We are at a turning point as a civilization. The Earth’s climate is folding in on itself. Scientists project apocalyptic scenarios after decades of idleness regarding our decaying environment. Political races have taken on now-or-never implications. Stress holds us. We find solace in the personal escapes: drugs, sex, Netflix, video games, shitty food, the steady malaise of the 9-to-5, the ignorance.
This cultural weariness presides over Kofuku, the debut from Mexican post-metal duo Low Flying Hawks. It plays like the mournful cries of a dying world — dirges for the depressed, by the depressed. Throughout Kofuku, ominous audio snippets offer morbid reminders: “Destruction, darkness, it comes to inflict its life-destroying poison on the careless, the unwary, the unprotected.”
These topics have informed punk and metal albums for decades, but rather than respond in anger, resentment, and aggression, Low Flying Hawks meditate on their nihilism. Kofuku is an approachable and accessible record — pleasant, even — that drifts on shoegazing guitars and a droning atmosphere. Opening track “Now, Apocalypse” recalls the cerebral doom of Sunn O))), while “Wolves Within Wolves” follows a blissed-out guitar line as vocalist EHA (the duo go only by mysterious three-letter initials) sings cleanly through the thickest reverb this side of Souvlaki. Aesthetically, Low Flying Hawks employ the massive guitars and heavy drums (played here by the Melvins’ Dale Crover) usually associated with stoner doom, the scene with which they and their label Magnetic Eye most identify. But to simply call Kofuku another doom album is flat out wrong. If anything, it’s the other way around: shoegaze with elements of metal.
Similar to A Place to Bury Strangers and the Deftones’ recent mood metal experiments, Kofuku is a tapestry of textures, a wall of notes and chords intricately layered by producer Toshi Kasai. Hooks do not reveal themselves immediately, but instead must be discovered. Guitarist AAL approaches this craft like the great feedback artists that came before him, pulling a Billy Corgan-circa-Siamese Dream and stacking so many guitars that they become a stream of endless melodies. Album highlights “Fading Sun” and “Ruins” build to climactic flourishes as guitar overdubs interweave, individual notes obscured among the blend — the sum greater than its parts. EHA’s vocals don’t change much between songs, his downcast delivery always drowning in reverb. Among the guitars, he becomes another texture, inoffensive but ever-present.
Some songs are hard to differentiate from one another — the dense sonics blurring into a single entity — but the grand effect is a flowing, inoffensive plod. Low Flying Hawks take few risks with their formula, which creates a seamlessness verging on background ambience when Kofuku settles into its lengthier drones (“Fading Sun”, “Destruction Complete”). Sometimes AAL breaks it up with a chunky stoner rock riff or fancy lick, but understatement is Low Flying Hawks’ MO. They’re a thinker’s metal band, opting to darkly soothe rather than ferociously shred. Kofuku is vividly of its time both from a production standpoint and conceptually, mellow metal for a dying world.
Essential Tracks: “Fading Sun”, “Ruins”