FEED THEM DEATH – For Our Culpable Dead (2020)REVIEW

As often as folks may pine to fit in, to get ahead, to fill their pockets and bellies with the gumption of tusked hogs the unwritten agreement that this is the nature of humanity rather than the unmistakable illness serves us our deserved, unlovable masters. The concept of our prior ancestral scum handing down an easily manipulated propensity for inhumane greed as a learned behavior is a vitally defiant perspective; The ever plastic mind catered to religious and corporate facilitation using learned responses to standardized input and veiled as “tradition” is yet astute. We link this deeply ingrained ailment of existence via learned behavior and the flatlining arc of creation and self-destruction with a treatise on the devaluation of “serious music” more effortlessly today thanks to this very compact and storming lecture from avant-deathgrind artist Feed Them Death. His latest EP, ‘For Our Culpable Dead‘ manages to kill two birds with three stones, exploring the existential significance (and repercussions) of Faust in a secondary pair of hands more dire than Goethe before linking this presage with the dissolution of art via standardization of forms, a major element of Theodor Adorno‘s scathing examination(s) of the industrialization of culture. Is this project’s deeply detailed spiral of furioso and alien flair the right vessel for this quite vast linkage of thoughts? Yes, but it’ll take some convincing and… perhaps a lyric sheet to get there.

If an artist is to be an reaction and a mirror at once it is important to hone that reflection so that it might singe and burn the prime target, unto necessary psychic death or some kind of paradigm akin to awakening. This is the most effective gain to be had from sitting and digging into Feed Them Death‘s work thus far, an admixture of classic deathgrind performance rubbed with avant-garde choices beyond a lightly buried conceptual defiance. The first album (‘No Solution/Dissolution‘, 2018) was straight forward in this sense and the second (‘Panopticism: Belong/Be Lost‘, 2020) was a terrifying blur of all but the most basic forms utilized in the past. This was the achievement of artistic language for the solo artist, a balance between recognizable forms and the dashing of them. The three songs here continue this most recent thread in the form of an inspired reaction to the self-important grind of popular music discussion and release, a likely impersonal and alien cause for any artist today. The self-imposed perspective, manipulation of the world via subjective influence, and the harass of populism and manufactured culture do in fact make sense when paired and when we dig deepest into what ‘For Our Culpable Dead’ presents us, the form of the music matches this larger statement, for better or worse. Actions (er, music) and words are a rational juxtaposition presented with exasperation, anger, and great force.

A lot is packed into the roughly three and a half minute gust of “A Subjective Tragedy” and it would be easy to get lost in the details of this five act format where Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa‘s treatment of Goethe‘s Faust (as Fausto) became significant to the world of literature for its presentation of the titular main character as a reflection of Pessoa’s worldview. The phrase “Be the change you wish to see in the world” takes on some new meaning from there, and I suppose you’ll have to at least be familiar with the original play to understand why this aligns with feelings of frustration with society and any resultant palpable existential dread. The important thing to understand about Pessoa is perhaps his adoption of personae in works to characterize them, using a part of himself under a pseudonym that was intentionally a mirrored self or antithesis. The piece itself (“A Subjective Tragedy”) is a strongly distilled showcase for the turn on a dime, warbling, mutated forms that’d made ‘Panopticism: Belong/Be Lost’ an event earlier this year.

The final two pieces represent a raw wound in art, ragged cut and near festering by the hand of corporate mutilation. This all sounds very punk rock in those terms and, it should probably sound moreso in practice. We’re given the hint of philosopher, psychologist, musicologist, and sociologist Theodor Adorno and specifically his profound writings on popular music or the “Culture Industry.” A smaller point used to illustrate the ills of capitalism lain upon people and art echoed within his greater body of work; Adorno, famously a harsh critic of jazz and emergent pop music, delineated between serious and popular music with his major argument being the placement of each note (or detail) in the piece: Each must serve or illustrate the whole of the release. Though vague out of full context this is more a criticism of machined “culture for industry” or output that is milled from templates, what we see as standardization today is the enemy of serious art in Adorno‘s thesis. Alright, an important point but how does this apply to Feed Them Death‘s illustration of the idea? The title track specifically responds via deconstruction and severe reaction, collapsing the piece halfway and rambling into aleatoric fumbling of the piano, stemless plunking into quite a stretch of discord for minutes on end. In terms of the listening experience this is unpalatable but in the context of the intended theme it illustrates defiance of ingrained ideas and musical choices in a simple way. “The Unattainable Joy” swerves and blasts in a queasy motion representative of the previous full-length dissolving into ringing atonal hits and bass riffs beneath retching, roaring, and generally unwholesome affect.

Themes, packaging, curatorial reading inferred, all of this speaks to me on a deeper level yet the compositions in this case are yet dissonant hardcore in ethos. Synth surges, GuitarPro-like buzzing tones, and hyper blasted deathgrind creates a fittingly nightmarish rhythmic map for music that is memorable for its flourishes and change-ups rather than its core compositional attraction. This is, again, righteously representative of theme yet I’d found myself more interested in reading than listening after a number of spins. The title track isn’t such a challenge in terms of “art rock” ideation but a challenge in the sense that blasting it on my stereo wasn’t necessarily rapturous or effective, just stumbling to anticipate. A pre-negated criticism but perhaps it should be ironic that “the critic” is left wanting something presented with more depth or, ease. At the very least I’ve nothing to compare the experience with, and this is a virtue by any stretch of the ear. A moderately high recommendation.

Moderately high recommendation. (70/100)

Rating: 7 out of 10.
TITLE:For Our Culpable Dead
LABEL(S):Brucia Records
RELEASE DATE:November 2nd, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Experimental Deathgrind,

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