When my Twitter buddies Kim Kelly (metal editor at Noisey) and Ed Blair (cofounder of the zine Black Metal of the Americas) both talk about the same band, I pay attention. And this winter their tweets convinced me to check out A Pessimistic Doomsayer, the current release by a duo from St. Catharines, Ontario, called Vile Creature.
I listen to a metric fuckton of doom metal, and Vile Creature stood out right away—they’ve got a great ear for melody in a genre that often gets by on droning riffs. The single 18-minute track that makes up A Pessimistic Doomsayer seems to move through every possible shade between furious, desperate detonations and hauntingly delicate confessionals. The vocals seesaw between scraped-raw growls and beautiful wordless keening, and the hugely fuzzy guitar tone is both lavishly plush and murderously serrated, like a comfy sofa stuffed with running chainsaws.
More than eight minutes in, the guitar lets a single note hang in the air while someone (or a couple of someones taking turns) screams over and over again, “This world has no safe space for me.”
On my first pass through the record, that brought me up short—it sure sounded like a thumb in the eye to all the neo-Nazi edgelords who think it’s funny to mock the suffering of marginalized people. But in the world of underground metal, bomb-throwing radical politics jostle for attention with self-satisfied fascism, and I didn’t want to confuse defiance with ridicule. That’s when I backtracked to do a bit of reading about Vile Creature and discovered that both members are vegan and queer.
“Pessimistic is about utilizing fantasy in all of its mediums (books, comics, TV, film) as an escape from the harshness of reality,” says guitarist and vocalist KW. “Specifically about how the relationships we glean from those mediums can be as valid and comforting as those we experience in this world. We create our own safety through community. Whether that community is fictional characters from a book or a group of friends you lean on is up to you.”
The lyrics bear this out, though they don’t put it so plainly: “I speak in tongues known to few,” sings Vic, the band’s drummer. “I hide depression in pages / I scavenge for meaning.” Later in the song she builds an extended metaphor about cicadas: the nymphs spend years in burrows to avoid predators, but once the adults finally emerge, they die in just a few weeks even if they’re not eaten. “Craving escape / But knowing / It will lead to demise / Is our nature,” she sings. The underlying message seems bleak—staying clear of the people who want to do you harm can’t protect you forever.
Though A Pessimistic Doomsayer came out last September, before Trump “won,” even at that point he’d already emboldened bigots of all stripes to attack their targets in increasingly brazen and public ways. “Fuckboys love to turn antifascist language against us, but in reality it ends up just showing how threatened their fragile white masculinity is,” says KW. “I’d rather hang with a bunch of snowflakes who are compassionate and care than make space for conversations with a bunch of melted dickwads who can’t handle POC, trans, queer, indigenous, et cetera empowerment.”
Vic puts it more diplomatically: “Current society is not built for emancipatory spaces, so therefore we must fight and create ones that envision the world as we want it to be.”
Vile Creature are on tour right now, and they play a DIY show in Chicago tonight. I haven’t seen them live, but KW has let me know what to expect. “We try to make sure everyone gets something out of it, whether that be closing their eyes and being devoured by sound, relating to the stories of the songs, or seeing us flop and flail about,” he says. “You will also probably hear Vic scream a ‘meow’ as a mike check at some point.”
In a few days the band will stop at Signaturetone Recording in Minneapolis, cofounded by Adam Tucker, who mixed and mastered A Pessimistic Doomsayer and mastered Vile Creature’s first LP, 2015’s A Steady Descent Into the Soil. They plan to cut demos for an album tentatively scheduled for early 2018.
Friday’s show allegedly starts at 7 PM at Weenie Hut Jr’s. Vile Creature headline, and Pussy Foot, Pyrex, and Toward the Sword open. If you need the address of the venue, I’m told you can send a message to email@example.com (that’s “ask a punk,” not “a ska punk”). I don’t know who checks that account or how often, but it’s worth a try.