Drune plays Lost Lake Lounge this Thursday, May 5.Courtesy James Isaac Cook
Denver-born doom-metal band Drune used Viking folklore on its 2019 EP, Seer. It's a swaying set of three tracks that build and recede and build again, evoking a Danish dragon boat adrift in a turbulent northern sea, about to go under. So find your sea legs before Drune pulls into port on Thursday, May 5, at Lost Lake, where the band will play in support of its new self-titled full-length.
It's a homecoming for guitarist and vocalist James Isaac Cook, who says that while writing the lyrics for Drune, which is now available to stream on all platforms, he looked to the isolation brought on by the pandemic as well as his move from Denver to Portland, Oregon.
“The first three songs are really about dealing with isolation, dealing with losing my community in a couple of ways,” he says. “Denver, and where I was working, was a big family for me, and that was just over.”
Cook adds that he and his bandmates, bassist Austin Pacharz and drummer Patrick Haga, were all well connected to Denver’s music scene, finding friendly faces whenever they walked into a venue. Only Haga remains in Denver; Pacharz now calls Indianapolis home.
Cook says he was drinking a lot at points during the pandemic as a way to cope, and that the album’s second track, “Giant’s Blood,” reworks an old Nordic story about the creation of alcohol as a metaphor for his own tribulations. (The song has become one of the band’s favorite live tracks.)
“I kind of flipped that story and made it about this big hunt for this giant,” he says. “Everyone is trying to get his blood. The journey to get to this giant will pretty much kill you. So it’s trying to reflect back on myself.”
Cook says the album’s final track, “I Watched the Woods March to War,” is based on a story from The Lord of the Rings trilogy, which he read during quarantine. The excerpt from The Two Towers concerns hobbits Merry and Pippin, who are snatched up by Ents and then witness the tree-like beings debate whether to go to war against the evil wizard Saruman. Cook says the book offers a much more complex version of the story than what is presented in the movies.
“There’s a little bit of environmental stuff there,” he says. “Again, that’s just reflecting and trying to process what was happening in the world, and processing what was happening with myself.”
Drune resides comfortably in the realm of doom metal, a subgenre of metal that utilizes droning, drop-tuned guitars and often crushingly slow tempos and lengthy song run times. (The final track on Drune clocks in at more than fifteen minutes.) The genre has stylistic origins and influence in the music of Black Sabbath, but members of Drune say they draw inspiration from all kinds of bands, including Grand Funk Railroad — not really a metal band, but fuzzy and stoner-y, for sure.
Drune's latest release has a heavier sound than Seer, and it’s more experimental and pulls in a wider variety of influences. Some of that came about, the band says, because the members had plenty of free time to experiment during the pandemic.
Pacharz says much of the album came together in isolation, noting that he hated working remotely, because band practice was always the highlight of his week. It was a moment of joy taken from him by the pandemic, but he’s still happy with the final product.
“There are a lot of pent-up, heavy feelings and other things going on in our personal lives that I think influenced the album,” he says. “The heaviness in contrast to the previous EP.”
Haga says that the band experimented with different styles and more uptempo riffs on the record, in part because it was something fun to do when whiling away the hours. In one instance, Cook sent a black-metal track — generally faster than doom metal — just for fun, and Haga put a rapid-fire blastbeat over it.
“Some of that made its way into ‘Trudge,’” he says. “Just kind of having fun with each other and with the remote thing, and trying to make that work. That shaped a lot of how the record sounds — just the distance experimenting.”
He adds that he found the process cathartic and a nice thing to work on during a time when his “brain was going insane.”
Drune is scattered to the four winds, but its members see the band continuing in one form or another. That will likely mean getting together for occasional shows, recording remotely and having different people fill in for live settings when one member isn’t around. But they see no reason to quit what they are doing, and they have at least another full-length album in the works. They had discussed the future of the band when Cook and Parcharz moved away from Denver within a couple months of one another.
“We still had a lot to say musically,” Haga says. “We still love making music together. And we still had a bunch of ideas, so we didn’t just want to close up shop just because they are moving, especially since we’d already be working remotely for quite a while before that.”
Drune plays Lost Lake Lounge, 3602 East Colfax Avenue, at 7 p.m. Thursday, May 5; tickets are $12. Drune, the album, is available at bandcamp.com.
KEEP WESTWORD FREE...
Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.