THIEF has unveiled a deadly video for the track ‘Apple Eaters’ as the first single taken from their forthcoming album “The 16 Deaths of My Master”, which is slated for release on August 27, 2021. The Californian experimental electronic project of multi-instrumentalist Dylan Neal is also revealing cover art, tracklist, and further details of the new full-length.
The title ‘Apple Eaters’ is taken from a line in J.D. Salinger’s short story ‘Teddy’ and the song is a vision of the world through the extreme lens of a lonely spiritual misanthrope in a deceptively shifting time signature.
Directed by Sean Sweetman & Dylan Neal
Shot and edited by Sean Sweetman
Sniper actress: Virginia Rand
The hitwoman in the video is searching for someone or something, but her view of the world is colored by the lens that she is using. The strange horrors that she encounters end up being too much for her to bear. Why did she see those things? What did they mean to her? What does she use to clean her gun?
THIEF has already gained cult status among the initiated, which might be taken quite literally considering that the backbone of their sound has been formed by manipulated sacred chant and choral samples. Although the project of American multi-instrumentalist Dylan Neal from Los Angeles, California continues along this path, his third album “The 16 Deaths of My Master” surprises with much heavier use of original instrumentation such as strings, organs, harpsichord, bass, guitar, and other hardware synths.
The reason for this twist in dynamics, which makes “The 16 Deaths of My Master” more accessible, aggressive, and straightforward in comparison to its two predecessors is to some extent influenced by THIEF‘s experience performing their first two albums live and looking to re-create the intensity experienced on stage that their shows have become known for.
Lyrically, “The 16 Deaths of My Master” is heavily drawing from dreams and a generally more personal approach including topics such as rebellion, grief, addiction, mysticism, and spiritual horror. “Relating to the album title, ‘The 16 Deaths of My Master’, each track may be considered to be a ‘master’ that upon its death either set free the servant or the student then becomes the teacher”, explains Dylan by offering a riddle: “Or maybe they just become lost, because they have both relied on something other than themselves for too long.”
Such illuminating thoughts are probably less surprising when considering that Dylan lives at a Zen Buddhist temple along with THIEF live bassist Chris Hackman, where both participate in residential training. The mastermind recorded and mixed most of the album in his apartment. The other 10% were conceived in a cabin in the woods to which Dylan had hauled all of his gear into. Of the originally 24 tracks that were written between 2018 and 2020, he decided to use only 16 on “The 16 Deaths of My Master”. The sparkling, crisp sound of the album might contradict its “home recording” history, but Dylan recruited literally a master of his trade for the mastering process in the person of John Greenham at Clearlight Mastering, Los Angeles, CA. John has collaborated with artists ranging from THE LOCUSTS via KATY PERRY and MARY J BLIGE to receiving three Grammy Awards in 2019 honoring his contributions for BILLIE EILISH.
Dylan Neal first made himself a name as a musician by playing the hammered dulcimer in San Francisco-based experimental black metal outfit BOTANIST from whom he recruited THIEF live-drummer Robert Chiang. Although Dylan officially parted ways amicably from his former bandmates, he still contributed from the background as a “silent” member – for example by writing the dulcimer and bass parts for the BOTANIST album “The Shape of He to Come”. This continued relationship is also beautifully demonstrated by the BOTANIST & THIEF split-album “Cicatrix/Diamond Brush”, which will be released in parallel and as a companion to “The 16 Deaths of My Master”.
Eager to explore his own way, Dylan released “Thieves Hymn in D Minor” (2016) and “Map of Lost Keys” (2019) under the banner of THIEF. Although his electronic music is inspired in his own words by such ground-breaking acts as PORTISHEAD and ULVER, while critics also found traces of TOOL, NINE INCH NAILS, and TEARS FOR FEARS, THIEF accomplished the rare feat to gain recognition and leave an impact in the metal world by scoring features in leading US print magazine Decibel among others.
With “The 16 Deaths of My Master”, THIEF return in an even heavier incarnation than ever. Pre-sale link.
Photos: (c) Milana Burdette