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Standout Track: ”Sand to Dust,” the first single from D.C. extreme metal trio Sickdeer’s new EP The Wretched of the Earth, provides immediate evidence that the band has evolved since their first self-titled EP. While the band is still very much working within the black metal tradition, gone is the raw, stripped-down approach that characterized its first efforts. In its place is a more well-produced and fuller sound. This is perhaps most noticeable in guitarist Garo’s switch to a seven-string guitar––because the band doesn’t have a bass player, this change provides a very much needed and greatly appreciated low-end to the mix.

Musical Motivation: This song is a reminder of the finiteness of existence. “No matter what it is in life that you’re going through,” says vocalist and percussionist Andre, “no matter what that thing is, maybe a passion that you might have for something, just realizing that eventually everything will come to an end.” However, he doesn’t seem to think that this is a particularly bad thing. “Once you accept that,” he says, “I feel like it’s easier to go through.”

Not Your Father’s Black Metal: In addition to some changes in equipment, Sickdeer has implemented a new, more patient and targeted writing approach. “The first EP was just a bunch of songs that were written really quickly,” says drummer Shawnt. “I think we’re trying to introduce more of a dynamic. We’re not trying to be as monotone or predictable.” The track definitely reflects this new philosophy and is pretty far from the clichéd black metal two-chord progression. “Don’t get us wrong, we love that shit,” says guitarist Garo. “We love it, but that’s just not us.”