Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Psalm Zero: The Drain (2014)

Industrial Progress

The word “jazz” immediately makes me suspicious. I fucking hate jazz. I know, I know—allegedly there was a time when jazz was both the most avant-garde and the most visceral music out there. As far as I can tell, it’s soulless and aimless. It’s background music for social situations among fake people. Adding jazz to metal is usually the equivalent of adding poop to ice cream.

One of the guys in Psalm Zero (Charlie Looker) is known, at least in part, for jazz, so I did not have high expectations for The Drain. Luckily, the other member of the band is the dude from Castevet (Andrew Hock). So, a math rock/jazz guy and a black metal/hardcore guy get together, and they make industrial prog-metal. Obviously. No, I don’t know where I’m going with this either.

It’s a little like Control Denied meets Godflesh, actually. Rhythmically it resembles the latter, while the spirit of their progressive leanings is more of the former. A mix of monotone singing and rasp/growls mirrors the strange mix of accessible melodies and angular replies. There’s also a pinch of deathrock (“In the Dead”) and a synth interlude (“Drain Postlude”) that sounds like the intro from a 90’s black metal album. The production sounds like it could have been done almost entirely in one take, raw as it is.

There’s the weird stuff, and it sums up what the record seems to be trying to accomplish. It’s worth noting there are points when the guitars almost break out into tremolo riffing, so Hock is barely holding that back. And that’s good. But Looker is not completely able to hold back his improvisational side. At points it seems randomly thrown together, aimless. One man’s jarring transition is another’s brilliant juxtaposition, though.

It’s unusual, and interesting. Often that’s enough. Plenty of the songs will stick in your head, too. But in contrast to most of Profound Lore’s releases, I don’t believe this will be enduring, and won’t dominate the year-end lists (at least among the metal faithful).

The Verdict: 3.5 out of 5 stars

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