This is not metal. Oh, it'll try and fool you into believing it's metal, with its malfunctioning blender-style guitar shredding and robotic drum blasts. But in ±, Noism's first proper release after a decade of existence, the trans-Pacific-living Japanese guitarist/programmer duo has created more of a sonic art installation writ extreme than a metal record. The digitized beats and non-repeating guitar spews come so fast and furious that a cursory listen might peg ± as a sparking free jazz record. Nope, it's all meticulously mapped out, chopped up and stitched back together with the obsessive care that a ship-in-a-bottle builder might pay to his craft.
This record may represent a new high point for recorded brutality. It feels quite unlike the death metal lawnmowing of Psyopus and Braindrill though. Over-the-top as they are, their music is constrained by the limits of human ability. By contrast Noism offer no space, no riffs, no effort to mask the inhumanity of Tomoyuki Akiyama's fried-software beats -- a numbing sensory assault versus an embodied, visceral one. And while that brings up a host of interesting questions (e.g. must enjoyment of music be predicated on your ability to connect with it?), it also makes ± pretty joyless. The album feels like a rigorous conceptual exercise made manifest in sound. I'm a Cerebral Metalhead, but I like my metal to tingle my lower extremities. Noism doesn't.
Black Elk - Always a Six, Never a Nine (Crucial Blast, 2008)
Black Elk's epoynmous debut from 2006 knocked me on my ass, kicked my teeth in and tattooed "have a nice day!"on my forehead (I decided to keep the tattoo). Live, these guys are even better. Tom Glose's eyes and neck veins bug out as he shakes his hips to the band's jerky riffing, like a lothario uncle doing an uncomfortably sexual Elvis impression. Filthy, immoral stuff. The band burrows even deeper into the dirt on Always a Six, Never a Nine (perhaps a mocking reference to Hendrix's "If 6 Was 9?") and turns up another guzzle-worthy slop bucket of junked-up Jesus Lizard riffs and perverted Yowling.
All in the name of progress: a newfound gift for layered arrangements, evidenced in the astonishing left-field turns littered about "Pig Crazy" and "She Pulled Machete," and especially the Rwake-esque sludge sweep of "Brine." Piano gets buried deep somewhere in a few tracks, too. As with the last one, it's the band's slanted noise-grooves that really makes Always a Six Never a Nine. My apartment walls are in serious danger of getting punched whenever "Hospital" or "Hold My Head" come through with their pumping riffs. I'm loving the filthy mix too. Glose's vox get choked in spittle and mud. Perfect.
Geisha - Die Verbrechen der Liebe (Crucial Blast, 2008)
R.I.P. my speakers. They've held up remarkably well after years of blasting caustic black and death metal records at deafening levels, but Geisha's second LP Die Verbrecehn der Liebe finally did 'em in. It was an unmerciful demise. Ragged noise rock battered the cones. Feedback daggers were plunged deep, then removed dripping LSD and space dust. Yowled vocals splattered the insides of the casing. It was a terrible sight. Sounded pretty wonderful though.
Noise as practiced by Geisha is devastating, druggy and expressive at once. Master noiseniks Butthole Surfers and Slint each make their marks on the first five tracks, with a chugging directness that's sorta refreshing for music this psychedelic. The spacey bits of "Prelude To Amber Pays the Rent" and "Sportsfister" remind that blood in the ears can be beautiful, too. It all culminates in the half-hour-long "Theme From Diana," a soupy ether of disembodied spoken word samples, guitar drones and percussion. The final five minutes of white noise feels like baptism by skree; it's the only possible climax for an album that abuses ears in so many different ways.