Monday, October 10, 2016

John Zorn - 49 Acts of Unspeakable Depravity in the Abominable Life and Times of Gilles de Rais (Tzadik, 2016)

John Zorn's Simulacrum band, John Medeski on organ, Kenny Grohowski on drums and Matt Hollenberg on guitar have created a unique aesthetic over their their release history, acting as something of a post-modern doppelganger of the classic Tony Williams Lifetime band which had Williams on drums, Larry Young on organ and John McLaughlin on guitar. With Zorn's compositions to draw upon, the characteristics that Simulacrum take inspiration from do include jazz but more specifically dark heavy metal and it suits this ten-movement suite which is evoking a sick and decadent descent into madness. "Scene One: At the Very Gates of Hell" opens with muscular guitar riffing and pummeling drums that are soon framed by Medeski's organ. The music is right up front and in your face, with the organ swirling around like a wraith while the the guitar and drums do the heavy lifting. The pace gets even more frenetic on the following track, "Scene Two: Angelic Voices" with very intricate and rapid fire guitar and drums salting the ground before Hollenberg breaks out for a pyrotechnic solo over short bursts of organ and percussion. Grohowski's drums are crushing everything in their path including a short featured spot and there are stark screams of organ during Medeski's solo. "Scene Four: Dark Pageant" has a burst of theatrical riffing from the guitar and drums that is extremely potent, before the organ comes in and the music really begins to spread its wings. Swirling gales of organ overlook a taut guitar solo and fusillade of percussion. The scorched Earth nature of the music drives the trio to make a final dash to the finish line. There is a devastating opening to "Scene 6: A Cruel Ecstasy" with the trio bursting in together and clearly stratified with upper range organ soaring over the smears and snarls of electric guitar and the relentless battering of the drums. The organ is quite majestic here, encompassing the entirety of the music in its grasp. "Scene 7: Image of the Beast" begins deceptively with bass like drops of organ before the guitar and drums come crashing into the picture. There is a blistering collective improvisation to follow, creating a very powerful performance that Hollenberg takes to the next level with squalls of electricity. While much of this album is made of apocalyptic blast of raw energy, there is subtlety to be found in passages throughout the record. The group is far from a one trick pony and makes a very impressive statement throughout the suite. 49 Acts of Unspeakable Depravity in the Abominable...

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