Human Worth – 17th March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

For context, I shall quote from the notes which accompany this release: ‘Old Mayor are Adam Kammerling and Owen Gildersleeve (Modern Technology / Human Worth). They were most active between 2005 – 2009 sharing bills with the likes of Boris, Russian Circles, Heirs, A Storm of Light, Orange Goblin and ASVA. ‘Shelter Ceremony Collapse’ was recorded during a stint in New York in the winter of 2008, where the duo laid down this beastly three track, recorded by Chris Pierce at Technical Ecstasy Studio in New Brunswick. But the recording never saw the light of day, with the duo parting ways soon after.

‘Fifteen years later, on hearing the news that legendary Brighton promoters Tatty Seaside Town, who’d given the band their first shows back in the early years, were calling it a day and putting on a final weekender the duo felt it was the right time to finally come back together. To celebrate they unearthed this EP.’

They certainly achieved a considerable amount during their time active, but left a scant record of it in the form of a critically-lauded eponymous five-track EP, which makes the immensely-belated arrival of this archival recording all the more welcome, and for those unfamiliar with them the first time around (myself included), Shelter Ceremony Collapse provides an outstanding introduction.

There’s an adage about how you treat people when you’re on the way up, and this release and the circumstances surrounding it are very much characteristic of Owen and Human Worth: not only reconvening Old Mayor for a farewell concert, but releasing the EP with a portion of proceeds going to charity speaks for the nature of the people and the operation.

As for the EP itself… While the title has a ring to it as a phrase, while conjuring mental images of crumbling edifices and societal disarray and something vaguely post-apocalyptic (or perhaps I simply have a vivid imagination which steers oof its own accord toward the bleaker, darker prospects), it’s also the titles of the EP’s three songs in the order they appear.

That said ‘Shelter’ is so heavy it almost brings about its own collapse inside the first two of its monstrous six minutes. It’s a slow, dirgy tune that begins delicately with clean, picked guitar, building a misty atmosphere of mist and loam, the resonant timbres of the strings rich and earthy and redolent of Neurosis – and then the distortion and drums pound in, hard and heavy and hit like a tidal wave crashing with full force against the abdomen and knocking the air from the lungs.

Kammerling’s screaming vocals are largely buried beneath the sludgy landslide; he sounds possessed, but is barely audible for the downtuned sludge, and Owen’ hard-hitting drums cut through with thunderous force.

‘Ceremony’ is but an instrumental interlude, a cacophony of shrieks and wails. It may only be a couple of minutes long, but the sounds of tortured souls leave you feeling unsettled and uncomfortable, which is either a bad state or the ideal state to receive the shuddering blast of the crushing ‘Collapse’. It’s properly heavy, snail-paced doom, and it’s potent, powerful stuff.

It would be wonderful to think that the one-off reunion wasn’t a one-off, and that it might spur more performances and perhaps even more new material – but they’ve already spoiled us, and Shelter Ceremony Collapse is the perfect release to expand and confirm their place in the annals.



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