By Christine Leonard
CALGARY — What do you do when 50 shades of black just isn’t sufficient to satisfy your festering soul? You invent your own Mordorian subgenre. That’s exactly the twisted forest path that Calgary-based doomsters Traer have opted for. Comprised of a wraith, a recluse, and a lupine fiend, this tightly-knotted ensemble is poised to unleash a new universe of sturm and drang where black holes double as porch lights, guiding the way home.
“All three of us have a history of playing with different bands,” explains Traer’s vocalist/guitarist Ghûl. “The bass player, Nekro, and I are best friends and have been playing together for a decade. The drummer, Scara, is from Red Deer but moved to Calgary once he started dating Nekro. We decided to form a brand new group together; something Calgary hasn’t really heard before. Traer is our interpretation of what we enjoy most in black metal.”
An icy sonic avalanche that engulfs and numbs in equal measures, Traer’s most recent recordings are incredibly dense yet carefully devised. Each emergent track builds the suspense with stealthy rhythms and veering melodies gradually revealing the shadowy world between reality-blurring distortions and riveting details.
“I’ve always had a love for black metal,” says Ghûl.
“For me it’s a way to express that kind of grim, hopeless, darker atmosphere that I find myself drawn to. Even in my previous bands it’s creeped in as a major influence for me. And I’m not just talking about those core black metal bands most people would know, like Mayhem or Burzum. Nekro is also a fan of that dark imagery, not necessarily Satanism, but that cold, life-sucking esthetic. Traer’s sound is rooted in a traditional manner of playing black metal, but with a slower doomy feel. I’m totally obsessed with that whole black gaze scene. You can see it in my music and the way I play guitar. No straight power chords, but rather weaving a spell.”
Another ascendant to the dark throne of mystical music, Ghûl’s bandmate and BFF Nekro has discovered a bastion for self-expression in the catacombs of Traer’s gothic fantasies. Also a member of the horror-punk outfit Frightenstein, she’s proven herself capable of morphing from a ravenous zombie into a solemn sylvan banshee without skipping a dolorous bass note.
“Frightenstein was my stepping-stone into the music industry. It gave me the opportunity to become a zombie character in the band. I wanted to add more of me, so I added the corpse paint with the gore and put spikes on my boots,” Nekro says.
“Twelve years is a long time to be in the music scene, especially in metal/punk. I have been laughed at, told I wasn’t pretty enough, told it was a gimmick to have a female in the band, I was a joke, trashed talked and that ‘girls don’t know how to play music.’ Not only did I have to battle the sexism, my real challenge is the racism, not only in the music but just in general,” says Nekro, who is an indigenous woman.
“There are many negative aspects, but I use them to my advantage and I do feel that it makes me more resilient, empowered, and stronger.”
Smelting an iron will with a fiery spirit, Traer have smithed a blackened metal masterpiece that is ready to be visited upon the masses. A more refined example of the slothful surges heard on the band’s live-off-the-floor “Demo 2015” release, Traer’s forthcoming debut iitoomhkitopi (a.k.a. First Rider) is a fitting introduction for a band that excels at manipulating the familiar and making the unusual instantly accessible.
“There’s no direct storyline to the album, it’s more of a tribute,” Ghûl elaborates.
“The title means ‘First Rider.’ which was Nekro’s grandfather’s Native name. The front cover of the album has a picture she took at his place on the Siksika Reserve, so it’s called ‘Grandpa’s Trees.’ It’s of our way of honouring him. We definitely draw on supernatural themes, and every culture has their own version of ghosts and witches of the woods. Our music is like slow creepy storytelling; it’s much more organic than your typical black metal. That’s why our name is Traer, which translates as ‘Trees’ in Norwegian.”
Rife with taut tunes such as “Banshee,” “Silence in the Forest,” and “Blood Sacrifice,” each bend and scrape on Traer’s self-released homage to the passage of time reverberates with the age-old clash of inescapable fate and strident mortality. Unblemished by fractious misrule, the three bandmates’ solidarity of purpose slices through the subterfuge and delivers a deathblow worthy of Sauron’s most elite soldiery.
“When my husband (Scara) and I started writing the first few songs for Traer, this other very dark side was exposed,” says Nekro.
“It was so raw and authentic, as I continued to write more music, I started to understand myself better as an artist. Never have I ever felt so alive in my life. All the sadness, pain and trauma in my life gave me the power to write. This band has given me the stamp of approval to really embrace that feminine side, but remain tough as nails. I am fortunate to have two amazing men call me their leader. Their support and love is mind-boggling.”
Traer released iitoomhkitopi on October 21st. The band performs on November 4th in Edmonton at Rendezvous Pub with Korperlose Stimme and Solarcoven; check online for more November events in Calgary.AB, Alberta, First Rider, iitoomhkitopi, Rendezvous, Traer