By Jena Ardell
By Brian McManus
By Chaz Kangas
By Sound of the City
By Peter Gerstenzang
By Katherine Turman
By Chris Kornelis
By Brian McManus
I'm sitting in a dark tavern, getting directions to Harry Houdini's grave. "At the entrance, you see Machpelah Cemetery. You walk in, there's a building you pass, it's on the left side. Right there, you can see Harry Houdini buried with a couple of his relatives. But that's not his real name. If you're a magician doing the incredible, why have a boring name? Erik Weisz, his name was. But Harry Houdini sounds like a magician." The guy explaining all this—the primary composer, guitarist, and vocalist for Brooklyn metal band Negative Plane—knows something about avoiding boring names. He goes by the alias Nameless Void.
The local proximity of Houdini's gravesite is of interest, but so is the illusionist's relation to H.P. Lovecraft, a writer whose palpable sense of dread Negative Plane capably invoke. Lovecraft was the ghostwriter behind Houdini's short story "Under the Pyramids"—an inspiring location for Nameless Void, it turns out. Portions of the band's upcoming new album, Stained Glass Revelations (AJNA), are intentionally inclined toward subterranean menace: The lyrics to "Lamentations and Ashes" are "directly inspired by me being in the subways of New York City and seeing the rats running around," Nameless Void explains, an experience that probably struck him harder given that he just recently moved here from Florida, where the band was originally conceived. "I don't know, palm trees—I just didn't have a lot of inspiration," is how the relocation is explained. "My original idea wasn't to do metal. I listened to metal, but didn't think I could come up with anything at that time. So I tried to do organs and bells. I ran into a brick wall with that really quick."
Instead, the trio's sound—rounded out by bassist D.G. and drummer Bestial Devotion, capably avoiding boredom themselves—evokes fundamental influences like Mercyful Fate's At the Sound of the Demon Bell ("Where it's not such a linear structure," Void explains). Moss-covered riffs are dug up, stitched, reanimated, and, for this latest release, enhanced with his aforementioned affinity for creeping organs and bells: "The bells in Lower Manhattan are the eeriest I've ever heard. I don't think people pay attention," he says. Dark strangeness reminiscent of early Italian prog/doom-metal bands Jacula and Black Hole permeates; certain chords resemble the gloomy dissonance of Bauhaus filtered up from some sort of demon well. "We take it from the black-metal viewpoint, but expand it with our own particular set of influences," Void says. "It's like putting together a song that's already written, and we're just rearranging the pieces."
Negative Plane rarely perform live. They don't do "social networking." These guys have deeper realms to visit. "Everything happens in cycles, and everything is born, gets destroyed, and so on," Void explains. "The latter part of that, I think, is more interesting to write about. The music is the priority. It goes beyond us. If the music is restricted to our personalities, then I've completely failed."