Haven Willis has been busy. Most notably as guitarist/songwriter for indie-math quartet As In We (Willis says they’re not done yet, though we probably won’t hear from them anytime soon) and for a brief period he dabbled as the guitarist for the more straightforward rock of The Velvet O (a band that also featured bass champ Joie Flare). But the whole time he was out there writing and performing in the indie-rock world, he was ruminating and slowly creating material for a new ethereal black metal project he’s since been quietly unleashing on Santa Fe. The time has come for all of us to take note—Twilight of the Idols is here.
"I started working on this, like, six or seven years ago, and it was just kind of something I kept under my hat and wanted to really work on both lyrically and conceptually," Willis says. "As far as solar or lunar black metal goes, it's somewhere in the middle of the void, though I've got this appreciation for both sides of it."
Let's think about what we know of black metal for a moment. Obviously, the most immediate examples that come to mind are the bands from in and around Scandinavia like Mayhem or Bathory. Like most metal sub-genres, there are the obvious tie-ins to the overarching style—blast beats, sinister tone, heavy-ass instrumentation—but for those who live or study metal, there is always so much more. Black metal can be spiritual and beautiful; it can contain a deep reverence for nature and a fundamentally lo-fi focus on atmosphere; it is often more about experience and a way of life than simply notes played in sequence. According to Willis, the moody terrain of countries like Norway or Sweden is a basic root cause for the bleak hopelessness of much of the well-known bands' content. Willis' material, while not entirely unlike that of his forbears, is informed instead by the wild and wooly desert. "We obviously live in a solar-soaked area," he says, "and the open spaces, the starkness, the blood-soaked history here, the people who migrate to the area to try and find their psychomimetic realities … I think of this as equally intense."
So how does this fit in with the Santa Fe metal scene? It's no secret that metalheads tend to support their scene with more tenacity than others, but when it comes to black metal we've had a scant few projects (such as Drought) to latch onto. "I think [this project] is more attractive to the experimental crowd than the metal crowd," Willis says. "A lot of the metal in this town is great, and it's not necessarily pop or commercial, but it's not very raw or thrashy." Perhaps "raw" is an apt way to put it.
As we speak, Willis is concocting demo material at "an undisclosed location in the lower Siler district," and he plans to maintain black metal's emphasis on lo-fi recordings and cassette releases. Local imprint Matron Records will handle Twilight of the Idols' first release at least. For now, Willis hopes to put out something soon and hopes to realize interesting ways to do so, such as a digital download code emblazoned on a scroll.
For now we'll have to be a little patient and settle for an opening slot at an upcoming show at Skylight with Colorado black metal act Helleborus and Santa Fe thrash band Marrow Monger. No, this probably isn't the metal that many locals are used to (note I didn't say "everyone" because obviously some of you love this stuff), but black metal has the power to be gorgeous and transcendental. Given Willis' pedigree and many years of work in the local scene, it should be exciting to see him branching out and reaching the culmination of almost a decade's worth of effort. Fingers crossed.
Twilight of the Idols, Helleborus and Marrow Monger
9 pm Wednesday Nov. 2. $7.
Skylight Santa Fe,
139 W San Francisco St.,