Release DetailsLABEL Candlelight
RELEASED ON 5/2/2006
posted on 5/2006 By:
Extremity for the sake of extremity has never impressed me very much. I’ve heard plenty of bands who try to overwhelm with velocity and force, overly-technical and utterly murderous to their instruments, as well as their own body parts. Metal and hardcore’s never ending game of “can you top this” has gotten a little old on the extreme front, we know what these bands are capable of, now I say let’s see how these fuckers can write a song. And when it comes to that hybrid mystery genre which includes bands as varied as Swarm Of The Lotus, Losa, Mastodon, Today Is The Day, and the subject of this review, Philadelphia’s Starkweather, the art of combining oftentimes bizarre yet thoroughly killer songwriting with abominably heavy, grating groove is commonplace, and can be an entirely intense experience given proper conditions for even hardened death metal purists. And of those bands listed, Starkweather is possibly the most abrasive of them all in presentation while excelling in smooth yet deadly execution.
At this point, there have really only been three new releases for the year that have knocked me on my ass; Pharaoh’s The Longest Night, Keep Of Kalessin’s magnificent Armada, and this very long-awaited offering of sonic discomfort Croatoan. A viscously thick Pierre Remillard production enhances the immediately evident malicious vibe which proceeds to rise and fall alternately 8 separate times through waves of crashing rhythms and burly staccato grind. The allure of the songwriting on Croatoan can be compared to that of a Pitcher plant, the outside is gorgeously formed and irresistibly attractive, and only gets sweeter the further you delve. Then contact happens, and the spikes come out in the form of nailbat-swinging riffs chugging mercilessly downward from one side to the other, with no place to grab for a handhold that won’t slice flesh deeply and painfully.
It doesn’t get any more merciful as the end inevitably approaches, and the mountains of riffs collapse and crumble pushing everything into the acrid, smothering pit below. The music is both straightforward and understated in it’s dynamic intricacies, using subtle shifts in groove and momentum to it’s best and fullest crushing effect. In instances like with opening monstrosity "Slither", the changes and contrasts are stunning and jarringly aligned between the quaint, and the vile, gliding between soft and gentle amphetamine resonance and brain-liquefying browbeating. "Taming Leeches With Fire" goes through a period of musical dementia with unbalanced high picking ringing thinly among a whirl of percussive dexterity before the nails come out again to impale with more gutting cadence, and “Bitterfrost” follows similar, lumbering yet dissonant suit savagely.
All the while, vocalist Rennie Resmini sings like a man in the throes of pain-induced lunacy. If any of you remember a certain band by the name of the Bad Brains, you’ll know who H.R. is, and I’m imagining Rennie probably does too because while not a ripoff or derivation, the two vocalists are two peas in a wild pod. “Silken Garotte/ The Infinity Coil” highlights Resmini’s Patton-esque clean, warbling croon at it’s finest, or most psychotic depending on how you look at it. The contrast is, again, genuinely intimidating, and I asked Rennie himself if any guest musicians had contributed to the album. He replied that Tim Simmons contributed to the concluding percussion of “Silken Garotte/ The Infinity Coil” (with drummer Harry Rosa, DEP bassist Liam Wilson, and guitarists Todd Forkin along with Earth Crisis/Turmoil’s Jim Winters rounding out the manic bunch), but nobody else. I was half expecting maybe Satan had added some vocals, or perhaps they sampled Joan Rivers after someone told her she couldn’t get a botox treatment before the Grammy Awards pre-show. The guy sounds absolutely fucking unhinged, and his cougar scream made me look at my boom box like “what the fuck, dude” numerous times. Feral only barely describes it.
The maddening highlight to this rather inhumane disc comes when the combination of “Hushabye: Goodnight”s arrogant groove blends with a dual vocal from Rennie, one crooning and intoxicated, the other as ferocious as any black metal trachea-shredding you can find, and together all the players switch-up and lurch their way through this leviathan tune, culminating in it’s epic, and huge-sounding trembling climax. This gorgeous massacre of an album comes to a deceptively pensive end with Rennie reaching into his deepest and most feculent reserves of vocal depravity on the beginning of “Wilding”, coiling into a spitting, incensed fer-de-lance at it’s most pissed and unstable before both voice and music unfurl and relax, beaten, battered, and all but totally spent from such a high energy performance. Resmini’s vocals burn with gravelly, brokenhearted melody, sounding both exhausted yet tranquil, relishing Starkweather’s hard-worked vindication, bringing events to a defiant, debilitating end.
Croatoan is a brilliantly warped work of blue-collar genius. The songwriting displays some seriously desired common sense, the knowledge of recognizing when enough is enough, and having the acute pinpoint accuracy to unleash over-the-top viciousness just when necessary, and never bowing to overindulgence. There isn’t a second of filler, not a moment of boredom, nor a single weak or lacking track to be suffered through. You will find faster, heavier, and more voluminous creations to be heard this year, but so far none of them are as demented as Starkweather’s prodigious atrocity. Unless my feelings for Keep Of Kalessin grow stronger, or Today Is The Day, Blut Aus Nord, or The Acacia Strain create miracle albums of some sort, I doubt anything will be budging this from the top of my list anytime soon. If you have a toothache, don’t go near this album, otherwise, you’d be a fool to pass it up. My left-field ‘Album Of The Year’, so far.
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