Fire-Toolz : I am upset because I see something that is not there
It may be a shock for people familiar with Angel Marcloid’s work to see her new Fire-Toolz record I am upset because I see something that is not there. referred to as peaceable. After all, her albums are known primarily for being, more or less, sonic representations of their covers and titles, a hyper-congealed aesthetic sensibility of absolute maximalism, blending everything from black metal to nu-metal to IDM to jazz fusion to progressive rock to vaporwave and more. This record doesn’t skimp on any of those influences either. The fast online friendship between Marcloid and the Gonemage/Cara Neir/Homeskin/etc. wunderkind Garry Brants feels manifest on the increased presence of nu-metal and even djent passages across this record; their usage, however, unsurprisingly leans more toward the experimentalist and progressive flourishes of those genres, using them more for structuralist/imagistic color than anything else.
And yet, despite the unabashed continued maximalism on paper, I am upset marks precisely the kind of aesthetic transition and mastery over form that one might have anticipated was coming following the monumental (both in size and accomplishment) double-album Eternal Home. Marcloid has been mining this precise mixture of elements for quite a while now, producing roughly an album a year for the past five or so years, balancing an absolutely staggering range of influences from Dream Theater to obscure Japanese pop-fusion groups like Dimension to contemporaries of the death and black metal underground to kings of vaporwave DEATH’S DYNAMIC SHROUD. It was not a surprise when the earlier records of this fusion of styles struck many as almost parodic in their intensity. I recalled Field Whispers (Into The Crystal Palace) being passed to me by people referring to it more as a joke than a serious work, laughing at the bizarre combination of elements. I, meanwhile, was instantly hooked, immediately understanding of the prophesied but not yet materialized vision for this type of material; thankfully, I was far from the only one.
The peaceable nature of I am upset feels more a product of mastery of this jagged and wildly variable set of styles. Where before the clashes of genres would, in manners reminiscent of Mr. Bungle or perhaps Old Nick for a more contemporary reference point, feel sometimes closer to shock value than considered emotional choices, here Marcloid’s grasp of their emotional timbres and colors feels intuitive and complete. Skramz bleeds into a wall of digitalism and 80s fusion synth pads with tight, metalcore/prog metal riffs on top before breaking into a slick fusion solo; you don’t laugh, however—each miniature element, from the engineering of the instruments to their placement within the mix, makes each new shift feel inevitable and emotionally charged rather than a cheap pop. This upward climb in emotionality within her music has been prominent since Rainbow Bridge, the first of several records dedicated in honor to her lost cat. That eruptive moment, grief transforming wild manic creation into a vehicle of emotional catharsis and portraiture, has done wonders for her work. Her cat can rest well knowing they have been honored so greatly.
There’s a clear trend at work between the titles of both I am upset because I see something that is not there. and previous EP I will not use the body’s eyes today. Contrast these to the death-focused but ultimately salvation-oriented titles of records such as Rainbow Bridge and Eternal Home; it is a bizarre but perhaps fitting development that those earlier records, aimed toward peace, would contain the fury and explosive power of these genre clashes at their most intense and bewitching while these more recent, more gothic and dourly titled records would lean into something more, for lack of a better word, romantic. Nothing in Marcloid’s body of work feels accidental. These titles and their keening emotionalist tendencies, carving out a complex sentiment in a single sentence, feel like apt and pointed theses for this material. There is a liminal bleeding space between autism, manic episodes, psychosis, religiosity, and the creation of art, unified in this sense of both an impossible repression of the self juxtaposed by the perpetual atomic bomb burst of the heart inside of your chest. It’s hard to read that title, to listen to this record, to gaze at that cover art and not know exactly what Marcloid means. That she is able to do so with work that otherwise might strike as outlandishly bizarre and avant-garde is testament to her ever-sharpening capabilities. Long may she reign.
Label: Hausu Mountain
Langdon Hickman is listening to progressive rock and death metal. He currently resides in Virginia with his partner and their two pets.