Here is something that is missing from indie rock - physicality. The songs are rife with ideas, or more often, pointers to ideas without the crassness of actual ideas. There is definitely swing, hooks, groove, betas, all the trappings of rock n roll but what they seem to be lacking is physicality. So much so that say The Cramps, a mediocre band talent-wise by rockabilly standards, can be held up as something real, something with some roots, though the tendrils of that tree are planted firmly in parody and idolatry. Or say, Pavement or Nirvana songs - while I think both created some great music, the songs seem to shudder in and out of phase with us on the other end. There is a not-there-ness about them that is infectious, that it forces us noodly intellectual types to inject bits of ourselves into the gaps to flesh out the song, hence constructing a strong covalent bond with the music. But after a while, the brain gets tired of connecting the hazy dots and needs something big and intricate and tactile to experience. And that's where metal comes in. For all its bluster and pageantry and whatnot, metal provides a tangible, phenomenological music, a sculptural thing with which to empathize or be dazzled by. Not to say its is un-nuanced spectacle, to the contrary - metal is more free with its emotions, less "cool" about things, but not any less intelligent. Its like this, the transcendent moments in indie rock are like crossing a line in the sand. the ones in metal are like accidentally walking into a mountain.
The mountain which inspired this is the self titled album by Baltimore progressive instrumental metal outfit Trephine (or alternately Trephine MD, to distinguish itself from a now-defunct straight-edge hardcore outfit also naming themselves for an implement for making holes in troubled skulls) whose acrobatic interplay inspires images of a giant engine of unknown purpose cranking away in the uncharted wilderness. The Rube-Goldberg machine that is this records initiates easily enough with a pulse on "Goes To Hell, Mr. Wiggles (Part One)" tilting to and fro in a seasick sway for two minutes until someone hits the ignition, and the giant machine roars to life, all gears and belts and pistons firing with caliper precision. This ambles directly into the lurching "Age of Reptiles" without my noticing it, except the intricate melody has adjusted to a more animal like one. On "Metal Detector" I can detect some of the wellsprings for this group, which besides the classic shred stylings of Metallica and maybe even old school Iron Maiden, there is a lot from King Crimson's cog-wheel guitar masterpiece Discipline.
The titles of many of the tracks like "Resident Advisor" and the "Devil's Activist" betray an adjacency to the real thing, which I think is misleading. This is no meta-metal act but one that strips off a lot of the costume and superfluous elements to get at the core of the music. I'm not schooled enough in the genre to really classify this properly, so borrowing from indie rock taxonomies, I'd call this Math Metal. Probably my favorite track here "Adrenochrome' gets at this the best, in that its starts as a floating simple array of melodies interrupted by bursts of thrash thrusts, not unlike that sound you here when you drift off onto the shoulder on the interstate. But as it progresses, you get more exhibitions of power on the parts of every instrument, shrieks of microtonal noise, polyrhythms you can't really get a bead on since they are so fast - all interacting in a well-oiled clockwork. We are taken out by part two of the Mr Wiggles saga that opened the disc, which picks u the scraps from the length of the record and combines it into its own flailing automaton, threatening to destroy itself like a Jean Tingley sculpture, drifting in a jazz-like interplay until it finally works itself up into a tidal wave of menace and power at the end. Brilliant ingenious stuff. If you need a break from "clever" music to which a listen is benefited by knowing the haircut sported by the singer, then step out onto the open fields of metal, and let Trephine come drill a hole in that crowded brain or yours and release the pressure.
Alex V. Cook listens to everything and writes about most of it. His latest book, the snappily titled Louisiana Saturday Night: Looking for a Good Time in South Louisiana's Juke Joints, Honky-Tonks, and Dance Halls is an odyssey from the backwoods bars and small-town dives to the swampside dance halls and converted clapboard barns of a Louisiana Saturday Night. Don't leave Heathrow without it. His first book Darkness Racket and Twang is available from SideCartel. The full effect can be had at alex v cook.com
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