Scraping the Barrel
Scraping The Barrel 005



the gripe easily loses its growl when the good stuff comes, like the nearly extinct Asva 12” on Enteruption & the Electric Heavyland, featuring two 14-minute tracks, their titles sounding like lost Camus novellas: “The Third Plague,” and “A Trap for Judges.” “The Third Plague” runs Eyvind Kang [viola] and Randall Dunn [harmonium] up the Maypole; Kang and Dunn soundtrack their ascension with much sonic smoke occluding the death of Summer’s sun; spilling sow’s blood over the heads of men and their mates. The Big Picture is blinded; sawed into bits by locust waves of static; overexposed, burnt, left roiling, bubbling in bone cauldrons over fires lit from rotting wood, deer viscera, coal. Individual elements coagulate, shaping up the din, a pure state which listeners always seem to avoid being engulfed by; no glo-stick waving hardon’d raver could ever understand this type of aural quicksand, an annoyingly slow experience that grows glass from its grains of sand, spun out wet, hard and clear. There are imperfections in its mass—small ebullient ripples—like satellite photos of forgotten islands they stand as peculiar testament, a board game barren of rules. The familiar has a way of figuring into the occasion: Small guitar meditations work their way to the middle, alluding to everything’s nothing; notes “Sleepwalk” into stacks of scratched 45s—Santo & Johnny, Duane Eddy, Link Wray—giving the kind of gravity that a grave can’t help but have. Side Two, “A Trap for Judges” is impeccably recorded by Scott Slimm and shows Asva at their ugliest: Vocals split into separate streams, like sea snakes they wrap around bronze skewers painted orange by the fire. Of course, they scream, and hiss, and howl; deflating as the life reluctantly leaves them like semen from its whskeydick. The discerning ear will take note of a percussive stumble towards the beginning: it’s only Asva drummer B.R.A.D. disgorging BBQ chicken pizza onto himself, and his kit. Back off, pretenders; that’s kvlt!

Caveat: The celestialization of earth has been cancelled. Satan’s season is in full swing as butt trumpets usher in the seven thousand years of temporal existenz. The faithful have been forgotten, littered about their suburban graveyards as so many urea yellow burger wrappers whipped in the wake of a motorcade of MILF helmed minivans. The Rat Race has begun, run free of roads, and shuttled out onto streets of piss-slicked glass. Slipping out of the speakers is Noel Von Harmonson & Ben Chasny’s Plays the Book of Revelations, a two-track cassette tape that awaits the fearful in the stoic throes of quiet, wrathful patience. Comets on Fire Blood Brothers Harmonson and Chasny careen through two mid-length pieces—“. . . No Refund” and “The Emasculator”—with extreme prejudice, leaving Bud Psych to the frowning legion of America’s garages. The Seven Seals are raked over rampaging fire, split like skulls, and returned to the dust they once were. Draconian oscillators and black-massed guitars spit Christ shrieks into pig-ironed voids; flooded mud feedback rips prefab homes from their foundations as teeth torn from their gums; wildernesses are erased of their green, replaced with a festering scabs of scorched earth. Overdriven, redlined, and floorboarded, Harmonson and Chasny wrap inequities in heavy blankets of blood; ears are cut from their heads and tossed into magma’d crevasses boiling with expired wine, menses, collagen. Smoke roars from windows and doorways; homes collapse into piles of administrative slogans, advertisement jingles, soft, kiddieporn’d physiognomies to sell torture, tax cuts, trials for the free world’s enemies. Credit histories are rewritten in lemon juice and pancreatic fluid. Great and small, rich and poor, free and enthralled receive the mark—worn well, an accessory no apocalypse is enabled without. With Book the signpost is definitive: Meta machine musikk, post-Abruptum snuff, deadheaded reptile romp—sound couples cold, hard and fervent; a teenage couple fucked frozen in a Buick backseat, forgotten in one of Winter white’s most malignant deepfreezes: Herein Lies Wisdom.

From Australia’s first rate Asgard Musik come three offerings, Mirk’s Of Spirit and Blood cassette, Nuclear Winter’s Cold Dark Wastelands CD-R; and Drakul’s Unholy Battle Cry, a self-released effort. Asgard, the de facto home to DIY plague progenitors, has released some of the most intriguing metal of the past decade, counting pestilential efforts by The Black Death, Striborg, Labatut, and Kill the Kristians among its vile coffers. Asgard’s ideology is a charred imprimatur: As Kill the Kristians’ lone web site copy states: “Burn down your local church, synagogue, or mosque in our name and then fuck off and die!!!” Musicianship and recording quality is entirely secondary; what’s truly engrossing about Asgard’s hordes is their ideological commitment to violence, nihilism, waging war against the destruction incurred from the forked tongue of western religion. Guitars are pawnshop specials: Rendering tumbleweeded static scrabbles of tone; drums are reduced to source material, thin wood shells, plastic heads, trash can lid cymbals. Vocals are singed hair stench; gutted and slowly bled animals that hold to life with scattered baritone yelps. Each CD-R and cassette is a document of bold realism; recorded from Walkman microphones, beer splattered four-tracks, fritzing boom boxes hidden beneath masks of spray paint.

The hi-fi rebellion is underway with Mirk, which features Nuclear Winter’s Jarmed on vocals and bass. This is perhaps the best of the three, with its unusually—and refreshingly—clean vocal delivery, bees-in-a-barrel guitars, and marching orc drumming. This could be an archived Isengard release, with its staunch reverence to fundamentals and disregard for technique’s cold craft. Lyrically, Mirk stays in the pagan realm, growling out fantastic paeans to the phenomenal and ethereal: Wotan is invoked as often as the elemental—earth, fire, and air. Of the six tracks, few stray from Darkthrone territory, which is fine, especially given the raw, bravado fueled attack. Perhaps piquing collector’s sublingual glands is also the gleeful fact that the cassette comes wiped in mead and blood.

Nuclear Winter’s Cold Dark Wastelands picks up where Gaul’s Vlad Tepes left off, with a Molotov cocktail in one hand and a lycan’s ganglia in the other. Despite the pitiful recording, Nuclear Winter’s melodic based Black Metal is not lost to the abundant surface noise. Most of the tracks offer homage to early Graveland, and Veles, with triumphal guitar, and churning drums. Like Vlad Tepes, or even The Germs, Nuclear Winter does often threaten to fall into chaos, with emotion easily overtaking instrumental prowess. Whereas most bullet belted wearing makeup’d mugs are busy studying tabs, and lubricating double-bass pedals, bands like Nuclear Winter, The Black Death, and Labatut are content with carving out their Weltanschauung with sloppy, hate-filled strokes. Refusing to take notice of the discomfort that chops earning provides, Nuclear Winter gives itself over to an enterprise more natural, worldly; and ultimately, more rewarding.

Drakul, with their slick drum-machine pace, and thorn riddled guitars, sound like a marriage of Ulver’s Nattens Madrigal and Mysticum’s In the Streams of Inferno, which may sound appealing, but it’s difficult to not imagine this sort of metal soundtracking the pick-up banter at some fly-by-night fetish outpost. Those into the fashions espoused by innumerable “latex domina,” but not the “euphoric” bouts of pain brought on by binds, choking, or electrocution might find their high faux leather’d heels tapping uncontrollably to Drakul. Enlisting a flesh & blood batter for their next effort could easily keep Drakul off the dance floor.

We must remain in the club zone for The Tower’s Parts I-VI, an ambient mess of a disc that eschews coherent movement for drifting polymorphy in a vain attempt to seize upon academic notions of electro-acoustic back-slapping, and the type of smirking jest that Aphex Twin’s legion of imitators are wont to do. Which might be harsh, considering The Tower is not without its flashes of brilliance: “Part II” masks webs of nitrous oxide heavy dub with witchy musique concrete; “Part V” fogs out some Bill Laswellian knob twiddling before it’s all burnt off in the club’s hot white lights. Yet, this is a minor achievement, from an ensemble that needs to digest their latest Stockhausen purchase before going into the home studio and thinking they’ve topped it with piss-take emulation—hoc est in votis.

Thelemic New York trio Unearthly Trance document their recent European campaign with Live in Belgium, a five track CD-R comprised of selections from their latest full-length recording, In the Red. If “nekro” were stumbling into the WC to disgorge a copious lambic and Jägermeister binge into overflowing piss buckets, while a second-hand tape deck recorded from an inner jean jacket pocket, Live in Belgium is it. The trio has never sounded better, with Darren breaking up his kit in carrion filled waves of pummeling fills; Ryan spit screaming lyrics; razoring Empire State sized riffs into Letopolisian effigy, newborn suns which burn off in mists of black blood, red cloaks of fog poured into the newly broken ground—libations followed with the ingestion of bureaucratic entrails, the offal of tyrants, of liars. Jay’s bass couples with Darren’s battery, falling into pits of roiling asps, flying free on the quickcrete wings of the lowest end. Indeed: “The only word is Silence; the only meaning of that Word is not.”

Also from the hand of Ryan Lipynsky comes Torch of the 555th Order, a two-track CD-R culled from homelessness, ennui, and frustration, resulting in phantasmagoric sound sculptures pasted together with the glue of disease, and rotting urban vermin. The two long pieces run the gamut: Throbbing Gristle’s Nothing Short of a Total War, early Skullflower, and even the Mego captured sonic terrorism of Pita are touched on. From pure white abstraction come recognizable fuzzed out guitar riffs, bronchial failings in blood spattered sheets of bruise. Like Giacommetti’s emaciated anthropoids, Lipynsky’s brand of noise is bronze footed, light in the legs, and lost in the face. Where hands and heads should be are shocks of straw, beds of kindling—pyres to be regarded and lit in carnal throes, offering heat to the herd’s dead white flesh. Unlike Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown, Lipynsky is wholly aware of his role, his sin, and—thankfully—he’s all too willing to put it down on tape.

Metal label Southern Lord has had a banner year, with Earth, Sunn O))), Twilight, and Thrones releases. Of course, one must unleash a definite dud now and again, and Earthride’s Vampire Circus is surely it. The record is flat and banal, sounding like a slowed down Pantera: Toothless, bored, and fat. One time vocal wraith from Corrosion of Conformity, Mike Dean, is in the engineer’s chair, but his keen recording sense does little to save Vampire Circus. On the upside is Hate Profile, an Italian Black Metal outfit consisting of vocalist Amon 418, and numerous session mercenaries, including Ancient drummer, Grom. The disc is Opus I: The Khaos Hatelife, and despite its undeniably awkward title, the music is choice, blending bits of early Emperor with Voivod’s more sci-fi moments. The preponderance of keys is hard to take, though; Amon would be best served if those were left in the taverna with the mini-skirt and hair gelled horde.

Ah, Jack Rose. Wordless comp rarely provokes so much place: Churchill Downs’ caramel brown track; clover heavy hills; a smokehouse’s heavy, muscular musk; an unkempt efficiency apartment, filled with the sunny sounds of early Allman Brothers Band LPs, overflowing ashtrays, garbage bags splitting with a wealth of beer bottles, takeout, cat food cans and coffee grounds. Rose’s Kensington Blues is nothing short of a masterpiece, with its singing steel strings whispering tireless Americana. Compellingly exhaustive and rich as gorging on glazed ham and buttered scratch biscuits, Rose envelops the listener in country fetish; warm, worn quilts of folk wisdom; Hindi raga transliterated for the 12-string. Along with original comps comes a Fahey cover, “Sunflower River Blues,” which gleans the gravity of the original, its ten-ton drones falling into river running finger pick. With Blues, Rose rivals Fahey’s heft, sodding the Rig Veda with Bluegrass, breaking the death chants down into innumerable stone gardens to serve as constant reminder: Ars longis, vita brevis.


By: Stewart Voegtlin
Published on: 2005-12-14
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