He Has Abandoned Us
Precious is Cedar Falls’ Oliver Weilein, and He Has Abandoned Us is a concept album based around the story of a man (of unspecified historic time) who loses his family to the plague and retires to an abandoned temple to beseech God, who never answers him.
He Has Abandoned Us is mostly made with synthesizer and sampled sounds. Weilein has a deft touch for layering sampled choir and orchestral sounds to make epic, lush dirges. Even with today’s advanced computer-based sampled instruments, it’s easy to make crappy-sounding music, but Precious’ songs avoid that trap. The synthetic violoncello sound that anchors “I Shed My Blood For You, Lord, I Beg Of You // Self Flagellation,” for example, has a subtly modulated timbre that rubs nicely against the ear. On other tracks a muffled voice sometimes speaks, more as atmosphere than narrative.
He Has Abandoned Us is tagged as “Black Metal” on the bandcamp page, but there’s very little of the roaring guitar and thundering drums of that genre. The only link to black metal seems to be that these songs are like the traditional opening track of metal records: a dour, neo-classical preface to the main event of roaring guitars and punishing drums. Keeping things quieter and more ambient just deepens the mood.
It’s easy to make fun of the operatic hopelessness of the black/doom metal genres, but it’s a feeling with which most people can identify from time to time. Weilein’s hero is a bit like Camus’ Sisyphus: He accepts his depressing fate, but keeps going. Camus says, “We must imagine Sisyphus happy.” Though happiness violates genre conventions in the case of Precious, embracing and wallowing in despair can feel pretty good when it’s done this well.
This article was originally published in Little Village issue 242.