Posts Tagged ‘Sacred Bones Records’

Sacred Bones Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Magus is Thou’s first full-length since 2014’s Heathen. It’s perhaps fair to say that the three EPs which preceded it – which they forewarned would be ‘a complete sonic departure from Magus and from each other’ – which effectively constituted albums in their own right – did nothing to prepare us for this.

But what exactly is this? As the album’s press blurb acknowledges, they’re ‘often lumped in with New Orleans sludge bands like Eyehategod and Crowbar, [but share] shares a more spiritual kinship with ‘90s proto-grunge bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden’, while ‘the band’s aesthetic and political impulses reflect the obscure ’90s DIY hardcore punk found on labels like Ebullition, Vermiform, and Crimethinc’. All this makes them hard to place.

The album’s opener, ‘Inward’, provides just over ten full minutes of snarling fury that carries enough weight to crush weaker souls who may venture forth expecting any of the soft musicality of the Inconsolable EP (which revealed Thou to be capable of extreme gentility, and, indeed, extreme beauty).

Things turn very black and very sludgy and very heavy on ‘Transcending Dualities’; and while it’s a snarling, low-tuned mess of slow-creeping sludge, there are stray notes that break free to squeal to break the trudging oppression. Bryan Funck’s twisted vocals draw every ounce of excruciation into the mix.

‘The Changeling Prince’ brings grace and grandeur to proceedings, and the hushed intro and expansive sound of ‘Sovereign Self’ (the second of three songs to cross the ten-minute mark) calls to mind Amenra, but his is a whole other level of gnarly, demonic savagery, and the overall sonic density is suffocating.

But Magus does find Thou continue to expand and explore in all directions, and there are three shorter tracks that serve as interludes between the towering monoliths which are the songs themselves: the cacophonous racket of ‘My Brother Caliban’ contrasts sharply with ‘Divine Will’, with its ethereal female vocals and pounding tribal drums. Elsewhere, the sprawling epic that is ‘In the Kingdom of Meaning’ introduces a psychedelic twist to the doomy trudge. And there are passages of extreme delicacy, rich in evocative atmosphere, which draw the lister into quiet clearings with dappled light where an air of calm radiates before the shadows loom, the clouds gather and the next tempestuous storm breaks. Such tension-building passages and contrasts of mood and volume create a compelling dynamic and makes Magus a mighty album which requires attention and exploration of the detail.

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Sacred Bones – 20th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Nasty’ is a word you’re likely to hear or read in relation to dark, gnarly, mangled black metal or crust punk, or perhaps some particularly unpopulist industrial effort, or some particularly savage techno. But on Wake In Fright Uniform offer something that’s a different kind of nasty. And yes, it really is nasty, brutal, savage, uncompromising and unfriendly. And while there are elements of metal, thrash, industrial and power electronics, Wake in Fright – described as ‘a harrowing exploration of self-medication, painted in the colors of war’ – throws down the challenge of a noise all of its own.

Preview cut ‘Tabloid’ doesn’t so much open the album as tear the lid off the thing in a squalling, brutal frenzy. The drums are pitched to a frenetic pace but largely buried under the snarling, churning mess of guitars, feedback and distortion. Michael Berdan sneers and hollers venomously like he’s in the throes of mania, and to describe it as raw would be an understatement. It’s still on the bone and walking around. A gnarly mash of early Head of David, Foetus, Godflesh and the most obscure hardcore punk demo tape you’ve ever heard, it’s anything but easy on the ear. It is, however, a real blast of adrenaline, not so much a smack around the mouth as a succession of steel-toed boot jabs to the ribs.

The earthmoving bass grind of ‘Habit’ is coupled with the dirtiest, dingiest guitar noise you’ll hear all year. ‘The Lost’ combines the harsh edge of late 80s Ministry with an old-school punk feel, New Order trampled under the boots of a thousand-strong army of brutalists. It’s a stroll in the park compared to the thousand-mile-an-hour rage explosion that follows in the shape of ‘The Light At the End (Cause)’, which is nothing short of brutal, a black metal assault. There’s nowhere to take refuge with this album: cover your face, the blows land in the ribs, the back, the legs. Uniform are fucked off, and are going to vent their unremitting ire on anything, everything, and everyone.

The most striking thing about this album – short as it is, with just eight tracks and a total running time of thirty-eight and a bit minutes, (aside from its eye-popping intensity, that is) is its diversity. ‘The Killing of America’ is a full-tilt industrial metal slogger which evokes the spirit of Psalm 69, and packs a truly wild guitar breaks. The tempo is off the scale, to, and th third most striking thing about Wake in Fright is its sustained attack. There’s no let up. Not even for a second. Just when you think there might be a moment’s respite, the buggers up the tempo and the volume and the fierceness by at least another ten per cent. By ‘Bootlicker’ (track six), it’s all reached an almost unbearable level of noise, as the drums pound like machine gun fire through a gut-churning barrage of guitars. Seriously, with Wake in Fright, Uniform make Strapping Young Lad sound like Mike Flowers Pops.

Curtain closer ‘The Light At the End (Effect)’ may slow the pace at last, but the murky Swans-like dirge, with its scratched spoken narrative, remains anything but an easy exit or an uplifting finale. It’s six minutes of postindustrial grind, and a fitting close to an album that comes out, fists flailing, whirling chains and spitting venom.

Don’t come to Uniform looking for a hug. Wake in Fright is utterly terrifying, a horrorshow of a record with not a moment of calmness or humanity. It’s horrifying, squalid, beyond harsh: a sonic kick to the gut. You bet it’s already one of my albums of the year.

 

Uniform - Wake in Fright