Hello friends, welcome to The Listening Booth. I have listened to a shitload of new music this week and, for reasons I’ll go into a bit more later, I don’t feel ready to talk about 80% of it. So, alongside new releases from Rammstein and Full of Hell, I am diving back into one of my favourite albums of last year. Sound like fun? I sure hope so.
Right now, if you were to put on an album, what would you want from it? To be transported to another time and place? Swept up in the music and carried away? Or perhaps words that sear their way into your brain, capturing the human condition in a catchy couplet? It might be none of that pretentious shite. Maybe you just want a beat to dance to, something that makes you want to move? Oh, wait, I’ve got one! How about an album that punches you in the face until your left a bloody mess? Does that sound good?
Because I’m not sure if Full Of Hell can give you any of those other things, but they will pummel you, and they will enjoy it too. For over twenty minutes, Weeping Choir is a nasty and relentless storm of grindcore that doesn’t give a shit whether you are having a lovely time. It’s too busy twisting the volume up until your ears are bleeding from the sonic battery that is trying to break down your front door.
And reading all that back, I have to question the wisdom of someone who wants to listen to it. The fourth track on this album, ‘Rainbow Coil’, is just a fuzzy roar of static and yet it’s the second longest track on it. It’s like it’s testing you, daring you to turn off and walk away because if you can’t deal with that, then like fuck are you going to be able to contend with the rest of what is to come. Then again, if you can’t deal with it, you probably couldn’t deal with ‘Haunted Arches’ beating you around the head and already turned off long ago (well, three minutes ago, it’s a short album).
Yet, I can’t help but fucking love it. I’m not someone who adores grindcore and can deal with one or two of these albums every few years. They become something I put on when I wish to self-flagellate. However, I can imagine listening to the songs on Weeping Choir. From the crushing riffs of ‘Thundering Hammers’ to what’s either a fucking automatic weapon or the fastest drumming ever on ‘Aria of Jeweled Tears’. It’s not just the obligatory slow number, ‘Armory of Obsidian Glass’ which is having all the fun playing in the sludge, that stands tall as a individual song. Within the relentless brutality, there is music that does more than punish.
I’d like to think you’ve all gotten the message by now. Weeping Choir is not easy listening and certainly doesn’t care whether you give it your time or not, and that’s what makes it brilliant. Full Of Hell are out there having all the hateful fun. It’s up to you whether you join in or not.
Everyone has a band that they’re destined never to get, don’t they? I’m pretty sure that’s the case. Whether big or small, it doesn’t matter how hard you try; it won’t click. It might be The Beatles or The Stones, or it might be Converge (although if it’s Converge my heart aches for you). For whatever reason, it doesn’t work. Well, Rammstein are one of those bands for me.
And trust me, I have tried in the past. I’ve listened to Rammstein’s albums countless times, and I’ve seen that famous live show, the one that blows everyone’s mind. It was good. I liked the bit where they put the guy in the pot. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling that it was like one of the bad plays I see at the Edinburgh Fringe every year that make no sense. The only difference is that Rammstein have a budget.
However, I’m a glutton for punishment, so I went back again. Rammstein’s untitled seventh album (which is an effective way of calling it Rammstein without calling it Rammstein) came out last week, and I couldn’t resist. Perhaps this would be the one that clicked! Well, it didn’t.
Why write about it then? Why waste my time on something I don’t enjoy? Well, for one thing, I’ve already wasted quite a lot of my time on it, so I might as well get something out of it, and for another, I want to figure out why. What is it about Rammstein that is destined to leave me cold? Why when I listen to their music, do I feel nothing? A song like ‘Puppe’ should be perfect for me with its dark, unhinged edge that screams menace. Yet, it doesn’t even elicit a whimper. I can appreciate it from afar, but feel anything? Nah.
The obvious answer is the language barrier. I don’t speak German, so I can’t connect with the music. Sadly, that answer is also a cop-out. I like Solstafir, and they don’t sing in English while I raved about Otoboke Beaver a few weeks ago, and a lot of their lyrics are in Japanese. Christ, minutes ago in this very article I made it clear that I love Converge and ain’t no fucker listening to Jane Doe and connecting to that through Bannon’s lyrical genius because ain’t no fucker got a clue what he’s saying. Understanding Till Lindemann isn’t the problem.
So, it has to be the music itself, and in that, I think we do find the answer. Rammstein, an industrial metal band, are too good at playing industrial metal. Their music is a big, brash cacophony of noise that sounds like it was welded from Teutonic steel (no idea if that is a thing) and it is like that sound holds me at arm’s length. How the fuck do you connect with something that large and intimidating? It comes from another world, and it’s not one in which I am welcome.
All of which brings me back to the start. I am almost certain that Rammstein fans will like Rammstein because I don’t. Whatever it is that’s pushed me away before continues to do so. I guess I’m destined to always be on the outside looking in what it comes to this band.
This Will Haunt Me was one of my favourite albums of 2018. If you want proof of that, you can go back and read the list I put together with all twenty of them on it. Look, it’s there! How exciting. You’ll also see that I already bashed out some words about it, perhaps rendering this currently directionless rambling irrelevant. If that is your thought process, then stop overthinking this shit. I don’t feel confident writing about anything else I’ve listened to this week because it’s all too complex and needs more of my attention before I feel like I have a grasp on it, so I’m going back to an old favourite that has already received that attention.
For five months on, This Will Haunt Me has done nothing to lower itself in my expectations. If anything, it’s gone up in them as Dollar Signs have continued to tattoo themselves onto my brain. In that time I’ve gone back into their past and discovered that I think that’s incredible too. This band (who I’m realising as I write this that I know nothing about besides their name and the fact I like their music) writes song that makes all the sense in the world to me. I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing as they sing slacker punk rock about drinking too much and not having a place in society, but fuck am I grateful they’re there.
And even outside all that emotional shit, these songs are stubborn buggers. I’m pretty sure ‘The Real Folk Blues’ has been bouncing around my head since the first time I heard it while ‘Waste My Life Away’ is an anthem for screw-ups everywhere. Not to sound too cynical, but you can write lyrics that describe the life experiences of a million people, but if the song ain’t good, no-one gives a shit. Oh fuck, I just described the message of ‘The Devil Wears Flannel’, I guess Dollar Signs agree.
Last year I thought this was music made for 2018, but it’s becoming clear that it might be even more suited to 2019. In my album of the year list, I called them songs about feeling lost and a bit sad and not to blow smoke up five months ago Stuart’s arse, but that was pretty perfect. I do want to add to that, though. Because they’re also songs about punk rock, they’re songs about togetherness and in among all that screw-up waster shite they are songs that have a touch of hope. A hope that as long as we have music and friends, things might be alright. ‘And now the sweaty hugs and pumping fists, and life no longer feels meaningless screaming catharsis with my best friends,’ can anyone say it better than that?
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