Sunday, March 23, 2008

Gnaw Their Tongues - Reeking Pained And Shuddering

'Gnaw Their Tongues', whose album 'Reeking Pained And Shuddering' was released on Paradigms Recordings last year, is a one man band. Nevertheless, the music sounds like it was made by an orchestra.

'Gnaw Their Tongues' uses a huge canvas to paint a battle between black metal, industrial noise, avant classical music and horror film soundtracks. It's sense of scale reminds me of nineteenth century romantic nationalist paintings of battlefields - even though the heroic nationalism of these paintings has been replaced by heroic misanthropy.

Heroic misanthropy?

Yes, there is something muscular, over-stimulated and triumphant about the misanthropy of 'Gnaw Their Tongues' - especially when compared to Striborg's emaciated, sickly, treacherous misanthropy. And the misanthropy of 'Gnaw Their Tongues' is no personal matter, no psychological disorder, no neurosis, but - like romantic nationalism - a socio-political world view. It is 'misanthropism', an extremely assertive ideology, which describes humans in starkly negative moral terms and makes far-reaching demands, including the disappearance of civilization and in some cases even the extinction of the human race. Misanthropism often goes hand in hand with deep ecology. From an interview with 'Gnaw Their Tongues':

"[My music is] meant to be ugly, oppressive, depressive, beautiful in all it's depravity, violent, out of control etc. etc. All elements of human nature. I'm endlessly fascinated by human nature and how 'civilization' crumbles within seconds. 'Civilized' people turn to their true animal state within seconds. All over the world there are examples of 'friendly folk' who turn into mass murderers for what ever reason. What I want to people get out of it? I don't know. Basically it's pro-animal/anti-human."

In the music, the misanthropism is expressed by means of samples about serial killers and fire-and-brimstone preachers sermonizing about hell (the band's name is derived from the biblical Book of Revelations). In the choice of samples the industrial influence (Throbbing Gristle, Skinny Puppy) shows itself.

The greatest industrial bands have given expression to a duality in human nature - that man is both a social (in the sense of 'collective') creature and an individual. (Early) Skinny Puppy's socio-political stance (anti-vivisectionism, anti-authoritarianism, etc.) was irradiated with a deeply personal sense of anguish, a festive anguish conveyed by vocals which were all the more expressive for the nuanced and intelligent way they had been processed. Coil was an alchemical wedding of a soci0-political vision of a British futuristic paganism on the one hand and on the other a striking sense of intimacy - listening to Jhonn Balance's lyrics often gave a sense of eaves-dropping on his living room, his bedroom, the banister from which he'd fall to his death. In Throbbing Gristle the social nausea informed by the dire political and economic situation of the UK in the late 1970s exchanged bodily fluids with the erotic idiosyncrasies of Genesis P. Orridge.

Though the samples used by 'Gnaw Their Tongues' are influenced by industrial music, there is something contrived about them. The origin of the samples is in the Anglo-American world, and this makes them impersonal, distant from the artist's intimate space: the rural and sober Friesland province of the Netherlands. Why are most of the horror film samples as glossy as the recent rash of superfluous simulations of 1970's horror classics (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Hills Have Eyes, Dawn Of The Dead)? Why do the processed vocals lack expressivity? And what personal meaning do American evangelist preachers have for a musician from the Netherlands, where the socio-political influence of such preachers is minimal? The representations of the social and the personal in 'Reeking Pained And Shuddering' feel a little impoverished.

Furthermore, like Skinny Puppy's 1992 swan song "Last Rites", 'Reeking Pained And Shuddering' is too embellished to be truly effective. The musical space presented on the album feels cluttered.
'Gnaw Their Tongues' needs to learn to leave things out, to subtract, to strip things away until only the essential is left.

As is, 'Reeking Pained And Shuddering' is an good album with a distinctive sound. How many "cinematic operatic orchestral avant industrial doom" (Aquarius) bands are there? How many Black Metal artists are there who namecheck Drum & Bass, Coil, Dødheimsgard, Alfred Schnittke, Dmitri Shostakovich, Luciano Berio, Sylvano Bussotti, Edgard Varèse and Pierre Boulez in one interview? How many musicians make music under the spell of a dream (Aphex Twin used to be one of those ... remember?):

"Then one night I had a dream (I'm not kidding) about a kind of 'avant' big band/orchestra. With a lot of people producing this kind of improv monster with two drummers, 4 basses, a brass section, a string section and a lot of guys/girls screaming their head of. That's what started the whole thing, a dream."

The music of 'Gnaw Their Tongues' is "..new, extreme, scary, beautiful [and] just fucked up.." and "...loud, offensive, out of control: BIG" and certainly succeeded in browbeating this listener.

But if 'Gnaw Their Tongues' would make a really up-close-and-personal record, which addresses the ills of his own community in a way that really involves himself and his own nightmares, he'd be truly brilliant.

1 comment:

mories said...

some comments; but i like the article.

"But if 'Gnaw Their Tongues' would make a really up-close-and-personal record, which addresses the ills of his own community in a way that really involves himself and his own nightmares, he'd be truly brilliant."

all my music is extremely "up-close-and-personal". i have no interest in my direct surroundings, i look everywhere, mostly inside. all samples are there just to create a feeling/atmosphere.

"Anglo-American world" ? i use samples from all over the world some not even real languages "Xenoglossia". i used german/dutch/french/belgium/english/sud africaans.

but great blog by the way