Ragana is a duo whose members alternate duties on drums, guitar, and vocals to produce some of the most unique and affecting dark music in metal today. The two-piece came together in 2011 in the DIY punk scene of Olympia, WA and are now based in Olympia and Oakland, CA. In their time together so far, Ragana have self-released 5 albums and teamed up with genre-favourite Thou for a split release in 2018. The following year, Ragana released their heralded We Know That the Heavens Are Empty EP and have quietly been working on new music ever since. The band signed with The Flenser in late 2022 and now announce their forthcoming debut LP for the label, Desolation’s Flower.
On Desolation’s Flower, Ragana draws upon a number of influences from the flora and fauna of their Pacific Northwest origins to the darkly nostalgic folk of Mt. Eerie and, yes, their Olympian forebears Wolves In The Throne Room, synthesising them into an experimental, highly idiosyncratic take on black metal. Held together by an intense focus on raw emotion and haunting atmospherics, Ragana shifts seamlessly from tender, mesmerising vocal harmonies to piercing, heart-ripping screams and back again, yielding music that is heavy, beautiful and punishing all at once.
Written over the past few tumultuous years, Desolation’s Flower is the band’s most devastating effort to date, containing seven incantations of loss, rage, pain and hope. Expertly engineered by the masterful Nicholas Wilbur at the Unknown Studio in Anacortes, Washington (Planning For Burial, drowse, Divide and Dissolve, Have a Nice Life), the album serves as the culmination of the past decade+ of the band's ethos and execution.
The album’s eponymous album opener sets the theme for the record and embodies the spirit of Ragana: “a hymn of gratitude for queer and trans ancestors, known or unknown, by blood or affinity, whose joy and survival make our lives possible, and whose memory inspires and helps us resist the tide of increasingly visible hatred and oppression,” the band explains. Pain mourns and celebrates a childhood best friend lost to an overdose, excavating beneath shame and sadness, to stand in the pain and the joy together. Side B opener “DTA,” an acronym for “Death To America,” starts as a questioning whisper and ends in a crying scream. The song fuses together the sounds of a riot unfolding in the streets of Oakland, emphasizing the message that this song is a zeitgeist of the times. Death is an inspiration for the album from start to finish and the Desolation’s Flower examines all facets of it; “Death is a new beginning, just a word to inspire a different vision of a future,” Ragana comments. Album closer “In the Light of the Burning World” brings Desolation’s Flower all together: the final lyric laments “We live in the light of the burning world,” cascading from rage and survival into catharsis and compassion.
All seven tracks throughout Desolation’s Flower are crushing and contemplative and result in one of 2023’s most powerful albums. Look for the record to be available on physical and digital formats October 27th from The Flenser.