m. lamar’s ‘negro superman’ draws on sun ra and metal

February 20, 2019

How to approach what the artist-musician M. Lamar does without being overwhelmed by the sound, the ideas, the visuals, the maximalism of it all? An operatic soprano, pianist and composer, and performance artist who has spent the last decade engaging with the aesthetics of heavy metal’s ambient and doom wing, Lamar calls his creative vision “Negrogothic.”

To this heady stew, Lamar’s newest project, Lordship and Bondage: The Birth of the Negro Superman, recorded and performed with the San Francisco band The Living Earth Show, adds layers of German philosophy (Hegel and Nietzche), the Afrofuturism dimensions of Sun Ra and the sonic Black exceptionalism of Cecil Taylor. It is a song-cycle with spoken text that Lamar says, “synthesizes classical opera, Negro spiritual, Afrofuturism, and doom metal to bring to light the African American experience of enslaved and liberated consciousness.”

To that end, the lyrics of each track on Lordship and Bondage, are delivered in, by turns, operatic howls and guttural growls that are doom metal’s norm. But instead of taking their cues from some satanic ritual or comically dark event, the titles and words are pulled from quotes by Lamar’s inspirations. “The Weapons You Give Me,” for instance, is part of Sun Ra’s quote to the judge who was deciding his 1942 draft evasion case, “If you draft me into your army, your U.S. army, I will take the weapons you give me and turn them on the most senior officer of your army.” As with all this music, it is echo-laden and turbulent and heavy.

Lordship and Bondage: The Birth of the Negro Superman is available now via M. Lamar’s Bandcamp, and will be performed at The Met Cloisters in New York on Saturday, February 23rd