Note: due to the nature of this series, the reviews
may tend to be more in the first person than you are used to with music
- Cause of Death
During the late 1980s/early 1990s, the state of Florida functioned as an epicenter for the explosion of a burgeoning, global death metal scene. Bands like Death, Deicide, Atheist, Brutality, and Morbid Angel emerged from this area, all to pioneer one of heavy metal's most brutal, yet ruthlessly precise offspring. Accordingly, many of the albums which have come to be regarded as definitive death metal releases can be traced to this time and area--- and in many cases (more specifically) issued forth from the legendary Morrisound Recording studio, in Tampa, Florida.
One other band who emerged from the Floridian death metal deluge was Obituary. The group originally banded in 1984, although at that time, they went under the name "Xecutioner". Their first full length release as "Obituary" came in the form of their 1989 debut, Slowly We Rot and, at the time, sent virtual shockwaves through the metal scene.
Needless to say, at the time their sophomore effort Cause of Death was ready to roll out onto the tarmac, it was already one of the most anticipated metal albums of 1990.
The anticipation turned out to be well worth the wait.
Cause of Death has unquestionably gone on to be regarded as a landmark death metal release. Rightly so. The dissonant charge bolt of Trevor Peres and James Murphy's riffing, blanketed by the death dealing dervish of John Tardy's growls, make Cause of Death a start to finish glory to the ears of any listener with a palate for the heavy side of music. No less impressive is the effort the infamous Scott Burns did from the production end. At the same time (interestingly enough), there are aspects to the recording which might otherwise preclude their being indexed within the death metal sub genre--- namely, its overall tempo and delivery. Whereas much death metal is singularly noted for its blistering speed, and fret-hand snapping, progressive structures, Cause of Death spends much of its time at mid tempo count, even when percussionist Don Tardy is savagely working the double kick like a Thompson machine gun. The assault, however, is simply so straight forward and sonically furious, the idea of even reflecting upon the notion is wasteful.
Even still, when those moments do arrive where the guitar must take center stage for a lead, the work James Murphy contributed to this recording would make any studied axeman blush (whether liking death metal or not). For those not in the know, James Murphy has been a ubiquitous force in heavy metal PERIOD. Few have a resume like his. Other outfits he has wielded his axe for include the likes of Death, Cancer, Disincarnate, Gorguts, Konkhra, and Testament. His work on Cause of Death is utterly world class, and his musical presence (in the opinion of some) is one of the greater reasons as to why Cause of Death is widely considered to be Obituary's most important release.
Although the track titles might put off the more wholesome minded or romantically inclined among us (face it gents, it's going to be pretty darn hard to get her in the mood with a song called "Chopped in Half" shredding out in the background)--- make no mistake--- this is the metal; dangerous, blistering, pulverizing metal. Fans of early Celtic Frost are also often awestricken by Obituary's cover of the immortal "Circle of the Tyrants". A blow by blow description of each song is simply futile--- Cause of Death is a continuous 41:21 maelstrom of cacophonous confrontation. This is one of those rare "push and play" gems. Truly. In other words, throughout the entire span of "Cause of Death", everything feels as if it is in its most natural place, yet in defiance of this natural ease, the music never relinquishes its ability to jar and stimulate the listener--- year, after year, after year. Few albums ever produced possess this magical charm. Inasmuch as THIS should be held up as essential to what constitutes a quality recording, Cause of Death is the genuine article, and is indeed a personal favorite of many for this very reason.
This is a definitive metal album--- not just a death metal album. It also manages to (unsurprisingly) find appeal among hardcore devotees. For metalers, Cause of Death is more than a must listen--- it is a must have. No joke.
Here is the metal.
Not Sensibles - Instant Punk Classics.
I even tried to gas myself, but I just can't get it right. I make a balls of everything I do.
Every so often in a young man or woman's life there is a certain song on an unknown box set's cd that is so bizarre and oddly catchy they just have to find the entire album. In this case it was a tune with a title of "I'm in love with Margaret Thatcher" by some band called the Not Sensibles. I was in my shed tearing open a package that a friend sent me containing a lot of his fine, fine artwork and some cd's from the afore mentioned mystery box set that had 4 cds worth of classic late 70's punk rock. Being a punk rock and music in general aficionado that already had most of the material himself, he sent these cd's to me. Going on title alone this was the first track I listened to. I was instantly greeted a terrace chant of "I'm in love with Margaret Thatcher, I'm in love with Margaret Thatcher, I'm in looooove with Maggie too" then it cuts into the verse. oh the verse, sung in the most screechy and nasally voice possible. Complete with equally screechy and nasalily la, la, la, la, la's. this song struck such a chord with me, I think I listened to it 3 times in a row just make sure I was hearing what I thought I was hearing. Later I had to have the album, with luck I found it in a trusty Captain oi catalog, I found it at Amazon before this, but I don't want to give them any of my money. Within a week I had the cd in my hot little hands. Much to the dismay of miss muse I popped it in the cd player(usually I respect her hatred of my music by waiting till she is asleep or I just wait till I have to drive somewhere and pop in the cars player). She tolerated it well until the tune "death to disco" where the already screechy vocalist goes into a beegee-esque falsetto. Finally she had enough and asked just what the hell it was I had her listening to. This has become the stock reaction from people who hear it for the first time.
This is one of those rare things in life that are so. . . . Awful to a majority of the population, they are ingenious. (like Wesley Willis)the songs as a rule are very well written with one foot firmly in the realm of greats like Monty Python and Benny Hill and the other foot in the land of the Clash and Buzzcocks.
Comparisons to Monty are not something I throw around willy nilly. But to me, the perfect way to describe this band is: if the Python's started a punk band. songs like "I am the Bishop," "I don't wanna work anymore," "I am a clone" and "instant classic" could very well have been done by those wacky Brits I hold so dear. In fact, "instant classic" starts with a little skit that I'm sure John Cleese was in, it goes: "good morning, this is Steve. Today, I'd like to talk about the plow. The plow is an easy to spot constellation that lis shaped like a plow. This is where it gets its name. Another easy to spot constellation is the big willy, so called because several stars in the shape of a big willy can easily be seen in the eastern hemisphere. This morning David and I went star spotting. Unfortunately, we couldn't see any as it was daylight, but we hope to have better luck tomorrow morning." Then it goes into a kick ass song.
In short, this is the band that if I had a band, I would want them to rip their sound off of. At a past Reading festival I believe (I might be wrong on the name of the festival) the Not Sensibles got a standing ovation from Steven Pearcy of Sham69 fame. I don't think I need to say more.
It is probably safe to say that most of you have never even heard of a tiny band called Yob. However, when it comes to doom metal, few things get me salivating as much as these laid-back, Eugene, Oregon, natives. What does a Yob sound like you ask? The answer is simple; take the stoned-out, free-form jamming of bands like Black Sabbath, Electric Wizard, and most notably Sleep; add some sludge riffs that smack of High on Fire and Eyehategod perhaps; and don't forget the noisy, buzzing, long-winded doom that is tacked on and makes Yob masters of their obscure domain.
Despite all their influences, I have trouble comparing Yob to anything. In true stoner fashion, the music is rather mellow and floating, with random snatches of influential bands drifting by in the maelstrom of musical bliss. Surely, the hazy stoner doom of Yob is not for the impatient. Yob's shortest song is about 6 and a half minutes long, and most of them are much longer than that. On their sophomore album Catharsis, Yob delivered three songs of meandering, trancy, and relaxing stoner doom metal.
Take the opener "Aeons." It's everything I would hope for in a doom release; it's almost nineteen minutes long, slow-paced, and generally mind-altering. Try hearing this track on a sun-lit morning, early in your room, when no else is around. If "Aeons" doesn't get to you with its two dripping and trippy guitar solos, it's sludgy-Sabbath riffing, or it's hazy production that invokes images of the back of a hippy bus at Woodstock, then you need to lighten up.
The seven minute stroke of genius that is "Ether" is a recommended starting point for someone new to the Yob experience. Mike Scheidt's bloody weird vocals range from his trademark helium highs to growling buzzsaw lows, and the band's elephantine, mid-paced, sludge riffage will have any High on Fire fan freaking out. About three minutes in, the band stops and hits an utterly heart-stopping series of 1972 phaser jams that made me just about enter cardiac arrest the first time I heard it. Even more entrancing is when the band takes the rhythms of said-jams and distorts them with buzzing, noise riffage and throws down into a extended space rock solo by Scheidt.
"Catharsis" is the kind of endless goodbye any two lovers could wish for; if a twenty-three minute brain-buster doesn't already sound good to you, stay the hell away. "Catharsis" slowly builds off of humming guitar pulses, bubbling strings, and sheer atmosphere, before more old-school hippie guitaring takes the day. What follows is just short of half-an-hour's worth of buzzing guitars, amp exploding riffage, and downer-inspired experimentalism. Scheidt's growls sound almost unholy on this track, and when paired with some seriously, looong, heavy riffs, the result is one freaking bad acid trip.
Wait for the closer; I won't give anything away, but if you've listened to the whole track it will surprise you almost every time, and it will always bring golf-ball sized goosebumps to the arm.
I recommend this CD for anyone with some long-road trips, an hour long computer class in high school, or with tons of patience. I promise, the things you will find here are the stuff of dreams. Listening to Yob invokes images of the very space-time continuum being pulled suddenly and violently apart. Totally tranquilized like a mental-patient, but with bursting moments of still insane clarity, all ends of the slow-paced side of metal are covered here. If you want something to wrap your mind around like a boa constrictor, try this toke on for size. If my tastes are any indication, you will be buzzing about this band for years to come.