Ahhh the 1990s. Remember them? Everything was better then. Well, pre-Britpop anyway. Everything sounded louder and more aggressive, which is something that Dragged Into Sunlight and Gnaw Their Tongues, who here team up for a collaboration called N.V., are all too aware of.
The likes of Godflesh (Justin Broadrick handles some of the production duties here) created walls of oppressive noise back in the day; it was a sound that felt like a change was in the air and it’s something that this project seeks to emulate, hence the notion of Negative Volume, or N.V.
The other thing that everyone loved back in the ’90s wasn’t Damon Albarn, Global Hypercolor T-shirts, or Furbys. What everyone couldn’t get enough of back then were serial killers. In part, this was down to Anthony Hopkins’ portrayal of fictional egotist, wine snob and liver fan Hannibal Lecter, who at least had a good line in witty repartee before eating your face off.
Back in the real world, the appetite for a murdering rapists had reached fever pitch and the gory details of the crimes of superstars like Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy (who was immortalised by Brian Dennehy in the made for TV To Catch A Killer, a film that changed the details of the events to add in a psychic plot line – psychics were popular back then too) were big business; their crimes summed up best by trading cards, and Jane’s Addiction.
All things must come to an end though, and these days the best a serial killer can hope for is going undetected for a while and a few conjugal visits from an unsettled fan before execution day and a MacDonalds final meal. Even the fictional guys are a bit ropey of late, with Dexter losing his lustre early doors. The classics are all done and have been picked over and exploited till the bones are clean and reassembled as a table lamp or a fetching ornament. It’s what Ed Gein would have wanted.
N.V. not only wants to sound like its ’90s influences (and in particular Godflesh’s landmark album Streetcleaner), but also seeks to adopt the themes of the more extreme and inventive ’90s bands. As a result, the five songs that make up the album are peppered with interviews from the likes of Michael Ross (himself the star of a 1995 documentary about serial killers) and they serve as something of a guide to criminal insanity. The first track, Visceral Repulsion, could quite easily be a “how to strangle guide”. Don’t forget not to squeeze too hard, lest you get cramp in your poor murdering pinkies, folks.
Sonically, there are no complaints whatsoever. From start to finish, this is an unrelenting, brutal attack. Dragged Into Sunlight’s extreme edges are given a quite disturbing, if occasionally subtle edge by Gnaw Their Tongues’ Mories. Visceral Repulsion is deliberate and carefully paced, ensuring that an unnerving atmosphere is established quickly. Absolver picks up the pace flaying everything in its path before settling into a gargled death metal crawl reminiscent of Cannibal Corpse’s overblown and gloriously ridiculous barrage.
The five-minute ideas explosion that is Strangled With The Cord is perhaps the most effective track here, veering from overdriven sloth like riffs into a frantic and disturbing frenzy. It’s also the song that doesn’t seem to lean on spoken word samples in order to get the job done. The atmospheres this collaboration creates are more than capable of doing that themselves. The problem that N.V. has is that it seeks to shock with content that most people have become conditioned to over the years. Maybe that’s the point they’re trying to make with these songs.
The overall feel of this album is terrifying, of that there is no doubt, but curiously the addition of the samples lessens the blow and strips away the mystery. Where, for example, Wrekmeister Harmonies approach to the subject of murder and crime on their recent release Night Of Your Ascension raised questions and required thought on the part of its audience, the in your face tack adopted here falls somewhat flat. Whereas the sound of the ’90s has been adopted and expanded upon, the central thematic conceit has not been updated from its original template. It’s a missed opportunity from two inventive and exciting collaborators. Strip away the killer chit-chat and this is a solid and terrifying work. For once, the killer is the filler.