I think we can close the ‘album cover of the year’ competition early.
Black Sheep Wall have, from day one, been about as blunt an instrument as you’re likely to hear. Picking up where their parent band Admiral Angry left off on their (sadly) only record Buster they come on like a ritualistic beating; slow, hammering grooves attacking the listener in erratic,awkward pattern like a malfunctioning piledriver. You could safely accuse them of lacking dynamism or subtlety if you like but that would be like pointing at a steamroller and demanding it do a power slide – they’re built for one thing and one thing only, much like kindred spirits Will Haven or the Abominable Iron Sloth. So opener The Wailing and the Gnashing and the Teeth comes as quite the surprise. Since their last record It Begins Again they’ve switched vocalists, which goes some way to explain the shift, but I doubt anyone will be hitting play on I’m Going to Kill Myself expecting a Touché Amore/La Dispute style angst-filled screams over soft guitars number. Looking at that brilliantly ridiculous album cover you’re tempted to think they’re going for parody when he screams the opening line, “There’s a whole world out there/but I’m sinking in shit.” But it quickly becomes apparent that it’s for real – the miserablist word play and throat rending vocals are not the work of a man doing things for giggles. It is, to it’s credit, an effectively worked song, full of twists and turns that build to a cathartic hardcore closing. But it’s not what fans of Black Sheep Wall might have come to expect – and on first listen it’s hard not to feel a tinge of disappointment.
Then Tetsuo – The Dead Man starts punching you in the ears and all is right with the world again.
Their primary assault tactic isn’t built around flashy fret work or doom-esque atmospherics – it’s a raw, stripped back aesthetic designed with claustrophobia in mind. The chords grind away on the same riffs, monotonously drilling into your brain, whilst the drums shift and change uneasily in the background. And the vocals sound a lot like someone trying to cough up their own rib cage. It’s a trying listen, there’s no mistaking it – the lyrics, if you can make them out, deal with the idea of suicide as a natural end to boredom and despondency. This is not an album you’ll find yourself reaching for on sunny days.
After Testuo and the similarly tectonic paced punishment of White Pig we’re then faced with a full half hour long number called Metallica. Which is a hilarious concept in and of itself – but again Black Sheep Wall are not playing for laughs. The first ten minutes are a near-single chord dirge, a trial-by-riff for even the most patient of listeners. But it becomes hypnotic,you get caught up in it’s bitter, blackened undercurrents. It snatches at your heels, hoping to drag you down to it’s level. And it only gets worse from there. It disintegrates into free form drums, incoherent screams and feedback that sounds like a buzzsaw going at a sheet of steel. Then another riff comes back, ever so slightly more complicated than the last, a single chugging chord being driven into you. And it drives. And it drives and it drives and it drives. Burrowing deeper under your skin. It’s minutes till the vocals come back in, pained, desperate screams of, “I’m just so fucking bored.” It makes tedium sound like a tumour on the soul. And it keeps driving.It builds to a fever pitch and then, finally a moment of quite respite. Which on this record takes the form of a reading of a suicide note.
Of course it does.
And then, it’s back. Even slower than before. That one chord chug. Those scattered, frantic drums. Driving. Always driving.
Returning to that first song again it starts to make sense. The chorus, if it can be called that, goes: “I’m sorry Dan/I’m doing all I can/I used to be an honest man/fuck this band.” Dan was a founder member of Admiral Angry who sadly passed away due to cystic fibrosis. When you start with a sentiment like that, where’s left to go but down? And if there’s nowhere to go but down, why not see how far down you can get?
I’m Going to Kill Myself is a terrible album – terrible like a house fire or an outbreak of disease. It’s full of little but poisonously bleak sentiment and harrowing negativity. It wants nothing good for you. Many will hate it’s lack of dynamism, it’s bloody-minded dedication to stripped back slow motion brutality. Even those who find something in it worth coming back to will be hard pressed to say they love it. It’s not designed to be loved. And now that spring has sprung and the sun is starting to reintroduce itself I want nothing to do with it. But I fear when Autumn comes back around I’m going to find my fingers stretching out towards it, beckoning it’s landslide riffs to come down upon me once more. I’m not sure I can truly articulate what lies in it’s murky depths that will cause me to so. Nor can I, in good conscience, recommend anyone else go looking for themselves. However, should you ever feel the creeping urge to be submerged into the blackened waters at the very depths of the human soul, I Am Going To Kill Myself will be your diving bell. But don’t say you haven’t been warned.