It’s been so nice to see black noise evolve over the years. It has really grown into quite the variegated, multi-limbed monster. Please allow me to describe what this love of mine is looking like nowadays. Many wish to preserve black metal influences and remain heavily steeped in guitars, drums, and bass albeit played at maximum volume and then pushed through distortion pedals. Projects like Wold represent such fun-loving nonsense. Others maintain a heavy ambient feel by obsessing over more subtle sounds, e.g., Defiler, Northaunt, etc. Still others use the genre to practice ritual magic and only use those sounds from that chamber; Black Seas of Infinity and Grauen Pestanz are at the forefront of these dark arts. There are also individuals who only bow to noise or drone first and very little else. The now legendary drone metal of Sunn O))), of course, mirrors that path as does the harsh noise of Prurient, Moth Drakula, and Demonologists. Finally, there are those who simply see the sound patterns and motifs of black noise as the building blocks for whatever insane sounds they hear inside their heads. The most successful artists follow this mold. Gnaw Their Tongues comes to mind immediately in this case as does Burial Hex, Blessed Sacrifist, Josh Lay, and Mz.412. For the aforementioned creatures, black noise is just part and parcel in the execution of masterful composition.
Black Sabbath Blue Cheer (US) and Pig Heart Transplant (US) should also be counted among the elite; their collaboration is one of the most consistent works I’ve heard in the genre. Since they’re so successful, they both deserve an introduction. While I’ve watched videos of their performances for entertainment, I confess that I know very little about these projects aside from how they sound. Let me now show you what a cursory glance at the internet can do. Formed in the winter of 2005, Blue Sabbath Black Cheer hails from Seattle and seems to rely on a hodgepodge of contributors. However, only three solid members form the band: Stan Reed, wm. Rage, and Crystal Perez. I have seen their band name listed on scores of shows and labels since the mid-00s; they’re definitely more known than Pig Heart Transplant. The name of the band is a bit of a misnomer as there is little of the muscular, meathead metal of Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer in their work. Pig Heart Transplant, on the other hand, is taken directly from the solo output of John Kortland of Iron Lung power violence fame. Together, these collective minds pack a wallop through indestructible black discipline that would make the Uruk-hai jealous.
The collaboration – made possible by the ever-industrious Phage Tapes label – shares many of the black noise strategies I discussed in the first paragraph. On one track, crushing drums and massively distorted guitars can be heard. Toward the close of the release, the sound verges on rumbling wall noise via an unchanging avalanche of pedals. At other points, probably its best moments, the results come close to power electronics as bass tones dominate overtop black metal howls. What is most interesting to me though is the equipment and source of the noise. At points, the rhythm and timbre remind me of Wolf Eyes who were known for using outdated or wrong wires as well as feedback from old mixers connected to contact mics. Whoever is manning the mixer or contact mic for Blue Sabbath Black Cheer and Pig Heart Transplant is a meticulous craftsman and truly knows what they’re doing. At many points on the album, the no-input feedback sounds like a double-bass pedal and this is one of those rare, kitschy effects I absolutely love and sadly rarely hear in noise music. It’s also an effect that requires paying a great deal of attention to the knobs on your pedals. In other cases, the rhythm creepily builds its slow rattle much like Wolf Eyes’ masterpiece “Burned Mind.” Yet, if Wolf Eyes somewhat describes the rhythm and timbre, the style and composition is most like Mz.412 sans all the hokey midi arrangements. There are numerous changes during these long ten-minute-or-so tracks and most of them transition very nicely. All that’s described above is something immensely rare in black noise, i.e., being consistently good.
I only have a few quarrels with the collaboration. The third track attempts a sort of Whitehouse “Erector” or Mental Destruction homage; the foundation of the song is an industrial rhythm made from sampled noise and feedback. Unfortunately, unlike Whitehouse or Mental Destruction, the rhythm here is bland. The main sample loop annoyingly reminds me of gunshots from DOOM II, Wolfenstein, and Duke Nukem. Fortunately, the track seems to become self-conscious toward its end and dramatically changes into a bass-heavy attack mixed with screaming. But that’s really the only five to ten minute blemish on the full-length album in question. My real problem is that I feel as if these compositions aren’t memorable enough. The form, structure, and craftsmanship are all laudable, even masterful, but the tones and songs themselves are utterly unemotional. There is little that warrants a return listen that should make the blood flow thicker. The detached quality may only be a result of time constraints placed upon the collaboration. However, with such a grasp of intensely organized and focused artistry, I feel as if Blue Sabbath Black Cheer and Pig Heart Transplant are only a small step away from the singularity.
5 Untitled Tracks