2003, Willowtip Records
Most people who are reading this probably know about this band from their split recording with Kalibas, which Relapse was kind [smart] enough to pick up and release earlier this year as a sort of showcase of the state of American grind/de-gored death metal at the present. I could go through this band's history, detail their primary influences, try to point exactly at what they're reaching towards here, etc. but all of this research you can do for yourself, and as far as exactly what the music is going to make you think of, I would rather you just find out that for yourself as well. By "de-gored" in the sentence above I mean, essentially, this style of grindcore/death that is not really related to the larger horror/blood/pathology inspired mainstream of death metal. Rune takes the tools, sounds, and some of the musical/aesthetic goals of common death metal [circa 2003] and then matches it to a completely different idea of what this form of music can be. Spasmodic, creative, constantly cycling and changing, a form of compositional technique that seeks to reproduce, at times, the freedom of jazz's spontaneity, a rhythm section that is not always strictly anchored to providing background support for the guitars, and then string players who are courageous enough to seek out new textures and methods of melody. This is a new figure of metal in this country [relatively] and it has centered around Relapse Records or the Northeast so far. Think: Dillinger Escape Plan, Cephalic Carnage, Lethargy, the aforementioned Kalibas, and then some of the other bands on the Willowtip label like Harakiri, etc. I often hear more than a little Soilent Green in here, but it might just be my imagination. However, Rune is not straight grind at times like the first two bands I mentioned, they can often be found following the same ethic of "creativity for its own sake", in the pursuit of a truly fresh and satisfying approach to older metal forms free from the traditional song construction and melodic progressions of standard death. This means a lot of experimentation in song structure, riff styles, drumming figures, and lyrical concepts. This can be unsatisfying for some people, I believe…they would rather be faced with a band that is more straightforward and/or simplistic [in lyrical ideas if not musical], but Rune fills a small part of a void in American metal that has been growing up alongside the popularity of mainstream death: the emptiness of a space that, until recently, didn't know the presence of bands who were just as capable, technically, as progressive death bands [if not more so] but who chose to follow completely dissimilar patterns of experimentation and a different approach to reflecting life, descending from grindcore and its overt political colorings, but divorced from that world as well now. What happens to grind bands when they become better at playing their instruments? They change into death metal bands. If their lyrics do not take on a gore/horror approach, they dwell in a twilight world between two genres. This allows them a limited amount of flexibility, but it's surely more room to breathe than standard death bands ever get. Notice that this is not the same thing at all as gore/horror bands who "evolve" [their own words, I'm thinking of Schuldiner primarily as he set the tone] out of gore lyrics into socio-political commentary, or lines based on abnormal psychology. That is completely different because those bands are usually, at all times, aware of their past and [if not obviously "ashamed" of it] try to reject it for various reasons. They have a certain pressure always on them, self inflicted, to create something new that denies what has come before. Bands like Rune and Kalibas don't have that hanging over their heads. They are free to consider their experimentation and progression as positive movements, aligned with exploration and an optimistic creativity, not as noise to drown out the harder, simplistic edges of what they have already written. This might not sound like much, but these minute differences in motivation make a world of difference when it comes to the way bands actually end up writing songs.
Rune draw lines through surfaces that evoke post punk atmospheres and modalities just as easily as they do metal or modern hardcore. While not as dissonant and "anti-structure" as, say, Discordance Axis, they have evolved from a similar point of view on the limitations of their own genre. So it isn't a surprise to hear them, for example, forsake the raging aggression and concatenation of riffs in the first four minutes of the opening track "An Affinity" for a slow mid-career Neurosis bass and drum texture that echoes the song's beginning, highlighting the track's slow-beating heart before draping clashing power chords over it again. In fact there are many parts on this album that directly relate them to Neurosis both in their lyrical themes and the overarching force of their melodic style. Rune are not only that, however, there is still their grind/death background to counter the more doom-influenced atmospheric/apocalyptic interludes. The second track, "Opium for My Soul", is a good example of how they mix their contrasting styles into one cohesive whole. Try to hear that outstanding song first if you are thinking about buying this album.