In an era when bands’ reputations are determined by their participation in social media, I still get giddy when I’m forced to dig for information. Kofuku, the debut from psychedelic doom/sludge outfit Low Flying Hawks, is still an enigma to me after a dozen listens. I know little about the band other than what I’ve read from one interview; aside from the two main members, Eddie and Alex, Dale Crover (Melvins) and Trevor Dunn (also Melvins, Fantomas, Mr. Bungle) were involved in this album as well as producer Toshi Kosai. If that’s not enough to entice you, the music within is lava-thick doom with a dreamy haze that is just as somber as it is trippy.
It’s hard to nail down Kofuku even under the doom/sludge umbrella: There are elements of psychedelic/stoner rock, post-rock, and shoegaze that give the album an introspective, distant feeling even amidst Dale Crover’s destructive, hard-hitting drums and Dunn’s massive bass tone. “Now, Apocalypse” has a moaning, weeping guitar line that screams over top of the throbbing waves of distortion, and Eddie’s vocals switch between a deceptively calm singing voice and deathly whispers. The following cut, “Seafloor Fathoms” nearly steps into funeral doom territory in terms of pure sadness, were it not for the druggy haze created by the vocals and layered guitar drones in the background. There’s a certain emotional nostalgia to the whole album, and the gorgeous post-rock tendencies on “Wolves Within Wolves” plumb the emotional depths the album offers.
There are some occasional detours into weird territory — why wouldn’t you expect that with any project the members of Melvins are involved in? — such as the upright double bass used on interlude “Kokkai” that leads into the monstrous stoner-esque groove of “Ruins.” Elsewhere, echoing bass plucks on “Til the Night Meets the Light” segue into long-playing closer “Destruction Complete,” which has one of the album’s heaviest sludge/stoner riffs, lying prostrate at the altar of Electric Wizard before dialing down into bluesy post-metal territory for the song’s remainder. Interestingly, “Fading Sun” is the least “metal” track here; consequently, it’s a standout track, since the reverb-drowned vocals are a driving force, bringing feelings of half-remembered tragedies to the forefront. It calls to mind Jesu’s first album for me — positively crushing both aurally and emotionally but built upon motes of light, however faint or infrequent they may be.
Low Flying Hawks, over the course of Kofuku, move through every shade of light and dark imaginable. The aforementioned “Fading Sun” is followed up with the ugly, discordant “White Temple,” which sounds like Eyehategod discovered a short-circuiting delay pedal and cranked it as far as it could go, while “Ruins” veers into stoner territory but with barely-there shoegazing vocals on top. The combination of all these aspects makes for a vortex of introspective, trippy, but ultimately off-the-wall heaviness that is as grimy as it is cathartic.
According to previous interviews, Kofuku is loosely based on the concept of surrender — surrender to whatever life may bring and, regardless of the pain, finding some kind of positivity and meaning. It’s revealed beautifully through the songs here, and on a purely emotional level, it’s hard to not be moved by the power of Kofuku.