Tag Archives: Ragana

Underground Sounds: Ragana/Thou – Let Our Names Be Forgotten

Label: An Out Recordings
Band: Thou/Ragana
Origin: United States

I would much rather debate music than politics, but when it comes to the progressive message this may be the most punch-packing-package deal you can get. Ragana and Thou combine their strength for an exceptional split, titled ‘Let Our Names Be Forgotten’.

Thou from Baton Rouge has been prolific since 2005 with a long string of top-notch releases and a clearly voiced message. Their latest full-length ‘Magus’ has landed them a show at Roadburn even as a next highlight. Ragana is a genre-crushing duo from Oakland, who have dubbed their music witch doom. Combining the best of ethereal vocals and mystery with crushing core elements, they’re a force.

The opener ‘Inviolate’ opens with sensitivity and slow passages. It’s almost hauntingly beautiful, which makes the launch into screams even more powerful and hard-hitting on this short exertion by Ragana. The band has a penchant for a sort of witchcore or witch doom, full of seductively beautiful music and harrowing bursts to contrast. I’m making up that term as I go, but it also refers to the Baltic origin of the name. That aspect returns on ‘The Void’, with vocals that have that desperate tone you hear in the work of Chelsea Wolfe and the like. The doomy riffing, the totured screams, it goes to the marrow of your bones with Ragana, as if clawing towards ‘The Sun’. A particular spin on the classic, most slowly progressing doom legends. It’s magnificent.

But Thou is no lesser force obviously, and ‘The Fool Who Thought He was King’ is an instant demonstration of that. Vitriolic screamed vocals over crunchy doom, with that right level of distortion and melodic mournfulness. A dirge-like texture, that weaves onwards as the voice snaps at the listener. The song than starts unwinding into a wavery, post-rock track, that drags the listener along as everything seems to slow down into a sticky, pulling motion. ‘Death to the King and all His Loyal subjects’ closes the record, with a threatening, ominous note. It’s a gritty, drudging tune that drags you down and down with it. We definitely end on a great not here with Thou. Excellent.

Stranger Aeons End of Year List

Another year comes to a close and that means lists. I never really get excited when the prospect comes around because a list is never as complete as you’d want it to be. In a way, it’s a moments recollection of all the good music that came by in the past year. Still, it’s important to look back and share with the world what it might have missed otherwise.

I can mention a load of bands I would gladly have included here. For example, I didn’t really get around to listen properly to Enslaved and Converge’s new records and I had to chose to omit the likes of Power Trip, Akercocke, and Pillorian.  Oh, and Dool came to me in a big way. Well, you can’t have it all, but here is the list as it is:

  1. Ulver – The Assassination of Julius Ceasar
  2. Amenra – Mass VI
  3. JupiterianTerraforming
  4. Au-DessusEnd of Chapter
  5. Elder – Reflections of a Floating World
  6. Vulture Industries – Stranger Times
  7. FiefIII
  8. King of Asgard:taudr:
  9. Al NamroodEnkar
  10. Eschatos – MÆRE
  11. Der Weg Einer FreiheitFinisterre
  12. RaganaYou Take Nothing
  13. Bell Witch – Mirror Reaper
  14. SpaceslugMountains & Reminisce
  15. GrimaTales of the Enchanted Wood
  16. Myrkur – Mareridt
  17. Hair of the DogThis World Turns
  18. BotanistCollective: The Shape of He to Come
  19. CyaxaresHouse of the Cosmic Waters
  20. Falls of RaurosVigilance Perennial

I would also like to express thanks to the labels that have kindly supplied me with promo materials and support for realizing my goals. In particular thanks to Transcending Obscurity and Qabar Extreme Music PR. Also, thanks to Echoes & Dust for lending weight to my 195 bands project, by publishing these interviews.

May 2018 be a great year in music again. Live long and prosper.

Underground Sounds: Ragana – You Take Nothing

Label: An Out Recordings
Band: Ragana
Origin: United States

What attracted me to Ragana originally was their Lithuanian name. It means as much as a witch, though the concept of a witch is different in Lithuania. The duo behind this name is American and they define their style as ‘witch doom’.  Maria and Nicole started out in Washington, but currently reside in Oakland and are very active in following their ideals. Taking inspiration from Wolves in the Throne Room, Cat Power and Earth, they started a metal thing. Oh, and Julie Christmas.

Kim Kelly captured the band best in her article on Noisey. The duo is described as being anarcho-feminists and ‘You Take Nothing’ is an emotion laden, furious cry of protest. Though I can appreciate the politics behind the album, I think Kim’s article better expressed that. Let me just take you to the music. I have a ton of respect for the powerful way these ladies present their idea on a record that absolutely shatters everything in its raw directness.

Opener ‘Spare No Man’ has all the grim force of a post-black metal/post-hardcore hybrid. Crushing riffs, that spill out like gritty rubble of toppling buildings. The desperate screams and howls feel like a serrated knife to the heart in their forceful message. The way genres blend together into one powerful outlet, feels to me akin to when I first heard Converge or maybe even a little bit Deafheaven. It feels new, exciting and overwhelming. The sinister, creeping opener of ‘To Leave’ even puts some Brand New in the mix. The song is both fragile and beautiful, but also sad and mournful.

Though Ragana clearly taps into the black metal sound, they’re never really fully there. On ‘Winter’s Light’, we even go to a more dreamy, trickling sound. When the icy guitar kicks in, it’s clear and clean. You’ll find that typical blast beat and static riff combo indeed, but there’s a vulnerability to it, it’s so open and raw at times that you feel the hair on the back of your neck stand up. The way the vocals are delivered on the foreboding ‘Somewhere’ is tantalizing, it grabs you by the throat.

Ragana delivers an album, that is so powerful in its punkrock simplicity. It’s not trying to sell you concrete ideas but conveys a feeling, a message that otherwise remains misunderstood. You can feel your skin crawl during some tracks, during the odd passages of jagged guitars and submersion in the eerie atmosphere. When the haunting ‘You Take Nothing’, which is the endlessly repeated phrase that makes up the song, fades away… It leaves you with a cut you can’t heal.