Ronnie James Dio is dead. I never really knew him aside from his role as a talking head in VH1 documentaries and his popularization of the metal horns. Yet the more I read, the more samples of his work with Rainbow, Dio and Black Sabbath that I hear, the more real his death becomes. While I wouldn't say that my life feels any different, I do feel more connected to the metal world because of the collective outpouring of mourning. And so I mourn, as well.
The new Locrian album Territories is ideal for this mood. The emotions it inspires are fathoms deep and unnameable. It is everything that Dio's music was not -- fuzzy, oblique, meditative, often static. There will be no holy diving to the synth and bass throb of "Ring Road." Terence Hannum, Mark Solotroff (Bloodyminded), Blake Judd (Nachtmystium) and Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), each of whom contribute emaciated howls to "Procession of Ancestral Brutalism," could learn a few things about enunciation from Dio. This music feels dry and empty, even at its most energetic. Territories is the purgatory that Dio must wait in while his afterlife is determined. Heaven? Hell? Heaven and Hell?
Locrian's last album Drenched Lands soundtracked Chicago's urban dystopia with improvised windscapes and scratchy feedback. Half of Territories thaws out the desolation by setting its improvised electronics against warmly-recorded, Ulver-like black metal storms from Judd, Hannum, Locrian's Andre Foisy and drummer Andrew Scherer (Velnias). "Procession of Ancestral Brutalism," is really inspired black metal, and I hope to hear this expanded band record a whole record like it someday. But the two disparate styles feel frictive, especially when the latter erupts out of nowhere a few minutes in to "The Columnless Arcade." It's too Dio-like, its regal drum patterns and repeated harmonies clenching triumph from the jaws of horror. I am gratified that such bold improvisers as Locrian are taking steps away from their discomfort zone, even more gratified that they're putting Bruce Lamont's saxophone to good use (his layered braying on "Between Barrows" threatens to steal the album). I don't want to be woken from my drone-drenched reverie by blastbeats though. Too much emphasis on rhythm. Give me more organ, more queasiness. Let me mourn for Dio in improvised peace and quiet feedback.