Suffering Cats

Got a couple of vinyls from the Arizona record label King Of The Monsters Records, a label which judging by their shop page is keen to provide the world with all shades of extreme metal, Black Metal, noise and doomy music, many of them decorated with wild pagan / Satanic imagery and issued in limited-edition coloured-vinyl pressings…and to confirm their credentials in the heaviness department, they use a silhouette of Godzilla as their corporate logo. The first item from 29 July 2014 is a split 12-incher (KOTM046), shared between Suffering Luna and Suffer The Storm. On their side, Los Angeles doomsters Suffering Luna are joined by The Astronaut King to belch out just eight and a half minutes of ‘Most High’, an abrasive slice of nastiness replete with shouting-declamatory vocals…Suffering Luna have been doing it since the mid-1990s and there are other split releases with Gasp and Dystopia to be found in their name. Their flirtation with extreme power noise has earned them respect in some quarters, but I have to admit there isn’t much evidence of such experimentation on this rather standard-issue generic-doom track.

Suffer The Storm’s side is somewhat more satisfying. Another Los Angeles band, their 22-minute ‘Squalor’ is a brilliantly insufferable and doleful grind described by the press notes as a “droning funeral hymn”. While there are several moves that are common to the genre, including ultra-slow growled vocals, pounding beats, and menacing power chords whanged out on enormous guitars that resonate forever, at least this trio have some concept of dynamics, and their lurching performance follows a dismal rise-and-fall like the lungs of a dying whale, a rhythm that perfectly fits its underlying messages of despair. The artwork to this release is staggeringly over-wrought, much like the over-cooked music, a collage over-packed with pagan, satanic, and apocalyptic imagery, one visual abomination heaped upon another until it almost becomes a parody.


From same label comes Gog’s self-titled item – which is of quite a different order to the above. This is mostly the work of Michael Bjella, realised with the help of drummer Josh Bodnar, and he builds a suffocating Swans-like atmosphere across the album, presumably making heavy use of multi-tracking. Bjella executes his blackened visions with a determination and clarity that the other two bands on this page could learn from; no empty power-chord riffing for this fellow, who instead plans an efficient and ruthless scheme for bludgeoning the listener into submission. He does this in service of a “body horror” theme, suggesting all manner of unwelcome transformations that twist and contort the human frame, and endorses it with a sketchy pseudo-scientific thesis printed on the cover, a speculative tract that questions the value and purpose of “evolution”. In going up against Darwin, Gog might align himself with Old Man Gloom and their shadowy tales of animal experimentation expressed as modern heavy metal music, or he could reach even further back to 1980s movies such as Rabid, Scanners, or John Carpenter’s The Thing. The Gira-esque overloaded pounding music is occasionally tempered with more approachable moments, such as the bleak and Gothy song ‘The First Cure’, where guest vocalist Francesca Marongiu contributes some respite, if not any actual compassion or relief. From 16th July 2014.