Corrections House

Last City Zero

Written by: AP on 05/12/2013 11:20:45

As exhausted as the term supergroup has now become in music (does the coming together of a handful of musicians one recognises really justify the superlative in most cases?), Corrections House are, in my opinion, one such entity. Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Sanford Parker (Minsk) and Mike IX Williams (Eyehategod) are legends of the underground, and as such, despite the rarity of successful collaborations, their debut album "Last City Zero" is one which the metal community has looked forward to with much anticipation, and with high expectations.

And what, you must be wondering, might be the result of the quartet's labour? On paper, it seems a given that a sizeable helping of sludge has crept onto the palette, and that there should be a significant amount of post-metal on it, too. But lo and behold: the former style is virtually non-existent on an album, which rather adjoins Americana, folk, noise rock, industrial and, inevitably, post-metal in unholy matrimony. One could be forgiven for writing it off based purely on such a description, for indeed, the concoction is unlikely, and the chances of its successful execution would be slim at best - that is, were it any other collective of musicians than these four gentlemen. There are of course nuances of the four members' day jobs bleeding through on many of the tracks, but above all "Last City Zero" sounds much more like an outlet for creative ambitions deemed unfitting to Eyehategod, Minsk, Neurosis or Yakuza. And, given the liberal approach of at least three of those bands, the fact that the style professed in Corrections House could find no place on those outfits' endeavours, is a strong testimony to just how strange and uncharacteristic the music on "Last City Zero" is.

Already in the first song, "Serve or Survive", there is a deluge of intriguing contradictions, dynamics and stylistic directions on display; the song beginning in a fashion not too dissimilar from Converge's atypical "Cruel Bloom" off the "Axe to Fall" record, with a lone, desolate guitar melody and Kelly's baritone refrain of "the travel of the stone" inspiring visions of tumbleweeds rolling across little-traveled desert roads. To liken it to Nick Cave & Kylie Minogue's collaborative "Where the Wild Roses Grow" would not be far-fetched, either, were it not for Parker's synthesised percussion and fuzzy samples, Lamont's crazed saxophone and William's coarsely distorted screams veering in from every direction to spiral the song into a sonic inferno. It's monolithic and punishing in all desirable ways, sounding much like four solo performances intertwining paradoxically in chaotic harmony, with the muted, yet extremely present drum sound, in particular, forming an immediate and lasting impression. It's a track which quite appropriately unites all of the styles mentioned in the previous paragraph in one of the heaviest, most experimental and perplexing metal songs this year.

The following "Bullets and Graves" is a shorter blast, and bears a curious resemblance to both Nine Inch Nail's "Wish" and Van Halen's "Hot for Teacher" - had those two songs been performed by an industrially processed Converge. The delivery is straightforward, verging on hardcore punk urgency, and stands in stark contrast with the vast majority of material on this album. Whether or not you are bound to derive pleasure from it depends entirely on the freedoms you are willing to afford the artists involved. Williams does employ his signature growls here and there, and Kelly's characteristic droning riffs are a constant presence; but at the same time, Lamont's unorthodox use of saxophone in songs like "Hallows of the Stream" and the towering closing track "Drapes Hung by Jesus" to produce unearthly eruptions of atonal madness amidst deranged spoken (and sometimes screamed) word (see "Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill" for a fine example of William's elusive musings) gives rise to an extremely unfriendly, terrifying and schizophrenic environment that'll have you wondering more than once what exactly it is that you're listening to.

I myself have certainly been caught aghast by the deconstruction of conventions recurrent on "Last City Zero", and as such, must produce a disclaimer: this album is not everyone's cup of tea. It is unlikely to ever emerge as anything other than a cult niche record that fans of Eyehategod, Minsk, Neurosis & Yakuza possess in their collections as a necessary element in owning everything their favourite musician(s) have ever been involved in. Baffling and inaccessible though it may be, the album, when digested with the required amount of patience, evidences supreme talent. But its lack of kindness toward the listener - a natural byproduct of its being an album which enables its four birthing musicians to do exactly as they please - is, at times, a serious stumbling block - at least against my personal thorough enjoyment of it.


Download: Serve or Survive, Party Leg and Three Fingers, Drapes Hung by Jesus
For the fans of: Gnaw, Locrian, Minsk, Neurosis
Listen: Facebook

Release date 29.10.2013
Neurot Recordings

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