This experiment in the new strain in avant-garde speed metal is brought to you by the guitar and drum duo Orthelm, denizen of many a guitarist magazine praise-filled column according to their press. I'll be honest, speed metal is something I find akin to Marxism: it works good on paper, it is a true voice of the common man, and comes off really sexy when Latin Americans do it, but doesn't have a lot of personal appeal for me in my day to day. Still, I am open and relish the thought of my mind being blown by this single 46 minute thrash track: I have experienced a similar thing with the Boredoms' 35 minute "Karaoke of the Universe", but they had a team of drummers putting that together, this is just two shredding (in every sense of the word) men conjuring up a wild storm. And this is 11 minutes longer.
It's difficult to put this album into words, so instead I shall document my experience listening to it:
(00:15) My CD player is skipping.
(00: 25) OH NO, its not skipping, this really sounds like this.
(00:30) Jesus, this is agonizing.
(02:25) Its reminds me of that scene in Spun, where Jason Schwartzman's character leaves that girl tied to his bedpost as he takes off, and on the way out turns on some speed metal thing on his stereo which immediately starts skipping, and does so for the eight hours that he's gone.
(03:34) Its like when you stare up at a ceiling fan, every once in a while you will catch sight of a single blade and follow it around for about 5 or 6 turns.
(05:00) am I starting to sprout horns?? what is happening to me??
(10:10) Wait, it just changed.
(12:04) OK Its back to that same part again.
(12:36) I think I get it, its like a single thrash song, extended out to album length, except in stead of slowing down the piece to fit, they just repeat the riffs to fill the time up.
(13:45) Its actually kind of genius.
(14:15) My sinus headache is gone!. Thank you, Orthrelm!
(15:35) I really like the way it doubles back on itself here, its like a locust swarm.
(17:25) The obvious antecedent to me is minimalist godfather La Monte Young's the Four Dreams of China where an octet of trumpets basically hit a single chord for over an hour. Its a recording like this. Once you submit to it, it starts to drill into your DNA.
(19:51) This album would clear out a party fast.
(20:11) Imagine a party that wouldn't clear out to this. That's the crowd I want in with when the apocalypse comes.
(21:30) This riff is bas-assssss
(22:03) Oh shit, is just got (relatively) quiet.It really shook me for a second. I remember my sixth grade teacher telling us that during WWII there was a 24-hour noisy munitions plant near their house and she could still remember them all being woken up in the middle of night when the ambient racket stopped abruptly when the war was declared ended. I can only imagine the jolt when this thing ends. I hope I don't end up on the floor, embarrassing myself here at the office.
(25:50) I think I just heard a drumstick crack. Perhaps this has retuned me and given me bionic hearing. Maybe so, it just got quiet and there was a long guitar part, so maybe the drummer had to go get another stick. The guitar part was beautiful.
(28:18) OK, its back up to speed. I can't believe I've been listening to this for half an hour.
(29:40) I used to work with a guy who had a severe sleeping disorder, like would often go for days without sleep, no amount of drugs or anything would work. He was a huge prog rock fan, would stay up all night listening to Soft Machine or Yes, but he said it was Lou Reed's Metal Machine Music was the one that would always iron out the kinks for him. He gave his vinyl copy to me one day when I showed excited interest in the mere fact that he had it. A couple years later, he sadly took his life after a prolonged stretch without sleep, and I still have the album somewhere, and still think about him when I hear music like that, or this. That the relentlessness of it has a way of cutting through the tangled wires and broken synapses we all have. Its like a rake in that it drags through us, putting our ruts in ordered rows and allowing us to get by.
(43:14) I really have been listening all this time. I doubt if I listen to this all that often, but every six months when I pull it off the shelf, it will be brilliant.
(44:34) How will they end this thing?
(44:56) Here it comes....
(45:40) With empty air, like I've been thrown from a race car or something, like I'm floating. Its a beautiful feeling actually.
(00:02) OMG I have it on repeat! NOOOOOOOOOOOOO (scrambles for mouse...
Overall, I say it was a success. I get what speed metal has to offer, a sledge hammer, a pneumatic drill that will block out everything else. A wave that the most lonely, landlocked clumsy teen can ride in the comfort of his own walkman. A terrifying force that can exemplify that need to destroy harboring inside us all. I'm not saying I'm ready to put all my now impossibly slow Songs:Ohia CD's up on eBay to make room for the Napalm Death back catalog, but now I get it.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
about Alex V. Cook »»
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