Track Premiere: Usnea – ‘From Soot and Pyre’

Six years is a long wait for new music, but it’s been worth it in the case of Portland, Oregon-based doom practitioners Usnea. Already inspired (or perhaps dismayed) by “the decline of global society,” personal circumstances and a thoroughly-fucked state of world affairs have added ample fuel to the fire that is Usnea’s new album, Bathed in Light.

There are new influences to be found on Bathed in Light, namely from the post-punk and death rock spheres in addition to greater emphasis on synthesizers, and the songwriting is tighter, shedding some of the longer song lengths in favor of more digestible portions. On new song “From Soot and Pyre,” streaming below, Usnea show listeners their new direction without abandoning the familiar.

Guitarist and lead vocalist Justin Cory had plenty to say about the new album:

“It has been a brutal 6 years making this record with one of our members developing a serious chronic illness, me breaking my wrist in a motorcycle wreck, and the impacts of a global pandemic. Our previous material was already inspired by the continued decline of our global society but that has only accelerated since our last record, 2017’s Portals Into Futility.

“When making the album artwork, I was thinking of a submerged world and how all of our monuments and art and accomplishments don’t really matter if we destroy ourselves and most of the life around us. For me, the title ‘Bathed in Light’ invokes ethereal light streaming through the murk and illuminating the ruins beneath a failed flooded world. Even as we have probed the secrets of space, split the atom, and mapped the human genome—we are destroying the inhabitability of our planet all in the name of accumulation, greed, and self-aggrandizement. Will we turn it all around before it is too late? I am personally not sold on the myth of progress, especially as long as capitalism reigns.

“‘From Soot and Pyre’ aims its rage at the wreckage that human life has visited upon our Earth through capitalism, climate change, resource extraction and war. It was especially poignant to us here in the Pacific Northwest when the forests were burning all around us in 2020 and 2021 and the air was literally poisonous.

“On a lighter note, Johnny wrote some seriously infectious sludge riffs for this one and as the song evolved I got very excited about adding some swirling John Carpenter-meets-Goblin analog synth lines at the end. This song is one of our shortest but it seems to really devastate audiences live in spite of that brevity.”

You can bathe yourself in futility on May 26 when Translation Loss releases the album in full.