Review: Gom Jabbar/Pissing ContestS/T Split

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A new split from underground stalwart label Morbid And Miserable Records bubbles into the ether, continuing a solid calendar year that most prominently included Slog‘s new death/doom highlight Divination and the uppity Cancerworm-worship of horror-obsessed punks The Cult Of Spaceskull. The self-titled split sees Toledo-based band Gom Jabbar—a frenetic three piece mixing elements of powerviolence, noise, and harsh black metal—join forces with frenetic grind outfit Pissing Contest. The latter are ordinarily a marked contrast to the stylings of Gom Jabbar. Primarily a grimey crust and grind project, Pissing Contest’s contribution to the new split is taken from studio sessions during the recording of their punishing 2020 self-titled EP, unreleased until now.

With both projects providing a single track, they both end up running a little under ten minutes each—uncharacteristic of Pissing Contest’s shorter burst of emphatic, rollicking grind.

Gom Jabbar’s “Magic In Numbers” begins with a wet, bassy tone that underpins the track’s introduction. The tone stays consistent and bubbles beneath mountain of building feedback and contact microphone scraping. The manipulated noise-working is indicative of the projects power electronics and harsh noise influence, with the specific influence of Sissy Spacek on the record acknowledged by the band.

A drum fill bursts from the static and signals a passage of raw guitar riffing, blisteringly cold and semi-perceptible through feedback. Gom Jabbar sound here like a mangled Man Is The Bastard in many ways. Whereas the best tracks of Man Is The Bastard that they share similarity with were defined by sharp transitions from sludgy, bass-driven dirges with short accents to frenetic hardcore assaults—specifically a track like “Puppy Mill”—Gom Jabbar’s sheer shrillness and sharpness almost inverts that sound, veering on the edges of black metal with its swirling free-form vortex.

While I’m no expert on the Dune series, the name Gom Jabbar seems appropriate. The titular Gom Jabbar is an assassination tool from the setting—a poison-tipped needle that kills near-immediately. A corrosive sharpness defines “Magic In Numbers”—a track that’s tight and suffocating, bursting out like air from a constricted throat.

Whereas “Magic In Numbers” shot into life following a more subdued introduction, Pissing Contest’s X begins with a slow, sustained doom riff, trudging forward like an awakened giant. Retaining a strong influence from desolate Caverncore alongside the knuckle-dragging caveman-dirge of Primitive Man, the track creates a droning, impressionistic sheen of heavy, sustained atmosphere that belies just how catchy its riffing is. The vamps and transitions between the track’s larger sections are understated due to its droning quality, resulting in a fucking hypnotic song despite its outwardly hostile, baleful aesthetic.

If “X” is emblematic of the direction of Pissing Contest’s musical trajectory, it’d be a pleasant sign—that combination of scratching, menacing sludge and gangrenous grindcore influence has been a well-trodden formula since the 2010s, but it’s in hearing their sheer harshness combined with their looser, improvisational qualities that makes it so promising as a track.

Despite the disparate musical background of these projects, they manage to both share tracks that have a formlessness to them—despite both retaining a general genre framework, there are moments throughout both tracks that highlight their undefined musical edges. It’s a combination of primitive, aggressive aural assaults and freely improvised, obscured riffing that gives it a dynamic edge: old and new; primordial and ever-present; high-brow and low-brow. That primordial quality running through both tracks brings to mind Derek Bailey, a man who, on the subject of improvisation, commented;

Mankind’s first musical performance couldn’t have been anything other than a free improvisation.”

That combination of primitivism and the immaterial, like a cro-magnon expressing something alien, like a monkey staring at a monolith, that’s what defined the record to me. For such an outwardly unassuming release, Pissing Contest and Gom Jabbar have produced one of the years best extreme metal releases.

3.5/5 Flaming Toilets ov Hell

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