In 2013 my favourite record was the Corrections House debut, a garbled ‘news from the front’ type collision of the organic despair of modern era Neurosis folk, the cold digital loops and beats of Sanford Parker (Minsk), a mechanised clash that would do prime era Ministry proud and topped off by the scathing, bug eyed, visceral observations of EyeHateGod’s Mike IX Williams. Last City Zero sounded like nothing else that had gone before it and captured lightning in a bottle with its strange blending of styles and subversive content.
Fast forward to 2015, Parker, Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Scott Kelly and Williams are set to unleash the next instalment of this fascinating project, assisted by the recently interned Seward Fairbury, their Minister for Propaganda and featuring a guest appearance by Negative Soldier, sophomore effort Know How To Carry A Whip sees them pick up on the themes and vibe of the first album and yet somehow manage to channel a greater darkness and a harsher edge.
The collective members of the band are all stand out individuals in their own right, but brought together under the banner of a shared ideology, their talents meld into a singular vision that is one of the most subversive and creative around in modern rock music.
Know How To Carry A Whip starts like a transmission from the end of days as Crossing My One Good Finger builds around the pulsing, slamming rhythms of Parker in a clanking industrial nightmare with Williams, distorted and muted in the mix screaming over swirling distorted guitar before Kelly’s distinctive bellow joins him to trade blows over the chaos. Immediately the feel is less organic than Last City Zero and the intensity turned up a notch.
Parker’s production allows for layer upon layer of noise to build the textures that make for a punishing soundtrack as multiple sounds, distorted guitars, abrasive samples, hard hitting drums and snarling vox all hit in waves that ebbs and flow like a violently surging mosh pit.
One of the things that made the debut album so compelling was the bands ability to mix this clashing style with the skilful observations of Williams, to dial back the musical punch in the face that leaves you reeling and let the EyeHateGod frontman move in and challenge you with his subversive mantras. On Superglued Tooth he continues this stuttering spoken delivery over ominous slow dirgey doom that builds the tension in a woozy, swaying manner while Kelly’s backing him with a monk like chant, as pithy lines worm their way into your ear like, ‘The right to bare hooks, the hooks to bare rights’.
The passion in the delivery is palpable as each verse gets more impassioned, the vocals more forceful until the percussion denotes and the laid-back track screams with anger that concludes with the sound of a cocking gun. Given what has dominated the news again recently, this is another example of the poignant and edgy content of your average Corrections House album.
White Man’s Gonna Lose starts with an almost danceable synth groove, a pop like vibe that soon makes way to more distorted, unhinged lunacy from Williams as he gives the listener more throat scrapped raw bile spat with venom. The music shares a common bond with Maynard James Keenan’s Puscifer with its dark disco vibe; only the Tool frontman’s project doesn’t have Scott Kelly turning back the clock to a Through Silver In Blood style roar.
The jack hammer beats and flow of the track is surprisingly accessible, in an incredibly pissed off kind of way.
The main evolution on Know How To Carry A Whip is the interplay between the two vocalists. The harder, cold edge to the music has been created with more space for the duo to find new ways to augment and complement each other, working together or separately, to add additional dimensions to the overall sound. Hopeless Moronic is a prime example with Williams coming off like a rabid preacher and Kelly proving a sombre lament for the dystopia they find themselves narrating.
Visions Divide is a nod to the cover of Cortez The Killer that was released after the first album. Here the Neurosis man takes the spotlight for a stripped back, folk number where his powerful voice is twisted over guitar and atmospheric samples to provide the briefest moment of calm. This is then shattered by The Hall Of Cost (see what they did there?) a dense, short industrial nightmare full of unsettling noises, garbled lyrics and ringing chords.
Continuing the word play When Push Comes To Shank opens with a jazz flavour before hard hitting drums back Kelly’s intoning doom, sounding (if possible) like a bleaker Unknown Pleasures era Joy Division. The stark, brutal music is jarring and oppressive, a heavyweight sludge that reeks of desperation as machine gun like loops play off primitive tribal drumming and droning, cavernous sounds echo, as an increasingly dissonant Williams barks out themes of misery and decay.
The final two tracks further define Corrections House as a band, I Was Never Any Good At Meth may have a pun based title but it is a sonic assault, opening with spite fuelled words and squalling, building noise that gives way to the pulse of digital noise. Closer Burn The Witches is a lengthy, sombre piece that sees the two vocalists back to their best, trading lines and showing the dichotomy between the them, where Kelly is the mourning soulful side of the band; the last dying vestiges of humanity longing for release and an end to the wretched state of everything and then Williams, the embodiment of indignation and burning with outrage, writhing and thrashing in protest at the dying of the light.
The album fittingly fades out, unresolved and unrepentant.
Last City Zero was innovative at the time of its release because it sounded like nothing else. It wasn’t a perfect album but it was special despite not all of its moments hitting the high standards the band set themselves. This follow up is more distilled, more aggressive, more complete, a 45 minute howl of pain and frustration that sees Corrections House refine and improve on the blueprint they laid out in 2013. It’s not pretty and it makes for uncomfortable listening at times, but the second manifesto from this unique collective is a compelling record that will have you longing to spin it again and again.
Resistance is futile.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden