Without any expectations, the opening of JR Robinson’s new, one-track album as Wrekmeister Harmonies, Then It All Came Down, might sound comforting. The spectral chorus, chiming bells, fingerpicked acoustic, and resonant strings should cozy up to anyone who’s fond of avant-garde composition or expressive post-rock in the vein of Godspeed You! Black Emperor. But this is an album from a guy who plays an annual concert in a Chicago cemetery and has serious connections to black metal. Something dark, brooding, and punishing looms.
That should be no surprise to listeners of his last LP, 2013’s excellent You’ve Always Meant So Much to Me. Neither would it shock those who’ve peeked at this record’s liner notes, which list contributions from metal heavies Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, Sanford Parker, and members of Indian and Leviathan, among others. Still, that initial calming build makes the entrance of demonic growls and a bassy drone that much more jarring. Much as he did on his last composition, though, Robinson fades that particular shade of black a bit, the strings sliding back into the fore, this time transformed into an omen of further darkness to come.
Then It All Came Down takes its name from the story of Bobby Beausoleil, a Charles Manson associate whose murderous history and connections to the occult were chronicled in an essay by Truman Capote. Similar to the way in which Beausoleil (whose name, translated into English, is sung by those voices in the first movement: “beautiful sun”) grew into a specter of pure evil, Robinson’s composition leaves behind the peace of its opening for a “pastoral doom” metal epoch, only to fade back into nothingness, leaving only destruction behind as tattered organ lines falter in the wind. A single track spanning 34 minutes, Then It All Came Down is the sound of a descent into madness, though menacingly controlled at every turn.
Essential Tracks: “Then It All Came Down”