You know the drill: if a track I listen to makes me go “holy shit” within the first minute, I am obligated by the gods and foul spirits of metal to write about it. And so, here we are, seeing as Lament Cityscape‘s “The Under Dark”, off of their latest album A Darker Discharge, made me go “holy shit” within the first 10 seconds. We’re talking about a dark, twisted, mix of industrial metal and heavy-hitting sludge and a bit of hardcore, resulting in a convoluted and furious sort of sound that’s hard to stay blasé about it. You don’t really “like” it, right, because no one “likes” being pummeled in the face with a truck load of cement but it makes you feel good. Good and angry, good and frightened, good and sick to your stomach. That sort of vibe.
The album definitely does not relent on these themes, sensations, and approaches so I was compelled to sit the band down and find out how exactly this dark concoction came to be. And lo and behold, some of the choices for inspirations down below make a lot of sense. And some of them I wasn’t even familiar with but I am deeply intrigued with upon cursory listens. And still others of them, like Beck, really shed light on the unbridled energy that courses through Lament Cityscape’s music. Go on then; dive into it. There are plenty more dark, pummeling music contained below.
The Cult – Beyond Good and Evil
“Hey, write about an album that was a key musical influence.”
“Make it interesting.”
“Just choose one.”
“Oh, goddamn it.”
Before writing this I wrote the first half of an article in my head for several different albums:
NIN – The Downward Spiral (Yeah, no shit.)
Gary Numan – Exile (Also… yeah.)
Genesis – We Can’t Dance (Could be interesting, but I was young and didn’t know any better.)
I grew up on what I grew up on and enjoyed music in my youth, but it didn’t hit me hard until ’92 (I was 11 years old and Broken and Psalm 69 came out and I got really into caring about music). It wasn’t until I was almost 17 years old when I started to learn and play music. I was writing really chaotic music (with Peter Layman: see below) and was caring more about the vibe and energy of a song than using any kind of structure or thoughtful flow. It was always 100% energy 100% of the time. When I was 20 years old I stumbled across this new album from The Cult, who until that time I had wrongfully thought they were just a generic rock band. I had liked a couple songs from them so I checked out Beyond Good and Evil which had just come out.
Something clicked and every single song spoke to me. The way every song had an absolutely perfect chorus, and the way Ian’s vocals play with the music still gives me chills. This album was the perfect amount of mystique and rock swagger without being some asshole writing fake shit. I know a lot of reviews kind of slammed it at the time because it was heavier than their past albums and was accused of jumping into the nu scene, but really it’s just that the guitars were more distorted and the drum production was more metallic. It was a great gateway into finding out about their past and getting into the gothier, and far less rockin’, Southern Death Cult.
I still revisit this album several times a year, and sing way too fucking loud (and off) in the car. The energy still works.
Abandon – The Dead End
On its face, when someone asks you to pick one album that has had a profound impact on you, it seems impossible to narrow it down to just one. However, when it really came down to it, this was honestly one of the easiest decisions for me. No album has even come close to stirring up the emotion that I felt when I first heard Abandon‘s The Dead End.
For anyone who is unfamiliar with Sweden’s Abandon, this is their third and final album. The band had been writing and recording these songs for some time leading up to their vocalist, Johan Carlzon, tragically passing away from a drug overdose in 2008. The band decided to press on and complete this album, releasing it almost a year after his death in 2009. It’s over 106 minutes and I owe a lot of my musical inspiration to it, despite the fact that I was in my mid-twenties when it came out.
This is a masterfully constructed record from start to finish. I’m not sure if it was just everything that I was going through before hearing it, but it emotionally crippled me.. I needed to listen again and again to make sure it was real. I can attest that it certainly was.
Still to this day, the opening track (“Bitter The Surface”) makes me feel like I’m safely floating downstream through a place that is full of hope, directly after experiencing a heartbreaking loss. As if I’m being repaired and able to be made whole again, despite the tourniquet cutting off the blood flow after an incapacitating wound. Everything is going to be okay and you’ll see the sun rise once more. That sense of hope and security quickly fades the second you cross the threshold into the next track, “Pitch Black Hole”, which is the beginning of your descent.
The vocals are sparse throughout, but I think that their infrequency adds to the purpose and weight behind the lyrics. There is an honest rawness that provides a glimpse into the misery and pain that Johan was experiencing. Several of his paintings were chosen to be used as the artwork for this release; which, along with his lyrics, adds to the evident darkness that he suffered through. The music itself is filthy yet beautiful; while still being slow, heavy, and crushingly depressing. The pump organ is such a vital piece of rounding out the overall feeling, and adds to the uniqueness of the band’s sound. It’s eerie and feels almost funerary, but still somehow comfortably blankets you with warmth.
When listening to The Dead End, it feels like each track is yet another hole that you willingly dig and crawl into, in an attempt to escape the self-inflicted dread that is chasing you; while having the opposite effect and sending you deeper and deeper into the cold darkness. For me, this journey leads to an overwhelming sense of sadness and a loss of hope that I will ever be worth anything to anyone again. I can safely say that no record has ruined me in all of the right ways like this one has. If I had to narrow it down to a song that hits me the hardest, I would have to say “It’s All Gone” is the one.
I’m lucky enough to have purchased this record (#269 of #275 pressed) before the Malmö based label Blackstar Foundation sold out. It is easily my favorite record that I own, and one that I will never let go of.
Melvins – Stag
As a 15 year old in the 1990’s and a dedicated grunge baby, I was already familiar with The Melvins by the time I bought a copy of Stag at Best Buy Music in Santa Rosa, the nearest city to the tiny town where I grew up in Lake County, CA. I’m sure there are plenty of other people who have written about The Melvins’ riffs in this column. It’s true – The Melvins have riffs, but that’s not what I’m here to write about. The thing that specifically interested me about this record was the interstitial bits. It’s my understanding each member took a four track and recorded a weird little interlude piece. There were a lot of bands that did things like that around the same time. I was also listening to AEnima by Tool and Through Silver and Blood by Neurosis. Both had interludes too, though Neurosis did them in a way that was much more integrated into the feel of the album than Tool, which in hindsight mostly seem like filler.
I was in an on-again-off-again punk/grunge band called Pat Robertson’s Illegitimate Children with some friends at the time (apologies to Mom, who objected to the band name based on the obvious implication). At some point, Clayton, the other guitarist in the band, and I created a new project called Strip-Searched for Speeding based on the idea that you could just do those interludes and nothing else. Of course, Neurosis was already way ahead of us when they started Tribes of Neurot. All this experimentation led me down a path to discovering even weirder artists like Coil and Merzbow a few years later. In the 1990’s The Melvins seemed to always be challenging the idea of what they sounded like on each record. I haven’t really kept up on their output for the last decade or more, but I assume they are still doing the same. In any case, they forever warped my idea that a band had to sound just one way.
“Style” is for fashion, and good bands transcend the pettiness of “style”. They have an identity that you can recognize, even when they stretch beyond their previous work. When Mike was creating A Darker Discharge, he asked me if a particular song on the new album sounded like it belonged. To me, it doesn’t really matter if you get faster or slower, quiet, loud, chaotic, melodic, weirder, or more catchy, these things are not mutually exclusive. Of course it sounded like it fit – it had obviously come from the mind responsible for Lament Cityscape. I could hear it.
Beck – MELLOW GOLD
The 90s were a strange era for me and music. I was very young (13) when this came out and was exposed to it by force from an older friend of mine, Jake, who was obsessed with sound, of any kind. I was too young to understand musical feelings and/or impact, but this album rang a bell with me so hard, it is honestly a large contribution to my curiosity of music in general.
Prior to this, my music selection was grim. I couldn’t afford to buy music and the hand-me-downs were usually old 45’s of bullshit malt-shop bands or random Pink Floyd LPs my uncle would forget to take home. I only listened to them because I had nothing else. Music was still fascinating to me. At 13, I was not the most influenced, or experienced listener. So, needless to say, Beck, with a foul mouth and similarly abusive/disruptive upbringing really rung deep.
I thought the music was bullshit but fascinating in parallel. The fact he could play whatever and it was catchy and the replay-value was something that drove me to dig deeper. The music is objective shit. It’s piecemeal chicken-scratch 90s meme-ery touting ironic lyrics, detuned pawn shop guitars in abhorrent sound quality. It was punk-rock to me; I was fucking obsessed. I wanted everything to be noisy and chaotic, but loved to be snapped back with musical hooks and jams you would scream and confuse your apartment neighbors at 2am.
This album inspired me to find more. I wanted loud, crusty bullshit; quickly evolving into an obsessive love/hate relationship with Florida death metal giants, weirdly. There’s more to that, for sure, but let’s keep it at Beck.
I give this album credit for kicking me in the face with no real reason to like or dislike it. It was made by a 23 year old kid who cashed in on a record deal with cheap guitars and released complete bullshit. It was violent, sad, pathetic, depressing and embarrassing in some lo-fi cassette tape universe that was on the edge of dying, it was absolutely perfect.
I will never not regularly rotate, and sing every goddamn word of this record. It’s home to me.