Nature Is Beautiful (Vol. VI – Mollusca & Friends)


It’s easy to understand why molluscs and other aquatic invertebrates tend to slip under the radar of human fascination; whether coated in beer batter or leaking from some shell dropped from on high by a screaming gull, the species (and dishes) we have regular access to can seem dull in color and devoid of notable features. If you’ll excuse my biological jargon, they appear somewhat blobular. Despite a few glaring exceptions, they’re not flashy like the birds-of-paradise, and we tend to relate easier to animals with two eyes.

However, if we meet them in their world, this illusion of minor, simple creatures quickly evaporates. Forests of Christmas Tree worms adorn massive Brain Corals, scallops propel themselves by flapping their bivalved shells, and oysters encase irritants in precious prisons of nacre. From the delicate to the downright peculiar, these invertebrate phyla are rife with specimens that will steal your heart (or breath, if you’re not careful). Come, let us submerge ourselves.

Orange Sheath Tunicate – Reduction of the cerebral ganglion

There’s more to tech slam than sounding like the name of an obnoxious Silicon Valley conference—it’s also a marriage of the most lowbrow and pretentious genres of metal. In the wild, its practitioners can be identified by their camouflaged hides (but make sure it’s glitch camo, this is the dystopian future after all) and lyrics that read like somebody hit Watson’s sci-fi database with a sledgehammer. This stew of troglodytic death and technical prowess aims to thrill with its stylistic extremities, but appears absolutely analogous compared to the Orange Sheath Tunicate.

So you like to get ignorant with your breakdowns? Your riffs have more artificial harmonics than brain cells? *Laughs in shrinking brain.* When the larvae of the Orange Sheath Tunicate anchor themselves to a surface (becoming sessile, or immobile), the cerebral ganglion, associated with movement, is greatly reduced in size. “Ok, they dumb, but can they tech?” you ask. Tunicates are the only animals capable of WBR (whole body regeneration); from just their peripheral blood vessels, tunicates can regenerate all body tissues, leading scientists to believe totipotent stem cells flow in their blood. You bet your buns those cells can 8-string sweep.

“Broh, you ever realize we’re buds too?” *inhales through all branchial siphons at once*

Wormhole‘s “DS-3” strikes a fine balance between abhorrence and musicality. With each lurching slam, a disbelieving smile rises to the surface, a smile brought on by millions of years of evolution going to waste. (It’s a lot of fun.) The absurdity of the riffing on display is matched only by the virtuosity of the guitar leads—bright fluids running beneath alien flesh. This combination of beauty and belligerence sticks to memory like a parasite, digging deep into the ancient brain.

Scaly-foot Snail – Iron Sulfite Skeleton

Ok, yes, we understand, you’re a very tough individual. You ate an entire Nails record this morning. Without any milk. Extremity isn’t a preference that you evolved into—you marched out of the womb of your own volition (wearing Doc Martens) and if you weren’t named John, you were going to be called Powerviolence. The Scaly-foot Snail would like a word. These gastropods live amidst hydrothermal vents that spew toxic hydrogen sulfide two miles below the ocean’s surface. It’s a punishing place to grow up to say the least, but this snail is equipped to deal with the massive weight; it’s the only living organism to incorporate iron into its skeleton, in both its scale-like armor (called sclerites) and its shell.

And for the coup de grâce on your cred? While you were going vegan, the Scaly-foot literally never ate. Its entire sustenance comes from the chemoautotrophic bacteria in its esophageal gland that produce energy and nutrients using carbon dioxide. Did I mention these bacteria are in the same class as Yersinia pestis, aka the Bubonic Plague? YOU ARE WEAK.

Even hardcore boiz have a soft spot.

So this is how it feels to drown. In the depths of “This Abyssal Plain,” Wake suffocates their audience with oppressive blasting drums and vocals scraped bare of any nutritional value. It’s easy to imagine the spastic track opening as the brain beginning to scream for air. Only in the latter half are we given respite from the grind. Melodic riffs tickle the skin as bottom feeders investigate their prize on the ocean bed.

Pacific Flying Squid – ←

You think you know about speed? Think again bucko, high tops have no arch support. You’re glacial. Bell Witch does laps on you. A Sweaty Denim© Yankee Candle burns in your apartment 24/7, but you’re still no descendant of the speed metal gods. Meet the Pacific Flying squid. For starters, their existence flashes by in a single year, meaning they’ve had a lifetime of sex, drugs and rock ‘n roll before you could excrete solids. They’re also the fastest of all marine organisms, capable of bursts of speed up to 26 feet per second.

Then there’s the whole flying part. A powerful siphon expels water from the squid (à la jet propulsion), allowing them to launch themselves out of the water, traveling distances of up to 90 feet over the waves by folding their tentacles and fins into aerodynamic shapes. The closest you’ll come to this style of locomotion is the tummy turbulence suffered after crushing an entire gallon of Miller Lite Lite in one sitting.

This is not allowed.

Yoü can tell Bütcher means büsiness by the ünnecessary ümlaut. Right from the start of “45 RPM Metal,” the frantic speed metal riffing makes you want to jack up your BAC to senseless levels. Vocal throwbacks to Mercyful Fate and Judas Priest (including Halford’s rolled “R”s and lyrics ripped verbatim from “Painkiller”) stud this leather-clad homage to the past, and you know what? They earn it, and they modernize the sound without disparaging the past. 666 Goats Carry My Chariot is faster than a laser bullet from start to finish, and with a sound this engaging (and production this lively) Bütcher has a future brighter than a thousand suns.

Scaly-foot Snail photo courtesy of Kentaro Nakamura.

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