Ides Rather Not, Thanks
Momentarily sidestepping her work with doomgaze outfit Black Math Horseman, coven-ready frontwoman Sera Timms has joined with axeman J. Bennett and fallen angel drummer Kelly Johnston to form Ides of Gemini, an alt-metal pyramid coursing with splitting arcs of dark energy. Their debut album, Constantinople—presumably ’cause your standard Romes, Babylons, and Alexandrias were already taken—is a plodding, punishing affair. Its joyless, opiated gloom sinks on you like some strangulating weight, crushing you ever-deeper in the dirt with each additional track, until finally—your guts heaving—you realize: Yeah, I’m not having fun.
The album’s “best cut,” if you want to call it that, is “The Vessel & the Stake.” I guess. Guitarist Bennett’s skeletonized, meat-tenderizing version of Randy Rhoads’ classic “Crazy Train” riff—slowed way down to a trapped-in-amber tempo—is, uh, kind of OK. Then there’s spooky girl Sera’s funereal oohing and aahing. Her melismatic devil croons are often stretched so long across each measure, one’s search for lyrical meaning often dissolves in an acid bath of “who cares at this point?” Satan bless her, she’s not bad looking, though. Then again, music is about hearing, primarily.
Pick any song from Ides’ deep, dark black hat: Every one’s the same nagging and clawing trance, only with a slight, gossamer-thin pretense at variety from song to song—like being given a tight matrix of occultic names and words, and the only semblance of novelty lay in how you reorder the series. It’s all a game of DoomScrabble, folks. Say, an anagram of “Madame Blavatsky” is “Dame Sky Blamavat.” Sounds spooky. I think we got a new one! Just a few more rigors, it seems, and we’ll have it: Viscous, arsenic-dripping guitars? Check. Schlepping, largo of doom tempo? We’re getting close! Emaciated, dour yippings from Our Lady Black Bangs? Ding-a-ling ding.
The group’s sibylline black mass shtick bleeds into a maddening, drip-drip test of endurance. Try taking the genius of Elvira’s “Mistress of the Dark” posturing and flagellating to extinction any of its self-awareness or lighthearted reprieve, and you’ve half-way approached the anesthetizing morbidity of this album. Yes, I realize it’s supposed to be hellspawn Wicca music, but with material like this, a guy could use a holly branch of good will here and there. Come on, Sera! There’s got to be a sweet ballad in your 8th century bodice somewhere.
But no. Like death by immurement, the medieval capital punishment, your hope wilts behind an ever-heightening wall of doom. With each black-cat arpeggio and witcherous bleat comes another slosh of your mason killer’s trowel, until about the fourth song in, your fate is sealed to the last awful brick. No water, no light, no help: Just sit, wait and die. Hey, this is Constantinople, an album possessed with all the demons of its namesake city—occult alchemy, royal bloodbaths and an unrelenting, authoritarian darkness. Recalling Pulp Fiction‘s notorious “gimp” scene—with all its cruelty, but none of its humor—this album will indeed “get medieval on your ass.”
It’s too late for me, but not for you. Avoid this thing like a dark age rat.