Robedoor, ‘New Age Sewage’

Posted by on August 28, 2017


Hands in the Dark, 4.21.17

In Atlanta we know better than to think of spring solely as a season of rebirth. It’s also the season of pollen, a malevolent yellow dust thickening rain and dew like cornstarch into a grimy sludge on our cars and sidewalks, clouding our waterways with yellow foam that acts as a warning that mosquitoes are on their way. This duality of spring — the welcome return of warmer days and reality of thick, punishing air and toxic slime — made it perfect season for a very unexpected re-emergence: Robedoor, the foreboding flagship of L.A.’s weirdest underground, is back. New Age Sewage is the duo’s first record in four years — an eternity by any standard, and a period through which no group can remain unchanged.

At first it’s comforting to hear that so much of the old Robedoor remains, with opener “Lower Life” hearkening back to the haunting creep of Endlessly Blazing. Its rhythms are just a complement to the layers of distortion awakening a horrendous menace, a pounding reminder that this terror is not a dream. The Browns also remain the single most promising source of untapped potential for a horror soundtrack — lead single “Mage Image”’s darkwave rhythm lays the foundation for over seven minutes of alternating tension and spooked soundscapes, the perfect unsettling score for abstract dread.

A lot can happen in four years though… or even substantially less time, as 2017 marches closer to fall. For Robedoor, the time away seems to have provided a renewed sense of purpose. There’s more of a sense of ceremony on New Age Sewage than in previous Robedoor releases. In “Age of Sewage,” the furious drumming is downright primeval, beating a march towards some kind of enlightenment. The fire-blazing guitars no longer feel oppressive or cathartic but are transformative, enveloping the listener and purifying by flame. There’s a sense of destination on this record, each track with its own determined momentum, not always driven by rhythm but always in search of becoming. It’s not transcendence Britt and Alex are in search of on tracks like “Cadaver Dogs,” but a transformation through ritual into something more beast-like, more urgent.

Robedoor has never trafficked in elation, which makes it hard to call their return a joyous occasion. Instead, hear the group’s vocals, sounding more like incantations than ever, as a call: to the woods at night, to embrace the beast lying dormant within, to wail in agony and fury until your every inch of your skin and muscle becomes taut in readiness for transfiguration. Hands raised in adulation, we drop to the dirt and submit to Robedoor’s primal howl. Welcome back.