Obscure Gems: !T.O.O.H.! – Rád a Trest (Order and Punishment)

Have you ever heard progressive/avant-garde grindcore? Well, I’m going to assume you haven’t, so I will be talking about !T.O.O.H! today. What a band name, right? It stands for The Obliteration Of Humanity. Anyway, if you’ve read my previous Obscure Gems, you’ve seen me talk about Lykathea Aflame, and how their album is amazing. Remember how they are from the Czech Republic? Well, so are !T.O.O.H!! Apparently, during the 90s and 00s, the Czech Republic was the go-to place for mindblowing metal. Unlike Lyklathea, !T.O.O.H! (Okay, I give up; I’ll be calling them TOOH from now on) write their songs entirely in Czech. This adds yet another level of obscurity to their already hard-to-grasp songs, but they’re even more frantic and better because of this.

So, who are TOOH? They were formed by two brothers, Jan and Josef Veselý, one on drum/vocals, and the other on guitar/vocals. They’ve had other members too, but right now they consist of only those two. Order and Punishment was their last album before they disbanded for financial reasons (though they’ve reformed on September 2011 with only the Veselý brothers, and are working on a new album). They disbanded immediately after completing this album in 2005, and Earache Records took the album out of print 2 months after its release, so this album is really obscure. So, what are TOOH about? I called them progressive grindcore, but they’re somewhere between that and technical death metal. They have frantic lyrics that are somewhere between a yell and a growl, their drum work is vigilant in the typical grindcore fashion, and the guitars are fast, weird and technical. And you can even hear the bass do interesting things! But let’s go a bit deeper than that.

 

Let’s take the opening track, ‘Al-Amin (Aneb Jak Vycakat Jelito)’. It starts out with an endless barrage of discomforting riffs, and then you’re introduced to the frantic vocals. What’s impressive here is that there’s a constant shift in tone, while remaining tense all over. The songs goes through buildup after buildup, and when it feels like it’s going to give you some release, it hits you even harder. But this doesn’t even begin to capture the absurdity going on here. This is some Gorguts-level weird music. I have no idea what notes they’re playing here, because there’s no sense of traditional acceptable music. Even when in the middle of this song, there’s a -by TOOH standards- mellow solo, it’s still very sinister and immediately dissolves into oddity. This album feels Lovecraftian, with its descent into madness and constant feeling of “there’s something seriously wrong here”.

As you keep listening to the album, you’ll understand where the progressive grindcore label comes from. The Veselý brothers clearly have their roots in grindcore, but then you encounter a folk singing section and your mind explodes. No, seriously, ‘Analza Zahnedy’ has a folky chorus. Followed by some weird, upsetting grindcore — but not in the Iwrestledabearonce sense of, “we can do it, so why not?” Here, it feels completely natural. The technical death metal part comes from the fast, skill intensive, absurd riffs. In the end, each song is a weird mix of eclectic elements, and a constant buildup of extreme tension. The avant-garde comes from, well, the fact that it is weird as fuck and experiments with musical structure. The result is a very unique sound that is immediately identifiable as TOOH.

When I first listened to this album, I pretty much looked like the dude on the album cover. The sheer absurdity and density of the music isn’t easy to immediately grasp. But what separates TOOH from their peers is that their music isn’t a blurb of discomforting noise. Most bands that try to be weird end up just being annoying. TOOH aren’t like that, there’s a method to their madness. Yes, the method isn’t really something that normal people would use, but the fact that it exists makes them special. There’s clearly some jazz in the blood of the band. That, and insanity. The vocals sound like the ramblings of a madman, frantic and enraged. The drumming is also similar to the vocals in that aspect, but there’s also a clear beat at all times, and usually it’s very headbangable.

In the end, like most of the Obscure Gems I talk about, TOOH are better experienced than described. If you want your mind blown, this is the one Obscure Gem you should listen to. I was extremely happy to hear that TOOH have reformed and are working on a new album (“like” them on Facebook to show your support), and you should be excited too! There isn’t a single other band that compares with them, and this album is definitely a unique masterpiece. If you’ve been a fan of Obscure Gems so far, I’d urge you to listen to this album, and then listen to the rest of TOOH’s discography. You won’t be disappointed.

 – NT

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