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Sunday, August 30, 2009

And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead: And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead


1) Richter Scale Madness; 2) Novena Without Faith; 3) Fake Fake Eyes; 4) Half Of What; 5) Gargoyle Waiting; 6) Prince With A Thousand Enemies; 7) Ounce Of Prevention; 8) When We Begin To Steal.

I cannot judge this record on its own terms. That would require a deep and long familiarity with the "noise" style in all of its genres — punk, post-punk, industrial, prog metal, thrash, "stoner rock", etc. etc. I do not have that familiarity, nor do I ever intend to gain one because I'm some­what afraid for my ears — they're a nice part of myself, and I'd hate to lose them to the nefarious artefacts of Throbbing Gristle or Minor Threat (and no, I'm well aware they don't have much in common). I'm certainly willing to sacrifice my time and tastes for many things, but bleeding noise isn't one of them; if its purposes do not get to me soon enough, I see no reason for me to start getting through to them.

This is, by and large, also my basic reaction to the debut album of these Austin guys (which is what I am going to call them, instead of referring to the band's full name all of the time or, God help me, the unwieldy abbreviation AYWKUBTTOD; technically, none of the guys are from Aus­­tin, but the band was formed in Austin). It is clear that, already on their self-titled debut, they are trying to step forward and do something individual in the "noise" vein. They don't take too much cues from metal, because they're all lousy instrumentalists (in the sense that any normal metal guy would call them lousy), but they are quite obviously looking up to all the other noisy genres — hardcore punk may very well be in the middle of it, yet the album's goals are far more artsy, even apocalyptic at times. Wait, "at times"? That's not right — it's about the end of the world from the very beginning, as the ground shakes from the wild blasts of 'Richter Scale Madness', to the very end.

The average "song" on here has a blunt mid-tempo, a chainsaw guitar slashing out power chords in one channel, a ringing guitar ringing out the same chords in another channel, a thunderous rhythm section, and, oh yes, a mumbling or screeching guy somewhere in the back yard, hope­lessly lost among all the noise but still trying to sound like he's important. It's not cacophonous: the actual playing is quite melodic and conservative, it's just the way it's all arranged and loaded with feedback that makes the proceedings close to unlistenable. Sometimes they lose the rhythm section, and then it all begins to sound like Neil Young practicing feedback on the soundtrack to Dead Man, but with a far more narrow vision at that.

Sometimes the band starts out quiet enough for the listener to be able to make more sense of what is going on — like on 'Novena Without Faith', the first song on the record to do so and, arguably because of this, the one most frequently quoted by listeners. That never goes on for too long, how­ever: everything quiet on this record merely serves as a prelude to something much louder. Other than that, the songs have no individuality, at least, no individuality that I could establish based on three or four listens: it's all a never-ending glop of musical sludge, although, by all means, produced with care and attention.

So, if you're into musical sludge, "this note's for you", to quote the title of a minor, but still far superior to this, Neil Young album. If you're not, this pro­bably isn't a bad example of the genre to ever forbid yourself the proper acquaintance with. Predictably, all I can offer is a thumbs down, but don't take my word on it — I feel a little like Captain Cook around the Austronesians about it.

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