Aisles must have gotten a lot of reading done during the pandemic, because their latest song and video is all about the literary great Franz Kafka.
Taken from the Chilean progressive rock outfit’s upcoming fifth album, “Thanks to Kafka” takes plenty of inspiration from the author of The Trial and The Metamorphosis. “Kafkaesque” is certainly one word that can be used to describe the video, which shares the author’s foreboding tone and fixation with bizarre and alienating situations. It tells a story of a man wandering through a dark, dreary parking structure, holding a birthday cake. He spends what seems like days trapped in the maze, until an encounter with a bizarrely familiar figure leads him to a revelation about his fate.
Presented in a cinematic wide aspect ratio, the video is the latest in Aisles’ series of narrative album visuals. The song takes a darker turn from the band’s earlier singles, including the high-energy “Megalomania.” Inspired by Radiohead, Lou Reed, and Porcupine Tree, the dark song centers the way Kafka’s writing has provided reassurance to those who found their own lives reflected in his work, according to guitarist German Vergara.
“'Thanks to Kafka' is totally introspective. It is based on the idea of people who did not find answers to their existential problems or who lost the battle of life,” says Vergara, who makes his vocal debut on the single.
The Kafka references continue on the single’s macabre cover art. Designed by award-winning artist Medu1a, it features a cockroach, the iconic symbol of Kafka’s writing, crawling over a skull with a hole in it. According to Vergara, the roach represents depression infesting the minds of suicidal individuals.
“Both on the cover and in the video we want to pay tribute to Kafka,” he says. “We want to represent the absurdity and the lack of answers (in Kafka’s writing).”
Aside from literary inspirations in the lyrics, the song is the latest evidence of a shift in sound from the Santiago-based band. It’s been over five years since their last record, 2015’s conceptual double LP Hawai’i, and in that time they’ve seen significant changes, from lineup changes to weathering the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020 the existing band, consisting of Vergara and Rodrigo Sepulveda on guitar, Juan Pablo Gaete on keys, bassist Daniel Concha, and drummer Felipe Candia, added vocalist Israel Gil, releasing a new version of their 2009 song “Smile of Tears” to mark the occasion. They’ve also embarked on a change in direction, searching out a harder, more visceral sound influenced by progressive metal pioneers Animals as Leaders, as well as the dynamic drumming and complex time signatures of Rush.
“We have done a very exhaustive job,” says Vergara, who produced and mixed the album at Santiago’s Estudio del Sur with mastering by American engineer Randy Merrill. “We put pressure on ourselves to change our paradigm.”
Aisles will release their new album in early 2022. Stream “Thanks to Kafka” on Spotify and watch the video on YouTube.