I’ve been up for a few days. An Italian lady had to do with the second night; molecules with the third. The first and the last, I won’t mention. This review should have been written a week ago, as it was by then a month ago that Animal Mother got released. I’ve never missed a deadline before, even with all kinds of adrenaline-draining stuff going on. My editor is now in Amsterdam, where I live, attending a certain well-known annular event… and I’m afraid to message him to go for a drink. But I had places to be, people to see. Well, this seems like the perfect time to write something about a band that is decidedly about this type of intensity… about the things and activities I’ve been using as an excuse for the past few days. Sorry man.
Today Is The Day has always been about honest intensity. Today Is The Day has always been an organic band. It’s been about outlandish natural rhythms and human emotions filtered through ear-splitting dissonance. It’s been about bursting blood vessels. It’s been about that moment when dogs break out of their cage. But it’s also been about lying in your bed, the metaphysical mind-battle that is psychosis raging through your head, never really knowing why. You know your head is trying to determine things about reality, morality, God, humans – but why is it doing so in such a chaotic, disheveling way? Why does it always seem to determine things with such black-white certainty and all-encompassing viewpoints? In short, Today Is The Day has always been as human as it has been extreme.
Today Is the Day has also always been about using a different line-up every album. The drums in particular have been manned by more than 12 different people during the years. For Animal Mother, figurehead and animal dad Steve Austin is joined by fresh bassist Sean Conkling, as well as longtime collaborator Jeff Lohrber on drums. But ah, fuck introductions. They both do fine work, Lohrber especially doing a great job with a cruder version of the spidery Today Is The Day drumstyle- which, paradoxically enough, amounts to very sharp and effective drum work this time around. The rhythm section and guitar work seem to perfectly complement and combine, creating an almost ‘linear’ attack – condensed, sharp, with all instruments straddling the same line. Really? Did I use the word linear in a Today Is The Day review? What the fuck?
Well, this probably has something to do with a development that has been set into motion on the last album, Pain Is A Warning. In short, Steve has been condensing his attacks. Like Meshuggah on Koloss, and, to a degree, Mastodon on The Hunter (and there are far better examples, please indulge!), Today Is The Day has been refining and sharpening its knives. Dynamics flow better; riffs and songs, while as discordant as ever, are more succinct; less samples give the remaining ones more power, and so on. The subtler arts of songwriting have found their way into the experimental extremity and these two forces conspire to make Animal Mother the most concise statement of Steve Austin’s visions yet. Or let me phrase it like this: Animal Mother is a pop album for psychotics. This is not to say Britney Spears is joining Steve for a previously unheard of collaboration – more like, that the psychotic spirit present in this band has finally found a way to emulate its brethren from across the musical universe. The insane have found a way to use the weapons of the sane. A scary prospect.
Indeed, the opening title track opens up with dissonant melodies and noise-covered double bass that should be familiar to most fans. Halfway, however, a sample introduces a decidedly discordant yet almost pop-like (well.. something like that) melody that gets carried towards its shattering conclusions by groovy tom fills and Steve shouting “LIGHTNIIIIIIIIIING… LET IT ROAR!!!”… And it doesn’t stop there. This dynamic has entered other songs as well, first trying to tail you with all kinds of Today Is The Day-isms, then trying to seduce you with its seductive simplicity the second half. But it’s not just the dual faces. It’s also the transitions. Imperfection opens with almost black metalized Steve Austin chords, then takes these chords and makes them even more psychotic right before the song transitions seamlessly into a hip-shaking 4/4 double-bass groove with riffs to match. You try and do that with your band. You’ll fail. One needs years of songwriting experience to be able to make things seem so simple yet so powerful.
Special mention goes out to both the acoustic and psychotic version of Outlaw (another trick used by Steve before), both versions shattering this reviewer with their simplistic yet haunting melodicism and groove. I found them beautiful, quite simply. I haven’t written that down in a review before. If you think it’s a blatant normative judgment, well, call me a fucking angel. Oh, and then there are the lyrics. Try Bloodwood. Knowing that Steve Austin’s mother passed away during the recording of this album surely amplified my (assumed, yet conscientious) understanding of both the song and heartwrenching lyrics.
There is much more to be said about Animal Mother. Like all Today Is The Day albums, quality is consistent yet the content elusive unless you let it sink in. There is a certain Godflesh quality to the way these albums open up, given time. One thing is for sure though: fans, like me, will be overjoyed with this new addition to the line of musical psychotic breaks. And with all the condensing of attacks and sharpening of the knives, there is a joyfully bleak future ahead. Today Is The Day just pulled a feat most bands never even survive long enough for. Steve: you’ve done it again. You extreme, sophisticated, raging, witty, phoenix-like motherfucker.
Scribed by: Jochem Visser