Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Dirty (Baker's) Dozen 1: Discordance Axis

Discordance Axis
The Inalienable Dreamless
Hydra Head
America stood rigid in awestruck carbonite for a few days in 2001. And for reasons that have absolutely nothing to do with disaffected Middle Eastern men who unfortunately take their imaginary friend’s advice about air travel. Maybe The Inalienable Dreamless’ impact was quite as seismic culturally as the Sept. 11 attacks, but Discordance Axis’ farewell platter reverberated throughout the grindcore underworld. Seven years after their demise Discordance Axis still stands as the almost Platonic ideal of grindcore
Siege laid the groundwork, Napalm Death gave the scene a name and a defining sound, Carcass remains one its most beloved progenitors, but Discordance Axis perfectly embodies all that grindcore was and everything it could be. If I could only introduce somebody to grind through one album, it would be The Inalienable Dreamless.
Just as America was about to embark on a pair of poorly conceived wars, Discordance Axis left the trappings of grindcore history – rants against military and political shenanigans that had gone stale in the 14 years since Mick Harris thumped out the first blastbeat.
Lead off track “Castration Rites” hands you your nuts in a minute burst of piranha blasts, midalbum standout “Jigsaw” sputters and starts like a warped bit of machinery and penultimate bruiser, the aptly titled “A Leaden Stride to Nowhere” delivered just that, a five minute trudge unlike anything the band ever put to tape (with the exception of the space opera “Berzerk” on the three way split with 324 and Corrupted).
Instead of cliché ridden diatribes Jon Chang’s confident lyrics stripmined Japanese culture, particularly manga and anime, using cartoon metaphors to cloak weighty meditations on loneliness, insecurity, despair and paranoia, crafting an intensely personal brand of grind that has yet to be even equaled let alone surpassed.
Though The Inalienable Dreamless is arguably the greatest burst of grind set to silicon (hell, I’m arguing it right here), Discordance Axis just never cracked the wider metal scene to garner the attention they deserved. But that quietly building cult status may be part of the band’s charm and enduring appeal. It’s winning the golden ticket to tour Chang’s neon lit demimonde.
Of all the bazillion bands and kajillion albums Dave Witte has put his name to, he told me this is his favorite when I interviewed him recently. That’s about the best endorsement you’re gonna get.
“I never had a spiritual connection with a guitarist like I had with Rob [Marton],” he said. A lot of times we’d be jamming and stop together. We were feeling each other out.”
Unfortunately, Marton would develop a nerve condition that would make him extremely sensitive to loud noises – like a top flight grind band jamming in a practice space or shredding a stage during one of their sparsely attended shows.
Though Marton has since recovered and even jammed with Witte, the drummer said the guitarist has little interest in diving back into music full time, so The Inalienable Dreamless will stand as both the band’s tombstone and its milestone.
“I wish the mix and recording was a little different,” Witte said but quickly pushed aside his own quibbles. “That was such an amazing experience.”
"I Will Live Forever – Alone” Chang morosely announced on the back cover of the album’s unique DVD box packaging. He had the first part right. Grinders will be turning to this timeless album for inspiration for decades to come. Discordance Axis will indeed live forever, but the band will be surrounded by adoring fans and far from alone.


Zmaj said...

I can only agree - the absolute pinnacle of grindcore! No other band comes even close to what DA achieved with this (well, at least for now, though it's really hard for me to imagine anything topping TID).

What I find kinda weird is how there are so few bands trying to emulate the sound, but one band that comes to my mind when I think about DA influenced stuff is Agents of Abhorrence. Have any more suggestions?

Excellent blog, btw.

Andrew Childers said...

Check out Asterisk* if you haven't already. Chang did the art and they sound like a slightly more sci-fi version of DA with a fixation on postmodern philosophy.

Zmaj said...

I heard Asterisk for the first time quite recently on a compilation (the one with the huge name starting with "Dynamite With A Laserbeam"), and they stood out as one of my favorites on the comp.
And I wasn't aware of the fact than Jon Chang did the artwork, so thanks for the info!

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It is an interesting sound, the drummer is so good.

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