The brand new album from the super harsh Chicago screamo band meth. called Mother of Red Light viciously shreds with an expression of primal, deeply set chaos right from the beginning and spins wildly for its whole runtime. The album keeps you guessing, since while the band wheel out manic fury on standout tracks like “Inbred,” which has been in live sets for awhile and was released as a single off this record, they also dive here into intensely unsettling, lengthy noise passages. The elements unite with an inescapable, maniacal desperation underlying a story that the band are telling and funneling their musical meltdowns through. The story continues from previous releases — here, the “main character” eventually discovers while leading a cult (the Choir of Red Light) that the female figure who brainwashed them into the group and has in the time since been sexually involved with them is their mother.
So yeah — nothing here is really too subtle. It’s an inescapable confrontation with some of the most vicious destructive interpersonal story elements imaginable. Every ounce of anguish gets magnified to the highest possible sonic degree, allowing for close examination — and wild exhilaration.
“The tone and everything we were trying to set for the record was just to have something that overall is very dark,” frontman Seb Alvarez explains. “A lot of it — it’s all very story driven and trying to make sure that the music was matching the tone of where everything was going in the record was very important. We kind of thought about it a lot in just like a story format, having the music match the feel of the story as if it was cinematic in a way.”
Developing the “Choir of Red Light”
Alvarez developed the story that underlies the lyrics and music in part by pulling from his own life. Emotional honesty sparks the most compelling stories after all, right? Here, Alvarez and his bandmates deal with alienation from close loved ones, and more specifically, the loss of those loved ones and a previous sense of security to some domineering force.
“I’ve been a big fan of like concept albums and stuff, and I’ve always wanted to just write something cohesive front to back,” Alvarez explains. “I’ve always been kind of really obsessed with like cults and that type of nature and everything just with my upbringing and my background. I grew up in an evangelical Christian place. My dad converted to being a Christian when I was like ten, and it was just very strange going to those churches. I remember just kind of watching. It literally was one of those churches, like you go and you sit and you’re watching people get called up to the front and people start praying over them and these people start speaking in tongues and people start passing out and you’re like — what the fuck is happening. It’s super strange, and kind of just seeing his attitude and everything just kind of change, it felt super weird.”
Alvarez adds that combining that personal story with a fascination with true crime and more specifically, cults out here in the “real world” helped make the rabbit hole he fell down to craft the Choir of Red Light feel natural.
Some kind of redeeming light for those mired in this mess definitely isn’t the main attraction here — exhilaratingly blood-curdling confrontation is — but Alvarez still has some of that in mind anyway.
“It’s just one of those things where I like to leave the theory open,” Alvarez explains of his personal approach to religion. “There’s a certainty with this, but shouldn’t this be a personal, spiritual connection with oneself to make a choice about religion and everything like that?”
The Ups and (Mostly) Downs of a Cult
As for the main character of Mother of Red Light, issues remain complicated. Alvarez explains that in between the tracks “Her Womb Lays Still” and “Inbred,” there’s a “major story arc where there’s a female leader of the cult” with whom the central figure (who’s like a narrator, with the album from his perspective) starts a “very intense sexual relationship.”
“They have like two beings living inside of them basically,” Alvarez explains of the character as he reaches this point. “One of them being like god himself, and then the god taking over the perspective of the body while the human side of the character is just like watching as the god leads this cult, starts brainwashing people and is trying to dehumanize and remove feeling and emotion from people by presenting them in these scenarios that are meant to like completely numb.”
After the main character realizes the identity of the woman who brought him into the group and has been sexually involved with him, Alvarez says, “That’s kind of what starts pushing the human aspect back into control and it trying to suppress the god and get it out of him as he’s trying to fight for control of his body and do what he feels is right and destroy the cult from the inside.”
This story doesn’t exactly have a happy ending, if you hadn’t guessed as much already. “His psyche just kind of deteriorates throughout the rest of the record from that point on as it’s a battle,” Alvarez explains. “So the creative process was just matching those elements I guess and having just a lot of the dramatic noise elements — and jumping around from a lot of the ambient work that goes through a lot of the record too, because a lot of the ambient parts to me were more representative of his self-reflection on the human side. To match those, a lot of the more chaotic songs have a more violent side of the story.”
Bringing Things Together
As this story development progressed, Alvarez notes that the band never lost sought of their core musical aims. “It definitely was very important to make sure when we were doing the record that we didn’t want to exhaust people with how the track order went by having too much abrasive stuff going on and give a lull,” he notes, adding: “We just really wanted to write some abrasive music that was just kind of unsettling. I think that was the overall goal and with the actual construction and compositions — a lot of those songs are in the ninth, tenth version of that song. We had songs that we just completely scrapped or pulled a section out of, and then were like okay this can actually fit here. There was a lot of trying to make sure the song was served the way it was supposed to be. It just needed to all fit, I guess.”
The final step in this process, of course, is people actually listening to the full album, which as of this writing is set to happen this coming Friday via Prosthetic Records.
“Of course I want people to like it and everything, but I also kind of want it to just stand on its own,” Alvarez explains, sounding committed to his band’s art. “I don’t want it to be lumped in. I kind of want it to be its own release, its own thing, and for it to just leave an impression, good or bad. If someone absolutely hates it, that’s fucking awesome because it made them feel like such a negative feeling or vice versa. I don’t want it to be released, and kind of get lost.”
The album seems difficult to “lose” thanks to the inescapably powerful uniqueness. He adds from there: “If there’s success that follows after that and anything, then that’s fucking awesome. If there’s a handful of people that really like it, that’s just as fucking good to me. I just want people to like it and understand it in a way and also just have feelings towards it good or bad.”
Listen to the devastating “Child of God” — and pre-order Mother of Red Light — below via Bandcamp.