Sunday, October 19, 2008

CHAINMAIL: Karloff - The Nightmare, Between Godliness & Sin (self-released, 2008)

In the new CHAINMAIL section, I examine bands that were proactive enough to e-mail me directly and request a review. Here at Cerebral Metalhead, initiative is rewarded.

Let's all give a warm welcome to Karloff, from Fort Wayne, Indiana. They want you to hear their two EPs so bad that they're offering them for free on their MySpace page. This stuff is worth paying for, but let's not look a gift crust-punk band with a digital drummer in the mouth, hmmm? These dudes attempt to convince us that twelve minutes constitutes enough music for two releases and mostly succeed.

The Nightmare begins and ends with the same thudding drum loop, like a bizarro backwards version of the totemic "We Will Rock You" beat, and in between doles out five minutes of powerfully violent crusty punk. Karloff have clearly heard a few His Hero Is Gone reecords, and if their reliance on a drum machine keeps 'em from descending to the muscley filth of the best HHIG, they've definitely got the dynamism figured out. 

Karloff - "Up to Snuff"

When you're dealing with songs that range from 0:53 to 1:19, "dynamic" might mean there's a few seconds of vicious grind and then a few more seconds of slower sludge and then finis. That's just fine though -- "Up to Snuff" and "Eternal Ruin" feel fully-developed even in their brevity, unfiltered in their hatred. This is the stuff that posthumous anthology CDs are made of. 

Consider Between Godliness and Sin an abbreviated odds 'n sods record. A cover of Joy Division's "The Drawback" starts it up (and gives the EP its name), a cover of Suicidal Tendencies' "I Shot the Devil" finishes it off, and over half of "The Patriarch" is devoted to a dialogue sample from Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome, adding up to a generous 2:36 of original tunage.   

Karloff - "The Drawback" (Joy Division)

The remaining two songs seem more elementary than their counterparts on The Nightmare, with simple hardcore chords and vox blaring over a drum machine set to grind, whose tappa-tappa faux-snare gets pretty irritating on "End to an End." Karloff don't do much with the Suicidal Tendencies cover, which was already plenty raging to begin with. The straightforward grindcore interpretation of "The Drawback" is a minor revelation, in how effectively it reminds us that Joy Division was a proper punk band before recording their gloomy studio albums. Again, the rigid drum machine sound prevents Karloff's songs from recklessly barreling through my speakers like they could. I'm guessing that's not so much of a problem when you're watching them from five feet away at a fetid basement show somewhere in downtown Fort Wayne.    

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