There are two types of alone: deliberate and unintentional. The latter is bad. The latter can lead to a complete mental breakdown. I know we like to fantasize about what we’d do if we woke up and found ourselves suddenly alone on our planet, but shortly after moving into the biggest house in the neighborhood and stuffing our gobs with endless sheets of newly complimentary Totino’s Pizza Rolls, we’d start to wonder about others. Where are they, how many are there, and what kind of cool shit have they grabbed since the world abruptly ended. We’d wonder because being unintentionally alone is unnatural and pointless. As much as you love your dog, he’s not really impressed with the fact that you’re driving a recently acquired Audi R8, and he’d just as soon eat fresh throw-up as he would a $900 can of caviar.
Moreover, unintentional aloneness is terrifying. The reason people are so panicked about dying in space or drowning in the ocean is because humans aren’t really designed to exist in either, so deaths within them are the ultimate in “alone” demises. Dying by sinking into the ocean’s inky depths or by being loosed into the vastness of space is more unnatural than having a piano drop on your head while strolling down 8th street, because at least the latter results in your remains being shoveled into a box and getting worried over by humans that are standing around together—the human connection is still there, and humans crave connection, even in death.
Deliberate aloneness, on the other hand, is an entirely different and wonderful beast. The following quote by author Alice Koller perfectly sums up the importance of aloneness for isolation enthusiasts: “Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.”
Some people don’t need much aloneness, others find themselves in situations where they never have enough of it, and a fair portion of us make certain to have plenty because it’s as essential as water to our survival. That latter group—the staunch aloneness advocate —is often misinterpreted as a recluse, despite the fact that she/he regularly enjoys being around people and is generally amiable in social situations. They are “aloners” more than they are “loners,” as they are generally not resentful toward socialites, enjoy healthy relationships, and simply require excess seclusion for trekking through their own head and over-thinking nearly everything.
Music is categorically fundamental for optimum deliberate aloneness—as essential to the overall experience as the experience itself. Even if the end-goal is silence, music is often the sole companion leading up to those reticent moments. Appropriately, since the very first day the thunder ripped through the opening moments of Black Sabbath’s “Black Sabbath” on Black Sabbath, metal and its offshoots have provided proper camaraderie for these experiences, because metal has always embraced nature, isolation, and the more powerful side of misery that frequently gets woven into the fabric of detachment.
2005 was a pretty damn good Year In The Life for the blossoming heavy metal aloner, thanks to top-shelf funereal works from Tyranny, Comatose Vigil, Evoken and (particularly) Mournful Congregation; epic and woodsy treks from Primordial, Dornenreich, Drudkh and Geïst; outsider drifts from Earth and OM; and a particularly bleak drag into the abyss from Lurker of Chalice. As solid a playlist as that is, however, it’s missing is one of the year’s most significant and under-appreciated marches into reclusiveness: The Gault’s Even as All Before Us.
The Gault’s pedigree was phenomenal—previous members of Amber Asylum, Weakling, Black Goat and Asunder by way of Sarah Weiner behind the drum kit, Lorraine Rath on bass, and John Gossard on guitar. The result was a strange collection of doomy, gothic noise that wasn’t really doom, goth or noise, and clearly unlike most anything hawked to the metal sphere that didn’t land from the outskirts of 4AD, Cleopatra or some obscure deathrock label.
The songs were long—painfully so at times—and Gossard laid down as many beautifully dismal, Asunder-related licks as he did (what felt like completely improvised) noisy turbulence. “Obliscence,” for example, slogged from the gate to Weiner’s funereal march, and the guitar work scraped and clambered to an uncomfortable clattering peak before finally crashing alongside Rath’s warped bass in its doomed conclusion. That noisiness and overall sense of improvisation prevailed, particularly inside “Hour Before Dawn,” and the record’s general inclination toward a raw looseness ultimately became much more understandable once Gossard eventually admitted in an interview that he was “really, really, REALLY drunk” during its creation. I suppose music has taught us time and again that the most glazed states often create the most perfect storms, so if a Chevy-Chased brain is necessary for the sort of fretwork to be heard around 2:20 into “Outer Dark,” so be it.
Even as All Before Us also managed to sneak in one particularly lethal, uncharted weapon with Ed Kunakemakorn behind the mic. The man had a very particular style of eerie, wounded caterwauling that still managed to sound seductive, so the record displayed all the off-kilter drama that a dude like Andrew Eldritch delivered via Sisters of Mercy, but with a rawer, punk edge similar to Eric Cope’s magnificent Glorious Din, or perhaps shades of Mighty Sphincter. Combine that with the rest of the band’s slow-boiling gloom and you’ve got yourself 74 minutes of the sort of dense, shadowy malaise that could trigger a dense cemetery fog in the middle of the bloody Sahara. Check out “Bright White Blind”—all the players deliver, but pay particular attention to Ed’s misery around the 2:40 mark to fully grasp the extent of his suffering.
Unfortunately for The Gault, everything seemed doomed from the outset, perhaps due to lack of exposure, their flagrant genre defiling, and one hell of a flub from Flood the Earth Records that placed a distracting *pop* between every track on the first two CD runs—something that was eventually fixed by the band and Amortout Productions for the final CD pressing, and also for Ván Record’s limited 2xLP release in 2006.
Complicating awareness matters, the greater metal public was busy getting charmed by the likes of Gojira, High On Fire, Nile, Strapping Young Lad, et al. in 2005, so trying to sell a miserable record that tromped out six LONG songs (four stretching over 12 minutes) couldn’t have been easy. Unsurprisingly (and unfortunately), live shows were poorly attended, which apparently lead to internal friction and Gossard’s early exit in view of his conclusion that the band’s overall style was one that precluded touring.
Looking back over a decade later, everything just seemed out of place or born too soon. The ordinary metal fan back then wasn’t as captivated by everything “deathrock and enrobed in maximum atmosphere” as they seem to be today, so maybe Even as All Before Us would gain more traction as a 2018 release. Good luck finding it, though—a recent search via the ever crucial MetalDetektor reveals zero affordable CDs or LPs currently available. And hell, maybe that’s the way it should remain. Some work just stays in the past, whether it be by fate, indifference or band member(s) choice. One thing for sure: fans of Even as All Before Us exist, and most who are familiar with it agree that the record remains one of the more unique and notable “one-and-done” releases to come out of the Bay Area. Maybe that in and of itself is enough to warrant a chance for others to get it in their hands via a proper reissue at some point. I suppose time will tell.
Where Are They Now:
Investigations into further musical developments from Ed Kunakemakorn and Sarah Weiner following the demise of The Gault resulted in nought. At one point, Sarah was a contributor to the Bay Area’s wonderful Amber Asylum and played bass on Weakling’s lone full-length, but it appears as if she’s pretty much done with metal-adjacent music. Likewise, Ed’s name remains attached to The Gault alone, which seems…unfair, as his voice and delivery stood out enough to warrant more work. Perhaps life and time got in the way, as life and time is wont to do.
Lorraine Rath and John Gossard remain active in the Bay Area music scene and release records that honestly sound like logical fragments from The Gault. Lorraine’s Worm Ouroboros venture with Jessica Way (Barren Harvest) and Aesop Dekker (Khôrada, Extremity, Vhol) encompasses all the long, drifty, dark-weald atmosphere an isolationist could ever want, and Gossard’s Dispirit pulls Todd Meister along with Harland Burkhart and Greg Brace of Wild Hunt into a project that generates a chaotic, crushing, funereal blackness that’s gloomier than a mental institution unwittingly built on an ancient burial ground on some murky cliff’s edge. Get all that shit into your ears, if you haven’t done so already.
Where Are You Now:
Hopefully enjoying some alone time. Or at least planning to detach and isolate yourself in the very near future. Now get lost.