The Eternal Marshes by BismuthRelease date: April 11, 2019
Label: Tartarus Records
Monks chant for hours, repeating the same phrases over and over again, at a pace which would make a snail raise an eyebrow. And yet they claim they gain enlightenment from it.
Bismuth play for ages, repeating the same riffs over and over again, at a pace which would make a snail raise an eyebrow. And yet listeners… you see where this is going, right?
It does seem incongruous that Bismuth’s neanderthal, dead-eyed pounding of drums accompanied by a bass so amplified it could make a seismic monitor twitch and a mixture of blood-curdling harsh roars and ethereal, honeyed coos can come across as music for the mind.
But it does. And Bismuth (that name! After a mildly radioactive heavy metal with an extremely long half life) do it very well. This track, premiered here, is from way back in 2012, when it was released on an extremely limited number of cassettes. It has been remastered by none other than James Plotkin (the drone guru who has Sunn O))), ISIS and Nadja on his production resume) and has been made available to coincide with the duo’s much-anticipated appearance at Roadburn Festival.
It creeps up on you with a slow, thundering riff, before some relatively chaotic drums kick in. These pummel you into submission before the distortion is drained from the bass and the vocals clean themselves up to provide an unnerving eye of the storm. Then, like the bursting of a dam, the sludge spills back into our ears. It is quite a trip – especially now that you can take it all in on vinyl.
This song is noticeably more raw than Bismuth’s most recent release, The Slow Dying of the Great Barrier Reef. There are no electronic additions of note and the subject matter is clearly not as focused as the name of their latest record suggests.
Having said that, the name The Eternal Marshes, the new artwork of what looks like freshwater weed waving in a current and the sheer weight of the song brought to mind the mangroves near my home town – and the wanton abandon at which the fragile estuary trees are disappearing due to human carelessness under the banner of “development”.
Who knows if Bismuth had the destruction of marshes and the accompanying ecosystems in their own environs of the Midlands of England in mind when they wrote the song all those years ago. All I can say is that the 16 minutes of severely amplified bass and slow, pounding drums certainly got me thinking.
Listen to The Eternal Marches here: