Text & Photos by Charles Nickles
Sometimes, when shit gets weird, it’s good to go the metal show. Get hot. Get deaf. Get hit. Maybe iron some of those wrinkles out of your cranium. Other times, it leaves you wholly twisted on the very nature of your personal being.
And that, my friends, is no easy way to be.
I’ve never heard a siren’s song (frankly, I’ve never been at sea for very long) but there’s something about the pitiless tumult of Infernal Coil that has me picturing a mermaid in a meat grinder. Though, to be fair, that image isn’t entirely accurate. Meat grinders are slow, purposeful devices that require a certain degree of finesse to feed and churn. A firm but delicate hand and all that which would appear to be something that Infernal Coil doesn’t lack, necessarily, but certainly doesn’t take pains to display with the live incantation of their grease-painted, red-bent, ashen-gruel manifest so perhaps I’d be better off conceptualizing cruel death via something mechanized like a turbine but water turbines aren’t menacing, are they? So maybe the mermaid’s wrong too. Maybe I should look up and close to home. Maybe witnessing Infernal Coil decided violence should have me picturing a flock of Canadian Geese flying south for the winter when suddenly and unceremoniously struck by a 747. The windows crack and the cabin pressure plummets. Oxygen masks are deployed and as the children get their first breath of elation the engines fail, choked up with the sudden onslaught of feathers and gore. The plane begins losing altitude fast. Some people pray. Most people scream. One or two just look on in silence, understanding that a world without them (without people, frankly) is just a better fucking place than this consumerist grotesquerie and hope against hope – ever so slightly – that they’ll make impact on an overpopulated city.
“Maybe then I can make a difference.”
Damn, dude. Dalek has been a thing for 20 fucking years? Good on ‘em. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that despite being off-put but astounded by the release of their Ipecac debut (From Filthy Tongues of Gods and Griots) I’d never seen the man/band perform until that Trans Pecos gig a few moons ago which I only dragged Joseph too because B L A C K I E was making a rare NYC sojourn (so, duh) but got in early and learned hard by the manic anarchic lust of Dreamcrusher so by the time it was Dalek I was spent as fuck. Still, I remember they were solid.
Tonight I’m present despite the flagrant rage of Infernal Coil and the mooks flexing in to get ready for Sumac and I’m glad I am because Dalek is hip hop blood and bones. Straight flow and an ambience of noise, expertly cataloged and delivered with postmodern precision.
I guess you could clock these dudes in the ever-obtuse categorization of noise rap or left field or alternative hip hop or whatever the shit but I’m not hip enough to the grist to know what is or isn’t when it comes to rhymes but I will say that these dudes keep pretty steady with the crate-picking tonality that inspired the iron works of everyone from Bambataa to GZA to Prodigy to Yeezy and I definitely find their set more inspiring than another screaming horde.
So now that we’re talking about age let’s talk about the fact that the first time I saw Aaron Turner play was with ISIS opening for Napalm Death at CBGB’s and I was decidedly unimpressed because I was very, very, VERY into Neurosis at that time and didn’t have space in my life for another glacial movement but in the many years since I’ve learned to love what that auburn lunatic can do.
And I’m gonna go out on a limb here and say that SUMAC might well be the best goddamn thing he’s ever done.
I know most (if not all) of you will argue for ISIS and you’re right too. That band, despite my initially misgivings, became a goddamn behemoth that ushered a way into the pit for the thinkin’ man while expanding the consciousness of the casual hesher. They were awesome. They were huge. But, SUMAC?
SUMAC is fucking Leviathan.
Their work is inspired, expansive and tortured but beautiful in a strange and terrifying way like the lights of a migraine or the soft smell of arboreal decay and their latest opus, Love in Shadow, is one of the most magnificent examples of musical possibility since Extreme Noise Terror played with The KLF.
It’s turgid and violent, discordant and free and live it’s positively fucking awe-inspiring.
Like, watching them tonight, I literally have no idea what the fuck is happening or why. I mean walking into this I knew Mr. Turner would howl and chug like the wildman of the woods and Mr. Cook would rumble up stoic and hirsute and Mr. Yacyshyn would beat the ever-loving shit out of his kit but I didn’t expect the crazy-ass Japanese psych eruptions or the meditative force of an extended Shellac prod. I didn’t think there would be more than one instance where I would be lulled by the whirlwind so effectively that I’d fear I’d fallen asleep on my feet and this whole swollen mess was some fever dream by two months of constant anxiety and another broken tooth.
I certainly didn’t think I’d genuinely wonder if I was sweating or crying or both or maybe I blinked and suddenly found myself born anew from the loving wonder of the great quantum soup.