Tuesday, 7 December 2010

UKBMW IV: Sleeping Peonies

"Black metal, for me, is an escape. A retreat from this world. It’s about feeling disconnected, and this manifesting itself in different ways, sometimes, unfortunately, through destructive acts, other times by the creation of beautiful and vivid worlds to escape to."
Nic, Sleeping Peonies

Self anointed 'gravegaze' two-piece Sleeping Peonies cross over into a lot of territories with their nautical shoegaze inspired take on black metal. The band consists of mainman Nic who takes care of all music dutiues and some vocals, and Grace who provides "Mermaid vocals".  In a very different way to the like of Winterfylleth, Sleeping Peonies sense of Englishness within their music is realised very differently, in a more Byronic or gothic Austen lineage of culture. Their debut album Rose Curl, Sea Swirl, released earlier this year by Khrysanthoney, conveys a romanticised occult atmosphere of widescreen sweeps across the misty fens; all the songs are titled with coastal references, salty winds, siren calls; and according to Nic, this sound has everything to do with the setting: "Whilst I don’t feel any particular affinity, per se, with other ukbm acts, I do feel that my location within England has been essential to my music. Norfolk, being a beautiful and lonely part of the country, very much informs the music I make, the atmosphere, the pace and the sound qualities and the tonal and textural qualities of the music.  The main influence for Sleeping Peonies is the Norfolk seaside and countryside. I think the romance I attach to those environments, the feelings I achieve when in those places, which are difficult to articulate, are best expressed through music. The particular qualities of the town I grew up in, of being both a vibrant seaside resort and a ghost town at different times of the year, plays a massive role in the sound of sleeping peonies, it affects the tempo, the dynamics, the balance of harsh and soft etc.  An environmental influence is completely integral to black metal as a whole I feel. Whilst I don’t necessarily believe in any particular quality, per se, being attached to an artist due to their geographical location, it is apparent that this does have some effect on the reception of their music."

On YouTube, the band's tracks are flanked by a range of artists across black metal, post-rock, shoegaze, chillwave/ambient and further; including Trist, Clair Cassis, Wild Nothing, Engineers, Ride, The Cure and even A-Ha! That last one's a bit of a stretch to anyone's ears, but the others all ring true, so great is the range of sounds encompassed within the band's sound.  I asked Nic whether his music is still capable of provoking the old reactions to Black Metal amongst these other sounds "Yes, definitely. Black metal, as a sound and an idea, can still be very chilling and affecting. I think when added to other sounds, particularly those which seemingly operate on a comletely different plane, the product can be awe inspiring, and this is definitely the most interesting aspect of modern black metal. The old sound is dead, and it is evolving in a really positive way. There’s only so much that can be done with three chords, an upside down cross and some quasi ‘satanic’ content. Black metal, like anything, needs to evolve to retain its potency."

There is an ephemeral, ethereal bouyancy to their sound that immediately makes you think of French romantics Alcest, but while they are listed in the Encyclopedia Metallum, Sleeping Peonies are not. There are black metal elements drawn from the claustrophobic noise washes of Xasthur though it's the English post new-wave sounds that take centre stage.With such a departure from the core fierceness and violence of what people imagine the genre to involve I wondered how the band fits into the canon: "Black metal has a timeless quality, an atmosphere, that may not be discernible but underpins much of the ‘scene’. And for me, this is where the ‘unity’ comes from. The knowledge that you may be tapping into that, sharing that with other people, that there is something more to what yr doing than just playing a bunch of chords and shouting a bit. It’s a strange phenomenon, one that interests me quite a lot. What makes something or someone ‘black metal’? because the disparity within the scene is so great that bands as different, conceptually and aesthetically, as, say, Velvet Cacoon and Watain, or whatever, both still operate under the same banner, with little to tie them together. On the surface anyway."

Rose Curl, Sea Swirl is available as a free download from Krysanthoney HERE
A new EP is being finished and will be released by Khrysanthoney by the end of December or early January 2011. According to Nic, the new EP will be more shoegazy and spacious as he's added a few more tricks to the production process.  Eight songs have been recorded for it, which are the following:

1. Anomie
2. Pashmina Veils
3. Lisps and Candyfloss Wisps
4. Wicklewood Haze
5. Ebbs and Floes
6. Autumnbloom and Lavender
7. Black Lanterns
8. In Rain We Disappear

Sugary Bergerets from Rose Curl, Sea Swirl


  1. I cannot wait for the new EP. Rose Curl has been on constant repeat this winter. Unique and extremely Avant the Avant-Garde in the sense that they're double bluffing... Too harsh for the masses, too melodic for the n3cro gr1m warr1orz... but definitely abrassive and evokative.

  2. Sleeping Peonies is one of the most underrated bands out there right now. It's a shame, because their first demo is such a work of magic.