‘Where Old Crystals Grow’ make this the pièce de résistance of sorrow. You’ll find few shades of metallic distortion here, but the lyrics say it all: “I’ll shine like a diamond/ That’s stuck in the rough/ Waiting for the right moment/To say what I must.” This album is torment personified; the music has an eternal quality to it that makes you want to keep walking onwards in the false belief that the horizon will eventually disappear. It won’t. Those things we put off with procrastination and trepidation will one day catch up with us. The weeping guitar melodies sound like Santana fronting avant-garde metal legends, Maudlin of the Well, with New York composer, Dan Weiss, providing the arrangements.
“I wish I had never been born/ Steal me to bed/ On a hard wooden floor,” screams Cameron on ‘Psilocybin Death Spiral’. This one evokes the anguish of My Dying Bride and the serene introspection of Aythis in one swoop. You’re not human if this leaves you unaffected, but you also want some metal aggression, right? End track, ‘Corpseflower’ incorporates piano chops, entrancing ride cymbals and dream pop melodies into seven minutes of spiralling neo-suicidal sadness but also treats the listener to two minutes of chunky palm-muted attacks and triplet crunches that would not be out of place on a Rivers of Nihil record. This is the explosion we waited for, and it does not disappoint. The musicianship is breath-taking. Those bass guitar solos are exquisite. No drum machine can programme these types of loose rhythms.
It may be more of a jazz record embracing darkwave and blackgaze than a black metal album reaching out to avant-garde influences, but Corpseflower is that rare thing – an original LP that appeals to metal fans and leftfield experimentalists alike. Who’d have thought that cinematic lounge jazz could be so life affirming?
Release Date: 23/04/2021
Record Label: Blue Bedroom Records
Standout tracks: The Fever Room, Where Old Crystals Grow, Corpseflower
Suggested Further Listening: Maudlin of the Well – Bath (2001), Lycia – Cold (1996), Dan Weiss Starebaby – Natural Selection (2021)