Yes, the music is sick. The collective sound of Hell Songs (2006) is wholeheartedly sick, with guitars (courtesy of Nicholas Andrew Sadler and Samuel Moorehouse Walker) in unison frothing out mutilated melodies, creating violent and explosive cacophonies over stark confessions of vocalist A. S. F. Marshall’s wickedness.
“I’ve been called a sinner, evil doer, wrong doer, worker of iniquities, transgressor, a bad example, scoundrel, villain, knave … Yeah, I’ve been called a sinner” slurs out Marshall, whose vocals, rather than sung, blow out of his mouth in rapid-fire bursts, crass bellows, or, as in this case, an unsettling, slow and eerie drawl.
Also included in “Daughter’s Spelled Wrong” are these telling epithets delivered over layers of afflicted and serrated notes: “viper, wretch, the devil incarnate, fallen angel, murderer, thief, black sheep, black guard, loafer, sneak,” etc. This pounding track, portending the darkness of Hell Songs to follow, accelerates with the aid of moaning guitars destined to poison unsuspecting ears, conjuring up an image of an open wound eking out ichor from the dark life source feeding this work.
This album truly sounds the artistry of sickness.
“Recorded Inside A Pyramid” begins with a danceable, foot-tapping drum beat before the muddled, droning sound of Brent Frattini’s bass guitar reigns in the storm, triggering an irritable, violent blast of electric guitar defiance.
For these brief bursts, the reactive explosion of the guitars overrides all frequencies, and the propulsion of the song’s energy is set into motion when Marshall, storming, chimes in: “I wear my sickness like a wedding band!”
And off we go.
Amidst the raucous clash and screaming rage of the sound, Marshall squeals: “I am just a face connected to an appetite demanding self abuse / I feed myself by the handful like your kids at a petting zoo.”
“Feisty Snake Woman” finds a self-abusing speaker down and out (amidst a musical whirlwind of a breakdown, thundering notes of colossal intensity) after an all consuming sexual encounter with a seductive reptile woman down “the only path he could find”—creativity is found in manifold ways on each of Hell Song‘s cuts.
Confessions of ribaldry are ever-coming, but this time with the voice of experience approaching the tail end of the wisdom of the lost: “She’ll sell you the road but she won’t point the way home.”
Frattini’s bass line rears up after Marshall delivers his revelation, weaving in slow-motion in and out of the song like that of an entranced cobra—back and forth until the spell’s broken, until perdition. Syverson picks up the beat steady and sure, all in for catharsis, and the listener is poised to receive the next strike of vitriolic boom; when it hits, it is blustering, sweeping out the sound-scape in one sonic blast of nucleal intensity.
By the time the album approaches its final bitter notes, laden with the cries of electronically twisted guitars, Marshall’s lyrics evince one searching for clarity:
I can’t keep my eye from twitching
I can’t make sense of this
If it’s ringing in my head or in my ears I cannot tell the difference
I’m wishing I was a bit more educated.
But the search is short lived. Before the next inevitable rampage, Marshall’s creation casts all hope aside, reasoning himself incapable of curing his malady, begging instead for someone to grant him death:
Can anybody here me out there?
Put me down like a horse with a broken leg
An old dog foaming at the mouth
Tie a chain around my ankle and take me out to the blackest deepest sea
Carry me out to the town square
Put me on the guillotine.
Hell Songs is one sick, tempestuous roar, advised for adventurous ears only.