Music

Metal is Alive & Sick with Racebannon’s Six Sik Sisters & Black Pyramid II

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For the first few bars of opener “Thee Plea,” Six Sik Sisters might pass for another Death/Heavy offering: thundering chords that mean World War III has arrived, faultline drums; a screech-growling vocalist. But any idea of neatly pushing this music into a square peg of more generic Noise/Grind/Death/Sludge disappears as quickly as the grin on the face of our tormented protagonist. Lone vocalist/runaway train driver Mike Anderson sounds truly possessed. Ever hear someone who’s possessed?

All the words about “The sacrifice/I’ve had enough of you/We’ll take them down to the water,” etc., would add up to nothing special if Racebannon wasn’t gasping and thrashing while its rehearsal space dissolves in flames around it. I knew I was in the grip of ridiculously insane, interesting Rock (or Death Metal, or Black Metal – the band calls it “Avant-Noise-Core”) before “Thee Plea” had turned some of my hair white. The second track falls into tortured, screaming chaos. The chaos sounds necessary, as in: Must bang head now – repeatedly. Then we hear something like trash can lids clanging, and some high-pitched noises that are happening in the brain of someone who’s going mad. That last bit dissolves into something almost relaxing. But there’s an inspired method to this mayhem – once I’ve relaxed for a minute, thinking maybe the band’s going to calm down a little, “Thee Brother” kicks in. We’re talking about guitar and drum slams that bite so hard, it’s like the band’s forcing some new sort of offspring from the ragged remains of Noise Core ‘n’ Metal that’s come before. It’s one of several tracks wherein Racebannon shows its weakness for dragging Sabbath-like riffs through jagged rocks until they cry for relief.

Six Sik Sisters is, simply, one of the most vital, stimulating albums, in any Rock genre, that I’ve heard in a long time. But a disclaimer is indicated: It’s about very dark energy – allusions are made to the Black Plague and Salem Witch trials. I prefer to put such implications in the category of silliness; just enjoying the sounds. In any case, Racebannon isn’t likely to be everyone’s cuppa tea. Had I heard about it second-hand, I’d probably have figured it wasn’t for me. But hey, I’m a rock ‘n’ roll girl – and glad to have gotten hip to this band, which has been sharpening its swords in Bloomington, Indiana since ’96, when it rose from the ashes of several hardcore punk combos. Per axe wielder James Bauman, “We were finally able to bring out the intensity and the volume on this record that we were looking for with some of our past albums… when we were all sitting in the basement at Godcity, the first time we listened to the whole album as a band, I said to everyone, ‘This is f**kin’ scary!’”

Although Six Sik Sisters first dropped last summer, the Tizona Records CD was released in late January.

Black Pyramid’s second full-length busts out of the speakers like the band’s been shooting speed and slamming coffee for in an enclosed space for six months. A neat twining of guitar lines with that Celtic resolution that I love runs through “Endless Agony.” “Celtic resolution?” you ask. It’s an old-school reference, but Status Quo pushed its way into prominence at least partly on the shoulders of a sort of Celtic boogie, with songs like “Gerundula.” You could also just call this sort of riffing a sped-up Blues progression. Humble Pie did something similar, albeit slower and heavier, on “One-Eyed Trouser Snake Rumba.”

Darryl Shepard‘s guitar work on “Endless Agony” is sinuous; almost snaky, over granite-hard rhythmic support. It’s hard to believe that Black Pyramid’s rich audio cornucopia is delivered by just three musicians: Shepard on guitar/vocals, Clay Neely/drums, and Gein/bass. While there’s been talk of the loss in momentum (and, possibly, creative thrust) threatened by the 2011 departure of BP’s original guitarist, Andy Beresky, the current line-up is, on any terms, a powerhouse.

The hill-and-valley forging that follows the opening track consistently deserves attention. Shepard’s vocals aren’t the smoothest; nor are they about chewing gravel, or screaming. They’re gruffly effective. The main voice is that of the three instruments, which grind with sustained hunger, focus, and synchronicity. BP has an instinctual sense of timing; i.e., how long to maintain a riff, when to intersperse sounds with words, and how long to take a song. Even the 12-minute “Dream of the Dead” is engaging. That’s noteworthy, as drawn-out tracks can feel more indulgent than intriguing. By the time we get to the muscular guitar runs and drum slams of “The Hidden Kingdom,” I’m hooked enough to stick around for the 15-minute closer, “Into the Dawn,” which ends with a bit of lovely acoustic chording. If BP continues to push the boundaries of any sort of Metal (the band says II leans in a more Black/Death direction), rockers have another reason for scowling. II was mixed by Justin Pizzoferato, who’s worked with Sonic Youth, Witch, and Dinosaur Jr.

Some upcoming Metal shows:

3/22 – Fourth & B/San Diego: Soulfly (with Max Cavalera, formerly of Sepultura), Black Oil, & Raise the Guns

3/24 – Brick by Brick/San Diego: Cage, the Midas Touch, & Aenea

3/24 – House of Blues/San Diego: Canobliss (last show before the band’s name changes) + 100 Hz , Relevance, Devocean, QUOR, Fall From Vengeance, Burden Of Truth, Against The World, & Nothing Haunts Me

3/24 – The Vault/Temecula:Nihilist, Battlefront, Vlad, Eexrationer, & Helsott

3/31 – 710 Beach Club/San Diego: Benedictum & Back to Black

Comprehensive list of So. Cal. Metal shows: www.moshking.com
Racebannon: www.racebannon.net
Black Pyramid: www.myspace.com/blackpyramidkills

Post by Mary Leary

Mary Leary is a poet and spoken word/music/performance artist who has been obsessed with sound for as long as she can remember. She edited and published one of the first New Wave 'zines, (the) Infiltrator (Washington, D.C.), and helped introduce New Wave and other alternatives through her radio shows at WGTB FM (Georgetown U.). Her poetry has been featured in numerous publications and at many venues, including KPBS FM and La Mama La Galleria, and in anthologies including: Hurricane Blues: Poems About Katrina and Rita, Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend: Women Writers on Baseball, The Unbearables, A Joyous Season, and The 2008 San Diego Poetry Annual. Her poetry is featured online at Creekwalker.com, The Melic Review, Gypsy 3, and ALittlePoetry.com. You can see her 2008 third-prize winning poem at Bookhabit.com. A poetry chapbook, Pretty Scary Jack O'Lanterns, is available through http://www.breadandlightning.net. Her short-short story collection, Cher Wolfe and Other Stories, is available on Amazon. Upcoming work includes a poem in A Walk In The Clouds, an anthology about the Obama election, and in The 2009 San Diego Poetry Annual. Her music journalism is featured at Daggerzine.com and at the San Diego Reader site, among others.

3 Comments

  1. The Blue Triangle

    March 20, 2012 at 7:36 am

    Get your facts straight. Shepard didn’t play or sing a note on this album, it was recorded prior to his joining the band. The album was recorded before Andy Beresky left the band, and he recorded the guitars and vocals prior to his leaving. A true shame since the band has slipped creatively since his departure. The one song they’ve recorded with Shepard is a real step backwards into mediocrity compared to the material on this album. – TBT

  2. Mary Leary

    March 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    You said it better than I could have – I noted the change and controversy around it; didn’t want to go into more research, as well as info, that could detract from the flow of the review(s). So there is some method here. And it might be nice to be less rude. But thank you anyway.

  3. Mary Leary

    March 20, 2012 at 11:26 pm

    Also, just so you know, the promotional material BP promo. material I received credits Shepard. Ahh….

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