I’m not a metalhead. I’m really not. In fact, my vision of hell is being forever trapped in a room with a hair-metal band. It’s not only excruciatingly vile, I also find it incredibly BORING. Why? For the same reason I find the majority of ‘mainstream’ classical music boring. It’s just the same. Over and over and bloody over. This may sound very odd coming from a fan of that most dubious of genres, ‘post-rock’, but it’s true. Post rock is about quiet, pretty beginnings and massive, soul destroying climaxes. Y’know, the quiet LOUD quiet LOUD thing Slint made cool a while back. I love that sound. The majority of metal is simply ‘thrash thrash thrash thrash abrupt stop’ or ‘thrash thrash soulless guitar solo thrash sing thrash stop.’
That’s why my tastes in metal tend towards the more experimental. Racebannon, the ‘Pink Floyd of hardcore’ kick my head in regularly. The Dillinger Escape Plan’s unpredictable mathgrind is slowly working it’s way into my permanent collection. And so, when I first heard Shora, I was pretty much utterly impressed.
The odd thing about this record is that Shora are here at all. It’s not like they sound like Merzbow, or even occupy the same genre, scene or country. The only similarity is that they’re both very loud, and your parents detest them in equal proportion. Merzbow, legendary pioneer of ‘Japanoise’ and power-electronics and the only man alive making good money out of Noise with a capital N, is over-productive, with more albums to his name than The Fall (no really). And so he leases his name out to other noisey people in the form of split LPs, knowing full well that fools like me will buy them and discover the said other noisey people. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. This works. Really well.
These Merzbow tracks aren’t his best, but with Shora’s blend of technical metalcore, melodiousness and a little pinch of death-metal punctuating the Japanese electro-violence legend’s earbleed, it becomes a very effective and unsettling album. The Merzbow tracks are not as vivid as the memorable Cannibalism Of Machine or Pulse Demon. Rather than those tracks’ skull fracturing semi-rhythmic assault, on ‘Switching Rethorics’ Merzbow has gone for more ambient white sheets of pain. There’s something hypnotic about the way the sheer fuzz switches from noise to painful noise. Patterns emerge, Steve Reich style, only to be blasted away by a violent flurry of sound.
So, once Merzbow’s searing noise walls have enveloped you in a loud and unpleasant but strangely soft cloud of electronic discord, Shora beat him up. Blasting onto your hi-fi with the rhythmic power of death-metal but the white-heat of hardcore, soon you’re lost and loving it. It speeds up, slows down and booms right back into ridiculously fast attack once more. Technical yes, and impossible to dance to, they don’t let this detract from the unmitigating intensity of the music. It can still affect you emotionally, like all good music can. And while the drummer’s arms must have melted by the end of Discussing Water-colour Techniques, it was the truly magnificent guitar riff half way through that made me realise what kind of scale these Swiss nuts are working on. It was massive. Unconventional as hell, but with the epic might of the Gods of Egypt powering them on like a titanic juggernaught of furious, glorious violence. The majesty of black-metal minus the operatic pomp, combined with an Indian raga and a Jazz dirge.