Heavy metal, for all its iconoclastic passion and vigor, has lately become a music that arranges itself into boxes for your listening pleasure. Thrash metal, death metal, black metal, grindcore, doom and the new wave of British heavy metal: everything works a particular way. Everything goes according to plan. So what do you do when your metal doesn’t fit in any of those musical boxes? On the eve of its first European tour, Ides of Gemini — Sera Timms on bass and vocals, Kelly Johnston on drums and music journalist J. Bennett on guitar and extra vocals — will play a warm-up date at Bombay Bar and Grill, bringing its brand of silvery, wind-tunnel metal power that may, at the proper volume, banish this miserable summer. It’s the kind of metal that shines as a lonely beacon on a nowhere night — Timms’ imperious voice bordering on stark and desolate territory as it elevates the forlorn and enervates the boring. The full-length album Constantinople,was released on Neurot Recordings in May. J. Bennett speaks about meaning, mystery and the Ides about which we should all be aware.
Is there a current that runs from the popular concept of metal to Ides of Gemini?
J. Bennett: I don’t think so. I love metal, and a lot of metal tends to be genre music. It’s very specific, like “this is doom metal, this is black metal,” and a lot of bands are very proud to fly all those flags, but we don’t play genre music. I don’t really have any interest in being a part of that. I think we certainly have elements of metal and various subgenres, but I don’t think we do exclusively that.
If you could sum up in just one word what you’re all about, what would it be?
Atmosphere. We’re trying to create an atmosphere. Whatever kind of emotional or intellectual response that someone has within the framework of the atmosphere that we provide is their own thing. We certainly don’t want to dictate to anybody what they should get out of it, or anything like that. A lot of bands are really into saying, “Well, this song is about this, and this song is about that, and we’re all about this.” To me, we’re not interested in demystifying the process.
So is a sense of mystery important in what you do? Is it important in metal?
What I want as a listener of metal might vary wildly on a daily basis. But with Ides of Gemini, I have to live with it every day. I have to always be in the mood! Mystery is important to us. Today, so many bands tend to put so much information out there on the Internet, that doesn’t leave a lot to the imagination. We’d like to leave as much as possible to the imagination.
With Sera’s other bands — Black Math Horseman and Black Mare — there’s not much clarity to the vocals. Is that something that you’re continuing to do with Ides of Gemini to feed into that need for mystery?
We made a conscious effort to make the vocals more distinct. Not so much our first EP — we recorded that all ourselves — everything just blends together; there’s not one thing that really stands out in the mix. But on Constantinople, we did want to put Sera up front, which is why it sounds like that. She’s the star of the show. What we do musically is a foundation for her.
After 16 years of writing about the topic, what are some of the things you like about metal?
My favorite part in black metal, apart from all the screaming and the blast beats, is the guitar. I want to take that guitar element, lose the blast beats, lose the screaming and not have the whole song be this tremolo-picked, blazing 1,000-mile-per-hour thing. To have slower parts, and to have parts that are distinctly not metal. To create something different, with the end result being an atmosphere rather than a genre.
Ides of Gemini will play a free show at Bombay Bar and Grill on Thursday, Aug. 30, with Crimson Scarlet and Sutratma.