Thursday, 10 January 2013

Megachurch - Megachurch 2: Judgment Day (album review)

This album has been out for over a year and a half now but it's being released on CD and cassette with three bonus tracks by Stressed Sumo records on February 11 and there may still be some out there who haven't entered Megachurch's sanctuary of sound.  For those unfamiliar with the band, I'll try my best to describe the music.

Megachurch is genius.

Three guys from Cleveland, featuring a twin bass attack that owes as much to Cliff Burton in tone as to Matt Pike for riff-mad aggression.  They use generally manic audio samples in lieu of vocals, which is their signature.  Who could match the fiery intensity of the voices of real people extolling passionately on religion and politics?  Hellfire preaching shouts atop scorching brimstone metal.  Syncopated blasts and dizzying grooves are wrapped around spoken word samples of preachers and protesters and the like as a car wraps nicely around a telephone pole, infusing the breakneck performance with an excitable atmosphere.

The music doesn't just serve as a backdrop for the samples, nor are the samples thrown haphazardly atop the music.  "Receive It" and "My Father's Dignity" are probably the best examples of songs that were crafted around their respective samples with their rhythmic changes and syncopated blasts, matching not only the rhythm of the speech, but also the emotion, intensity and meaning.  It's brilliant.  I'm afraid however that that doesn't quite cut muster either because the music doesn't just match the emotion, intensity and meaning of the speeches used, but also serves to enhance those intangible elements, creating an intense listening experience.  Really, this symbiosis is evident on all the songs.  One of the most intense examples of this is "Speaking in Tongues" which is a showcase of just that: people speaking in tongues.  The song is like a glimpse into Dante's seven layers of hell, whirlwind blasts of chaotic metal with writhing masses of nonsensical speakers on the bottom level.

If I have one criticism with the album, it's the partisan politics of the affair.  There's no denying that the samples take very much of a jaundiced look at many aspects of American culture generally associated with the political right.  I know, I know, "it's just a little irreverence, don't you have a sense of humor?"  Sure, but I also like to be fair.  With song titles such as "Teabaggers", a derogatory term applied to the Tea Party movement, "Battle Hymn for the Republican" and "The Gay Agenda" it's clear who Megachurch's 'target' is.  I would like to hear the band aim their sights at some of the sillier aspects of the American political left on their next release, but that's not likely to happen (Disclaimer: I'm neither conservative nor liberal, I try to take a nonpartisan approach to understanding issues based on logic and reason).  In fairness, Megachurch aren't creating these soundbites, they are finding and using them to shine a big spotlight on the absurdity of certain aspects of American culture and particular individuals.  'American culture' is another slippery phrase because it's such a large and culturally varied country.  It's just that, without that two sided fairness, the message comes off as ironically preachy.  I could go on for hours on this subject, it's pretty much an essay in itself so I'll just cut it off right here.

Look, America can be full of strange and scary places to outsiders and sometimes those places inhabit minds rather than a physical space but sometimes they inhabit both.  A 'megachurch' is an example of this.  A sports stadium sized church is a testament to the seemingly American values of maximization and extremity.  Go big or go home.  Isn't that what Megachurch, the band, is doing here as well?  At the end of the day, it's just music, particularly good music, particularly interesting music which should be cherished for what it is: a unique statement.  If the musical efforts on this disc were pedestrian, three guys with elastic bands on shoeboxes and garbage can drums I wouldn't be talking about it.  Megachurch have crafted an album that is extreme both in its 'vocal' approach and in its breakneck performance, hellbent song structures and sensitivity to counterpoint.  Again, just genius stuff.

So, "Are you ready to hear the 13th resurrection of the dead?"

Highlights include: "Receive It" and "My Father's Dignity"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 38:38

From: Cleveland, Ohio

Genre: Metal, Instrumental, Stoner

Reminds me of: Don Caballero, Jimmy Swaggert

Release Date: June 24, 2011 - European release on CD & cassette via Stressed Sumo records February 11, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: succumb to mob mentality

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Heavy Planet
Temple of Perdition

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