Double Review: The Cruelest Animal & Viscera///
Old Man Doom checks out some proggy, psych goodness from this past month.
The Cruelest Animal – Soothing Rays of Eternity
The Cruelest Animal play a minimalist kind of progressive rock that bridges the gap between the prog of the 70’s and the more contemporary heaviness that is demanded of today’s progressive music. But fear not, skeptical reader! Soothing Rays of Eternity is not a record built for the purpose of showing off technical guitar wankery like countless other bands in the contemporary prog scene. No – TCA is a band that makes a statement through rhythm and hypnotic repetition far more effectively than by showcasing raw instrumental skill. In fact, Alex Crane – TCA drummer and main songwriter – claims that much of the rhythmic element on the album is a deliberate consequence of his study of tablas (a South Asian percussive folk instrument). As a result, many of the songs feature repetitive grooves in rhythmic sequences of 5’s and 7’s, creating the impression of a hypnotic sequencing of riffs and melodies rather than typically song structures. Fans of Intronaut’s more far-out experiments with world instrumentation might expect to hear some familiar elements here, especially given the fact that Intronaut’s own Dave Timnick makes a guest appearance playing tablas on “Unleash the Swine.”
In addition to the unique and altogether “un-metal” choices in percussive direction, Soothing Rays of Eternity makes liberal use of synths and electronics to supplement the sparse and angular guitar lines in each song. Arpeggiated bleeps and swirling analog atmospheres bookend most of the tracks, some of which unexpectedly feature trip hop loops and beats that subtly augment Crane’s plodding drums. If there’s one weak point on the album, it would be the vocals. While relatively infrequent, the gruff harmonized voices do stick out in some places unpleasantly. A minor complaint to be sure, but it bears mentioning because the vocals can, at certain points (“Soothing Rays of Eternity”), take one out of the deliberately crafted rhythmic hypnosis that the songs build up so well. Regardless, if you’re looking for some quality cerebral prog that celebrates rhythm not instrumental prowess, then look no further than Soothing Rays of Eternity. FFO: Intronaut, National Sunday Law, Graviton
3.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell
Viscera/// – 3 | Release Yourself Through Desperate Rituals
Viscera/// are situated on the psychedelic end of the prog spectrum, but make make no mistake: though weird and spacey, 3 | Release Yourself Through Desperate Rituals sees the band at their most furious and intense. There is no slack here, no respite. 3 is an aggressively melancholic portrait of a society running full tilt toward the end of days. The band builds its long form songs on a rock solid foundation of blackened hardcore that can compete with the absolute best in the genre in terms of speed and aggression. They oscillate expertly between D-beat riffing and blackened tremolo, often times slowing things down to a dirge-like funeral march when the songs call for space and atmosphere. Surprisingly, the combination of unbridled aggression and anxious reflection just works for me – all five songs on the album feature moments where the band almost seems to completely lose control, managing at the last second to rein it all in again. As such, 3 is one hell of an urgent album – there is something terribly vital about the pacing of songs like “Uber Massive Melancholia” and “Anxiety Previals.” It’s as if the songs are straining to reach their termination point.
On the other hand, the long form song structures might turn some listeners away; four of the tracks herein reach past the ten minute mark. This is a bit of a problem for the album’s overall sense of immediacy. For instance, the first half of “In the Cut” is a beautiful example of blackened melodicism mixed flawlessly with the pacing of a post-hardcore tune; however, the second half of the song is lost somewhat in a blur of riffing. That second half riff-blur does not make a justified impression for its inclusion in the track and would likely not have hurt the song if it had been edited down. As such, I am of the opinion that almost all the songs on the record could do with a little editing for succinctness – a subtle critique to be sure, but warranted.
Overall, 3 is an incredible and affecting listening experience – an experience that reminded me of the sensation of first listening to Acid Bath’s brand of apocalyptic sludge (an absolutely formative experience for sure). And like Acid Bath, Viscera/// is here to remind listeners that some of most terrifying things in this world already surround us every day. There is nothing vaguely profound (or profoundly vague) about 3’s statement of purpose, its intent: we live in a world where anxiety has prevailed and the apocalypse isn’t coming to us – we’re running to it. 3 | Release Yourself Through Desperate Rituals is the sundown soundtrack for that world. FFO: Fall of Efrafa, Deafheaven
4.5 / 5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell