Brant Showers’ solo project SØLVE stands in subtle contrast to his collaborative efforts; while sharing textural and structural similarities to his intimate work with partner Nancy Showers in ∆AIMON or his contributions to recent Bestial Mouths, SØLVE has proven to be an outlet for very personal thematics and stylistic exploration. Where the project’s 2016 debut LP the negative found Showers using ritual practice as a foundation for songwriting, sophomore album EARTH INFERNO sees Showers pushing further at the boundaries of the post-witch house sounds that have defined his work, and his own abilities as a performer and composer.
A great deal of the music on EARTH INFERNO, especially in the first half of its runtime, uses percussion as a driving force. Using drums as cornerstone isn’t new for Showers (his most recognizable influence on Bestial Mouths has been in the rhythm programming and production department), but the way kicks and snares hit on “NEVER + ENOUGH (INFERNO)” and instrumental “RELEASE” lend the tracks a chugging, threshing energy that compliments their use of buzzing synth bass and muted guitar chords. The resulting sound is more akin to say, The Body’s more electronic moments or the heavy darkwave of All Your Sisters than anything else and Showers works it for impact; see the piston-triggered hits that cut their way through the hazy mix of “LOST IN THE DARK” or the slow-motion headbanging tempo of “HARM // HEAL”, the closest to industrial rock we’ve yet heard from him.
The album still dips into Showers’ classic style in spots, although there seems to be a concerted effort to roughen up the sound design and mix – where the previously released version of “SVNT LACRIMÆ RERVM (INFERNO)” played as smothering, lo-fi electronics, the LP edit roughly slices and chops, the edges of its pads and and synths deliberately given a lacerating edge. Indeed, you could hear “FOUR SWORDS”‘ plodding beat and emotional strings on any Showers penned release of the last decade, but probably not with the same crackle and spikes of sound mixed in, never allowing the listener to be lulled into comfort.
That lack of safe harbour certainly plays into the notable evolution in Showers’ vocal delivery. Historically Brant has worked to his own limits as a vocalist by writing to his own strengths, reserving himself through the use of using monotone and simple melodies. To match the often fraught, stormy nature of the record Showers allows himself to sound rougher, and more exposed. On “NEVER + ENOUGH (INFERNO)” he spits “I’m digging my way down” in a panicked snarl, a contrast to the wounded admission of failure he chants and mutters on “BLACK SILK STONE”. And while that raw-nerve quality is noticeable for its honesty, you can hear how much looser Showers sounds in general on the straight rock delivery of “VOID-OF-COURSE (INFERNO)”, the loosening of control allowing for a more naturalistic cadence and intonation. It’s that abandonment of security and safety, and willingness to expose himself that best defines EARTH INFERNO, its coarser grain and desperation in performance exposing emotion and uncertainty that Showers has traditionally kept masked.