Saturday, May 15, 2010

Brodequin - Festival of Death

Brodequin - Festival of Death
2002 (?), Unmatched Brutality

As modern metal musicians continue to thumb their noses at those who claim definite limits on sheer sonic pummeling brutality and a guttural vocal style were reached with the American Disgorge and the bands in the California tech/brutal death form of the subgenre, new bands like Brodequin will arise from the liminal areas where audience disgust, disbelief, and awe give way to an open admiration for single-minded persistence, conviction, and a faith in the destructive capabilities of the musical language we have labeled "death metal". Simply put, bands like Brodequin are contextual avatars not only of the extremity-for-extremity's-sake tenets of the genre's overt ethos, but they also exist as pioneers whose disdain for flaunted attempts at "subtlety" or "atmospheric melody" (ironic in that they create an overwhelming atmosphere as a side-effect of their music anyway) hearkens back to the original fundamental ideas that birthed the death metal movement in the first place.

However, I should not over-generalize and place Brodequin within a select circle which may be mismatched to their intent, motivations, talent, and eager, indefinite energy. Within the brutal death and goregrind underground there are obvious strata of bands based on songwriting prowess and melodic talent of instrumental technique...after an album like "Festival of Death" I wouldn't hesitate to place Brodequin near the top of these different layers of ultra-obscure musicians, most of whom labor for years in virtually unheard-of groups playing blisteringly technical guitar or drum work which never manages to reach more than a few hundred sets of ears across the globe. That's a real pity, I think, because while most of the metal world sits in a stupor, entranced by the fall of black metal and that genre's related patterns/habits/forms of limited "dark" melodicism or melodic expression, there are dozens of bands (I'm being selective here, if they are just counted based on their base existence and not the quality of their material there are hundreds) working within a loosely connected network of ambitious, scornful, proud musicians out to reshape the definitions of metal guitar - its melodic/rhythmic possibilities, its tonal power and flexibility of expression, and its interconnected varieties of genre languages...its symbolic or metaphorical powers of novel worlds, soundscapes, ideas, thoughts, attempts at communication, etc. Brodequin may not be the most innovative or relentlessly restless and investigative of these bands, but they are surely one of the most profoundly dedicated.

As far as I can tell, and from what I have been reading in various places on the internet, Brodequin first came to notoriety based simply on the garbled garage production sound of their first album, "Instruments of Torture", and that record's ability to communicate an intensity of effort and aesthetic extremity which moved goregrind's level of perverse sonic terrorism a notch higher, or a few levels deeper. In a genre where bands pride themselves on the simply intensity and violence of their music, outside of melodic messages or communicated ideas, but rather just as...icons of an aural aggression, standard-bearers of sound's ability to shock, overpower, or convince through metaphorical appearances of pathological emotional states, Brodequin approached even closer to that (now) thin bloodied line which divides the most trenchant forms of metal from industrial noise or power electronics. At times "Instruments of Torture" breaks down into (seemingly) random patterns of noise, and it rides this dividing line between the genres, casting off reflections on both musical forms while straddling the characteristics of both. Dividing and dipping down into noise aesthetics and expressiveness, it resurfaces in rhythmic fragments to coalesce in the listener's mind as more traditional rock-based segments of "songs". Frequently it is not always apparent whether this is an applied effect of the music itself or a structure the listener is forcing upon the music, as a form of close-listening, a creation of "meaning" where the production style seems to ward off or block easy interpretation. As with a lot of noise music, often the meaning that springs into being during a listening session is just a reflection of what the hearer wants to find, or what his background in the genre and his understanding of the art allows him to see.

On "Festival of Death" Brodequin returns from this early liminal phase - this border territory and exploratory/experimental/development stage - with a concentration on more traditional songwriting. This could easily equal "better songs" for a common listener as he/she reacts to the well-defined sense of individualistic style here, a cohesive band identity as it is propagated through idiosyncratic motifs and repeating riff patterns: signature examples of Brodequin's new fluency of altering tried-and-true death metal standards to suit their still-evident passion for pushing the boundaries of musical torment. If anything, "Festival of Death" is a "mature" effort in that it displays the band's primary lyrical and melodic themes crystallizing around a few readily-identifiable subjects and patterns of emphasis. Goregrind purists will still find a lot to smile about as they peruse this offering, and as they witness the band striving to materialize as a flexible, powerful, expressive, modern aural/sonic equivalent of the historical torture instruments they so fervently admire. This is a portrait of a group of musicians on a path towards something admirable, caught in a transition period, but it is worth investigating nonetheless.