After all my talk of having my feet firmly immersed in the murky sticky fluidity of metal, looking back I really don’t like much metal at all, and actively hate most of it and simply live for those few moments when metal finds that mix between the unusually high musicianship levels, the fascinating aesthetic and the political and religious volatility to make a truly seminal record that stands with the best live and psychedelic albums as a means of psychic transportation. This lends me pariah status to both non-metal fans and mainstream metal zealots alike. The stream of such quality releases could never have been called prolific, but just recently has slowed inexorably and with nothing on the horizon I was beginning to become fully disenchanted with metal and abandon it to the tomb for genres that have run their course. Every so often, sometimes from the vaults of days past, a metal record comes into my ears that instantly revitalises the rock star fantasy and even has the smell of a motorcycle engine casing baking in the sun and thunders across highways of genre, sound and ideas, clattering unfeelingly and easily past the lumbering family station wagons of straight jacketed compromise of today’s mainstream. Bongripper’s seminal opus Satan Worshipping Doom is just such a record. Reminding everyone who might have forgotten that metal can be mature and sophisticated. And absolutely insane.
Beginning with a vicious scratching before coming out of nowhere with a violent frying pan to the face. Your consciousness runs headlong into the throbbing, brutal, immovable wall of the guitar tone, backed up fully by the bass. Yet through the stratospheric volume and brutal tone, the album has an intense listenability. What is instantly remarkable is that the music very quickly changes, within a few repetitions of the riff the emphasis within the music slowly shifts like the cargo in the back of a AC-119 as it begins its slow and deadly arc over the jungle at strafing height. Against this syrupy sea of the riffs and the backing bass come the drums, raining down upon you trapped in this sea like molten gravel, hot and sharp to the touch. As the opener zones out after nearly fifteen minutes of droning, haunting fuzzy glue it is a totally different song from the one that began. Did the song change? Or did I? Throughout the record it is in a constant state of flux, emphasis changing, bass making a violent and doomed counterattack against the droning guitar. Drums soaring overhead like screaming artillery fire. Guitar drone thumping like the distant explosions of an Arc Light strike. Each new movement comes like flashes of colour in a kaleidoscope, splashing vivid and bright new colours that strike as oddly familiar.
After witnessing war at a distance, seeing the brown mud and the bright flames, in the second track, Bongripper bring all of that battle rousing, the endless, thumping rhythm of the first world war. Never ceasing conflict with only tiny shifts in flux and miniature victories and defeats that appear meaningless, but at the end of this four track album, as at the end of that four year war, your mind and Europe will be very different places. Like Europe, you may find yourself inexorably sliding into another listen straight away, with the volume cranked up even further. The second track is bigger, brasher, slower, louder, faster and more brutal than what has come before. The tranquil sea of mangled life that prevented all movement suddenly is whipped up by the darkening clouds of a storm. Still unable to move, you watch as the waves churn and belch and move around you, washing ever more prevalently. You taste it in your mouth, the copper taste of blood. Blood and glue and cordite have you fixed like a dummy. Like an associate of the mob who couldn’t (or wouldn’t) submit to their tyranny, you find yourself fastened to the floor of an ever rising sea, but a sea of the most unpleasant sort. Churning metal and organics and corrosives. Very quickly it completely envelopes you, the grotesque cocktail fills your ears and plugs them with a dull but deafening churning, it stings your eyes held tightly shut, your skin burns, the horrifying liquid rushes up your nose, choking you instantly, you gag and retch but every time you open your mouth to vomit out the blood and metal and acid you inhale more. Unsure of how long you can survive this endless agony you exhale and submit. Letting yourself fall free, still fastened to the sea floor. Instantly the pressure abates, a sense of childlike fun permeates the membrane of your consciousness. You experience the hallucinatory joy of letting go completely. You feel yourself passing out as track two draws to its droning, unstoppable conclusion.
Awake. You haven’t died. By some miracle or some torture you find it impossible to pass beyond the veil of consciousness and into the theatre of the unwell. You exist impossibly in a sea of darkness, hardly able to see through the horrible red soup. You can’t submit to hell just yet, your soul is not prepared. There are still two more tracks to go. Track three descends into a much more trippy experience. More groovy, less abrasive than the sonic abuse that has come before. Or am I just getting used to it?
Track four involves being strung up by the audio eyeballs and left to dangle until something snaps. Any of the groove, the addictiveness of the first three tracks evaporates in the brutal sun beating down through the hole in the ceiling of an ancient Egyptian tomb you fell into. The sound seems to congeal. Like the album is a carton of milk you leave out in the baking heat and check on each day, watching the contents progressively stultify, become more hardened and less recognisable with each gaze. The final track is an orgy of super-slowed down groove, building like weather on the horizon into a truly terrifying proposition. Seas of meaning, waves of imagery shatter each other on the granite rocks of your understanding. Moments exist of melody behind the drone, little snatches of other noise. Slowly these background wails and groans and half-acoustic half-electro warbles come full form and begin to dominate the piece like the endless stream of young Vietnamese men endlessly being chopped down by ‘free world’ machineguns, eventually the toll of the battle would ring on all counts in favour of the losers. The drums put up the sternest defence against Walter Cronkite’s ability to sway the American people, pounding with relentless, restless energy like the last blood-crazed adrenaline-pumped soldier on the battlefield fighting a battle that can never be won.
And then it ends. Silence
A sudden gasp, a final breath of energy from the exhausted and depleted guitars that have been benching 300 for the last fifty minutes, words destitute to their fatigue fade out and are lost.
And then it ends. Silence. Like all the trips before it and all the trips after it and all the trips you can have to it, Satan Worshipping Doom ends, leaving you drained and exhausted and begging for more. Don’t blame me if you find your now possessed arm reaching independently to return the disk to the beginning and cement your feet to the riverbed for another fifty minutes.
Words - Steven