Comedian Doug Stanhope once described his live performances as ‘leading the audience into battle; you’re not all gonna be here at the end.’ One of the questions I hope reviews answer is whether or not you’ll like an album, and often it’s quite straight-forward. This time, that ain’t the case, and like Doug’s shows, if you attempt to listen to this album, a large number of you won’t make it to the end either. This is an artist with a vision to re-create mathcore at its most extreme; a cross between early Meshuggah and Dillinger Escape Plan’s ‘Calculating Infinity;’ a combination of unrelenting technicality, progressive metal and deathcore. More than that, however, they experiment with the use of random electronic flourishes ranging from the dubstep school of thought, to glitch, to what sounds like a theremin (what they used for the original Dr. Who and Star Trek theme tunes) and beyond. Just like how you don’t go straight from Green Day to grindcore, this is not mathcore for the masses. Consider each song artists from this genre composed as chunks sown together; varying tempo’s, styles and beat patterns patched together to form Frankenstein’s monster. The smaller each piece, the more grotesque the end result, and the harder it becomes to see the beast’s true nature. Well, Car Bomb is one artist that likes to use very small pieces, and that makes it very difficult to digest.
Jokes about where the genre derives its name (that you need to be capable of advanced mathematics to understand the genre) are often over done, but here it feels closer to quantum mechanics – a topic that even to the greatest minds seems like random occurrences loosely linked by probability. There are no catchy chorus lines, regular passages or notable melodies, just a sequence of passages thrown together to form a disharmonious entity within an otherwise barely comprehensible framework. You can at best guess as to what the next twist might entail, but you may also find yourself being very wrong, and this constant assaulting barrage of changes, rapidly causes a sensory overload, forcing you to tune out. It’s as though they’re aiming a fire hose of information at the listener and all you wield is a paper cup, desperately trying to catch enough to make a shred of sense of it all but knowing full well by the end, you’ll be left with nothing but soggy paper. The sooner you come to terms with all that, the sooner you can give up trying. Fortunately, the whole, ‘how many times can we change the songs tempo and beat structure’ ethos comes so thick and fast that you become accustomed to it rather quickly, each new passage sounding oddly similar to the one before it. Playing the same passage at 2/3rds the speed or adding a couple more notes on the end of the riff never seems like such a drastic change when you only seem to have one string on the guitar, and ironically, it renders much of their gimmick rather pointless.
So it’s certainly not without its faults, but this isn’t even the worst of it. As with so many attempts to ‘out do’ what came before, the focus on extremity pushes the actual songs composition to a secondary consideration. There can certainly be no question that in the five years they’ve slaved over this release – composing individual elements of the most complex nature, fabricating a meticulous and mechanical kind of music with nothing out of place – they’ve achieved exactly what they set out to do, but it feels little more than an experiment in just how far they can go. If they were able to focus less on the dissonant rhythm of the piece, then they could give greater consideration to the diversity of their delivery; on what they’re actually playing rather than the pace they’re playing it at. The guitars rarely use more than one note, the vocals only break from the perfect monotony to throw in an occasional clean line and the drums don’t fare any better. This issue does improve as the album progresses, but by this point you can’t help but think the damage has already been done. It’s almost as if they’ve managed to write a dozen rather generic deathcore albums and spliced them together to form a singular entity, and the inclusion of occasional random and unexpected electronica elements do nothing to alleviate the problem. The presentation may be pushing for new extremes but the content often isn’t, and as a result, comes across as rather bland.
The name is nothing if not apt; the explosion creating a cacophony of sound, chaos erupting as people panic, debris and mechanical wreckage lay strewn about the floor. With this, they’ve gone back to the genre’s origins, ignoring the increased use of gentle melodies to contrast the aggression and instead have pushed in precisely the opposite direction – towards monotonous brutality and technicality, bordering on structurelessness. Very few will manage to come to terms with what this artist has set out to accomplish and I can’t blame them; they may have succeeded in their experiment, but that still doesn’t make for a particularly entertaining listen. This is the mathcore equivalent of ‘slam’ death, or those grindcore bands who spent so long trying to be brutal they became a joke. It’s an experiment in the vein of John Cage’s ’4’33″;’ a pretentious thought experiment intended more for pondering than really listening to. In their pursuit of unrelenting technicality, they forgot everything else, and what makes it worse is that they haven’t even come close to the insanity of Sun Ra’s ‘Atlantis‘ who, over 40 years ago, really did question the necessity of song structure. Whatever way you slice it, this is pretty awful.
Magic Bullet, This Will Do The Job
About the Author
Position: Reviewer, Ranter, Reluctant Co-Editor
Location: London, England
Genre Preferences: Progressive, Avant-Garde, Experimental, Technical, Djent, Trad, Black
Favourite Artists: Adagio, Anthem, Baroness, Chthonic, Death Angel, Decadence, Fjoergyn, Gargoyle (Jpn), Haken, Kalevala, Leprous, Lucifugum, Pin-Up Went Down, Plus-Tech Squeeze Box, Project Hate MCMXCIX, Redemption, Sigh, Sikth, Tesseract, Thy Catafalque, Von Hertzen Brothers, Zigoku Quartet
Having held an internet presence using this alias for over a decade now, odds are if you've come across the name in the past it was myself. As for my musical history I suppose it's appropriate to say I arrived on my obsession backwards, for years holding little more than disdain and derision for a genre so seemingly obsessed with pointless brutality over composition; the likes of Deftones, Korn and Slipknot that serves as an introduction for so many flooding my musical palette, deterring my interests and yielding my only interpretation of what the genre involved. Ironically, it was Cannibal Corpse's “Vile” that first corrected me; played at high volume at a youth club by an elder metal fan angrily pushing the bleeding ears of the Green Day fans away from the stereo. I left that day clutching borrowed copies of Children of Bodom's “Hatebreeder,” the aforementioned Cannibal Corpse album, Metallica's “Cunning Stunts” on VHS and a whole new musical interest.
Arriving at a number of forums, I soaked up knowledge like a sponge, progressing through the stages of opinionated idiot to an arrogant elitist on a crusade before finally calming down, chronicling the last four years of my journey of discovery with self-published reviews. In the decade since my initial discovery, my tastes have mellowed and expanded to encompass most of the metal genre and beyond, constantly in search of something new and exciting, always seeking to expand my own musical knowledge. Black Metal with a Didgeridoo? Death Metal Disco? Trance Metal? Sign me up. I also have a strange obsession regarding the music of Asia, but I can't explain that one.
I have long since devoted far too much of my time writing - much to the amusement of my family who note the science-obsessed child now does far more writing than the English Lit. student - and have been self-publishing reviews since 2008; archives of music reviews can be found here and Film can be found here, though since joining Axis both have largely become defunct. I'm a keen globetrotter and, too, document my travels here, on an old blog originally designed to publish a novel that was abandoned due to time constraints.