John Kerr’s second album as Marsh Dweller took me by surprise. Then again, how could it not: Kerr essentially taught himself how to scream and play guitar in order to create his first album, The Weight of Sunlight. Kerr was already a talented drummer, having handled percussion for bands like Vit and Seidr (featuring Austin Lunn of Panopticon). Further, he documented most of the process in videos uploaded to social media. Anyone interested in what Kerr was doing could basically watch the preproduction process for the entire record. When it was released, probably half of its audience already knew it would be good, but also knew what half of the riffs would be. The Weight of Sunlight was a darling little melodic death metal record packaged with the hand-crafted folky black metal accoutrement that has become the calling card of the celebrated Bindrune label. It also contained no curveballs, at all.
Its follow up, Wanderer on the other hand, is nothing but curveballs, and it’s streaming in full below!
Kerr’s previous knack for early In Flames riffs remains, but the classic metal song structures are gone. Instead, he’s taking his songwriting into post-metal territory of the most European variety—Kerr confirms that Cult of Luna’s Vertikal album was a big source of inspiration. It shows, too. The album’s centerpiece, the nearly 20-minute “Wanderer II” rises and falls with the grace of a humpback whale mid-migration, ascending into clean, acoustic leads and diving into fathomless depths of chirping electronics. Miraculously, Kerr’s talent for licks hasn’t eroded at all. The central riff in “Coalesce” is punchier and heftier than anything he’s written before —instantly memorable.
“I did not mean to write this record,” Kerr says. “I wanted Marsh Dweller to be like your Neurosis’s and Agallochs that only put out records two or three times a decade. But apparently I had something to say much sooner than that.
“My first record, The Weight of Sunlight, was a stepping stone; a misguided necessity that taught me how to write records by and for myself. Wanderer is the next step. Hopefully there will be several more after it, but it exists as a statement for the Marsh Dweller of today and I’m excited to follow where it leads.”
“Thus far Kerr has mastered two distinct metal subgenres without losing his essential identity, and in so doing he presents loving tributes to his obvious influences. That’s a whole lot of plates to spin —many of the best touring bands never accomplish so much at once. Kerr makes it sound easy, and only makes me more excited to see where he will wander next.”