A horrible hack


Erode the person: Anthology 1997-1998

Year Released: 2014
Format: CD
Label: Throne Records
Reviewed by Alex Hannan on Jan 25, 2015
NOOTHGRUSH's discography is low on the sort of big statement records that other peers had a habit of putting out, and where rough contemporaries like NEUROSIS went on to release strings of hefty, opulently packaged double LPs, NOOTHGRUSH fell into silence in the early 2000s. Much of their material appeared on small presses of split records, many of them now pricy or tricky to get hold of. Full marks for DIY attitude - working with Deep Six, Clean Plate, Reservoir, or Slap A Ham rather than going for dollar or metal mag prestige - but it may have meant that their name receded during their hiatus. "Erode the person" was their only full-length, and didn't get a vinyl release until 13 years after the cassette and CD it first dropped on. This anthology (first released in 2006) sandwiches that album - minus the Pink Floyd covers that originally appeared in the middle - between two other recording sessions, making up a picture of their entire output in 1997-8.

The songs are presented in reverse chronological order: we open with NOOTHGRUSH's last major recording session before the hiatus. It's interesting to hear the tracks sequenced together, since the 3 that were released were parcelled out individually onto split 7"s and 5"s. They are relatively compact, but amongst the darkest material on the CD. Where the subsequent tracks often break into a capricious swagger or a sensually string-bent melody line that teases sustain out of the amp, these first ones are more about the straight-up slow, dragging pain, like an animal trying to find somewhere to die. Strings shuddering in the pauses between attacks. NOOTHGRUSH still mix up the songwriting, following eddying currents of ideas, using offbeat time-signatures to vary the rhythms, and allowing the bass and guitar to intertwine rather than lockstepping. "Diseased mammal" is particularly dark, revelling in dissonant chords. The unreleased "Made uncomfortable by others pain" is the only one that really outstays its welcome, before suddenly cutting off at the 4 minute mark.

Next come the "Erode the person" songs, which allow more expansive songwriting, like the rolling peaks and troughs of "Deterioration", and allow more pleasure in the enveloping roar of hefty amplifiers and distortion. The band still works as a solid unit, little in the way of solos. "Stagnance" pounds away slowly, guitar adding a touch of inflected grace to the rolling rhythms, little smears and pitchbends. Brief uptempo sections leaven the doom. "Deterioration" takes a roundabout route through stonery grooves before a bleak percussionless part, each note like dropping stones into a well. The payoff, when it hits near the seven mark, is great, and the sensual swagger returns after that, a paradoxical lightness of touch audible despite the force of the music. "Oil removed" is another patch of what for NOOTHGRUSH is light relief, by which I mean a cascade of heavy-as-fuck riffs limbering up into mid pace, extremely headbangable. "Erode the person" enters ominously with restrained bass thuds, and builds slowly into a chromatic crawling riff at the 6 minute mark that combines melody and heaviness. It's a really well crafted song which plays with expectation and payoff.

The final tracks are from the splits with Corrupted and GASP, topped with their 10-second long contribution to the Bllleeeeaaauuurrrrgghhh! compilation. Again, covers are omitted (a NEANDERTHAL cover on the Corrupted split) and the mix of ideas is similar to that of "Erode the person", grim, determined sections restlessly transitioning into different kinds of attack, like the slow working out of a puzzle.

The CD is a lot to digest in one go - after the mental and aural workout of the "Erode the Person" tracks, you might want a break before buckling back in for the 13-minute "Draize" - but it's good to have all the material together, collating the evidence that NOOTHGRUSH are just as heavy hitters as many bigger names. They're touring the UK this spring, and putting out new material - am hoping to hear "Diseased Mammal" and "Oil Removed" at ear-splitting volume come April.

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