It is entirely possible – intentional, even – that without prior knowledge of those involved, you will emerge bedraggled from Plague Notes, Unnamed, Unknown, A Finger Dragged Through Dust, the first album by San Francisco duo My Heart, an Inverted Flame, under the impression you have just survived the heaviest guitar album to hit your deck for a good few years. Consider, then, that no guitars – not a single one – were harmed during the creation of this pounding, brutal monolith of a record.
Composed of Andee Connors (A Minor Forest) and Marc Kate (Never Knows), My Heart, an Inverted Flame bills itself as “synth-doom,” which is about as accurate a descriptor as one should wish to get in hindsight, but in no way prepares you for the sheer weight of what greets you upon entry. Coming on something like that other unfeasibly crushing two-piece The Body, whose space-clearing approach to percussion is comparable, and with Sunn O))) the only other band I can bring to mind that might match the all-engulfing scope of their Pendereckian force, the effect of Plague Notes on the state of the listener might more accurately be measured in hPa.
Andee Connors forms a part of the esoteric collective Common Eider, King Eider, and it tells. Parallels can be drawn between this album and the recorded ceremonies of Égrégore, for example. “The Innovation Toolkit,” a swirling metallic clash of gnashing violence, could quite easily represent the aftermath of some Enochian conjuring, as could the super-heated crunch of “Devastation Without Exception,” with the feeling being that whatever has been drawn onto our plane is in no good mood to leave. But that’s the thing; for all its mighty grandeur, Plague Notes is an album of remarkable control – it’s a room record of ritual expertise, not a single element at risk of escape so long as those at the dials maintain their steely focus. And you’d better hope they do.
Take “You Will Never Hear From Me Again.” The album’s opening track, with a video that pays homage to David Lynch’s famed nuclear blast sequence, behaves like the longest, most nerve-shredding intro to the gnarliest metal album in existence without ever breaking into song. Across fifteen booming minutes, the pressure repeatedly grows to almost unbearable intensity, building and layering and expanding to the point you feel the artists must be exerting as much physical energy over the music’s containment as they are intellectual. The temptation to let rip must’ve been enormous but the release never arrives, at least until the squall falls silent.
The album eases off somewhat towards the back end, with electronic components clarifying and the vast washes of drone and fuzz flaking away. This is not to say the music becomes any less threatening; rather, the technique of psychological infiltration switches. “Shallow Breath, Slight and Tenuous” could be slow, airy and almost hypnagogic taken alone, but as a product of its precursor – the shattering “Devastation Without Exception” – it forms an eviscerated aftermath in which only sparks can pop and sizzle, coagulating in the emptied space to form “The Nameless Choir.” At an almost identical length to the opener, this closes proceedings in a manner that suggests it may, in fact, all be about to begin again. The relative quiet that befalls Plague Notes‘ final manoeuvres does not seem to signify victory over carnage so much as it heralds the coming of a further, more insidious danger.