"Majesty and Decay" "The Theater Goer"
What is the soundtrack to Hell? Well, I suppose it all depends on how you view it. If you view the inferno as its most conventional form, a place of plain and simple eternal damnation with Satan presiding comfortably over the assembly line of perdition he has kept efficient for so long, Majesty and Decay may be the record to suit such a vision. Immolation's newest finds the New York metal band playing their MO of death metal with very little variation from what they've been doing their entire career. The music, itself, is nothing extraordinary, but what I find interesting about the whole affair is how stale it all sounds. You've got your guitar solos, your screaming vocals and your blast beats, and, for however bad that kind of combination can get when performed slovenly, music like this has never left me so cold. It has such a low engagement value, whenever the music goes into a bout of grating double-time screaming, I find myself just rolling my eyes and taking myself out of the album, entirely, relegating it to apocalyptic background music, and I'm sure that's the last thing Immolation intended with their newest. If Hell sounds like Majesty and Decay, it'll still be a pretty bad place, but it might be a surprisingly boring one.
If you have a more romantic view of Hell, a Hades-helmed greek myth inhabited by terrifying but inexplicably adorable characters like Nosferatu and Beezlebub, then Gonjasufi's A Sufi and a Killer may be more appropriate. Those familiar with this album may argue that the album is more appropriate for soundtracking a hotboxed car ride or a subversive movie theater opening in the mid sixties, but the Hell I imagine being chronicled by A Sufi and a Killer is a lot more stylized and a lot more familiar. Gonjasufi's dilapidated voice and the album's lo-fi production that makes it only sound cruder sounds like it would be playing from the jukebox of a pool hall in that place of eternal damnation. If The Last Picture Show's maligned boredom is your idea of Hell, then I can completely imagine Gonjasufi's "She Gone" replacing the first scene's Hank Williams backing. The Hell accompanied by A Sufi and a Killer is an ideological one, where you never get that drink of water no matter how desperately thirsty you are, that boulder will always roll down that hill, and, to quote The Fairly Oddparents, there are over three hundred channels... with nothing to watch.
But if you have a revisionist's view of Hell, where faces and genitalia are mutilated eternally in only the most graphic ways possible, Daughters' newest and supposedly last album is a perfect fit. The band is a firm believer in the idea that the sound of you repeatedly smashing your face against a wall is a musical note, nonetheless, and go on to prove it by making eight tracks of insanely reckless noise rock. Singer Alexis Marshall sounds like Isaac Brock, singer of Modest Mouse, if he was being chased by a bear, frantically flailing his vocal chords while only the most blunt and unwieldy sounds are hurled at you from all directions. With the help of bassist Samuel Moorehouse Walker and drummer Jonathan Syverson, the album always retains some semblance of structure. As a result, Daughters is pure chaos, but very exacting chaos. In a way, it chronicles the scariest of the three Hells I mentioned, because it is the depiction of a place inhabited by demon vigilantes, where everyone has just as little a grasp of the situation as you do. If you let it, Daughters can give you some pretty vivid dreams. While plenty of albums inspire joy and optimism, few inspire genuine fear in the listener, and Daughters should be strangely commended for what they have accomplished.