The one-woman project’s new album, “Corpseflower,” was released in April.
Cameron Davis describes the opening song on her latest album as an internalized mass. “The Fever Room” is a progressive, jazz-laced metal dirge in which Davis brings herself to the altar in search of the self.
Davis is the sole member of Cicada The Burrower, a death-metal project that dives into self-discovery, healing, and trauma on the newly released Corpseflower. The album is a followup from Cicada’s dark and sludgy 2017 post-metal album The Great Nothing. Corpseflower was released through Davis’ Blue Bedroom Records on April 23.
“I realized I was transgender around the release of The Great Nothing,” says Davis.
Davis says that around the end of 2017, she felt like she needed to make meaningful life changes or she would kill herself. The last three years or so have been a “joyless grind” for Davis, in which she has wrestled with gender, mental illness, and self-improvement, with the occasional fleeting moments of gentle bliss and catharsis.
All this turmoil is buried deep within Corpseflower. The album opens with spinning jazz guitars and syncopated drumming, which carry listeners through a lyrical procession of lit candles, slit wrists, coughing choirs, and an ominous swaying thurible. Davis switches between piercing screams and soft chanting, one of many sharp binaries that define the sound of the record.
For all of its sonic variety, the album has enough cohesion that it can feel like a single, loosely continuous song. “The Fever Room,” elongated post-metal followup “Glamour,” and “Where Old Crystals Grow,” build complementary themes around threads of slightly out-of-tune and shimmering jazz guitars.
The record’s often bright sound and focus on natural imagery is a departure from The Great Nothing. The intervening years of self-discovery and change helped to drive that musical evolution.
“Nature, for me, represents a kind of inalienable truth and mental illness is an unreliable narrator,” says Davis.
On “Where Old Crystals Grow,” Davis’ jazz riffs expand into a more encompassing, atmospheric post-rock sound. Davis’ vocals carry a lot of weight in this song, with layered deep vocals, gruff choruses, and sharp screams trekking through an underlying dark mire. The lyrics point to a sort of patient hope that comes with years of healing:
“I’ll bloom like a flower / when I open up / When I say what I am / where the sun shines aloft.”
From there, the album moves into what feels like a second chapter on “Psilocybin Death Spiral,” which uses the same drum pattern as the previous track, but builds on more straightforward, chugging guitars.
Davis has been self-recording and releasing music since the early aughts. Throughout the writing process—especially when it comes to the complex genre of progressive metal and the more harmonic and bright focus of this album—Davis says she’ll write a drum pattern she likes, loop it, and improvise guitars until the song emerges.
“It’s difficult to write a song all at once, but breaking a piece of music up into its core elements makes the process a lot more manageable,” says Davis.
The prolonged isolation of the COVID-19 pandemic prompted many artists to look inward and start recording at home. Davis, however, has been mastering this practice for years. Lockdown allowed her to revisit old, unfinished drafts and hone in on composition.
On the 11-minute-long eponymous closing song, Davis wields the power of composition with a firm grip. “Corpseflower” is an instrumental blend of sharp, plucking lead guitars, wailing shadowy chugging, and momentous drumming. The layers of this barnburner harken back to the structure and themes of the previous four tracks, but Davis focuses the ending few minutes on nurturing a brightness to cut through the mud.
Davis defines a “corpseflower” as a transgender person stuck between the moment they realize what they are and medical transition. Currently she is continuing the practice of self-discovery and care, with multiple other Blue Bedroom Records albums planned for later this year.
“Though I started my medical transition a few months ago, in many ways, I am still a ‘corpseflower,’’’ says Davis. “There’s much more left in life for me to discover.”