Friday, September 7, 2012

Compiling Autumn Part 6: I Will Live Forever. Alone.

There is death in everything
We are connected without reason at all
You have your way with me like a lover
But I spite you because I just want the end of the world

“Oratorio in Gray”

Inalienable Rights

The posthumous popularity of Discordance Axis, particularly The Inalienable Dreamless, came as a bit of a surprise to the band. Though their third album garnered much better reviews than either Ulterior or Jouhou, which were dismissed as pretentious at the time, Discordance Axis’ existence was plagued by only moderate success and often empty halls during their infrequent live performances.
“The record was a really mixed reception,” vocalist Jon Chang said. “Maximum Rock N Roll really shit on it. I remember reading some other reviews. We got some very positive response, Terrorizer magazine, specifically. I think it was the best-selling Discordance Axis record, the best received Discordance Axis record.”
Coming with Hydra Head’s imprimatur may have also given The Inalienable Dreamless more legitimacy than Discordance Axis’ past albums, drummer Dave Witte said. The label had already established a reputation for fostering musicians willing to sidestep metal and hardcore’s artistic limitations.
“A lot of people actually liked this. It was kind weird,” Witte said. “Everything with that band, it was late for people to catch on. People got it later. People are dying for us to play a show these days. I don’t think it will happen. When it came out, it was kind of shocking. ... It was definitely different because it was Hydra Head, and it reached way more people than the others did. The reaction was immediately different. It took people a little while to catch on, I think.”
Though Discordance Axis have often been dismissed as pretentious for the eschewing the accepted grindcore formula, Decibel Editor-in-Chief Albert Mudrian, author of Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore, said the band’s artistry was focused and deliberate rather than intellectual affectation.
“I don’t see pretense,” he said. “I do see a willful artfulness about what they were doing. They weren’t trying to be willfully exclusive for people. They didn’t want to say, ‘You don’t get this.’ It was, ‘This is what we’re doing and if you get it, cool.’”
Hydra Head co-owner Aaron Turner said The Inalienable Dreamless has had a significant impact on the musical landscape. It was the right record to harness a brewing change in musical and artistic tastes, he said.
“The presentation and the album itself had a really big impact,” Turner said. “It was an undeniable record. … Maybe by the time Inalienable came out people were ready for that. It seemed like one of those records that clicked.”

Human Collateral

The Inalienable Dreamless’ enduring popularity largely mystifies Discordance Axis, who never reaped the benefits of that recognition during their time together. It was only in the last four years when Chang found a MySpace page for Discordance Axis (masquerading as an official site that has since been taken over by the band) that he began to understand the band’s influence and legacy.
“I was really shocked that not only anybody remembered the record, but liked it and knew about it,” Chang said. “Maybe because the reception at the time was ‘Assück was cool; Discordance Axis were not.’ We were not what people wanted to hear. We never were in the States.”
Though The Inalienable Dreamless is now regarded as a grindcore classic, guitarist Rob Marton still can’t help feeling some disappointment with how the record sounds and how he played some of the songs. Though his performance is one of the most praised aspects of the album, the guitarist is critical of his playing.
“It was really difficult to play some of these songs. I muddled through some of it. We couldn’t go back and redo that. There were some subtle things that drive me absolutely bananas when I hear it that nobody would really hear,” Marton said. “There were some songs I had to fast forward through; I couldn’t even hear it. We had an experience playing those songs. There was time when we were so on and we couldn’t wait to record that and that’s not what we recorded. We had to take what we had.”
For all of his concerns, Marton has since made his peace with what The Inalienable Dreamless is and how it’s since been received by a new generation of grindcore fans, even if he remains mystified by the response.
“I listen to it now and I enjoy and I do like it,” Marton said. “I still hear what I heard. I understand now why I felt like I did. I’m surprised by the legacy. I thought it would be a flash in the pan. It’s been how many years now? I’m still talking about this album. I didn’t think I’d be interviewed about it 11 years later.”
Witte, who has since anchored dozens of cutting-edge hardcore and metal bands, ranks The Inalienable Dreamless as his favorite record in his extensive catalog of work.
“I’m really proud of that record. It had a lot of passion and a lot of energy and lot of dynamics,” Witte said. “A lot of people would give us shit and say we’re pretentious at the time. We didn’t give a shit. We were just writing what we liked. Our influences were what we liked.”
For his part, Chang is still unsure what it was about The Inalienable Dreamless that provoked such a reaction from fans because his current band, GridLink, is also no stranger to playing mostly empty halls, despite being critical darlings.
“I’ve never really talked to anybody about why they like the record other than people in interviews asking me questions about it,” Chang said. “I’ve never really thought about it that much, I guess. I don’t know what people attach themselves to. … There isn’t this big want or need for this kind of music. That’s my feeling at least in my neck of the woods.”
Unlike the band, Hydra Head immediately recognized Discordance Axis had created something unique and enduring.
“I felt like it was a really special record right from the get-go,” Turner said. “It had a unique air about it. It did feel like one of those landmark records. I feel like there is a lot of homogeny in grindcore where people are trying to adhere very closely to a set of requisite ideas and parameters in which you can operate and still be grind. One of the things about Discordance Axis was they completely defied that at the time. That’s the definition of a trendsetter.”


DesiccatedVeins said...

Man, I wanna write a song called "Mudrian Was a Liar" about how I wish Choosing Death was a better put-together book. I'm going to guess that's one of the few Botch references you're ever going to see me make, by the way.

Andrew Childers said...

somebody fire up hutton's great heat engine because i would swim the channel or drive the chunnel to sell that book to friends in the great white north and even unto the furthest wastes of micaragua. i hope mudrian can take rejection spoken softly.

DesiccatedVeins said...

Rock lobster.