Dispirit and the art of total immersion.

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As a heavy metal fan, I’ve seen dozens of amazing shows.  But I can probably count on one hand the number of shows that fully immersed me, the ones that made real life and all the horrific mundanity that goes with it melt away completely, the ones that made me feel like I was alone in the universe with nothing but the band and the music.  Dispirit’s headlining set at the Starlite Lounge last Sunday night was one of them.

Bathed in fog and blood red light, the San Francisco quartet created their own chillingly eerie world on stage, inviting the audience to step through the portal with music that is by turns dense, savage, beautifully orchestrated and utterly hypnotic. While their two recordings, Rehearsal at Oboroten and 111112, do an excellent job of showcasing what Dispirit is capable of musically, they simply cannot prepare one for the utterly engrossing entity said music becomes when experienced live.  It’s the sort of thing you close your eyes, let go and give yourself to, and come out on the other side feeling physically, emotionally and spiritually exhausted.

I’m not a religious person, nor a particularly spiritual one, but the few times that I’ve felt like a part of something greater than myself on what can best be described as a spiritual level have been times such as this one, standing right in front and letting the music engulf the totality of my being.  Indeed, Dispirit’s mix of doom and black metal is incredibly appealing to me aesthetically, making me predisposed to be an easy target, but the music is so well composed and executed, possessive of both the familiar and the otherworldly, that it’s hard to imagine anyone into wildly innovative music not getting swept up in the total environment they create.

As the set wore on, I felt myself sinking deeper into the abyss of Dispirit’s music, like one of those dreams where you’re trying to wake up but feel instead like you’re falling deeper and deeper asleep.  The difference was that I didn’t want to wake up, I wanted to keep on falling, forever, into the pitch-black maw of infinity; the music a swirling mass of ethereal tendrils surrounding me, dragging me down into its lightless core.  Time ceased to exist, and I snapped back to reality only long enough to snap a few haphazard photos, knowing full well that these flawed documents couldn’t possibly do justice to what I was experiencing.

If the above sounds like hyperbole, I can only assume you’ve never experienced this kind of total immersion, either because you’ve never seen a group of musicians good enough to pull it off or because you were too self-conscious to allow it to happen; a band can only open the gates, you have to be willing to enter freely and of your own will.  Whatever the case, on Sunday night, Dispirit was that band and the gates were flung wide open.

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