Last week, we announced a pre-order for the debut LP from Wreathe, The Land Is Not An Idle God. Wreathe are a new crust hardcore band from London featuring members of Fall of Efrafa, Morrow, and Aboricidio. Musically, the band build vigorously on the foundations of those three bands – roared, often layered, frequently call-and-response vocals, entwined in raucous tandem with towering melancholic riffage and a thunderous rhythm section. A palpable rage courses through the sonic onslaught, but one that is matched with a defiant optimism that, collectively, all is not lost.
‘But in the burgeoning fruit of democracy, we find a parasite that craves all, seizes all…it will spread that rot until all are consumed.’
Lyrically, the album follows the path of Fall of Efrafa and Morrow in also being a concept album, a theme I wrote about a little while back in A Pessimist In Search of Dystopia. This album’s source material is a work of fiction written by vocalist Alex CF, The Book of Venym: An Egalitarian Demonology, and I thought it would be interesting to explore its ideas in a little more detail. In some senses, it is a difficult book to categorise in that, while it creates its world in remarkable detail, not all of its philosophical thoughts are explicitly explained. Rather, it seeks to prime further reflection and interpretation around its central concepts. The language itself is a mixture of prose and verse (and sometimes something somewhere in-between), which positions the narrator as perhaps living in the late 19th century. It is written almost as a stream of consciousness, as the narrator grapples with visions of humanity’s fate, conjuring images of the writer feverishly writing down their thoughts late at night by lamp, as if gripped by some spectral force.
‘To see the other as a foot stall to stand upon, to starve us of teaching so that our reasoning is impeded?’
The thrust of the narrator’s visions are focused on how humanity is becoming divorced from the natural word that gave birth to it, driven both by the consequences of human evolution and its own innate sense of superiority. These dreams introduce us to the philosophy and invocation of a pantheon of pagan nature deities, known as The Increscent, who represent the act of becoming greater than oneself, and who will be provoked to action by humanity’s behaviour. I will leave the specifics of the world of The Increscent for individual readers to dive into, but I would like to specifically explore the wider themes that the book seeks to address through the creation of this world. I can’t claim to be a huge reader of fantasy, but while it can often function as a form of escapism, mythologies can also be a powerful way of examining issues from alternative perspectives and escaping the strictures of polarised contemporary debates.
‘The Beast, the great Enemy knows no other course of action, and its tentacles wriggle where none are watching. They will grow, coil into new patterns, new interpretations of the same strategies. Divide and conquer, divide and conquer’.
On my reading, The Book of Venym has three overarching themes. The first we have already touched on, namely humanity’s increasing dislocation from the natural world. Traced through the Agricultural and Industrial Revolutions to the future of the narrator’s visions and our present, the narrator maps how our interaction with nature has morphed from a form of mutual reciprocity into seeking to harness nature for purposes of exploitation and extraction. These processes irrevocably damage nature, inhibiting the necessary processes of renewal. This first theme feeds into the second, which is how just as greed has ruptured humanity’s relationship with nature, so it has corrupted its relationship with itself. An ideological hegemony has been forged that privileges a creed of rampant individualism over that of the collective, valorising the ‘free market’ at the expense of the social good. A society distorted to the benefit of corporate interests and profit. This in turn gives rise to the third theme, which is a culture that is fuelled by a distrust of the ‘other’. As economic inequality is exacerbated and public infrastructure degraded by these warped priorities, so people’s insecurity sows the need to blame someone, often the already most marginalised, to reconcile what is happening. So, this is a tale not of conspiracy, but of how governing rationalities saturate a society’s thinking and shape its perception of itself.
‘We must reclaim our sense of egalitarianism…We cannot rest until all are seen, all are listened to, and all are heard’.
And the book’s rallying cry to address this cycle is for a rebirth of egalitarianism. In other words, a recognition of the power of community and the realisation that working together for the collective good has the potential to be far more powerful than the forces arrayed against. Importantly, this notion of egalitarianism appears cognisant of the need to recognise the intersections of both economic and social identities, which have become increasingly disconnected in the public discourse. As such, exploring, in rather different ways, some of the ideas examined when discussing the brilliant new Habak / Lagrimas split LP in Hardcore Is Where The Home Is.
The Book of Venym is a beautifully illustrated, relatively slender book. But it is a work rich in detail and layers that I suspect will reveal themselves in new ways as it is revisited. So, I hope my initial reading does justice to some of the ideas and concepts that are being teased out. Anyway, for those of you who like your crushing riffs partnered with lyrical ideas of equivalent heft, The Land Is Not An Idle God should hit that sweet spot very nicely indeed.
The Land Is Not An Idle God is up for pre-order now at www.foundationvinyl.com. This is the European pressing from Alerta Antifascista Records. The North American pressing is being handled by Persistent Vision Records. You can listen to the album at www.wreathepunx.bandcamp.com and you can find The Book of Venym: An Egalitarian Demonology at www.artofalexcf.com. All quotes are taken from The Book of Venym.