It’s fairly common knowledge that American underground metal is littered with crossovers, side projects, supergroups, guest appearances and splits. And it doesn’t take too much extra digging to find that a handful of names appear repeatedly on some of the more prominent releases within metal’s ranks. Two such all-stars, James Plotkin (Khanate, Old, Scorn) and Aaron Turner (Isis, Old Man Gloom), have for the last half-decade collaborated on another project, along with Khanate drummer Tim Wyskida, Jodis, which marks another notch on a list of several dozen for each musician. However, Jodis is not a metal band — not even a little bit. In a somewhat distant way, the trio’s atmospheric drones share a common bond with the extended atmospheric drones of Sunn0))) or Earth, without really sounding like either.
Black Curtain, Jodis’ second album and one of the last new releases for Hydra Head Records before it ceases operations, is a work of almost angelic atmosphere. It’s startlingly beautiful for a team of musicians whose collective works span from the crushing to the outright grotesque, and almost entirely devoid of aggression or menace. There’s an eeriness about some of the tracks, certainly, though not in a direct way. The juxtaposition of Plotkin’s reverb-heavy guitars against Turner’s echoing, distant vocals evoke a ghostly spirit world of sorts, though one without malevolence. A brief exercise like “Corridor” is a gentle slowcore gem, softly and minimally inching toward the subtlest of climaxes. Lengthy opener “Broken Ground,” however, feels a bit like the flipside of Harvey Milk’s A Small Turn of Human Kindness, transforming a molasses-speed drone doom progression into a monument to beauty and light.
This isn’t to say that darker or more discordant moments have no place in Jodis’ music. As Black Curtain nears its end, the distortion kicks up and a more ominous tone takes over on “Awful Feast.” And on “Beggar’s Feast,” the thunderous clap of bass resurrects the kind of gut-churning doom that Khanate specialized in. Yet, even as Jodis’ music grows louder and darker, it never antagonizes or assaults, and Turner’s vocals maintain a serene, almost monastic chant quality that puts it in the realm of the sublime. For the work of a team of veteran metal musicians, Black Curtain is one of the most unconventionally gorgeous albums to be released in heavy music’s underground.
Stream: Jodis – “Broken Ground”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.