Iron Monkey/Church of Misery

Iron Monkey/Church of Misery

We’ve Learned Nothing/Church of Misery

Man’s Ruin

Torgeist/Vlad Tepes

Black Legions Metal

Drakkar Productions

Somewhere during the latter half of the ’80s, “heavy” music went further than wrong and became exponentially uglier ; blame it on the Melvins and Killdozer, if you want to. By elevating (or just flat-out dropping) Sabbath-esque histrionics to the heights/depths of the sublimely Over-The-Top, both sludge-chuckers crapped out the most shit-stinkin’, scabies-ridden sonic squalor around, in turn impregnating the snobby, quintessentially music journalese genre: “pig-fuck.” And, at the time, no other term seemed more appropriate than that…

…Until now — just ask Iron Monkey and Church of Misery, both kindred spirits teaming up for a split record guaranteed to end the millennium with not so much a cliché bang but, more so, a nuclear holocaust. By comparison, Iron Monkey’s We’ve Learned Nothing is the more jarring — nay, ugly — of the two sides, depravity permeating every note, guitars cranked way beyond 11, the screaming more scalding, its grooves tighter than the band’s preceding platter, Our Problem . Church of Misery’s eponymous dirt-fest holds its feet just as firmly in the muck, too, the band’s earthquaking similar to lost roadkill from the mid-’70s — all bellbottomed swagger, wall-of-sound psychedelic blues-chunder, smoked-out vox, and songs dedicated to serial killers. Doom-sludge may be the order of the day here, but it really doesn’t get much uglier than this…

…Or does it? If the Melvins and Killdozer maintained latter-day analogs, they would most likely be Mayhem and Darkthrone, the two progenitors of the early-’90s Norwegian black metal movement. Scaly, rubbed-raw, and uncompromisingly violent, both whirlwinds of malevolence grabbed the Melvins and Killdozer by the throats, nixed the low-end and upped the treble, and warped the chaos to insane speeds reaching 250 bpm, in turn birthing a massive following of corpse-painted, battle-axe-ready sonic arsonists; hence, “ugliest” just got uglier.

Those early repercussions, despite the swamps of oversaturation black metal is presently mired in, are still felt today — even in France, as exemplified by Black Legions Metal , a split album between Torgeist and Vlad Tepes. To the casual listener, the pig-fuckers might seem overly hateful, and Mayhem and Darkthrone interchangeably destructive; however, one swift listen to Torgeist and Vlad Tepes, and even the most ardent black metal enthusiast wouldn’t be able to distinguish the two. But that’s all right, because both bands straddle battle-marching rhythms and utterly-unhinged/somewhat-sloppy blastbeating, dying reptile vocals all-the-while incomprehensibly espousing all things unholy, the whole blackened affair awash in the lowest-fi of crust-ations – a much-welcomed throwback to the glory days of ’92/’93, and an apt counterpoint to the sterilized over-compression of much modern black metal. As all that piercing distortion and screeching seeps into your brain and jello-izes it, just think how ugly you feel.

Trying to argue which split-album is uglier is like trying to argue who’s sappier: Christie Front Drive or Mineral — basically, it just doesn’t matter . But if you had to bet your chips, go with the Black Legions, namely because they probably carry weapons. In any case, when Y2K is about to wipe out humanity, prepare for the end by throwing a dinner party — these two platters would serve as fitting soundtracks.

Man’s Ruin, 610 22nd St. #302, San Francisco, CA 94107; Drakkar Productions, Mendre Cyril, 6, Rue Du Four 84000, Avignon, France

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