By Sarah Kitteringham
CALGARY — “I remember starting the band in September 2011 with not too many ideas figured out at that point and we were just sort of waiting around for something to happen. And something did happen.”
So recalls Numenorean guitarist, backup vocalist and bandleader Byron Lemley.
“On December 22, 2011 we found out the news that Woods of Ypres founder David Gold [had] died and it really devastated us, as he was one of the biggest musical inspirations to us. Woods of Ypres was the first band I heard that wasn’t scared to show a very vulnerable side of themselves while still writing devastatingly aggressive heavy music as well. Another huge reason was that it felt eerily similar to same feelings we felt when we lost our older brother years earlier. We both knew instinctively knew we would give Numenorean everything we had from that day forward.”
In the five years since their inception, Numenorean has literally exploded in notoriety courtesy of that all-in mentality. Emerging as a two-man project helmed by Lemley and his twin brother and vocalist Brandon, the project released their self-titled demo in 2014. The run of 500 CDs by Winnipeg-based label Filth Regime Records, ran by Jordan Dorge of Wilt, has nearly sold out despite the band only embarking on one Western Canadian tour.
“When I first heard these two tracks I knew what I had heard was something great and special,” says Dorge of the release. His label has also released music by Western Canadian bands Begrime Exemious, Chieftain, and Laika.
“It moved me and motivated me to get this out to the masses. The emotional journey accompanied by the composition was just perfect.”
Conjoining the atmospherics and dynamics of instrumental rock with the grandiose and orchestrated black metal that emerged from second wave Norwegian black metal, the demo was a launching pad for Numenorean, whose sound is reminiscent of blackgaze bands like Weakling, Agalloch, and Altar of Plagues.
“We share a lot of similarities with the Cascadian scene, especially from the demo, which to be honest was firmly rooted in that,” concurs Byron.
He continues, “Our upcoming full-length Home feels very far away from it, especially with the absence of acoustics and any real nature themes. I know we share a lot sonically and atmospheric with those types of band, but I feel the emotion is different in many ways… one being we all live in a giant city surrounded by plains.”
On July 22nd, Numenorean will unveil their debut full-length via internationally distributed and renowned label Season of Mist. Already, four of the five songs of the album have been premiered on websites from around the globe; the band just recently opened for a sold-out Deafhaven show at Sled Island; soon, they will head out on tour with Ghost Bath across the U.S. They are the first Calgary band to ever be signed to the label, earning a three-album deal in a time where very few newcomers are offered such a thing.
Comparatively speaking, the only other Alberta band signed to the label is Revenge, who had released four renowned full-lengths via underground conduit Nuclear War! Now before being picked up.
“Earlier this year, Season of Mist was originally contacted by one of the members of Ghost Bath, who were trying to help Numenorean find the right home for their new album,” elaborates Season of Mist owner Michael Berberian, who signed the band despite their lack of relative recording and touring experience.
“After sampling their music, it became abundantly clear that signing this band should be a priority for us. This was definitely one of the easier decisions we’ve made at the label.”
“Numenorean started as a side project to express creatively what my brother Brandon and I weren’t feeling at the time with other projects we were involved [in],” offers Lemley.
“We had been in thrash/melodic death metal bands for about six years at that point and felt it wasn’t what we truly needed and by staying in these bands it felt disingenuous to continue on…. At the time, I handled all the instruments, and Brandon took over vocal duties. We wanted to write music that was sad, melancholic, expansive and vulnerable while still holding onto the aggression and anger.”
After the Lemleys recorded the demo, the twins started rounding out their lineup, refusing to remain complacent when members failed to meet their expectations.
“The only problem we faced was that after a few live shows we realized something was wrong with the chemistry and had to start over again. At the same time that things were falling apart internally, the demo had been making its rounds and the feedback was… very surprising to say the least,” recalls Byron.
“People started buying it quite frequently, mostly in Japan and Germany, until we were sold out of our 250 copies.”
They soldiered on, determined to complete their lineup with like-minded committed individuals.
“We knew then we had something special and that’s about the same time the current lineup was put together,” he recalls. “It’s the best group we could have hoped for as everyone was a contributing member to Home, something we desperately wanted with this band from the beginning, as we’ve always stressed that Numenorean is an entire entity serving the music and not a group of individuals. I don’t think it can function any other way.”
Today, Numenorean features Chieftain guitarist Rhys Friesen on bass, guitarist Roger LeBlanc, and drummer extraordinaire David Horrocks, who’s played with Calgary act Dark Forest, Hrom, and Ominosity. As a unit, they are stronger sonically than ever, collectively writing Home after solidifying in February of 2015.
“It took us about eight to nine months,” explains Byron, who tells us Numenorean had written a full other album to release as their debut which was dumped in the trash because it didn’t meet their expectations (the material, he resolutely confirms, will “forever stay in the vault”).
“I felt it didn’t represent the true dynamic and chemistry of the band. We basically started over again and everyone was a contributing member, which in hindsight was a great move.”
The five-song, 44-minute Home is gut-wrenching, beautiful, and buffeting, focused on themes of loss and pain. Opening with a sobbing cry, the album’s emotional soundscape and lyrical content work in tandem, utilizing shrieking howls, ebb-and-flow dynamics, blast beats, and tremolo picking amidst quiet segments. Home is both an emotional journey and a complex and challenging package, particularly when confronting its hideous cover art, which actually resulted in the band rejecting another album deal when the unnamed label refused to release it as-is.
“We wanted to slightly break the fourth wall and allow the experience to start before actually hearing any of the music,” says Byron of the cover, which depicts an “autopsy picture from a murder that occurred in 1970.”
The cover is a naked dead little girl covered in cuts and blood. While it’s censored by a slipcase on the CD format, the vinyl release is “exactly as we wanted it,” a move that reinforces their unwavering disinterest in compromise.
“This album’s emotional soundscape and lyrical content revolves around the experiences of loss, which can be very cold and ugly and in themselves hard to reconcile,” explains guitarist Roger LeBlanc. “However there is sometimes hope in those dark experiences. This photograph represented that for us.”
“We all injected some very deep emotional baggage into this album, and most perhaps most important, was allowing ourselves to be vocally vulnerable in the writing stages with no judgment, which resulted in something beautifully devastating,” concludes Byron.
Numenorean will release Home via Season of Mist on July 22nd. The band will play their album release party at Dickens in Calgary on August 6th with Altars of Grief, Krepitus, and Hammerdrone. They will embark on a U.S. tour with Ghost Bath in September.AB, Alberta, Dickens, Numenorean