We’ve all described a band as “heavy as fuck” because they play really fast and loud, the vocals are indiscernible and the drums are mainly blast beats and double bass pedals. Heavy heavy heavy. Fast fast fast. Shouty shouty shouty.
Based on these criteria it’s really no surprise that people tend to exclude the likes of Radiohead and Björk in their lists of heavy artists. However, if we reconsider what it takes to make music “heavy” then they definitely can be at times.
When I saw Refused (I’ll try not to mention this much but I’m still buzzing from it) they were supported by Anna von Hausswolff. I wasn’t sure what we were expecting, having never listened to her before, but her performance was certainly an experience. In hindsight I did really enjoy it but at the time it was all a bit of a shock to the senses. I’ll try to describe her style of music as best I can. Say, for example, you’re watching a horror film. It’s set in a forest. It’s just starting to get dark and the main characters are about to encounter a whole world of awfulness. A song begins to play to add further tension. You think to yourself “Oh shit, someone’s about to die in this film.” One main character watches another die and survives to carry the burden of what they’ve seen with them for the rest of their life. Even this doesn’t do Anna von Hausswolff’s music justice but I’m sure you’re at least part of the way with me in understanding. My brother described it as “Disney doom.” It carries hope and loss at the same time, the sort of music that could be played to lament a loved one.
It was heavy as fuck. Drone-y, in a good way, and at times the tone of the organs and keyboards filled me with a dreadful weight. That weight in itself is what I sometimes refer to when I say a band or musician is heavy, which is what I mean when I say Radiohead and Björk have their heavy moments. Their songs have a tendency to create tension and inspire an internal sense of longing and dread, and that’s far heavier than any blast beat can be. I’d class Videotape by Radiohead and Sæglópur by Sigur Rós as two of the heaviest songs I’ve ever heard (I’m sure I’ll think of others later on but for now these two demonstrate what I mean pretty much perfectly).
Despite this kind of music requiring a more focused form of listening (I find I can’t just have it as background music, it demands my full attention) I’m always looking out for more of this style. I guess you can also count Explosions In The Sky, This Will Destroy You and some pieces by Sigur Rós in this bracket. So please recommend songs or artists/bands to me. I’d love to have my mind blown and my head fucked a little more.