Full Album Stream + Interview: Lightbreaker – ‘Annihilation of the Annealids’

Photo: Armand Nour

Death metal and grindcore phenomenon Leon del Muerte might be known for his splattery approach to music, but this Portland-based multi-instrumentalist and songwriter has an Ace up his sleeve. Helming a new project, Lightbreaker, del Muerte looks to mid-’90s black-and-avant-garde metal (especially Oxiplegatz) to tell the story of extraterrestrial visitors known as the Annealids. Complete with a conceptual comic book that tells the story in parallel with Annihilation of the Annealids, del Muerte’s take on the “visitors from outer space” story tells a tale of ignorance, destruction, and predation on a peaceful race of beings who eventually assimilate into human culture.

“I started in December 2017, and it’s my first self-release so I wanted to go nuts with it,” del Muerte says over a video call. “A lot of things fell into place in a cool way like Biran Churilla who hit me up on Instagram about doing art. He’s a legit comic book artist, so I traded him some guitars for the work. I built the studio that I’m in for this album. I had ideas about what I wanted to do lyrically and wanted to make it a concept album. It’s highly influenced by Alf Svensson’s (ex-At the Gates) Oxiplegatz project. After a bunch of false starts, once I started writing it it came together pretty quickly. I even tried to get Alf Svensson on it and went to the end of the earth and the guy is unreachable, so I followed in his footsteps by myself.”

Looking to find a distraction from his mother’s failing health, del Muerte’s earliest ideas for the Lightbreaker project were scattered and ambitious. How could he make this one single piece that flows through the whole story? After talking with other people close to him, del Muerte fleshed out the greater concept and how it fit with the music.

Featuring soaring, clean sung vocals which veer towards the operatic (performed by former Witch Mountain singer Uta Plotkin, Only Zuul’s Quinton Gardner, and del Muerte’s own wife Elizabeth Schall), Annihilation of the Annealids‘ over the top presence and pristine talent took a good period of time to get to where it was. Though he hit many roadblocks, Leon del Muerte persisted.

“I actually had two other vocalists who sang on the record initially,” he explains, “but due to time constraints or just shit running long, sometimes people just kind of fall off the radar after a while. I wasn’t able to get them to complete their parts. In the meantime, I reached out to Uta Plotkin (ex-Witch Mountain). She’s more of a soulful singer and I wanted more of an operatic vibe, but I sent her the lyrics and told her to do her own thing with minimal guidance. She just went for it! Same with Quinton Gardner from the band Only Zuul, he’s the opera metal guy in Portland. His vocals are really strong and he got what I was going for immediately. I just let him rip, let the people do the thing you like to do the thing they’re good at. He even wrote some lyrics and tied the story together.”

Along with Gardner, Schall, and Plotkin’s practiced, powerful vocals are del Muerte’s harsh vocals–a multi-tracked, otherworldly foray into extreme metal’s most extreme sounds. Though still operating under his traditional “hyper-deep and putrid death growl” range, del Muerte put intense thought into his performance.

“In my head I came up with these goofy rules like how humans sing and aliens growl,” he explains. “I did my vocals in a way I normally don’t do them with lots of layers.”

“The record starts out with a first contact story,” del Muerte says, telling the story behind Annihilation of the Annealids. “The story of the humans at that point is that a dictator-ish guy was the commander of Earth and the planet is dying–they’re looking for another planet to inhabit or maybe find resources they could use to fix Earth. They stumble upon the Annealid planet, and the humans bring them to Earth. The story then skips ahead to when the Annealids have integrated into society but are looked down on by humans. They’re big, like Engineer sized (referring to Prometheus). At some point in the story it is revealed that the Annealids are fireproof and have crystalline skin. The commander’s idea is that he’s going to find as many Annealids as he can, strip them of their skin, and build domes to protect humans from the environment they’ve destroyed. At some point the Annealids send out a distress signal and it’s revealed that they’re a junior version of a much larger galactic empire and the elder Annealids are some of the most powerful nations in the galaxy. They come and rescue the Annealids and the door is left open for a part two. The last line is literally ‘to be continued.'”

Del Muerte has been sort of pigeonholed in the death metal scene, often finding himself in gory or humorous bands. With Lightbreaker, this long-standing member of the scene gets a new chance to redefine himself as a much more serious musician with passions outside the poopy and gory.

“I’m an avid reader of tons of sci-fi–even the name Lightbreaker is a reference to a ship from ‘The Expanse,'” he says. “I’ve never actually been in a death metal band that writes about death, it’s all been toilet humor and stuff like that. Having a sci-fi sort of theme was pretty easy for me to transition to. Sci-fi is my number one thing.”

Leon del Muerte is self-releasing the Lightbreaker album on vinyl and CD (as well as digitally) all through his Bandcamp this coming Friday. You can stream Annihilation of the Annealids ahead of release below.