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The metal newcomers of Corridoré build a cathartic vision

The metal newcomers of Corridoré build a cathartic vision

The Madison band celebrates its self-titled debut album on August 3 at BarleyPop Live.

Madison band Corridoré started out pursuing an ambitious kind of metal, with a 2017 demo EP whose two songs both ran longer than 10 minutes, heaving their way through spasms of violence and washes of calm. Amid its unconventional song structures and its combination of elements from black metal and post-rock, the band also plays with a punishing immediacy, especially in the live setting. Bassist/vocalist Eric Andraska, guitarist Matt Allen, and drummer Drew Carlson knew they wanted to expand on that sound when they began making on Corridoré's self-titled debut album, which the band will celebrate with an August 3 show at BarleyPop Live, which also features Madison metal bands Ruin Dweller and Bereft. But in the process of making the record, things became far more elaborate than what they'd initially planned.

Corridoré is Andraska and Allen's first metal project (the two previously played together in long-running Madison band The Selfish Gene) and Carlson's second, though that first EP, Vanquish The Light Of Day, sounds like the work of musicians who've been soaking up bleak, grizzled heaviness for a while. At least, Andraska's corroded scream, Carlson's mix of blastbeats with roomy, swinging patterns, and Allen's ability to make one guitar handle the work of complex songs could have fooled me. (After finishing the new album, Corridoré added a second guitarist, Russell Hall, whose previous bands have included Tyranny Is Tyranny, The United Sons Of Toil, and the gloriously weird instrumental quartet P'elvis.) Still, Carlson thinks the band grew more at home in the genre between the two releases. "I think these songs are meaner," Carlson says of the four tracks that make up the new album. "I just think we dove more into full-on metal...I really like to think that those two EP tracks were kind of a stepping-stone, transition period."

The band spent more than a year writing the songs on Corridoré, letting them evolve continually as each member contributed different parts to winding song structures, and listening back to practice recordings to solidify ideas that came up more spontaneously. The writing process hasn't really changed since Corridoré first formed, but has simply had more time to play out, and the result is a powerful, richly layered album. 

"We changed directions many times," Andraska says. "We added, we subtracted, we came up with really cool parts and then forgot them. We feel like we spent enough time hammering away at them and mining away to try to find the best stuff we could, and hopefully after a year and a half we got most of the bad stuff out of there and were left with more good than bad."

This process of writing, revising, and listening back continued to play out even after the band recorded everything it had initially planned for the album. Allen, Andraska, and Carlson spent a weekend at Chicago's Decade Music Studios, with engineer Spenser Morris capturing live takes of the core instrumental parts. Then Andraska knocked out vocal takes, in an urgent performance that pierces through the mix. These are definitely high-pitched screamed vocals in the black metal tradition, but with a ragged undertow that deepens the humanity of the songs. After that, the trio basically thought it had the whole thing in the can, ready to mix and master, and faithful to the raw energy of Corridoré's live shows at that.

"We listened to that for probably six weeks or so before we decided, 'Hey, let's expand it, let's take the opportunity to layer some parts on top,'" Allen says. So, over the course of another month or so, Allen created a whole other set of guitar overdubs that come in and out of the record and add yet more complexity, making for dozens of little dynamic twists on the album's opening and closing tracks, "For The Voyage Of Oblivion Awaits You, Pt. 1" and "This Swallowing Sea." On the band's shortest track so far, "Shifting Skies, On Bloodied Wings," Allen uses keening swells of feedback and high-pitched leads to connect dramatic slowdowns with tremolo-picking overload—moments that Carlson bolsters with drumming that maintains tension and flexibility even at its extremes of rapid-fire pummeling.

"Drew plays blastbeats without the double kick, so, it's particularly strenuous," Allen notes. Carlson responds that "it's because I'm stubborn, I think."

Allen went into the round of overdubs with some newly written parts, but also ended up improvising a fair bit of material. This phase of the recording was engineered by Madison's Jerry McDougal, who has contributed a lot to the literal sound of heavy music locally with his custom amps and pedals, plays drums in Bereft, and played with Carlson in a doom band called Khufu.

It can also be risky to combine the different styles of different engineers working with totally different combinations of studio gear and software, but in this case it worked, giving Corridoré both the ferocity of a live-in-studio session and the luxury of stepping back to add more nuance. The sessions with Morris have a sharp, polished sound that actually interlocks well with the warm and earthy distortion McDougal captured on the overdubs. "Spenser probably cursed a little bit when he had to mix it all together, but he did a great job," Andraska says. 

There's a lot of detail packed into the album, and it clearly took yet more editing and revising to figure out when to stack on dense, multi-tracked guitar and when to peel things back. On top of all that, the band also decided to give the record a loosely nautical theme, conjuring the idea of a stormy sea to accompany the overpowering, cathartic atmosphere of the music.  The record ends and begins with the sounds of rain falling on the deck of a creaking boat, the cover art by John Sant depicts a ship on turbulent waters between rocky cliffs approaching a castle atop a still higher cliff, and Andraska drew on D.H. Lawrence's poem "The Ship Of Death" for lyrical inspiration. The poem, full of repeated phrases and ponderous refrains, weaves between grim despair and peaceful acceptance as it considers the onset of human mortality. Andraska pushes those themes to a less forgiving place: "For it awaits / Some broken relief / Cannot quiet them all / the sickened arise / We arise with the beasts of the night," goes one section of "For The Voyage Of Oblivion Awaits You, Pt. 1."

"I write a lot and delete a lot and scribble out a lot and change things," Andraska says. "I was trying to write in that style and that theme of this kind of life story, and the seasons are changing and this march toward death. It's not necessarily this linear thing, but could be more of a circular thing."

Along with that more conceptual approach to lyrics, Andraska has grown more confident in the place his vocals occupy in Corridoré's overall mix. "Probably a lot of it is just learning my screaming voice," he says. 'That demo was my first time ever doing it. I'd like to think it's getting a little easier, a little better."

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