“As an artist in this time of significant upheaval, society seemingly having reached the end of its current iteration, it’s of critical importance to absorb and interpret this process of dissolution - and of the transformation that hopefully follows it” says Aaron Turner, guitarist and vocalist for the expressionistic metal ensemble SUMAC. “While I don’t believe we’re on the brink of collective destruction precisely now, this is clearly a pivotal stage in the story of humankind - and there is something that feels right about this music at this exact and very uncertain moment.” In this case, the music in discussion is May You Be Held, the latest album for the American-Canadian trio. Picking up where the band left off with 2018’s Love in Shadow, SUMAC push further into the extreme polarity of their sound with their latest collection of long-form composition and free-form exploration. Meticulously detailed and complex one moment, rudimentary and repetitive the next, and completely untethered and unscripted at seemingly random intervals—it’s an album that fluctuates between extreme discipline and control on one end and an almost feral energy on the other.
SUMAC’s work has always been about transition between different states of being. Our sense of normal, and indeed our sense of life, is now being shaken. We don’t know what is coming next. We are looking for pointers towards the future, as well as things to hold onto in the moment. This is a fundamental aspect of May You Be Held’s larger theme. Musically, it’s about continual unification and divergence—and is imbued with the uncertainty inherent in that cycle. In that uncertainty there is also hope, frustration, madness, and a desire for connection. All this too is part of this moment in our history—everything happening at once, the simultaneous emergence of humanity's best and worst characteristics. Lyrically, May You Be Held follows the humanistic themes explored on Love in Shadow, partially informed by Turner’s navigation of fatherhood and family life. “It’s clear humans have figured out many ways over the centuries to acclimate to adverse circumstances, and even to thrive in them,” Turner says. “My hope for our family, humanity and future generations, is that we find our way by doing what we have always done—invent, adapt, band together, and ideally, hold each other up through love and kindness.”