Carnwennan’s Slow Comeup

Written by on March 17, 2024

Carnwennan’s Slow Comeup

By Colin Roberts

“I definitely think that there’s an intention of I kind of want to bum everybody out,” says the enigmatic guitarist/vocalist of doom metal band Carnwennan, known simply as Jack. The Capital Region-based four piece’s sound is rooted in the slow and low nature of the genre, but Jack and company up the ante on the darkness by performing in front of a projection of cutup film compiled by the guitarist.

“We turn off all the lights, and I made a video collage of various things; mostly imagery from my childhood,” he says. “Nostalgic stuff, but also bummer stuff is the best way to describe it. It’s fun because when we play I’ll get to talk to people about that element of it, too. Like, ‘I caught that quick scene from Watership Down in there.’ Stuff like that—it’ll be Artax dying in the swamp of sadness in the Neverending Story or something like that.”

The crushing volume, the lights turned out and the dreary imagery all help to foster the bleakness Carnwennan are going for. But it serves another purpose as well.

“Part of me doesn’t really think that watching me play is interesting in any way because I hold a chord for so long,” he says. “Yeah, I’m holding this chord for 30 seconds; what do you want from me?”

But that’s the nature of the style, especially when it comes to Jack’s influences and the roots of Carnwennan’s music. The guitarist was originally inspired by drone metal icons Earth, and in particular, Conquistador, the first solo album by Earth’s mastermind Dylan Carlson. It’s a record of slow-churning solo guitar work, and that’s where Jack began.

“I wrote something that was a lot like that,” he says. “When the pandemic started, and just a little before that, I had all these riffs and when I was feeling very isolated or whatever, I would go to the practice space and I would just turn on like three amps and just play it through all of those and just be loud as fuck. That’s what I wanted to do; I just wanted to do a drone thing.”

Slowly, though, the idea evolved. Jack brought in drummer James Leshkevich originally to help keep time, followed by bassist Alex Waters shortly after that. And once lead guitarist Alexandria Ashpond entered the fold, an entire band had formed.

“This actually started during the pandemic but we didn’t play our first show until October of 2022. It was a slow come up,” he says. “The three of us originally knew each other very well and thankfully we found Alexandria, who’s a great guitarist and a super cool human being, and she meshes well with all of us.”

Albany’s heavy music scene has always been hardcore-centric, and the current climate is no different, but Carnwennan is having no trouble finding an audience looking for the slower, louder side of things. Along with bands like Wrasp and the veterans Hush, it’s clear doom metal has found a home in the Capital District.

“We do have really great stuff in the hardcore world, as you know. There’s great bands popping up that are hardcore and powerviolence and stuff like that,” Jack says as he points out the odd little niche that Carnwennan is filling. “I definitely noticed a void [of doom metal] there, and as I got older I knew that was something that I wanted to play. I used to be in so many fast type bands I was like, this might be a challenge to me to hold a note for a long time without strumming it a lot.”

Carnwennan’s debut album—titled Lotus—is due out in May. Recorded at Hovvl Studios in Hudson, it’s one 30-minute song that the band has been performing live, a piece of which had been available on Bandcamp as the Dusk demo.

“The Dusk demo is essentially a section of the larger piece that we play,” Jack says. “This part encapsulates how we play and what we play, and the relative droniness of a lot of parts, but also the heaviness that we try to bring at the same time. There’s a decent balance there in that particular part so we decided to section it off.”

Lotus will be released by local label, Darkest Records, and will be available on LP and digital mediums. There’s also a multimedia release in the works, but further information on that is as mysterious as Jack himself, who plays facing away from the audience.

“For me personally, I kind of want to excuse myself; I want to play my part and I want to make sure I’m on time,” he says. “But for the most part, I want people to just listen.”



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