Review: Author & Punisher – Melk En Honing
The author of industrial intensity returns with a punishing new album.
In music, it can be difficult to achieve a true “signature” sound. Many artists can work at it for decades and never truly rise above the level of generic riff rehashers or bandwagon jumpers, at least in the eyes of listeners. Author & Punisher‘s sole member, Tristan Shone, has carved a unique niche for himself in extreme music by not only handcrafting his one-of-a-kind instruments that appear ripped straight from the inner workings of an automated assembly plant, but by then by also performing his music live as a true one man band, complete with giant metal apparatuses and voice-changing masks.
This is absolutely for the best, because while A&P delivers a thrumming, detonating barrage of sound on a tectonic scale, there is never any doubt of the human element behind it all. This is raw, artistic expression nurtured from the most basic of emotions and filtered through a hive mind of a thousand pounds of steel, messes of wires and a significant chunk of mechanical engineering know-how.
From the opening sounds of The Barge, you won’t soon forget about that ‘mechanical’ part, as your first introduction to the album sounds akin to sitting inside the treads of Bagger 288 as car-sized rocks fall about and leave craters in the softened earth. Your mind moves to thoughts of weight. Mass. Density. Inability to confront the scale of heaviness on display. Most songs sound as though they can barely contain the sheer size of noise trying to cram its way through your speakers and into your head.
Listen to Cauterize and you can practically hear Meshuggah five years from now as they experiment with triple drop B tuning. Shame is an absolute face-melter with its engine block sledgehammer blows and static-drenched vocal stabs. Callous and Hoof is the enthusiastic standout single of the album – its ascending warbling synth line, crazy ‘guitar neck’ slides and chorus of “chaos reigns” creates the impression that you’ve raided the id of the A&P machine/man hybrid.
As a counterbalance to the heaviness of the drone machines, the vocals carry a significant portion of the musical expression. Rest assured there is no lack of seething, accusatory shrieks and sneers from Shone, as well as some great melodic lilting, but there are surprising sections of (relative) levity that recall NIN‘s more introspective tracks – the piano interlude on Shame and the entirety of Future Man, for example.
Shone and producer Phil Anselmo applied a structural sensibility to the album that allows each song space to churn forward with as much tonnage as it requires, while sticking to a rough-hewn verse/chorus guideline (some of the time, anyway) in order to not push the listener too far off the edge of the cliff into experimental noise ramblings. The result is eight well-chosen tracks that perfectly reflect the machines used to create them: heavy as hell, capable of a vast range of musical expression, coated in a patchy sheen of rust and overdrive, and ideally suited to the needs of its mastermind.
As a listener, the only criticism I have overall is that the songs can run a bit long at times – this is not to say that song lengths are padded or that any one of the eight tracks are filler, but after minute five or six, everything is said that needs to be said and you’re ready for the next assault to kick in. However, don’t let that deter you from checking this album out. You need more Melk En Honing in your diet. Pick it up at the end of the month and be your own punisher.
fewer flushes = good
Melk En Honing is available June 30th via Housecore Records.