Meditation is simply defined as ‘a discourse intended to express its author’s reflections or to guide others in contemplation’. The ‘author’ in question here, the Vomit Arsonist, has a message for us, and it isn’t to ‘focus on the now’ or ‘seek the positive’, but it’s a simple message nevertheless. It’s a straightforward mantra he would like us keep in our hearts and minds: ‘just give up’.
For the past thirteen years, Rhode Island’s the Vomit Arsonist has been Andy Grant‘s primary warship against the outside world. During those years, he has issued just shy of forty different releases (including EPs, splits, and collaborations). Among them quietly resides some of the best death industrial albums in existence today. In 2009, when Wretch (Cipher Productions / Force of Nature) came out, I was flat-out blown away. The sheer intensity and the coldness of the sound was just overwhelming. It seemed to have a drone aesthetic to it at times which came and went, but its core was just so much more violent, harsh, and fury-driven. So, when I got to experience An Occasion for Death in 2013 and Only Red in 2015, both on Malignant Records, I already knew what kind of quality I should be expecting. Yet, it seems that every time a new album was released, the Vomit Arsonist managed to take this violent core a bit farther, pushing down on the nerve a little harder with every new incarnation.
Meditations on Giving up Completely, which was again released on Malignant back in May, feels like one of the last remaining nails to be hammered into Grant’s artistic coffin, and it’s taken his ‘negative nihilism’ to new heights. The album’s opening track, ‘Meditations’, is an introductory piece; it kicks things off slowly with a low-pitched, whispered buzz and some lo-fi industrial hums and drones, followed by a broken voice mumbling words of despair. You can barley hear this poor soul over the sounds of junk metal scraps clashing. If you apply yourself and listen to this track a couple of times at the right volume, you might be able to get to the heart of the gospel, but it seems like these words are buried under layers of noise, crushing them by design. Just like when buried in the depths of utter despondency, the ‘weight of life’ overwhelms our voice with agony and lost hope.
From ‘What’s Left’ onwards, Grant’s vocals are much more enraged, baptized in a gusty reverb/distortion and in every negative human emotion known to man. Again, the track builds up slow, opening like a dark ambient piece while gradually evolving towards something more sinister. It made me visualize being led trough an abandoned underground metro station with shaking ceilings, choked with dust. This is when the screaming starts, welcoming us to Grant’s nightmare world.
Grant very wisely builds each track’s tension from zero to one hundred, taking his time while still managing to develop a distilled, wholly pure effort without any unnecessary decoration. He does that by utilising a mixture of styles and genres throughout the album, jumping from dark ambient to death industrial and fusing them with drone, noise, and power electronics. Each track has a slightly different shade of despair. ‘On Living’ is laid upon a machine’s pulse; it seem like a filed recording from a factory in hell where Grant’s vocals guide you through the facilities. ‘There Is Nothing Here’ has a much more ritualistic feel to it. It fades in with low-tuned, buzzing synths that are joined by a pounding drum beat and tormented vocals, calling for the world itself to give up and fade out.
After the album’s final and darkest track, ‘Sick Over Trying’, dissipates, leaving our ears to make sense of the silence in the room after being willingly and consciously poisoned for the past forty-two minutes, one’s mind begins to race. If Grant’s pain resonates with you, you’ll have to wonder, ‘what’s next?’ Well, take a look at the digipak’s first panel and Grant will offer up an answer for you: ‘Ahead, nothing.’ As someone who has struggled with clinical depression for more than half of his life, I can relate to that.
From the pit, the idea of giving up can sometimes be an attractive one. There is true comfort in it if you can find it in yourself to just let go, because the pain, the ugliness, the frustration, and the futility of life are simply too much to bare. Yet, people like Grant who release such personal and deeply emotional art as Meditations on Giving up Completely have not yet truly given up. This album, in my opinion, despite its mantra, is a symbol of resistance—it represents the struggle, but like so much art in this world, it also provides a momentary respite for the artist; a temporary binding of angst away from the spirit.
In the end, it’s more of a cure than a disease. And yes, the pill is bitter, but it is what you need.