Paledusk has kicked off 2021 with the release of two huge tracks, Wind Back and …
Growth is a word that is usually given positive overtones—an increase in physical size or ability, the expansion of an economy or business interest, general progress and advancement.
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But as the vocalist and lyricist of progressive death metal trio Growth Luke Frizon very rightly points out, it also has other implications.
“It can be flourishing, or it can be rust. One can create something, and one can destroy,” he says. “I quite enjoy having that name because it seems antithetical to a death metal kind of thing. It sounds like a personal training company, or something. A bit of that comes from the connotations of the word: we think of growth as something that is always wanted, always ordered, always warranted. But from my view, growth is a process that is thoroughly relentless and happens totally outside of your grasp. It can be positive, it can tilt you towards where you want to be in life. It can be malignant and take you away from life.”
Growth suggested itself to the band’s founder Tristan Barnes during what Frizon describes as a “spiritual experience” while witnessing seismic and volcanic activity in Iceland.
“There’s a lot of weight to the term, and us chucking it in there in the middle of everything makes people reconsider those kinds of general terms, and what it means to them.”
Making people think is very much an essential aspect of Growth’s particularly cerebral form of extreme metal. The first part of a trilogy, the group’s debut The Smothering Arms of Mercy is a gruelling, chaotic and bewildering examination of trauma.
“It is very exhausting and unpredictable and it’s got a lot of sharp edges,” Frizon admits when faced with the observation that theirs is a difficult album to sit through. “Even from the get-go, that was kind of how we intended it to be. There’s a lot of purpose within it to tune it towards that. There are parts where we would deliberately open up into a melodic part or a post-metal passage. [But] We didn’t want people to lean back into that for too long with this release, because the idea of the subject material is that it’s chaotic. It’s nightmarish. It does not give you any oxygen. Even on days when it feels pretty good, if it’s a decent day and then something happens and the whole thing shatters. We really wanted to encapsulate that with the music. We put songs in there that are easier to listen to that have a general structure that are easily followed, but we put a lot of time into diverting the ends of it to make it just a little bit crooked. Even when things seem right, they’re a little bit wrong.”
The music’s a narrative that is following [Tristan’s] journey and his path towards feeling more complete as a human. The lyrics themselves walk a parallel path to that, because it’s me talking about how I came back to being human after feeling like a piece of trash on the side of the road for that long.
[ Luke Frizon ]
While trauma and its effects aren’t unfamiliar topics in the world of the arts, Growth’s design was to explore an aspect of them that is often overlooked. Rather than examining causes or resolutions, Growth set out to show what the period between those two points looks like.
“I don’t want to saddle anyone with expectations of what I want them to be getting from the album. But I do want them to recognise that it is a journey. And not,” Frizon says with a smile, “the cool 80s band Journey. It’s passages of nightmares. We’re tilting towards the idea of recovery. It’s a topic that’s been brushed over so much in society. We hear about the awful story, and then we hear about the happy ending – or the sad ending. We don’t hear about the in-between, and that’s the most crucial bit of the experience, because no matter what led you to rock bottom, everyone has one. So we want to be focusing on that journey itself.”
A work such as The Smothering Arms of Mercy would be far less stark and dramatic if it wasn’t a mirror of its creators. Barnes wrote the music while in self-imposed isolation as he learned to reconnect with his drummer brother Nelson – the third member of the band – after a decade apart. Frizon added lyrics that he had collected while suffering his own dark episode.
“The music’s a narrative that is following [Tristan’s] journey and his path towards feeling more complete as a human. The lyrics themselves walk a parallel path to that, because it’s me talking about how I came back to being human after feeling like a piece of trash on the side of the road for that long. The narrative being told lyrically on this album is semi-autobiographical. There was a frame of reference already there. So I was going to reach back to where things were at their worst, and do a bit of a forensic study on how it got there and identify what parts of the narrative were really jumping out.
“A lot of the lyrics had been written in this fragmented form when I was being sectioned in a psych ward myself,” he continues. “When I came out and I had all these fragments, I thought I could put these into something that makes me feel better and lick my wounds, or I could try and make it into something broader that will actually be useful to people while also being enjoyable to listen to.”
As mentioned, The Smothering Arms of Mercy doesn’t make for easy or comfortable listening, which is Growth’s clear intention. But with two albums to go in the cycle, Frizon promises that the experience will become easier.
“We’re not going to be so punitive with other stuff, but with this release, we wanted to make it as punishing as could be. The context of the music will change with the context of the subject. We are exploring a future with more resolution, more melody, more a sense of closure. The closure is yet to come. We do want to be chronicling and fully illustrating that. With that in mind, I think it would be unrealistic to try and grind people into dust throughout the entire trilogy. We want people to be understanding even if the subject material is alien, even if the way it’s written doesn’t speak to you, the way the music is coming forward is shaping its own arc towards that sense of connection.”
By articulating their experience through the extremity of metal, Frizon hopes that others within the metal community can be helped through their own moments of alienation, isolation and despair.
“This is a genre where there’s a familiarity to being other-ised,” he says, “a familiarity to feeling alien to other people. A lot of people who listen to this music are processing those energies and feeling those things. It causes all kinds of pain. So I’m hoping that using this extremely alienating music … will give people a chance to know what that’s all about and create some kind of self-reflection. And further to that, with this entire trilogy, being about setting a clear path forward through the power of blastbeats! I want people to go into this a see very clear stages: This part’s despair, this part’s education, this part’s awakening, reconnection, and the process that one actually needs to follow after experiencing abuse, trauma or a period of extremely ill health, or whatever made them separate from others, and try to make a real clear pathway towards making that connection again.”