n the process of reviewing the Rolling Stone Top 100 Metal Albums, I fully expected the following two things to happen:
1. I would run across an album that I prejudged as not being worth my time, and find (to my delight) that I was wrong.
2. I would listen to an album that sounded great, but had a repugnant message.
I didn’t expect both things to happen on the same album.
Number 2 is a big pitfall to being a fan of metal for a few reasons. First, metal is a genre that is often intentionally transgressive. Metal is supposed to be challenging to the ear. Musically, this results in all kinds of things that I love: odd time signatures, impossible tempos, unbearable discordance, and harsh vocals. Thematically, it results in some things I love (gritty realism, nihilism*), and some things I could take or leave (infatuation with horror-movie tropes, satanism). I can ignore a lot of this kind of stuff, because generally, the vocals are so gnarly that lyrics are impenetrable. Then there are some themes that get a hard pass from me: misogyny, homophobia, sexual violence, and racism/national socialism/fascism. Bands that dwell on these kinds of transgressive themes are doing it for the shock value, which is a tedious behavior of edgelord types. Goodness knows that metal is up to its bullet belt in Chuck Palahniuk wannabes. Are these guys trolling away about horrific shit because they want to get a rise out of the listener? Or are they genuine in their misanthropy? You can’t really know, can you? That’s a problem.
Point 1: I did not expect to like this album, and I totally liked it.
For some reason I had formed the impression that this was a nü metal album. The band name is stüpid, and the name of the album is also kind of stüpid. I don’t know. It was an error in judgement. I decided to review it while moving compost from my driveway to the raised bed in my back yard. I couldn’t have chosen a better album for the task; this record is HEAVY, plodding, and seemingly endless. It begins with a gutpunch wail over some very rough hardcore riffage on the song “Blank”. I was hooked in the first 12 seconds. This album is mixed to sound like it was recorded in a garage. The drums sound like they did on 70s records before reverb and noise gates sterilized them: heavy, thumpy, with the kick bleeding into the snare. The guitars are overdriven and the bass is sludgy. The sound is early Sabbath if crack had been widely available in the early 70s, rather than its more expensive older brother, shneef. Having grown up listening to hardcore, I was really comfortable with the vocal style…angry, yelled more than sung. I was also unable to understand much of what the singer was singing. This album is very riff driven, with little in the way of lead guitar. The riffs are grand and for want of a better word, bluesy. Lots of pentatonic usage. Riffs vary from swinging southern gothic dirges, to grinding, sluggish chugging…so unhurried that it at times seems like the tempo fluctuates drunkenly mid-chunk…but such tempo would be nearly impossible to do in the era of the click-track, and especially with such coordination. Not to say that there aren’t lots of drastic tempo changes among song segments which are easier to pull off…there are, and they are dope. My only complaint is that the songs are so similar to each other, the record becomes monotonous after about 30 minutes. Nonetheless, at the end of the first listen, I thought I’d like to put a few of these songs on a mix. So which ones?
Point 2: What the fuck? After finishing my work, I wanted to give it a second listen, but this time with access to the song titles and lyrics. And that’s when things turned gross. A glimpse of some of the song titles (which I won’t put here) was enough to make me feel icky. The lyrics are maybe intentionally incoherent (a common edgelord strategy); this way, if someone were to wag a finger, they could explain it away as part of their dark sense of humor, or even more commonly, a people’s revolt against the politically correct sjws that can’t handle real metal. I guess that’s their right. I was tempted to look online to see how the band defended itself from accusations of racism and misogyny. But then I was like—why? What defense was going to be good enough? Hard pass.
*Say what you will about the tenets of national socialism…
Cover Image By Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4105166