Though he does not play a single note, the Japanese improvisational nonpareil Keiji Haino is partly to thank for one of this year's most audacious metal statements. In the summer of 2017, Sumac--then a rather untested trio of West Coast metal veterans including guitarist and singer Aaron Turner of Isis, bassist Brian Cook of Russian Circles, and drummer Nick Yacyshyn of Baptists--traveled to Tokyo to record and perform with Haino after he unexpectedly accepted an unsolicited invitation to jam. For 40 years, Haino has crisscrossed the borders of rock, noise, blues, and even a cappella balladry, disregarding structural and linguistic conventions with a singularly surrealistic vision.
For all of its many faults, this is the closest Aaron Turner has come to realizing his art-house-post-metal vision.
As dissimilar as they are, you cannot separate last year's collaboration with Keiji Haino from Sumac's new album, Love in Shadow. The Japanese noise-rock auteur has blurred the lines of what rock, metal, et. al for years which helped create the delirious American Dollar Bill, an album by all rights Sumac was incapable of crafting on their own.
Sumac wrote the follow-up to 2016's What One Becomes before they entered the studio with Keiji Haino, producing the colossal American Dollar Bill - Keep Facing Sideways, You're Too Hideous to Look at Face On. However, the experience with Haino greatly informed the band's performance ethic and dynamics. As a result, Love in Shadow feels rawer and more spontaneous than past Sumac recordings.