The phrase “super-group” needs to be put away. It’s come to the point of overuse that the word has lost all its meaning and appears on any old review that happens to feature two or more members of a band that you might have heard of before.
Take Corrections House for example. They will be called a super-group by many and perhaps justly. Their personnel includes Neurosis’ Scott Kelly, Sanford Parker of Minsk and Buried At Sea and Bruce Lamont from Yakuza and Eyehategod’s Mike IX Williams. However, multiple bands/projects are regular feats for these guys and Last City Zero is the first record under this new guise.
In many ways, Last City Zero is the sum of its parts. The record is a mixed bag of sounds and moods, jumping from sludgy noise rock to twangy Americana verses that then swan into morose folk, very much recalling Kelly’s solo work. It’s this sort of contrast, and even volatility, that makes Corrections House such a difficult entity to categorise; something that many will insist is a good thing of course.
The band themselves describe the record as being four solo sets contained in one record and so while this is still a band’s album, that stance creates this disparate tone, which is evidently quite intentional.
‘Serve or Survive’, to start, makes it clear that no matter what, you’re in for a morose and challenging listen, regardless of whatever road it takes. Firstly Scott Kelly’s sombre but rapsy croon enters until a wash of discomfiting electronics take hold. Soon finding a groove in the riffs, IX comes centre stage with his searing barking vocals.
Sludgy vibes from the Neurosis school of thought make their presence felt on ‘Party Leg and Three Fingers’ then where many of the band’s noise rock tendencies start to rear their heads too.
‘Run Through the Night’ meanwhile is the kind of fast acoustic rush that Johnny Cash at his most rambunctious would have given a favourable nod to. The band member’s love of country, and specifically Townes Van Zandt, is well established but the use of Bruce Lamont’s moody saxophone added to the fray gives the track a unique edge.
This vibe is turned upside down once again when ‘Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill’ comes creeping in with manic keyboards that are jarring and searing. The penultimate title track then is a strange highlight of the album where grave and harrowing spoken word passage decreeing the woes of our world over a lone morose guitar. Given the vicious ebb and flow that came beforehand, it allows for a quiet reflection, which makes it all the more impactful.
Closer, ‘Drapes Hung By Jesus’ is no less grim but sees a return to the jarring and dissonant sounds of earth shuddering guitars and miasmic electronics, whose beats and whirrs become more and more profound as the track grows in intensity soon joined by Lamont’s, once again, moody saxophone line with Williams screaming out one final diatribe until the very last second.
Last City Zero is an intriguing experiment. It doesn’t quite pack the same punch as the respective musicians’ latest records for example but then again Honor Found In Decay is one of Neurosis’ best records in a decade. With that said, Corrections House weave through so many different sonic climes on this record that it can be difficult to fully grasp at one idea, which can be to its detriment at times, but certainly piques enough interest.