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Where would heavy music be without singular visions and the lure of the wilfully perverse? Formed in Los Angeles, California, in 2010, Ides Of Gemini have built a formidable and enigmatic reputation by stoutly refusing to conform to anyone else’s idea of what lurks in the shadows. With a sound that elegantly salutes the greats of the post-punk and proto-goth eras while simultaneously harnessing the oomph and clangour of underground metal. The ornate sparkle of something else, something irresistibly alien has long ensured that Ides Of Gemini have stood proudly alone, and yet their stately invective has clearly connected with the discerning masses.
“We get lumped in with a lot of metal bands, I guess for obvious reasons,” says guitarist and songwriter Jason Bennett. “There are some metal songs on the new album, but it’s really not a metal record. And we’re not exactly a goth band, either. So I don’t know what to call what we do. Is it heavy? Yes. Is it metal? Not exactly. I guess you could say it’s a mystery!”
Even the haziest of musical entities undergo some process of regeneration between records. Ides Of Gemini are no different, but their journey from their stunning 2012 debut, Constantinople, and its formidable follow-up Old World New Wave—both released via post-metal mavens Neurosis’ Neurot Recordings—to brand new studio album Women, the band’s first for Rise Above Records, has been a turbulent and challenging one. Original drummer Kelly Johnston-Gibson incurred a career-threatening injury while on tour in the US in 2015, causing Bennett and vocalist (and then-bassist) Sera Timms to reassess their next move. After enlisting Scott Batiste of Saviours as a stand-in drummer for a short West Coast tour, a new alliance was formed and Scott soon became a permanent member. The band then expanded to a quartet for the first time, as Sera relinquished her bass-playing duties to newcomer Adam Murray.
“Having Sera make that change ended up being the best thing we ever did,” Bennett recalls. “It’s freed her up to do so much more vocally. She was somewhat confined by also playing bass, and now she doesn’t have to do that anymore—the sky’s the limit. Scott and Adam are awesome. It’s almost a new band. I think that the new record would’ve been pretty similar if we’d stayed a three-piece, but it wouldn’t have been this good. There’s a totally different dynamic now. We’re new and improved.”
Still recognisable as the work of the band behind those early triumphs, the new Ides Of Gemini album is both a dramatic leap forward for these idiosyncratic spirit guides and their most direct and impactful collection of songs to date. From the scything, dusty grandeur of opener Mother Kiev and the propulsive riffing and steely menace of Raft Of Medusa to the ominous, doom-tinged thud of Swan Diver and Queen Of New Orleans’ grinding, hypnotic mantra, Women showcases the joyous blossoming of a rejuvenated line-up and the further refinement of this band’s unique musical world. Produced by the inimitable Sanford Parker, Women also features guest appearances from Tara Connelly of Clay Rendering (on Queen Of New Orleans) and bewitching singer-songwriter Emma Ruth Rundle (on She Has A Secret). As ever, Ides Of Gemini’s new songs uniformly fizz and crackle with a storyteller’s verve, as Sera Timms’ emotionally devastating delivery and Bennett’s scabrous riffs paint vivid images of womanhood’s multifarious routes to the gates of Hell and beyond. As a result, the new album’s title was a no-brainer.
“Why Women? The short answer is that all the songs are about women!” Bennett laughs. “The way we work is that I title all the songs and Sera writes all the lyrics, and I give her an idea of what inspired each title for me. She can either take my idea and use it or totally discard it and come up with her own concept for it. Some of these women are mythological figures, some are historical figures, some are actresses, and some are people we just made up. But every song is about a woman, so the title seemed obvious.”
Determined to make up for the time lost during recent upheavals, Ides Of Gemini hope to use Women as a springboard to re-launch their assault on the consciousness of the world’s outcasts and eccentrics. Revitalised and armed with their finest album to date, these inveterate square pegs may yet prove to be unstoppable.
“We want to tour as much as possible,” Bennett avows. “There are a lot of places we haven’t been yet and a lot of places we haven’t been to in a while. We never finished the tour when Kelly got injured, so we haven’t done a full national tour since 2013 when we went out with Ghost! And we haven’t been to Europe since 2012, so it’s been a while. We can’t wait to get started.”TOUR DATES Bandsintown