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Album Review: CHAT PILE God's Country

9 Reviewer

Chat Pile calls their sound "death-grunge" — a unique synthesis of crushing low-end (i.e. The Body), gritty grooves (i.e. Jesus Lizard), and crazed vocals from one Raygun Busch. Busch's voice and lyrics quickly become Chat Pile's calling card, combining demented spoken word with bestial snarls. In this way, the band's sonic signature becomes as evocative as it is punishing. Unsurprisingly, Chat Pile doesn't beat around the bush with their appraisals on God's Country. This thing paints a hellish, disturbing wasteland, telling scarily believable stories amid rust-caked oblivion. 

Captain Ron's misshapen drum tones at the start of "Slaughterhouse" immediately legitimize comparisons to The Body — mainly because they sound like they were recorded in an abandoned warehouse. Similarly, Luther Manhole's guitar strains and Stin's bass thuds are not only heavy, but ugly. The band constructs a dilapidated shack of sludgy violence, in which Busch caterwauls like a torture victim. Chat Pile gives more focus to their attack with the following "Why," in which the primitive riffage follows a blunt diatribe against US homelessness. "I've never had to push my shit around in a shopping cart, have you? Have you ever had ringworm? Scabies… It's a fucking tragedy;" as the riffs get more abusive, Busch's delivery becomes more crazed.

With the "death" aspect of Chat Pile established, the "grunge" part manifests refreshingly on cuts like "Pamela" and "Anytime." Granted, the former starts out more in common with the outskirts of post-punk than the Seattle sound, but Busch's deadpan spoken word guides the reverberant guitar strains and hypnotic grooves to a distinctive, forlorn dissonance. Chat Pile displays their synergy by interweaving grief-stricken ramblings with the music's progression from unsettling sparsity to a suffocating wall of noise. The latter's rhythm guitar and unfiltered singing might recall Nirvana's "Come as you Are," but it quickly muddies the waters with grating layers and the paranoid barks of a destitute casualty of the world.

Just like the scenery the band depicts, Chat Pile likes to introduce semi-followable musical ideas, and contort them beyond recognition. Said contortions happen more rapidly during the noisecore machinations of "Wicked Puppet Dance." The band takes on a propulsive art-punk form, as Ron kicks around atonal textures with explosive rhythm. Similarly, "Tropical Beaches, Inc." careens from brittle guitar pluckings to a melee of propulsive distortion. In both cases, Busch remains the guiding force for the intensity. His emotional crescendos throw the already frenetic and chaotic instrumentals into a dark pit, and it only gets deeper.

Hearing Busch sound like he's about to burst into tears as he screams "Line up the animals" during the slug-and-chug drudgery of "The Mask" is undeniably upsetting, but the muffled heart-beat pulse of "I Don't Care If I Burn" truly displays the depths of God's Country. The track's hushed spoken word and non-musical field recordings feel claustrophobic enough, but Busch's nihilistic spiritual comes off like he's whispering and singing(?) down the neck of his all-too-deserving victim: "you may not see me now/ but motherfucker I see you." The tension-filled verses and creaking soundscapes might recall some of Tom Waits' weirder numbers (like "What's He Building?"). It's this sense of intimacy within the fray that shows how dirty Chat Pile can, and will, get their hands to reach legitimate nightmare fuel with their brand of heaviness. 

Ironically, Chat Pile saves some of its more straightforward sludge metal riffs for the last and longest track on God's Country. The first half of "Grimace_Smoking_Weed.jpeg" arrives with a devastating mid-tempo breakdown, punctuated by grimy bass lines, skronky syncopation and even some eerie tremolo picking. This is also the song where Busch totally loses coherency, raving like a man on the edge of a mental break. In fact, that's exactly what seems to happen during the song's second half. The catastrophic din gets slower, and more protracted, with cries of panicked despair acting like jump scares in a horror movie, resolving in a hauntingly sober sentiment: "I don't want to be alive anymore… do you?"

Beyond the fact it ends with shrill feedback loops and maniacal howls, God's Country is far from an easy listen. Its raw production, nasty riffs and vocal derangement belies a palpable nucleus of emotional fallout. Chat Pile fashions sludgecore into a vivid display of mental trauma caused by an afflicting world. God's country indeed… If God has truly looked the other way.

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