Weird, abrasive, and brainy are all viable words to describe this split between Starkweather and Concealment—the latest such offering from Translation Loss Records. It's a release that pairs some pretty weird and mysterious bands in an effort to create extreme music that requires one to take a step back to in order to properly understand. While at times it may feel like these bands are trying to one-up each other; it, personally, only adds to the magic.
It's the sort of album that challenges you to get a grip on some very out-there notions; then, just as you think you might have a grasp of it, everything changes again. This is a split that, not only has a very real sense of breadth but constantly makes you question what extreme metal can be. You find yourself wondering: how much Western harmony should inform the genre and where this whole thing is going next? Is "weird" the future, or do we need to search somewhere else for absolution?
I sometimes forget that Starkweather has been around since 1989, but it makes sense. They push the boundaries in all the ways late 80s hardcore bands did and then some. They see no boundaries with their contribution, "Divided By Zero." It's the kind of overarchingly powerful thirty-minute long masterpiece that is completely mesmerizing. There is just so much to unpack in any given riff. It feels like the track gets continually weirder, grander and more mystical. The freakish clean vocals collide with dissonant riffs and punishing growls for a special listening experience.
Meanwhile, Concealment has really outdone themselves with their contribution. Their track, "Liminality," is weird and new avant-garde brilliance, especially for these atonal metal masters. They, like Starkweather, are old heads who have been around for 23 years now. They too continually add to the strange poetry of this release. The unique riffing and frequently alienating styling of this track leave you struggling to wrap your head around some of the core concepts that define the band. There are just so many layers to unpack in this Concealment track that I can't help to fall in love.
Punishing and bizarre, its the sort of thing that music nerds aren't going to be able to resist. Translation Loss has really knocked it out of the park with this one. This is a release that forces you to reflect on the twisted realities of our planet. This dissonant earth was perhaps made to host music like this; music that makes the listener distinctly uncomfortable. It is such a huge departure from what we're used to. For me, it's fun to listen to these kinds of things since it really forces me to wrap my head around what's been conjured up. With wonderfully dystopian art decorating a release that seems endlessly strange, one can't help but think of TS Eliot's The Wasteland: "For all you know is a heap of broken images," and yet within these broken images I think that all of us can find beauty.