Desperation & Noise: TVLPA’s ‘Walk With Me’

by | Oct 7, 2022 | MUSIC

I have a bone to pick with this city: no one in this town but me seems to have noticed the sheer brilliance of TVLPA. I guess it’s understandable: they snuck up on me too. I’d barely heard their name when I discovered their debut album, Walk With Me, on Bandcamp earlier this year. I think I was writing a blurb for the show column and they were third on the bill or something. I idly hit play on the Bandcamp stream of the album while I was plugging in code for their show, and found myself blown away.

Since then, Walk With Me has become a strong candidate to make my list of the top 20 albums of the year. Not the top 20 Richmond albums of the year (a list that’s always more political than I’d like it to be anyway), but my personal top 20 favorite albums of the year, released by anyone from anywhere. They’re up there with Anxious, from Massachusetts, and Stand Atlantic, from Australia. And if you ask me, they deserve to be.

TVLPA’s sound reminds me of the excitement I felt around seven or eight years ago when I first discovered Richmond’s fiercely active pocket of the modern screamo scene. I’d been really into the world of basement-show underground hardcore back in the 90s and early 00s, but even though I loved all the stuff getting labeled as “screamo” back then, I lost track of it after a while. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that bands like Ostraca and .gif From God were operating in this city, right under my nose. It was a wild experience.

What was also wild was the way the sound of screamo had evolved in the decade I was away. This is where the relevance to TVLPA comes in. Where, in the days of Off Minor and Hot Cross, screamo had been more of a mournful wail, the sound of bands like Coma Regalia, Nuvolascura, and Weak Wrists felt more like panicked desperation. It wasn’t happy music, but it had a frenetic energy to it nonetheless, a sound that vibrated within me on my own personal frequency, and made me want to shake out of my skin.

TVLPA has a lot of this same sound operating within the harsher crescendos on Walk With Me, but they also touch on the fascinating American black metal sound captured by bands like Wolves In The Throne Room and Deafheaven a decade or so ago: that feeling of black metal’s frantic screaming rage dropping its antisocial edge to reach for something more real, more open to the world — something that could welcome you even if you weren’t a long-haired or shaven-headed metal misanthrope in black jeans and a beat-up leather jacket.

In a lot of ways, Walk With Me makes me think of Liturgy’s Aesthethica, an album that marked the point that this black metal band (with a heavy screamo background) reached the edge of the harsh, emotionally-driven experimental black metal sound they’d developed, and started to push beyond it. What Liturgy went on to do over the next decade has been awesome, and I’ve loved their last few releases, but they’ve never done anything else with the power of Aesthethica.

TVLPA is a trio made up of guitarist and veteran show photographer Will Fisher, drummer-about-town Hunter Johnson (also of Terror Cell, Asylum 213, and others), and bassist Ethan Durham (who previously fronted the Hopewell-based jangly indie group Toronto Bar Fight), and in Walk With Me, they have created something that does feel as powerful as Liturgy’s Aesthethica. That said, it’s a significantly different album, one inspired by the work of director David Lynch (the title, when combined with the title of their previous EP, Fire…, adds up to the name of Lynch’s 1992 Twin Peaks film). Lynch’s work has at times been described as a picture of wholesome Americana that quickly gets tilted sideways to reveal the rot beneath the surface. That’s certainly true of his Twin Peaks series as a whole.

But how does that idea relate to what TVLPA is doing on this album? Metaphorically, at best, but it’s a strong metaphor. On an album that leaves a first impression of desperate screaming metallic ferocity, there are many long instrumental moments of quiet guitar-driven melody, interludes that might trick you for a minute or two into thinking you’re listening to an unreleased Explosions In The Sky B-side. But then there’s a transition, like the one from the subdued end of “The Sending” into the storming rage of “As Above, So Below,” and you’re reminded all over again what you’re in the midst of here.

“As Above, So Below” is a great example of what might be TVLPA’s strongest suit: long, complex sequences that build toward panicked explosions of screaming noise. The vocals on this track don’t show up until nearly three minutes in, at the end of a long buildup during which progressively heavier drums urge the guitars on to greater and more powerful heights. At the halfway point, Fisher screams the song’s title at the top of his lungs, and then suddenly we’re plunged off an emotional cliff and spend the final two minutes of the song floating slowly back to earth on a pillow of ambient, melodic guitars. The heaviest portion of the song is very brief. Yet it’s that impact that sticks with you when it’s over.

The section of Walk With Me that has stuck with me the longest, though, is the sequence beginning with opening track “The Water” and running through “The Portal Pt. 1,” “Eyes,” and “The Portal Pt. 2.” “The Water,” a relatively brief introduction to the album, is nonetheless incredibly heavy, focusing on a repetitive midtempo riff that cycles between thrashing chaos and subdued menace, all while Fisher screams and howls overtop. “The Portal Pt. 1” begins with the first long ambient guitar interlude of the album, but quickly builds to a slow, pounding start-stop riff, over which Fisher screams even as the musical atmosphere continues to feel far more open and empty than you’d expect underneath such frantic vocal exertions. The quiet guitar instrumental from the beginning of the track returns briefly, only to be followed by a fast, heavy explosion that takes things from Neurosis territory into full-on black metal wickedness.

The final explosion of “The Portal Pt. 1” slides seamlessly into “Eyes,” which has a bubbling-under feeling of controlled chaos that evokes certain eras of the band Today Is The Day, or maybe even Unsane. Eventually, though, another start-stop buildup turns into an explosion that shows the screamo vein running deep beneath the surface of this music. At moments like this, TVLPA manage to sound simultaneously like a total freakout and a fine-tuned machine designed to generate maximum devastation. For a track featuring its fair share of silent pauses, “The Eyes” is maybe the heaviest track on Walk With Me. As for “The Portal Pt. 2,” it is without a doubt the longest, crossing the seven-minute mark with a long odyssey of guitar arpeggios and cymbal washes. It creates a feeling of floating in space, one that stands in stark contrast to the earthbound heavyosity of “Eyes.”

What initially caught my attention about TVLPA’s Walk With Me was its depth of emotion, as expressed through screams intense enough to cause Will Fisher’s voice to crack into shrieks that sound downright painful. But after listening several times, what stuck with me was the dynamic range this album expresses. TVLPA has the ability to pull from multiple genres of underground, experimental, and extreme music without ever sounding derivative. More importantly, they never sound like an easily separable combination of their influences. Instead, from the first note of this album to the last, they sound like themselves. Walk With Me might be a relatively unheralded release, reaching cassette and CD (but not vinyl) under the auspices of Soft Grit Recordings and Shopping Cart Hero Records, but don’t let that fool you. This is one of the more brilliant and fascinating releases to come along in the world of heavy music in recent memory.

TVLPA’s Walk With Me can be purchased as a digital download at TVLPA’s Bandcamp page, or on cassette or CD from tvlpa.com/store, along with t-shirts and posters.

Marilyn Drew Necci

Marilyn Drew Necci

Former GayRVA editor-in-chief, RVA Magazine editor for print and web. Anxiety expert, proud trans woman, happily married.




more in music

The Only Richmond Juneteenth Bash You Need to Be At

This June 19, 2024, in observation of Juneteenth 2024, Cassidy Snider brings together and curates her third annual celebration concert. Sharing the stage with a wide range of Richmond music artists of color each bringing diverse musical styles from Songwriters, MC’s,...

Shagg Carpet: New Villains of Richmond Post Punk

Stopping in before a pre-tour practice, I talked with Richmond hotshots Shagg Carpet. The group formed in the sunny college days of 2022 when high school friends Laurel (guitar), Austyn (keys), and Brett (drums) saw Rook (vocals and mysterious masked figure) lounging...

Photos from the sold out Dale Watson show at Get Tight Lounge

Last week, Get Tight Lounge in Richmond was packed for a sold-out show featuring none other than Dale Watson, the torchbearer of classic honky-tonk. The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd was buzzing as photographer Ben Lahoussine captured an unforgettable...

Finding My Way to Tommy Stinson and Peter Jesperson

As any exciting story begins, it was a Monday night and my plans had just been canceled. With the news of my new availability, I decided to take up a friend on an offer. The scene takes me to a familiar spot, a beautiful home across the river with a small lit sign...

Wave That Flag! Richmond’s Pride 2024 Events Are Here to Slay

We are a little late on this but Virginia Pride has unveiled the schedule for its annual "Endless Summer of Pride" campaign, a celebration of the Richmond region's LGBTQ community. The campaign kicked off on May 31 with a pride flag-raising ceremony at City Hall,...

Mdou Moctar, Los Malcriados & Kendall Street Company: Sound Check

It's a busy time of year, with kids getting out school, vacations being planned who knows what else on the docket, but that doesn't mean you can't time for a little music in your life. All over the city all week long you can find it if you're looking, but let me give...