Wednesday, November 6, 2013

…waking to an endless Hell: LUMBAR – ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’

Numbness, disbelief, denial, anger, and rage—a whirlwind of five emotions that barely begins to encompass the tumultuous, world-shattering doom represented on ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’, the debut from one-off project Lumbar featuring artist/musician Aaron Edge with additional support and camaraderie from Tad Doyle and Mike Scheidt. The seven tracks of ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’, entitled “Day One” through “Day Seven”, chronicles the visceral reaction to the sudden and unexpected onset of life-altering events, namely Aaron Edge’s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. While it’s difficult to ignore the context in which Lumbar was ultimately conceived and formed, the album stands on its own merits though is made more poignant with proper perspective and understanding. ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’ is an uncompromisingly heavy sonic journey—both thematically and musically—that is as ugly as it is cathartic.

 Beginning with a sample from The Twilight Zone episode “The Little People”, “Day One” seems to suggest the miniscule place that man occupies in the cosmos and how, as a species, humankind is at the mercy of chance and chaos. This futility and helplessness is echoed in a sound bite from the opening sample, “And if you've got tears to shed, you save them for bedtime and weep them into your pillow; don't spray them all over me! It's a waste of time, and it's a waste of effort; it's also dull, and it's tough to live with…And while you're dwelling on it, you might count a few blessings.” In other words, you had better look deep within yourself to find the strength to stand up to the forces beyond your control, or succumb to those forces by choosing to curl up and die. This sentiment contrasted with Edge’s lyrics of loss and numbness found on “Day One” seems to stand as the inciting incident and impetus for crafting ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’. Despite the lyrical bewilderment and associated numbness of “Day One”, musically the song has an ethereal beauty unmatched by the remaining six tracks.

 If “Day One” represents the loss of innocence and the lingering splendor of the not-too-distant past, then the remainder of the album is the exacerbation of neurological symptoms and the associated turmoil on body and mind. What began on a note not completely devoid of beauty—perhaps related to the incomprehension of the severity of a diagnosis—even if in passing, turns woefully sour as time progresses.  “Day Two” is the antithesis of shock and numbness as it channels pure hate and rage—a trend that spreads like disease through the remaining six tracks. “Day Five” in particular is a seething, atmospheric beast that acknowledges the severity of illness from the depths of a heart of darkness. With lyrics consisting of only two words over the span of four lines, “Careless/Cureless/Cureless/Cureless”, it represents the harsh reality of a severe, progressive chronic illness and the despair associated with that realization.

While the album can essentially be characterized by rage—a smoldering rage that questions the quality of and potential for a future—the album is also underscored by a glimmer of hope, of overcoming adversity no matter what the struggle. And pain. Incomprehensible and overwhelming pain that few people can truly understand, but thought processes and emotional turmoil that some may identify with. The overall sound is what you would expect from the union of Edge, Scheidt, and Doyle. ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’ is a wounded monstrosity of rumbling bass tones and crushing, heavily distorted guitars. Though all of the instruments were played by Edge, the stylistic execution coupled with vocals provided by Scheidt lands ‘The First & Last Days of Unwelcome’ somewhere between Yob’s ‘The Great Cessation’ and Scheidt’s work with Middian. Unfortunately, this is probably the only release we’ll see from Lumbar, but the band’s sole album, despite its overall themes of loss, pain, and rage, will stand as a beacon of hope and inspiration for those willing to defiantly look catastrophe and affliction in the eyes and say, “Fuck you”.

Words: Steve Miller

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