There are some forms of art that I have a special category for, I call this category: ‘I’m not sure if I like it but I’m glad it exists’. My favourite example of this genre would be the majority of Scott Walker’s later output, from Tilt onwards. Indeed, it was the reason for the invention of said classification. Do I listen to Psoriatic on a regular and frequent basis? Absolutely not, good grief no. Would I put Bish Bosch on the turntable as an accompaniment to a lazy Sunday morning? Are you mad?! But, do I think that the world would be a poorer and much less interesting place without the trilogy of Tilt, The Drift, and Bish Bosch? Yes, yes I do, and at least once a year I thank the Gods that it exists.
Why do I tell you this? Well, dear Shamnistas, because for me this latest outing from Bastard Noise falls very, very firmly into the aforementioned category. Bastard Noise is the project of Eric Wood from power violence heroes Man Is The Bastard. However, the two pieces here – Incineration Prayer and Self Righteous Suicide – are definitely not in that particular vein. No, this is harsh noise… and then some.
But how to meaningfully review a genre that eschews all semblance of musical orthodoxy? A form for which rhythm, melody, and harmony are anathema? Let’s see what we can do…
Whilst so many musicians, particularly of the six-stringed variety, strive in the aural Sisyphean task of achieving the perfect tone – thick, warm, more well-defined low end that you can keep in a treacle tin – here the timbre is coarse and sharp to the point (no pun intended!) that listening to it feels as though a particularly twisted surgeon (struck off for ‘creativity’) is using the sound to slice through one’s meninges before aiming it at the cerebrum itself. Painful stuff.
Like the scream of an animal trapped in a failed abattoir procedure, the frequencies on show here are migraine-inducingly high, though with an extremely ominous undercurrent of sounds from the lower end of the spectrum.
And all this is before the vocals come in. A little less than seven minutes into Incineration Prayer we’re treated to the sound of souls being tortured in the bowels of hell. No language is discernible per se, but this is some seriously disturbing, and for me hugely evocative noise. Some is guttural (think grindcore) and some like it’s coming from a particularly desperate and tormented victim holed up in a room at the end of a tunnel to which the listener really doesn’t want to venture.
listening to it feels as though a particularly twisted surgeon (struck off for ‘creativity’) is using the sound to slice through one’s meninges…
Self Righteous Suicide (Parts I-IV) continues in a similar vein, though where Incineration Prayer drops us into the vocal performance from the depths of despair after seven minutes, here the vocals are present from almost the beginning and once again we hear the harrowing sound of the afflicted and disturbed equilibrium of this delicate soul. It felt, at times, like a rusty cheese wire being scraped across my auditory cortex. Slowly.
It’s rare that a reviewer can really know what was in the artist’s mind at the point of writing, or committing to recording, and that’s certainly the case here. However, the immediate and visceral feelings and reaction that this missive from Bastard Noise evokes leaves me in very little doubt that Wood knew the awful (in the archaic sense) depth of the desperation, suffering, and torment he was conjuring when he produced Incineration Prayer and Self Righteous Suicide, something he has managed with the skill of a sadomasochistic Mage.
And so, I’m glad that this piece of disturbing and terrifying art exists, but what’s it for? I kicked this around for a loooong time before alighting on my metaphor.
When I was a child and we’d go to the beach, my dad would insist on towelling the sand from between my brother and I’s toes. See if you can picture (or recall) the sensation of this. It was horrible, scouring the skin between our young tootsies. The result, of course, and what our dad was aiming for, was discomfort-free walking for the rest of the day, with shoes and socks on.
And that’s what Incineration Prayer and Self Righteous Suicide is for. To scour the brain. A form of cleansing caustic soda for the mind with which to clear the clinging detritus deposited by everyday life. Something, if I may be so bold, we all need from time to time.
So, I may not find the listening experience ‘fun’ or ‘enjoyable’ but I’m glad that it exists, and as unpleasant as it tastes, I can see myself returning for another dose of this medicine.
Scribed by: George Green