Metal. What’s it doing on Thrill Jockey? That’s the question as the label throws its hat in the ring to capture the growing audience for some rather extreme forms of it. First it was Chicago’s scorching stoner thrash band Oozing Wound and their debut album Retrash. And the label is set to release a heavier-than-thou effort from The Body in the Rhode Island band’s fourth album Christ, Redeemers. All this from a label that came to prominence thanks to the quixotic futuristic jazz musings of Tortoise. But it’s not just one-way traffic, as extreme metal label Relapse looks for some more traditional heavy rock bands, such as Red Fang or Baroness, to soften the rather more extreme edges to their ever-growing roster.
Regardless of the commercial wisdom, Thrill Jockey has at least picked a superb band in Oozing Wound, all while using the group’s words to clarify just how they want the listener to view their shift in musical perspective: “Loud fucking guitars and screaming and shit,” says Oozing Wound guitarist/singer Zack Weil. “We don’t sing, and we don’t write big choruses. Anything like that gets checked by the wayside because, fuck it, it’s not us.” And it’s not usually Thrill Jockey either. But Weil’s a persuasive dude and the band’s complete focus on the power riff is what makes their debut such a winner.
The trio clearly don’t believe in doing things by halves and from the start, they let rip. Opener Everyone I Hate Should be Killed begins life with a peal of feedback before the syncopated drums and riffs kick in to establish the groove, before Weil’s lung-shredding bellows take over. The song has a weird vibe of actually picking up speed as it goes along, forcing drummer Kyle Reynolds into a frenetic pace of time-keeping mixed with lightning fast fills on his snare. It’s hard to make out exactly what Weil is singing about, but it seems to involve something (or probably someone) being ‘burnt’. Enemies beware.
The tongue-in-cheek song titles and themes continue. Apparently it’s not enough to have a giant space-dwelling centipede disembowel an astronaut on the front cover of your album or to sing songs about torching your nemesis. The band pushes it even further with song titles such as Welcome to the Spaceship, Motherfucker and Sustained by Hatred (Rambo 4) until it begs the question – who’s the joke on here? Are Weil and co just really pissed off, or are they just taking the piss? And while Weil’s singing is perhaps the weakest part of the band’s musical output, it’s enough to power the songs along as they relentlessly shred through the 30+ minute album.
Autopsy Turvy is the closest the band gets to sounding like their largest influence – the original gods of thrash metal Slayer, of course – as the trio gets the ball rolling with an immense wall of lingering power chords before chomping into the meat of the song with its ascending riffs. However, the similarities with Slayer (or most other metal bands) differ quite significantly as the members of Oozing Wound do not take solos. Which make it fascinating to see the way they can craft a six-minute burner such as Call Your Guy without using solos to create transitions within the rather complex song structures. Often this means the band just use a bridge full of riffs or a time-signature acceleration to make it work, but it also has the effect of making the album sound completely breathless as it refuses to pause throughout its half-an-hour thrash-talking session.
Don’t expect a release from the pressure metal at any point. Even when you reach the final track of Spirit Manimal the trio are still powering home their spirited and hardcore brand of scuzzy rock that would surely sound best in some sweaty basement gig with a floor covered in spilled beer. Thankfully, the songs are varied and powerful enough to sustain the album, and their balls-to-the-wall approach is both refreshing and entertaining, which makes Retrash simultaneously deadly serious and a fucking laugh. This could be not just a first for Thrill Jockey but for the world of metal as well.