Published Nov 25, 2013The Tuesday (November 26) release of The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, from Pacific Northwest collaborative trio Lumbar, will be the culmination of a long, difficult and very painful journey for band founder Aaron Edge. Best known as an original guitarist in Seattle metalcore outfit Himsa, Edge was recently diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, but when he started writing material for the Lumbar album, being released by Southern Lord Records and also featuring Mike Scheidt (YOB) and Tad Doyle (Tad), he thought he was just getting used to the cold weather again after a stint in Los Angeles.
"I was writing the album in November or December of last year and I was starting to have pain in my hands, numbness in my feet and my chest, and I thought it was just me acclimating to the cold weather in Portland because my wife and I had just moved back to the northwest," Edge tells Exclaim! "But, all of a sudden, I had tingling hands and pain and I just attributed it to being cold. I'm a cyclist and a runner so I'm outside a lot, even during the winter. So I was writing and recording these songs with pain and I thought, 'What the fuck is going on?' and finally the pain got so bad that I couldn't play music anymore."
Edge sent off seven main song riffs to Scheidt in Eugene, OR, and the Seattle-based Doyle, along with drum tracks he had cut apart from one of his previous projects, Iamthethorne (with Himsa vocalist John Pettibone), and asked if the two Pacific Northwest heavy music figureheads would be interested in taking part in the doom/sludge metal that is Lumbar. Both Doyle, who also plays with Edge in a likeminded sludgey metal band, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, and Scheidt said they were totally in, and the trio quickly scheduled a weekend recording session at Doyle's home studio to finish the record off.
"Mike called and suggested we get together one weekend at Tad's studio, go up there and record vocals and mix it there. So went up to Seattle for the weekend, Mike picked me up in Portland, which is about halfway, and we drove up together to Tad and his wife Peg's house. Then my wife came up for the second half of the weekend to hang out and it was an awesome time," explains Edge. "It was a very heavy experience though; probably the most emotional experience recording I've ever had."
The recording session took place in May, and by this time, Edge had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and was using medication to manage the pain. Despite the medical intervention, Edge is unsure if he'll ever be able to write music again. In fact, the Lumbar material, along with two other projects he wrote and recorded around the same time, could be the last music he ever plays using his hands.
"I haven't been able to strum a guitar or play drums or bass since January, so everything was sent to Mike and Tad in between and then when we finally got together my pain was controlled by medication, and has been since. I have flare-ups of pain here and there, where it's hard to get out of bed sometimes, or my hands hurt so bad that I can't even open doorknobs."
The other two projects he last recorded are Process Black, featuring Tim Singer (Deadguy, Kiss It Goodbye) on vocals, and Hand Be Damned, including a member of Boise, ID's Black Cloud. Both are similar to Lumbar, in that they explore the uncertainty of Edge's musical future through extremely heavy sounds. In the case of Lumbar, the questioning Edge does results in a very schizophrenic sounding album that Edge compares to a storm and, then, something much worse.
"I believe that there's a lot of tension in the record and, although it's really heavy and crushing, I believe it's a smooth listen. This might sound weird to people who listen to heavy music, but it sort of rolls through consistently, kind of like a storm coming in. And it leaves like a storm, on a big, thunderous hit, and resonates for a while.
"Someone just asked me what the album is like and, off the cuff, I said, 'Imagine if a sex-crazed lunatic escaped an asylum and broke into a convent at night. Imagine the moment where this guy comes through the door, locks it behind him and all of the nuns wake up.' That's what it is: it's this intense, terrible thing and you know what's going to happen, and you don't want to know, but you have to know, and you have to see it through.
"And that's the crazy tension and heaviness in my life right now. Lumbar is brutal and it leaves you with this unsettling feeling, and that's exactly what my life is right now. I have no idea what will happen from this point on and it's a tough scenario."
Lumbar will also release a compact disc and cassette version of The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, with all proceeds going towards Edge's medical expenses and treatments, following Southern Lord's vinyl and digital release on November 26.