Monday, June 16, 2014

The Namesake Series: “War Pig(s)”

I’ve mentioned before that it takes some serious confidence to jack a Black Sabbath song title because the inevitable comparison will probably not redound to your honor. Swedish noisecore dervishes Breach tried it before with Black Sabbath’s namesake song. But they’re not the only ones to give in to the temptation. But here we go again.

“War Pigs” is inarguably one of Black Sabbath’s greatest songs. You love it. I love it. It’s a doomy, moody, apocalyptic masterpiece. Its hastily rewritten lyrics (it was originally called “Walpurgis”) straddle Sabbath’s twin obsessions with the occult and the fucked up state of modern society, blending black magic and the Vietnam War into a single tale of a society tumbling on the verge of satanic anarchy.

So of course repetitive Japanese mash monsters Zeni Geva singularized the song as “War Pig” and flayed it into a seven minute slog of a riff that smashes against your brain like a bunker buster of noise rock. K.K. Null is the most accomplished master of entrancing repetition this side of Michael Gira and “War Pig” is a relentless Godzilla rampage of stomping drums and multiheaded King Ghidorah string strangling. All in all, Zeni Geva hold their own against the undisputed masters of metal misery.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Blast(beat) from the Past: Defecation

Purity Dilution
Nuclear Blast

Defecation is Mitch Harris’ personal Tiktaalik. It’s a transitional fossil that unites the malformed punk of his earliest efforts in Righteous Pigs and the death-grind hybridization of Napalm Death. Harris closed out the ’80s by roping in his brother by another mother, drummer Mick Harris, and the duo churned out Purity Dilution, a tidy little half hour from an era when two and three minute blast fests were not unheard of.
Purity Dilution was a huge step forward for guitar Harris’ songwriting after Righteous Pigs and he has a palpable chemistry with drum Harris (amazing what a drummer who can actually keep the beat will do for you). Given their simpatico and the way Defecation blended their two prior bands, it must have been a real shock for music fans the next year when Napalm Death went full on death metal on Harmony Corruption.
That anomaly aside, Purity Dilution was a distilled dose of Harris’ songwriting sensibilities. There are the familiar riffs that would populate Napalm Death’s third wave albums once Harris and Jesse Pintado settled into the riff duties. “Scrutiny” is one Barney growl away from slotting without notice on Utopia Banished. Even the pastiche  artwork evokes Napalm Death’s sensibilities. Produced by Danny Lilker, Purity Dilution’s warm, low slung chug sounds like a Napalm Death album put through a Bolt Thrower filter.
Mitch Harris played all of the instruments on a second Defecation album in 2003, but part of Purity Dilution’s charm is hearing two Napalm Death conspirators rip out a fun album that has a strong core without the baggage of their bigger band’s name hovering over the project. There’s a looseness and a freedom to the first Defecation record that makes it a charming artifact of a bygone era.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Into the Throat of Berserk

My "GridLink broke up" face.

Extreme metal vocals are largely just another blunt instrument – one more unintelligible weapon in a band’s arsenal of noise. For the most part, that’s all they really need to be, another tool in the mix. There’s not exactly a lot of down time in grind songs. So when the band gets rolling, singers are left to try and keep pace and fight for space in the mix.
But occasionally savvy musicians will know when and how to pull back. Putting the vocals forefront and providing a moment of clarity can really punctuate a song both lyrically and musically. Slamming the music to a halt to let the vocals stand on their own is a great attention grabber when done right.
Here’s a handful of ways it’s been put to good use.

You Scream, I Scream

Southern crust punkers Antischism were pissed off. They wanted to scream. They wanted you to know that they wanted to scream. So on the song “Scream” they built in space for vocalist Lyz to make that point readily apparent. The result is a musical pause that gives Lyz the space to “SCREAM!” She’s screaming about the need to scream which is all kinds of cathartic and meta at the same time.

Name Dropper

A Napalm Death play in one act:

“Gee, Barney, what’s the name of the next song?”


“Thanks for clearing that up.”

Mother Goose vs. the Grindfather

Drugs of Faith mastermind Richard Johnson made potent use of the musical pause on Corroded’s ode to rationality over religion “Age of Reason.” To punctuate his point about the value of freethinking, the song holds its breath long enough for him to scream out his intention to live “WITHOUT. THE. FAIRY. TALES.” From there, the song chooses to slowly spool out, as though all of the rush had built up to that single, powerful moment and then gave up in exhaustion. It makes the point that much more powerful.

You’re Hot Then You’re Cold

Jesus’ favorite grinders Rehumanize turn the book of Revelation’s tale of the lukewarm church at Laodecia into a grinding nightmare of vengeance and dismay on the song “Planet Loadecia.” While the song doesn’t come to a full stop, clearly its centerpiece is the relatively clean middle section where the band, personifying God, announce that “I WILL SPIT YOU OUT OF MY MOUTH.” Taken as a tale of divine retribution, that’s the moment when the implacable deity has passed judgment and only doom will follow. There can be no appeal and no reparations. Justice from that point on is swift and merciless.