Annihilus is the solo project of Chicago-based musician Luca Cimarusti that explores the exciting intersection between black metal, punk, noise, drone and more. Cimarusti's adventurous spirit, heard on his 2020 debut LP Ghanima, caught the attention of a pair of like-minded boundary-smashing creators … and backers: Greg Puciato and Jesse Draxler.
Puciato and Draxler signed Annihilus to their Federal Prisoner label and will be releasing their sophomore album, Follow a Song From the Sky, on August 13th. (Pre-orders for two vinyl variants — on "orange crush" and "black smoke" wax — are available now.)
Follow a Song From the Sky was completed during last year's stay-at-home orders. And while Cimarusti reveled in artistic isolation to make Ghanima, creating Follow a Song From the Sky was a different experience altogether. The isolation he felt as a result of his city's coronavirus restrictions hit Cimarusti hard.
"My life was full of so much worry and fear and uncertainty," Cimarusti says. "Isolation was hard. Losing so much music was hard."
So he began reaching out to fellow Windy City musicians to bring Follow a Song From the Sky to life — a process that also helped ease the stress of Cimarusti's own isolation. He tapped Matty Russell at Altered States in Chicago to help engineer and mix the record and recruited a few key guest collaborators, including Racetraitor's Dan Binaei, Pelican's Trevor de Brauw, electronic composer Brett Naucke, Sick/Tired's Ryan Wichmann and FACS' Brian Case.
Follow a Song From the Sky's collabs aside, Cimarusti has serious love and respect for his city and its rich musical history.
"Chicago's just a real and raw town, and I think that shows in the music that comes out of here," he says. "I think the 'Chicago sound' works its way into Annihilus — it's dark, it's mean, it's not pretending to be anything it's not. It can be pretty, but there's an ugly side too."
We recently caught up with the multi-instrumentalist to get his picks of the five records that came out of Chicago that directly influenced Annihilus' sound and vision.
Slint - Spiderland (Touch and Go Records, 1991)
I realize how controversial it is to kick off a list of Chicago records with a band that technically isn't from Chicago, but I've always considered Spiderland an honorary Chicago record: half of Slint's members were living in Chicago while it was written, it was recorded in Chicago, and I can't imagine a record better capturing the energy of a dreary Chicago night quite like this one. Spiderland's influence touches pretty much everything I do musically, and I try to channel a lot of it with Annihilus: big, weird beats; "Is the record broken?" levels of repetition; whisper-to-atom-bomb dynamics; and the bleakest feelings ever put to tape.
Pelican - Australasia (Hydra Head Records, 2003)
This record came out during the winter of my freshman year of college, and I can't even begin to count the hours I spent with it in my Discman headphones while on late-night Red Line rides and snowy walks all over the city. I also can't count the number of times I saw this band live during that year. They were the last band I saw at the Fireside Bowl before they stopped doing shows and the first band I ever saw at The Empty Bottle — I had a fake ID. An absolute monument in subtle evolution, hypnotic repetition, building tension and crushing heaviness.
Big Black - Songs About Fucking (Touch and Go Records, 1987)
Easily one of the harshest sounding records ever. Oppressive rhythms and shrill, scrap-metal guitars make it sound like cracked cement and pure static are coming out of your speakers, all topped off with some of the grossest and most bad-vibes lyrics and vocal approach you'll ever hear. I always feel like I need a shower after I listen to this one. I'd love to get that reaction out of a listener.
Disappears - Era (Kranky, 2013)
Disappears has an untouchable catalog, and I think this is its highlight. Ultra-minimal, incredibly rhythmic, beyond dark, freezing cold, anti-rock art-noise. These songs are simultaneously maximalist and barely there, oozing back and forth between eerie, whooshing soundscapes and dimed-amp post-punk frenzy. I love the bleak moods Brian Case is able to conjure with his croaky spoken word, and anyone who sees Noah Leger play drums can tell you without hesitation that he's one of the world's best.
Ledge - Cold Hard Concrete (Translation Loss Records, 2017)
When it comes to one-man metal, it doesn't get much better — or much heavier — than Ledge, the doom project of former Weekend Nachos singer John Hoffman. Cold Hard Concrete is a massive, sludgy masterpiece, and when I started putting together the pieces of making solo metal recordings, hearing what Hoffman was able to do with this project was a huge inspiration to me.