Ludicra was one of the most important American black metal bands to have ever existed, and ever since they called it quits following the release of their 2010 masterwork, The Tenant, their influence has been sorely missed in the evolution of the USBM scene that they helped to spark. There will never be another band quite like them, but fans have been able to take comfort in the fact that its former members are extremely prolific. Little shards of that Ludicra magic can be found spread across the musical landscape, twinkling and flashing up from the compositions of acts as diverse as Hammers of Misfortune, Ghoul, Agalloch, Worm Ouroboros, Impaled, and VHOL.
Many of these newer efforts have come courtesy of the band's more dudely members—drummer Aesop Dekker, bassist Ross Sewage, and guitarist John Cobbett—but, with the birth of Ails, fans are given a chance to revisit the formidable talents of vocalist Laurie Sue Shanaman and guitarist Christy Cather in a brand new context. Joined by a passel of Bay Area veterans—guitarist Sam Abend (Desolation, Abrubt, Scurvy Dogs), drummer Colby Byrn (One In The Chamber, 2084, Aequorea) and bassist Jason Miller (Apocryphon, Cretaceous, Phantom Limbs)—Shanaman and Cather formed Ails in 2015.
Musically speaking, Ails beautifully synthesizes melancholy melodic death metal, stately doom, and atmospheric black metal, teasing every iota of intensity from each individual note and capitalizing on Shanaman's vocal might to hammer it all home—an effect that's further magnified whenever Cather joins her on the mic in deadly, elegant concord. The riffs here are knotty, often looped together in tight harmony, and supremely melodic, colored by a dark, sooty gloom that recalls Ludicra's paeans to urban blight. The overall effect leaves a listening wanting more (especially when Shanaman lets loose her harsh, rippling, primordial wail—how I've missed it!).
Together, they've been hard at work writing, recording, and playing local shows, building up a name for themselves that's become less about pedigree and more about the fact that Ails is an extremely good metal band. Recently, they've been focusing on mastering their full-length debut (for which they're currently seeking label support) and completing a new two-song demo that they'll be releasing themselves via Bandcamp quite soon.
I'm delighted to be premiering the first taste of that demo—a nine-minute epic titled "Dead Metaphors"—below. Stay tuned for more from Ails (I'd recommend bookmarking their Bandcamp page to stay informed).
Kim Kelly is about to order an Ails shirt on Twitter.