Orion Peter, vocalist in the D.C. metal troupe Ilsa, says he and his bandmates "try to keep it raw." Okay, but then why does their music sound like it's been blackened to a crisp? Check out Ilsa's expertly charred 2016 single "Cult of the Throne" and you'll hear a molten rhythm section going gooey at the center, while Peter patrols the song's scorched edges. Metal taxonomists have thrown a variety of subgenre labels in Ilsa's direction — sludge, doom, crust — but ultimately, this band sounds totally cooked.
And there'll be a lot more to bite into early next year when Relapse Records releases "Corpse Fortress," a new Ilsa album named after the local D.I.Y. punk venue where the band played some of its earliest shows. Peter says the group's punk roots helped establish its aesthetic approach — one that's less about technicality and more about feel. "I think of us as punks trying to play metal more than anything," he says. "What we're doing isn't completely pummeling. We try to give it variety."
Peter also hopes the band’s increased visibility on Relapse might help broaden the metal community’s idea of what heavy music might sound like — not to mention what the people making it might look like.
“We’re an anti-fascist band,” Peter says. “We have members that are queer, and we’re an interracial band. Sadly, even today, that’s unusual — not only in metal, but in the wider music scene. So if there’s something we can do to change that, to break that open, we want to do it.”
Show: With Tomb Mold, Taphos Nomos and Left Cross on Saturday at 8 p.m. at Atlas Brew Works, 2052 West Virginia Ave. NE. atlasbrewworks.com. $10.