Every so often, an artist releases an album that by its simple existence changes the entire musical landscape.
The Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds,” The Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper,” The Velvet Underground and Nico eponymous debut, Miles Davis’ “Bitches Brew,” Captain Beefheart’s “Trout Mask Replica,” King Crimson’s “Lark’s Tongue in Aspic,” all phenomenal albums, have several things in common. When released, little that preceded them prepared the world for their impact. At the heart of each is the artist’s desire to rebel against the status quo to create something new. The advance of time has only enhanced their relevance.
“Incineration Ceremony,” the first true solo album by Thomas Andrew Doyle, the man behind TAD, Hog Molly and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, deserves to be mentioned with the same reverence as the aforementioned classic albums.
It’s one of the most compelling, intense, challenging and brutally beautiful collections of music released in awhile.
But what is it, exactly? It certainly has classical elements in tone poems reminiscent of Jean Sibelius, battlefield bombast of Edvard Grieg or the piano-based storytelling of Modest Mussorgsky.
Then there’s the Einsturzende Neubauten-like predilections for found sound; or Keith Jarrett’s demanding, staccato piano hammering; and don’t forget the dark-ambient passages.
And that doesn’t even begin to describe the vocals. They could easily fit into any doom-associated metal genre — black doom, drone metal, sludge metal or even funeral doom.
Sub Pop somehow needed to classify “Incineration Ceremony” for the limited edition release for Record Store Day 2018 in brilliant splatter black, gray and white vinyl. The attached sticker identifies it as the “new symphonic release by Thomas Andrew Doyle.” That truly only begins to scratch the surface of its totality.
When Dolye has ample time, he enjoys woodshedding — making and playing music simply for himself. A few years ago, woodshedding directed him to his long-forgotten collection of analog synthesizers. Everything became keyboard-based.
Particularly pleased with a keyboard instrumental, he sent a copy to Peter Scartabello, an independent film composer and owner of Yuggoth Records. Mr. Scartabello deserves a level of credit. Upon hearing the track, he requested an entire album of the same. Doyle responded, and “Incineration Ceremony” is the result.
First off, Doyle performed everything, with the exception of additional percussion on two tracks by Scartabello. Quite impressive, because to properly produce this music, it takes an orchestra. If he didn’t physically play the actual instrument, he produced it using those wonderful analog keyboards.
Then there’s the message behind the work.
At its core, it deals with mankind in 2018 — people spending so much time, money and their spirits on things that ultimately don’t last and surely don’t matter; that especially in the United States the status quo is being spiritually asleep. It’s time to wake up and let go of things that don’t matter. Let the baggage of the past remain there. And most importantly, move on.
The second track, “Bio-illogical Functions,” emotes Doyle’s anger via the piano viscerally. It literally grabs your spleen demanding attention.
The only song with lyrics, “Prognati Ignis Ignis,” provides the insight. “Let it go, let it burn, dissipate, forgive, grow beyond this earth ….”
As Doyle affirms, the message is “let go of perceptions and never be a victim.” He further details that at its core the message is “as much for me as it is for anyone. I’m human.”
Individually, the songs stand well as singular tracks, but like a seven-course meal, it’s best experienced as a whole. Its true majesty and elegance unfolds from the sum of its parts.
How did he go from TAD, Hog Molly and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth to releasing classical pieces? In the ’80s, Thomas Andrew Doyle was studying classical and jazz at Boise State University.
“I didn’t want to learn what they were teaching. The music I wanted to make couldn’t be taught yet,” he said. “I’m never satisfied and like to be challenged.”
TAD wanted to rock! He challenged himself into making some of the Pacific Northwest’s most seminal music, from not one but several revered bands.
When asked if “Incineration Ceremony” will ever be performed live, Doyle paused reflectively and then stated, “I would love to, but it would have to be done the right way. And to do that would take a lot of people ... to have someone like the Seattle Symphony perform it would be the pinnacle of my bucket list.”
But for now, he’s moving on. Two full-length releases similar to “Incineration Ceremony” are awaiting final touches. Recent activity has kept him away from guitar playing, so he’ll soon be plugging into tube amps.
The challenges continue ...
A retired educator, Johnny Vinyl spends his days with Lucifer, an 8-year-old German shepherd, reading and riding the vibe. His column, Ride the vibe, focuses on entertainment. Contact him via firstname.lastname@example.org