Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Burn it Down: The Arson Project Believe in Slow Cooking Their Grind

The Arson Project seemed poised on the cusp of something spectacular in 2008 when they dropped their incendiary debut EP Blood and Locusts. The Swedes combined the best of their homegrown grindcraft with maybe a hint of North American punk bellicosity into 10 songs and 14 minutes of rampaging snarl.
The strength of Blood and Locust earned The Arson Project a split 7-inch on Relapse with critical darlings Noisear and an invitation to play Maryland Deathfest in 2008 (which they had to miss). But since then, the band has been quiet – a handful of tours through Europe and Asia but no new music. That’s about to change as The Arson Project ready their debut LP, which will hopefully ignite their phoenix-like resurgence to Scandinavian grind upstarts.
Here’s hoping this attempt goes better than the band’s first pass at recording a long player.
“In 2010 TAP was still only about touring and to stress out a debut full length wouldn’t have been something which we would have liked to put our names on. We tried it once in 2007 and it ended up with putting all the songs in the bin and starting from the beginning and that’s when we wrote Blood and Locusts,” vocalist and founding member Niklas Larson said. “In contrast with the MCD, we didn’t have enough time when we wrote the songs for the split, and we're not at all happy with the way the songs turned out. But we learned a lot by doing it, so we will without any doubts never release anything by deadline again. TAP songs only come when the inspiration is there.”

Fire Walk With Me.

Patience seems to be a defining theme for The Arson Project. Getting their start in tiny Oskarshamn on Sweden’s southeast coast – poised nearly equidistant between Stockholm and Copenhagen – the band  has never tried to force themselves beyond their comfort points, even if that means letting half a decade slide between releases or watching trends swirl around them.
“This band is my life. I have spent thousands of hours on the road, in our different rehearsal places and on shitty jobs just to afford going on tour or to record like five to six minutes in the studio,” Larson said. “Even though we haven’t been that active the past years, this band reminds me every day that it has made me discover so many great things which have affected me as a person. It doesn’t matter if we play a show every ten years or release albums every twenty. It's not only about being seen everywhere; it's more about not living an ordinary boring life with full time jobs, debts and lots of shit you don’t need. As long as the band exists, it lets me be who I am.”
After years of being spread around Sweden, the majority of The Arson Project is now headquartered in Malmö, which should jolt their productivity as 75 percent of the members are able to physically assemble to prepare new music several times a week. Larson in 2010 even quit his job to make The Arson Project a priority. He’s been chauffeuring other metal and punk bands around Europe the last few years since his own group has been temporarily sidelined from touring.
Larson is cautiously optimistic that The Arson Project’s upcoming album will be the band’s ticket to hit the road and see the world. Until then, it’s just a matter of deciding how they will deliver the new album to the masses once the quartet is satisfied. True to their hardcore punk roots, The Arson Project are considering handling the release in-house.
“We have many contacts and we already know a bunch of labels that are interested to put out TAP releases. But with the things we've been through in mind, we won’t give the recordings or promises to anyone before we're satisfied with the finished result,” Larson said. “We've already had discussions about releasing it ourselves as well, and it's something which I'm finding more and more as an attractive option. I don't care about being associated with respected labels at all. My only concern is that the people who want to get their hands on the vinyl should be able to find it easily without paying shitloads of money.”

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

G&P Review: Body Hammer

Body Hammer
II: The Mechanism of Night
The Path Less Traveled

Books and films revel in trilogies because the story follows the accustomed three-act structure. The first stage introduces the characters and sets them on the road to the second act in which they confront the antagonists and finally the resolution where all of the narrative threads are brought to a close. The second act will likely feature some of the best drama and action as the protagonist grapples with seemingly unbeatable odds, but by the same token it also can be the most unsatisfying phase of a story because there’s no resolution. That’s why the ending of The Empire Strikes Back sucks so much (that’s right I said it; it needed to be said).
Music is not particularly strong on narrative so these topics don’t come up often, but it makes a handy conceptual framework for appreciating Body Hammer’s second album, II: The Mechanism of Night, after one-man nightmare master Ryan Page revealed it’s the second installment in a planned trilogy based on Dante’s Divine Comedy. Prior album, Jigoku, Virgiled us through hell as the songs were slowly eviscerated from electronic grind nightmares to free form, more abstract meditations on sin and punishment.

With The Mechanism of Night, the journey into purgatory is far more fitful and fraught. “The Iron Bough” sets the penitent tone from the outset with a flagellating wave of percussion, but unlike its predecessor, The Mechanism of Night gives play to full on grind catharsis. In fact the grind elements are sparse and widely spread out between tidal bashings of electronic waves of suffering and atonement. So that will be the first obstacle for the casual grind fiend looking for a quick blastbeat fix.
The second pitfall is inherent in the very nature of three-part story structure: the middle act is often the least satisfying entry on its own merits. But the nature of narrative, the second act ends with no resolution. Instead, our protagonists are usually left at the mercy of their foes, the promise of victory is still obscured by future obstacles. The Mechanism of Night has a similar shortcoming in that it works best when paired with its predecessor  – elements of “Body Blockade” and “Clawing at the Skin of God” nod back to themes and execution of Jigoku’s “The Bystander Effect.” The Mechanism of Night’s best elements are those that build toward tension but fail to release into catharsis such as the coven incantations of “A Presence” or the penultimate nihilistic hellscape “A Foregone Conclusion.” Where Jigoku’s primary musical tendency was from tightly wound chaos to bleeding out into noise, The Mechanism of Night is more sporadic and halting as it lurches from grind to noise.
 In the context of Dante’s controlling metaphor of a journey from Hell to Purgatory and ultimately up the mountain toward Paradise, it makes sense. But there’s probably a pretty good argument to be made that having to know all of that context in advance to enjoy a piece of music indicates a failure of execution, but once the connection is made the intention becomes clearer and the journey is rewarding, even if lacks resolution. To be continued.

[Full disclosure: I received a review copy.]