THERE ARE a dozen different directions metal artists can go when taking a break from their regular bands. For doom projects, though, the prevailing tendency is to travel down one of two roads: the intense but restrained acoustic path (see: Mike Scheidt of YOB or Scott Kelly of Neurosis), or a route that leads to even murkier climes by way of dark ambient and drone—like Portlander Todd Janeczek's work as Withering of Light.
The former New Englander is best known for holding down the low end as bassist for the dirge-y band Aldebaran and as guitarist for the slightly groovier Shrine of the Serpent. But Janeczek has quickly earned the respect of the experimental and noise communities, thanks to the expansive sound of releases like Withering of Light's Within the Rays of the Black Sun, a three-song collection of chilling synth washes and what sound like field recordings of moaning apparitions in their native environments.
Janeczek's kept one ear pointed to the world of metal and the other toward the equally heavy land of noise and industrial since growing up in Connecticut and hearing the uncompromising harshness of acts like Lustmord.
"My interest in music like this went hand in hand with my interest with alchemy, this practice of science cloaked in metaphors and trying to listen to the spirit," he says. "Growing up in New England, too, you'd hear all these tales of witchcraft and the occult. My fascination with that tied in so well with the ritualistic aspects of dark ambient performances."
Withering of Light's live sets don't get as ceremonial as other dark ambient groups. The most stage dressing you'll see is a small black banner that hangs from the synth stand, with the name of the project and a beautiful, cryptic rune printed on it. Otherwise, Janeczek seems to prefer to stay out of the way of the music.
"Other artists like to use visuals and video projections," he says, "but I prefer to work in the dark. I want people to take their own journey and let the music represent to them whatever kind of trip they want to take instead of mine."