Celestial Starbursts of the Nethervoid...
Molten heavy metal pumps through the heart of the winged avenger that is Om. By the way, sorry for my lack of posts recently, but I've been getting crushed under some heavy compost heaps, flying high when I can to, dare I say, rise above--even if only in my head--all that would compact me into a tiny ball of vein bulging rage. "Variations on a Theme" is quite possibly the most rediculously stoned blast of subterrainial sludge I've heard since Sleep's "Jerasulem" (see below) presaged the current apocalypse doom vogue with a seriously toasted conceptual piece about a Heaven-sent dope-smoking messiah. I knew next to nothing about Om before the promo hit my box. There was no press sheet. I was even too lazy to goto Holy Mountain's site and read up. Weak, I know, but as previously noted I do well enough just to wake up, drink some coffee and shit these days.
So, finally the CD donned a mind of its own, grew tentacles and skuddled off the desk right into the changer as an invisible finger pressed 'play' and within seconds my jaw had dropped 16 inches closer to hell as I ingested the barbaric display that followed: evil fuzz bass/drum downtuned fury banged out at a constant brain-numbing pace--not too fast, not too slow--with verse after verse of acid touched lyrics intoning images such as "I climb towards the sun to breathe the universal" and "The flight to freedom gradient raise the called ascendent" over some of the most monolithic rhythms to ever vibrate forth from my dying speakers. Didn't even realize it was just bass/drums making the racket right away, but at about halfway through the 20 min opener I realized the beauty and undeniable logic of this approach. There's something very freeing about heavy metal without guitar solos. Re the Sleep comparison earlier? This is actually 2/3's of Sleep, the very same rhythm section and voice responsible for Jerusalem. That actually explains things.
And the other third, Matt Pike, has his own heavy metal trio, High on Fire, who we must now concede absolutely kill in terms of punk touched classic metal and thrash. "Blessed Black Wings" (Relapse) was recorded by Steve Albini, and I have to agree that it's about time that little bastard finally worked with someone who crunches out REAL METAL while sidestepping all the lame post hardcore/metal core moves that are killing the underground today....Ya know, that nu-metal-for-kids-with-buzz-cuts shit. Can't stand it. Flailing human tornado drumming of Des Kensel, Joe Preston's (of Melvins and Thrones) assaultive bass and Pike's monstro riffs and leads, drawn equally from the metal prowess of Maiden and Slayer and bombed out early punk psych (think Motorhead, Blue Cheer) arrive at a blunt and very necessary hard and heavy sound that is far more memorable than it should be, but probably not for the weak of heart. It ain't death metal either. It just rocks harder than anything else out there. Comes with a bonus DVD that proves they can do it live, and sweat like a mother fucker in the process. Amazing is not an understatement this time.
I love Godflesh. They've already been mentioned in Womblife a few times over the months, probably in relation to their earliest, genre defying recordings, namely "Streetcleaner," "Slavestate" and "Pure" (all released on Earache over a decade ago). Since then Justin Broadrick has done more for the advancement of revolutionary extreme sounds than damn near anyone out there, save for John Zorn. There's his heavy as fuck noise/hip hop project with Kevin Martin, Techno Animal (get "Brotherhood of the Bomb" on Matador if ya wanna hear that shit done right), and he even guested with John Zorn's free jazz/death metal behemoth, Painkiller. Through it all he's labored on with Godflesh, occasionally adapting to advancements of the era, ie incorporating hip hop and jungle beats into his trademark sound, ultimately veering things further from what made Godflesh so unmistakablly unique in the first place. I can understand the need to not repeat one's self, but if she ain't broke... and it wasn't. Broadrick finally put Godflesh down with "Hymns" in 2001, the first album to feature a live drummer since the self-titled debut 13 years before. It was not that great, didn't suck either. Just seemed a bit too familiar.
The self titled debut by Jesu is a welcome and necessary addition to to the sludge/drone scene. Justin Broadrick's new trio is an ensemble that takes his ideas further into the cosmos than ever before while retaining every bit of that fascination with pure sound and heavy sonic themes--the loss of spirit and self to the ever evolving machine of the state and progress--of his previous band. But Jesu is more a frozen phoenix risen from Godflesh's ashes, its fierce flames captured in a smooth mass of cosmic ice reflecting like a celestial mirror. This is massive, envelping stuff produced with an ear towards the most hypnotic slow motion trudge. If Godflesh was marked by an urgent hatred for all repression, Jesu is something that's slower and sadder and more profound that transcends the hate. The end results bring to mind Godflesh (of course), Parson Sound, Bardo Pond, Eno and more. Hydrahead did a very good deed in unleashing this tormented beauty to the masses.