BELLROPE – You Must Relax

Posted: 23 January 2019 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

Exile On Mainstream – 22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I hear this a lot, at work, at home. People tell me that I must relax. I disagree, of course. It’s not healthy to get too comfortable. To relax is to be vulnerable. You make yourself vulnerable, you’re open to attack, and also emotions. Who needs any of that? It’s not that sensitivity is undesirable in these times of dehumanised capitalist culture, as much as it’s dangerous, a risk to self-preservation. Taking a cynical view, relaxation and wellbeing are avenues which pave the way to exploitation. No, better maintain a hard exterior even while you’re breaking on the inside. Never relax.

There’s absolutely nothing relaxing about the squeal of feedback and distorted, tortured vocals that shred the speakers in the opening moments of the album’s first cut, ‘Hollywood 2001/Rollrost’. The closest comparison I can draw is to early Whitehouse: shards of treble and humming lower-end feedback provide a brutal, unstructured backdrop to vocals designed to inflict maximum pain.

Things to become overtly rock thereafter, with the grinding sludge riffery of ‘Old Overholt’ bringing maximum gnarly grind. The repetitive, barrelling bass trudges on remorselessly, while thunderous drumming explodes amidst a wall of obliterative guitar noise that’s very much about the texture rather than the tune. Ten minutes later, it bleeds into the title track, which sounds more or less the same, but half as slow again. The bass is so low and murky as to vibrate the bowels. The vocals are warped, distorted, a demonic howl from the pits of fiery hell. But it’s not unbearable; the heavy psychedelic leanings give both a kind of context and bring a certain groove. As whiplash whirls of flange fire in and it transmogrifies into some raging beast that’s half Hawkwind, half Sabbath on Ketamine, samples begin to echo around in the murk, adding further layers of suffocating sound on sound.

And as the album progresses, so the songs get longer and gnarlier, the riffs more cyclical and tightly wound and packed with a greater intensity. By the time they piledrive into the eighteen-minute finale, the volcanic assault of ‘CBD/Herinunder’, the earth has shifted on its axis under the sheer weight of the thunderous riffery, guitars so dense as to have created their own gravitational force.

There’s an agonising eternity between each beat, each driving power-chord, the grainy blast of distortion channelling down and re-emerging as a howl of feedback sustain. And on and on it grinds. And in its own perverse way, with its dense, rich wall of overdrive crawling at a tectonic pace, ‘CBD/Herinunder’ brings a certain cannabinoid comfort. It’s not the stoner mellowness of HTC, but the quiet delivery of a more settled underlying state.

It’s still by no means relaxing, but it is a superlative example of no-messing, slow-churning monster riffing.

AA

Bellrope

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