Wednesday, 7 December 2011

What would Jesus choose?

What follows is the first in a series of questions entitled “What would Jesus do?”. Only tangentially to do with religion, this series asks the hard question: “If you can only choose between A and B, which would you choose”. The first question:

Beneath the Remains or Arise?

As a young metal head it took me years to get around to listening to Sepultura’s Arise. It would be many more years later until I heard Beneath the Remains, and longer still until it “clicked” for me. My Sepulchral inroad was 1994’s Chaos AD. From the loose tribal drumming, propulsive riffing and a spit in the face of the first world defiant swagger, I was hooked. By contrast the seamless death/thrash blend of Arise appeared dated and regressive to a younger me. But after multiple listens, Arise started to gel and I began to appreciate the fine line it walked between two extreme musical genres. Arise’s strong points are its precision and focus, it is a tightly structured, well paced and balanced album, certainly worthy of the praise heaped upon it. So then comes my belated engagement with Beneath the Remains. Where Arise straddled genres, Remains inhabited the interstice between period aesthetics. Maintaining a heft dose of primitive early thrash yet pushing forward towards exacting sonic devastation, Remains functions as a kind of a portal into possible proto-alternative futures for thrash and death metal. Lyrically, Arise is the stronger of the two and likely reflects the length of time after the band’s shift to a North American context. However, while Arise might be stronger and more consistent lyrically, stylistically, Remains takes more risks, sounding like a band still trying to find its sound. This nascent version of the still young band simply doesn’t give a damn one way or the other about external stylistic conventions.

Judgement: I must admit, I have never been a fan of either/or binaries but when presented with one (even if the presenter and presentee are the same) I cannot shy away from participating whether to undermine the prevailing logic or to simply broadcast my terrible taste. As for the question at hand, while I have a lot of affection and a nostalgic soft spot for Arise, it is Beneath the Remains which helps improve this grandpa’s blood flow. Remains holds looseness and unpredictability against Arise’s exacting sounds and that spirit of experimentation is what wins me over to this day.

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