By now, it’s clear that many spring and summer events are cancelled or postponed due to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic that is affecting our planet. One such event is Roadburn Festival which takes place every April in Tilburg, The Netherlands.
The festival is best known for bringing excellent music to a dedicated audience and this year they really pushed themselves and their curators to convoke an interesting line-up. Artists would collaborate, albums would be debuted and newly commissioned works would be premiered. It is a shame that the 2020 edition is now postponed, in as much of its entirety as possible, until 2021 but there is still much that can be done to support the artists who will be losing income over these coming months from missing shows and being unable to ship merchandise to some parts of the world. The health of the world hangs in the balance and this is the only sensible and reasonable action that can be taken.
It’s the end of the year and the end of a decade that was driven by change. A lot changed for me, personally, over the last ten years and I can only hope that it led to my becoming a better person. But that is subjective, as is choosing a list of records that I super enjoyed over the last ten months. There was a lot of music released in 2019 and a lot of music I just didn’t hear. There was a lot of music I did hear and never wanted to listen to again. There was music I couldn’t get enough of and listened to constantly. I listened to a handful of non-metal records that I really loved – these records can be seen on a list that will soon be published on Scene Point Blank. I also wrote a list for Metal Hammer but due to deadlines this was required to be finalised at the beginning of October and so my “final” list of albums I really liked has changed a little since then.
For those two lists I had to rank my choices and here I will rank only my top three – these are the records that really made a huge impact on me this year. The remaining records are all excellent, too, of course. If there’s a review of the album then you can find it by clicking on the band name and if you navigate to the record label then you’ll find the bandcamp page for the album (where available) in order to show your own support to these artists.
If you read anything that I wrote this year, then thank you. I hope to continue in 2020.
Faith is an intensely personal matter, yet for some, that faith is tested and broken and the subsequent fallout discussed and laid bare for all to see. Portland’s Mizmor is one such instance of faith being a central pillar of a person’s existence before life created ways in which to test and create cracks within that belief. This year’s full-length, Cairn (which was written about here), is the result of many years of searching, thinking and creating from it’s sole recording member, A.L.N., and here we talk about the moments that led up to his belief in God diverging from that of family and friends and the ultimate separation that needed to occur.
I would like to thank A.L.N. for his openness and honesty in discussing difficult subjects and for creating such challenging music that brings about much introspection and catharsis.
Faith is a central theme in your music and the path you took to this point is one that is coloured with many intensely personal moments – can you please explain a little about how Mizmor came to be, your reasons for rejecting this idea of a God and your reasons for choosing the name?
I was raised in a Christian family whose practice of Evangelical Christianity (Christian Missionary Alliance denomination, to be precise) was central to our lives and relationships. I was “dedicated” as a baby in the church, went to Sunday school as a kid, and to youth groups as an adolescent. In my early teens I began to reject the faith, seeing it as something my parents subscribed to that I didn’t necessarily believe in. I was interested in exploring other religions, philosophies, and worldviews and also wanted to experiment with “worldly” things forbidden by the church. I pulled away on the inside but was forced to attend church every Sunday until I turned 18. I (obviously) stopped going once I reached that age. However when I was 19 or 20 I had a conversion experience that led me to see Christianity with new eyes and take it on as an adult, for myself, in all seriousness. This was very different than my force-fed experience of Christianity as a younger person. It resulted in an immersion in the scriptures, hours of daily devotional prayer and worship, the compulsion for outreach, and an overall transformation of many of my personal qualities which defined my identity (for good or bad).
The acceptance or rejection of religion is a process that is personal and can often be fraught with turmoil and fear. For many the acceptance of a God is something that is instilled from a young age – they are brought up with the knowledge that their parents believe and therefore so should they. Some find religion at a later age and use it to overcome hardship, grief or troubling times. Some reject their God during their childhood and some come to the realisation later that God is not the all-powerful being they were led to believe and reject those ideas in favour of a different approach, one that eschews religion and takes a more personalised path to self-discovery.
For Portland’s מזמור (written as Mizmor) the process of rejection began later in life and for founder and sole recording member A.L.N. that process was one wracked with pain, guilt and the knowledge that God does not have the answers. The struggle between this and what was promised via religion is one that A.L.N. has documented through the blackened doom lens of Mizmor’s music since its inception seven years ago and the process has never felt more real and intimate than it does on Cairn.