Threshing Spirit is the one-man black metal project of Chicago multi-instrumentalist Jordan Reyes, who also runs two noteworthy labels — the experimental-focused American Dreams Records and the metal imprint American Decline Records, who you may know for releasing Annihilus' excellent 2020 debut, Ghanima.
Last year, Reyes earned acclaim for the stoic experimental folk record he released under his own name, and the year before that, Revolver premiered a dark ambient song of his that provided a stark change of pace from the vocal-centric industrial he was making for years prior as Reverent.
Lately, though, Reyes has been cranking out black metal projects under the Threshing Spirit moniker (he's released upwards of six within the last year), and in late October he'll release a full-length titled The Crucible that we can confirm rips extremely hard.
Today, we're stoked to be premiering the album's second single, "In Silent Judgment," which sounds like if analog synth wizard Oneohtrix Point Never made an atmospheric black-metal song. The track begins with sheets of static-y guitars that wrap around Reyes' distorted shrieks over a simple drum beat, locking into a simple yet transfixing groove.
Eventually, though, a bright, angelic melody that sounds like a synth but isn't — Reyes tells us it's just reversed guitar feedback that's sculpted in a synth-like manner — enters the mix and yields this gorgeous contrast between the chasms of dark guitars and the blinking luminescence. It's wild stuff.
Listen above via YouTube, and read our conversation with Reyes below about using black metal for Zen meditation, his prolific output and writing a record about surviving extreme physical circumstances.
The Crucible is due out October 28th via American Decline Records and is currently available for pre-order.
REVOLVER: YOU'VE HAD A LOT OF MUSICAL PROJECTS OVER THE YEARS, BUT WHAT DO YOU GET FROM THRESHING SPIRIT THAT YOU DON'T FROM YOUR OTHER CREATIVE VENTURES?
REYES I began the project after going through the worst depressive episode of my life in Fall 2020. On top of that, I was having difficulty making music that I felt I could release under my own name, which probably crossed over into depleting my sense of self-worth. For some reason, though, the idea of making black metal appealed to me. Honing a sound and aesthetic, learning to record in that style was thrilling. I'm the kind of person who needs to be trying something novel — whether it's through a new instrument, interface, or genre — in order to be creative. I work in concepts for everything, beginning with an idea or feeling, and then trying to fulfill it sonically. Threshing Spirit began as functional music — a vehicle to get me out of this horrid, stagnant place — and it worked.
BLACK METAL IS A GENRE WITH A LOT OF COMPLICATED HISTORY. ARE YOU COMING FROM A PLACE OF DEEP RESPECT AND DENSE KNOWLEDGE OF ALL THINGS BLACK METAL, OR ARE YOU MORE INTERESTED IN MAKING WHAT YOU MAKE WHETHER OR NOT IT CONVERSES WITH THE GENRE'S MANY PREVIOUS ITERATIONS?
Before I loved black metal, I loved horror movies and monsters — being made to feel afraid. In a lot of ways, black metal is an extension of that to me, finding worth and allure in the abject, the speculative, and the uncanny. A lot of black metal musicians perform a character, which is a lot of the fun and appeal — the world-building. It's a way out of reality.
There has always been an element of inducing fear in black metal, but those elements are often difficult to discern. Is Satan real? Is their influence felt in the violence and pain of day to day life? It's hard to say, but it's not hard to say that extreme environmental conditions, survival, and considering the scale of outer space can be frightening. The terror I invoke is that of existing at the whim of the universe — the unknowability of the cosmological or the divine. So there is a communion with the lineage of black metal in that there is a dialog on the subject of fear in addition to blast beats, shrieks, and overdriven guitars, but I'm trying to do so in a way that feels truthful to me.
IT LOOKS LIKE YOU'VE ALREADY DROPPED SIX OTHER THRESHING SPIRIT RELEASES WITHIN THE LAST YEAR. WHAT ABOUT THIS PROJECT IS SO INSPIRING THAT YOU'VE AMASSED SUCH A PROLIFIC OUTPUT?
Frankly, Threshing Spirit was the only kind of music I felt that I could write for many, many months, and it came so easily, especially once I locked into how to make this kind of music, and loving the sound. I haven't made any new recordings since May 2021, and began the project in December 2020, but within those six months, there's enough to last me through 2022, I believe. In total, I think it will be seven or eight releases, at least a few hours of music.
WHO DO YOU CONSIDER YOUR INFLUENCES TO BE FOR THRESHING SPIRIT?
Paysage D'Hiver is my favorite black metal artist these days. Wintherr is so fucking good at creating his world, and evoking snow and ice with synthesizers, field recordings, and obviously his overdriven, super reverbed guitar. Paysage D'Hiver straight up made me think I could make black metal, too, and furthermore had something to contribute to the lineage. He is also very good at making compositions with relatively few elements interesting, even if they last for a long time, which was revelatory to me.
Other than that, I'm inspired by Ennio Morricone's Spaghetti Western soundtracks as well as Alejandro Jodorowsky's music for El Topo. The signifiers they use to evoke the desert and the tradition of cowboys is a constant in my work, but I thought it applied nicely to black metal as well, and furthermore considered them signposts of my specific vision.
WHAT WAS YOUR GOAL OR VISION GOING INTO THE CRUCIBLE?
The Crucible is lyrically and emotionally about survival in extreme circumstances. One of my last tours pre-COVID was through the American Southwest, and it's a bit of an ode to that. I've always loved the desert, but becoming a bit more acquainted with it was incredible. The way that animals can continue to persevere in such harsh conditions is legitimately insane. Like, just think about how lizards and snakes are cold blooded and the kind of mechanisms they have to survive is mind-blowing. Taking in heat during the day through the sun and hiding at night, but using that heat. Or the ways that cacti retain water for months.
It imbues me with such awe that anything can evolve to those points. So The Crucible is about the fortitude of surviving in those environments, but also is about how ill-prepared human beings are in the face of them, how, despite all technological and intellectual advancements, if you dropped someone in the middle of the desert with nothing, it would be an exercise in punishment trying to either make their way out or continue to live.
YOU MENTIONED TO ME THAT YOU SEE BLACK METAL — ITS VOLUME, INTENSITY, ALMOST HYPNOTIC FLOW TO SOME OF THE MORE ATMOSPHERIC STUFF — AS A PARALLEL TO MEDITATIVE PRACTICE AND OTHER FORMS OF REACHING EGO DEATH. TELL ME ABOUT THAT.
Nothing from the last couple years has been more helpful to my mental health than my Zen practice. I use two forms, one being Shikantaza Zazen from the Soto school, which can also be defined as "just sitting" and I also sometimes practice mindfulness meditation. Shikantaza is a nice way to meditate without putting pressure on yourself, and is illuminated through the writings of OG Buddha Ancestor Eihei Dōgen. I don't necessarily ever reach the point of complete serenity or stillness, even in the deepest meditation, but it does bring me closer than day to day life.
Live music in general can get me to a similar place, especially when it's loud . My thinking mind kind of recedes into the background, allowing my experiential mind to take center stage. It's kind of like throttling your restless mind — what in Zen is often called "Monkey Mind" — into submission as opposed to letting it drift off through meditation. When I mentioned Paysage D'Hiver as being the most influential black metal to my project, it's also the one that allows me to go the deepest in trance or erasure of the Monkey Mind. Others like Black Cilice or Koldovstvo — who released maybe my favorite record so far in 2021 — can do similar things. As I advance the Threshing Spirit project, I want there to be this functional aspect for other people, too. Pummeling the Monkey Mind out.
I know that there are other ways to get to that place, where you are either perfectly still or touching infinity. I am definitely a seeker and voyager, but I don't take drugs or drink alcohol, which I understand can be used to approach or reach ego death. That's not a dig on anyone who imbibes, it's just not an option for me. I do love sensory deprivation tanks, though — the more they resemble a coffin, the better! That's pretty black metal, I think.