By Nicholas Jason Lopez
On the day of a friend’s funeral, Isaac R. dreamed he covered Fleetwood Mac’s 1975 classic “Landslide” with his band, Daxma.
Whenever “Landslide” comes on, he automatically reminisces about the past. It was his mother’s favorite song. She was from Guam, a pacific United States military base. His aunt, who’d overcome heroin addiction, also sang it at her graduation ceremony.
“Much of my family have really suffered from the heroin that was being trafficked back by American soldiers through the island of Guam in the 70’s during the Vietnam war era,” Isaac said. “I guess the song had just come out. It was new, popular, not everyone had covered it already. I just kind of grew up around this song being kind of this folklore in my family.”
Thus, “Landslide” was featured as the second track on the Oakland, Calif.-based post-rock/doom metal band’s third release, ‘Ruins Upon Ruins,’ which came out on Jul. 26, 2019 via Blues Funeral Recordings.
“[I wanted something] really heavy and really doomy, like something that had kind of the weight that I associated with this song, so I came up with some riffs,” Isaac said. “We just really messed around as a group with those riffs. [It’s] much longer than the original version. It’s a cover I guess, but it really is its own thing. We just kind of wanted to [use] those words with something we felt was related to those words.”
Daxma formed in Santa Cruz, Calif. in 2014. Besides Isaac on vocals/guitar, the band’s lineup also includes Jessica T. (vocals, guitar, violin), Kelly D. (vocals, bass), Forrest H. (guitar) and Thomas I. (drums). The group boasts a variance of musical backgrounds that include the likes of black metal, psych and classical.
“We kind of had this vision of doing this ‘Sun O)))-meets-Godspeed You! Black Emperor’ thing and we would just have this wall of amps, it would be very kind of freeform-improvised, but kind of just heavy and melodic, but not very structured,” said Isaac. “It kind of became this more structured thing, so I’d say it’s just kind of blending funeral doom bands with post-rock. Mournful Congregation on the funeral doom side, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and all their associated acts on the post-rock side.”
Their name is derived from the Zoroastrian religion. It designates the ritual structure used as a site to dispose of the dead, also known as a “Tower Of Silence.” Their remains would be devoured by carrion birds atop the circular stone platforms and the bones would be scattered in the wind.
“We’ve really grown into a family together and we treat each other in our lives and our personal lives as though we were a family. That took overcoming a lot, but with family comes the ability to kind of work through things that come up and from our first days when we were just kind of jamming around together and things weren’t really solidified and our sound wasn’t really figured out yet, everything has been kind of a growth process,” said Isaac.
Isaac expressed something the band tries to actively promote is that this is a project where they have a lot of similar political beliefs to one another.
“We’re resolutely anti-capitalist, anti-fascist, anti-nationalist and our music is very attached and inspired by these ideas,” Isaac said. “Other bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor really inspire us to attach these principles to the art we’re trying to make, to kind of decipher something of a better world in a very fucked up world.”
In 2016, Daxma released their first EP, ‘The Nowhere Of Shangri-la,’ which revolved around themes of frustration, longing and utopianism.
They then put out their 2017 debut LP, ‘The Head Which Becomes The Skull,’ which was inspired by philosophical works like Hegel’s “The Phenomenology Of Spirit,” and Kierkegaard’s “Fear & Trembling.” The title comes from an essay about an angel of history looking backwards towards the past by Walter Benjamin called “On the Concept Of History,” which disputes Hegel’s idea that history is the story of progress.
The group was also recently hand-selected as part of Blues Funeral Recording’s inaugural year of its exclusive PostWax subscription series. They’re currently at work on their next full-length release they hope to put out within the next year or two, entitled ‘Unmarked Boxes,’ which Isaac called a “pretty substantial offering” approximately around the 60-minute mark.
“I know that the recording experiences for us were really, really special experiences,” said Isaac. “Those are the ones that try you the most and you work through the most and you figure out things you didn’t think you were gonna figure out, new sounds that just kind of appear and those special moments. You think of one song that’s gonna be sung by one vocalist and it ends up becoming sung by another. I think those are all some of our most special memories.”
Even with that, Isaac gets inspired by the different experiences people get from Daxma’s music and hopes for more of the same in the future.
“A lot of people hear our music and have these thoughts and ideas that I don’t even think we really considered and it’s very cool to see all the different things that people are able to take away from our sound whether it’s something more personal or more lofty in terms of thinking about the whole world,” Isaac said. “I don’t know, but it’s all valid to me. I don’t think there’s any one thing we’re trying to push on people.”