So I got into this Japanese band called Legion Of Andromeda. That’s not a seventies space opera name. They really mean it: it’s about the entire constellation, heading towards us to devour us like the maggots we are, and they just so happen to believe they’re its emissaries. Legion Of Andromeda is one of those bands that talk about societal hatred first and influences second. They’re a lot like Godflesh in the sense that first hearing them will not immediately elucidate the reductionist, regression-oriented approach and the trance-like beauty it can induce. But now I told you. Now you know that the longer you stay with this band, the more you’ll be rewarded. Let me take you through the motions.
Apparently they’re Japanese, a two-piece, mister –R– doing vokills (yes, real vokills, delivered with extra helpings of saliva on the mic) while mister –M– arms the drum machine and dishes out primordial riffs that sound like Hieronymus Bosch paintings if they were cubistic. They met after their wives complained to each other about the god-awful noise they had to endure each morning as their husbands got up to prep for the working week. The wives met, the husbands met, and this is the result. This being Japan, I believe them.
As you’ve probably noticed by now, there’s a vision being executed here. A vision that is better and more fresh than the usual contrived retro bullshit and half-assed Electric Wizard copies that fill the Shaman’s promo vaults. The more I got into them, the more I understood it: take a Cop-era Swans approach, filter it through the sound of Godflesh and a bunch of the great no wave/noise bands from the same era, remove the snare drum, add the bell of a 40-inch razor steel ride cymbal… and die. I might as well call it ‘Cop Shoot Cop-era Swans’. Then I read the interviews, talking about ‘liberation in repetition’ and the fruits of regression. Ah.. it all reeks of drone tactics, gradual subversion of riffs, George Bataille and progressive black metal lyrics! Incidentally a few of my favorite pastimes.
So that’s what they do: over the course of seven songs, starting with Transuranic Ejaculation and ending with Fist Of Hammurabi, their debut Iron Scorn keeps punching you in the gut using a giant bell that functions as the record’s only snare drum, enveloped in riffs that sound like Coffins and Godflesh had a baby. Don’t be fooled by the fact that all these songs feature the same drum pattern, only the speed varying slightly over the course of the album. As the band succinctly notes, the principle of torture is sadistic repetition.
There are some great moments going on despite the monotony: the intensity of vokills, nay, the intensity of the sound overall is off the charts! Only the great Steve Albini can make records sound ‘big’ in this way. The riffs are shattering, from the high-pitched Overlord Of Thunder to its follow-up and counterpart Scourge Of Pestilence that envelops you in y’olde lowest of the low old-school death marching sound. Another prime moment is Aim At The Starless Sky, which starts to repeat its one stainless steel chord from halfway onwards- only for the band to bring back back the entire riff at the moment you zone out. Fist Of Hammurabi is probably the most ‘arranged-sounding’ song, yet equally punishing and fitting as the one to close the album.
If I could be arsed, I’d stop listening to the album as a whole and start naming great ‘subversion moments’ where riffs shift and vokills go up a notch. But that’s not the way you should listen to this album. The way you should listen to this album is the way the Chinese used to do the thousand cuts: take a sizeable amount of narcotics, forget time, and let the album slowly slice and dice your mind till your consciousness is as skinned as the lady at the end of the French movie Martyrs.
So I sat down and partook of the pot of dreams, and did nothing- while Legion Of Andromeda did me. What the fuck? The bell. THE BELL! THE BELL! That bell is the sonic equivalent of Chinese water torture! You will start searching for ‘the riff’, only to find the bell at every corner of the omnipresent mangling guitar chords. The riffs envelop you. You will have gone from your average ‘this might not be mainstream but my neighbours listen to it, hee hee’-attitude to full blown trance-like worship of phenomena your mom thought you’d outgrow. And it is glorious. Horribly, gruesomely glorious. As George Bataille once said “there can be no pleasure until the worm has entered the apple”.
But –R– and –M– say it best themselves. No quotes needed except for their own, over at Collective Blog: “Reaching altered states of consciousness through compulsive repetition is the maximum achievement”. There. That’s all you need. I can’t wait for the next effort. This is the modern-day equivalent of 1984-era Swans.
Scribed by: Jochem Visser