Monday, September 07, 2009

GreyMachine - Disconnected (2009) album review

It was in the winter of 1991-92 that I first listened to the music of Justin K. Broadrick, onetime drummer/founder of the legendary Napalm Death, and I've never looked back. The album was the extraordinary "Streetcleaner" (1989), and it was percolating its way through college campuses and neighborhoods across North America, seeping its way into the minds of incredibly angry, nihilistic youth.

Broadrick has had his ups-and-downs over the years with the decline of Godflesh, numerous side-projects, a series of personal crises, but has survived the crash of the conventional music industry and come back with a real vengeance since 2005 and the first release of Jesu on the Hydrahead label, run by the inimitable heavy rock group Isis.

Broadrick is a real gadfly in the music world, crossing genre boundaries and conventions while pushing the envelope and creating new styles and approaches that are rapidly imitated (think the band Korn, a group whose style he doesn't want credit for) poorly, such as the hybridization of hip-hop and intensely heavy rock-stylings. But if there's a thread running through his music, it's the psychedelic, the ponderous, a gazing into the abyss of our common era, and that shines through more brightly in this new project than ever before. If you're a real aficionado of unforgivably heavy rock, layered, dense, and brutal, this is going to be your new fix for a very long time to come. It's projects like this that keep rock--barely living--alive in a microcosmic sense, and that's fine by me.

What's so shocking and exciting about this release, however, is that Broadrick has returned to playing drums once again, and it's been a long-time-coming. Other than possibly some playing on the "Sweet Tooth" project, I don't believe he's played drums on a recording in such a direct way since his time in Napalm Death in the 1980s, so this is a real historic occasion, and he's great on it. Reenlisting Dave Cochrane of God and Head of David was going to be a logical move as was the bass and electronics of the great Diarmuid ("Dermot") Dalton of Cable Regime and Jesu, while the inclusion of Isis guitarist and visual artist Aaron Turner compliments the general wash of sound you'd expect from a Broadrick-fronted project.

Layered doesn't even begin to describe the sound, this is a real feat of music engineering here where noise, heaviness, and the psychedelic create a very satisfying admixture that recalls Ornette Coleman's "harmolodics" theory. "Vultures Descend" is one of the more interesting and exciting tracks, but if I were to pick a favorite, it would have to be the destroying "Sweatshop," a cut that's going to please the most purist of Godflesh fans who've been wondering if Broadrick lost it after 2005. He hasn't, this was well worth the wait. It's strange, but in a way, he's cycled back to his Napalm Death days, the days of the legendary "SCUM" LP (1986), a heavily-layered affair awash in noise, now with the inclusion of discreet electronics, sampling, and few vocals at all. We got a taste of what was to come in 2003's final Techno Animal project, "Curse of the Golden Vampire," a project that was also reminiscent of ND in several areas and a good taste of how close drum and bass sounds to speed metal rhythmically!

Like the very best of JB's output, this album is going to be impossible to define. Every member but one rooks-in electronics, looping, sampling, and even the occasional synthesized sound that creates quite an onslaught. Imagine the layering and looping approach of electric period Miles (think "Bitches Brew") applied to a rock band and you're getting closer; guitars are subsumed by drums; drums are subsumed by the roar of the overall sound, fighting their way to the top; vocals occasionally fight their way up; synths and samples cut their way through the mix, while the bass keeps chugging. If it sounds like war, that's because it is, this, our common era. Disconnected couldn't be more timely or timeless.

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