One-off collaborations are nothing new to heavy metal. There's no other genre, save hip-hop, that spawns as many side projects and (forgive me for uttering this awful term) super-groups as heavy metal does. Some are good, some are bad. But few store as much raw potential for great music as Corrections House – the collaborative musical project consisting of Mike IX Williams (Eyehategod), Sanford Parker (Minsk), Scott Kelly (Neurosis), and Bruce Lamont (Yakuza). Last City Zero, the group's debut album, could be heavy metal's answer to Watch The Throne, but does it live up to its potential?
Corrections House is very much the sum of its parts. Each member brings a recognizable element to the table and the end result is a grimy mixture of industrial, sludge, noise, and apocalyptic folk. At times the album feels like it's going in a hundred different directions at once, but on its strongest tracks, like the album opening "Serve or Survive," all of the disparate musical elements work together to produce a compelling song.
"Serve or Survive" begins simply enough with an ominous bass line laid over top of pulsing industrial noise. Scott Kelly's slurred baritone crooning is then added to the mix, and, after a few minutes, Mike Williams makes his first appearance on the album with his signature throat-shredding shrieks. By this point "Serve or Survive" has erupted into a full-on industrial dirge. There're plenty of piston noises and over-driven guitars common to industrial music, but the track is rescued from cookie cutter mediocrity by the presence of Williams's and Kelly's unique voices.
Last City Zero is a bit of a mixed bag, but there are still a few songs on the album that meet the bar set by "Serve or Survive." "Party Leg and Three Fingers" is propelled by martial drumming and industrial stomp that's made more unique sounding with the addition of Bruce Lamont's spastic saxophone acrobatics. The track that immediately follows "Party Leg and Three Fingers," "Run Through the Night," is another strong song, but it's much different from the rest of the album. The first half of the song sounds like an out take from a mid-period Swans album; it's haunting and desolate. But that eventually gets swallowed by a wall of noise.
As good as these tracks are, much of the album is still just a throwback to late 80's and early 90's industrial music. The songs are spiced up a bit, but "Bullets and Graves" and "Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill" are essentially The Mind Is a Terrible Thing To Taste-era Ministry tracks. Listeners who aren't already familiar with the industrial genre probably won't mind, but long time fans of this type of music may find that a lot of Last City Zero sounds derivative.
Last City Zero hits the street next Tuesday the 29th via Scott Kelly's Neurot Recordings. If you're curious about this project, and you really should be, stream "Serve or Survive" above and check out a video recording of one of the band's full live performances below.