‘I’m a cute girl who makes scary music!’ the tweet pinned to the Twitter page of Montreal based musician and game developer Rook informs us. We call this truth in advertising.
Shed Blood is one of those rare gems that makes sifting through sites like Bandcamp so rewarding. Apply the right filters (All electronic/best-selling/digital in this case) and treasures reveal themselves. And Shed Blood is a treasure which – much like Spielberg’s Ark of the Covenant – is beautiful, awe-inspiring but also terrifying and liable to melt your flesh.
Laboured analogies aside; what quickly becomes apparent is that Rook is leading us down a savage path. Artist Sloane Leoung’s cover art provides an ominous warning sign – contrasting pretty pastel colours with the sight of a rat falling towards ravenous wolves. On opening track “Faraway” Rook blatantly expands on what we can expect. Over a skittering electro-industrial beat, she softly recites an unsettling manifesto, including the lines ‘I have no sympathy/I have no admiration, respect/for my own dead stories/but they have to leave my body somehow.’
Trauma and catharsis are key components of Shed Blood. “Sardonica” takes the baton from “Faraway” with a guttural howl. It speaks of cannibalism, suicide and states of living death; all under the shadow of stabbing keys. While listening to it images from some twisted, digital Grand Guignol production erupt like spores in my mind; and “Sardonica” also establishes another defining quality of the album – the scares that Rook promised us are very real.
Shed Blood is one of the most earnest, provocative, and powerfully emotive albums I’ve ever heard. Despite having listened to it many, many times now; chills still run down my spine when I hear Rook’s soft, breathy vocals flow across the glitching, cut-up canvas of “abyss5519794.” “Moth” – the spine of which is a simple beat and acoustic guitar – is almost unbearably intimate. With a lot of the production stripped back, there’s little distance between the listener and the abusive figure that Rook is addressing.
However it’s important to note that Shed Blood isn’t some mawkish slog through pain and misery. Yes it’s raw, at times it’s downright disturbing; but Rook’s confident and inventive production makes every track a unique and engaging experience. And she’s not shy about cutting loose, as the shredding guitar licks on “Broken Grace” prove.
This is also true of what’s arguably my favourite part of the album – “Decayer.” It has a sinister, death-march quality reminiscent of Android Lust’s “Follow”, but with a harder industrial edge. Again, spine-chilling; but also a stunning exercise in contrasts. The verses are almost dreamy, with Rook finding some small respite in disconnection (‘I feel misconstructed today/I feel nothing and it’s beautiful’). But the trauma, the fear, the rage is always there, and with the chorus Rook explodes with righteous fury.
There is so much I could say about this album. So many insights and so much speculation and praise I could roll out. There’s so much to chew on because of how empathetic, fearless, heartbreaking, exciting and visceral it is. Shed Blood is the kind of album that makes me glad that albums exist. It is an astonishing experience which you should not deny yourself.
You can find Rook in these places:
Gaming site: rooksfeather.itch.io
YouTube: Rook & Nomie