The Bloody Hammer

Satanic Abandoned Rock & Roll Society – pretty powerful name for a band eh readers! It’s up there with the Mount Fuji Doomjazz Corporation, although that Fuji bunch can’t quite live up to that name, bluster as they may with their powerful slow drones and collective long hair. Us black-hearted types have more confidence in a name like Satanic Abandoned Rock & Roll Society, although to their discredit they don’t reproduce it in full on the front cover, instead opting for an obscure acronym which indicates the typographical designer for this release is preening his own sense of cleverness instead of (to my mind) representing the music properly. Mater of fact this whole album needs to be redesigned from the ground up, starting with strong shades of primary red and black instead of these sickly grey and maroon hues. And we need at least one pentagram or other magical symbol on the cover instead of these vague rotating hexagons. Come to think of it, these visual ideas of mine are pretty trite and have already been done to death by a million no-hoper Heavy Metal bands. No wonder I never get any LP design work! My idea of a record cover for The Cramps would be a skull wearing a top hat and framed by two dice…

However spin the disc of Bloody Imagination (MIKROTON RECORDINGS mikroton cd 12) and we’re certainly not disappointed by the dense and thuddy drone-o feedback noise produced by four mighty “shoguns” of Japanese music, namely Tetuzi Akiyama, Naoaki Miyamoto, Utah Kawasaki and Atsuhiro Ito. Any listening infantryman worth their salt knows the name of Akiyama, the guitarist who dresses like a 1970s New York street dude and plays in numerous rock and improv inflected styles, and might as well carry his electric guitar in a machine gun case. Utah’s name first reached my ears when Otomo Yoshihide was getting all excited about this new “Onkyo” style in the 1990s and reported that Kawasaki played a broken synth. How better to align oneself with those two Swiss noise pioneers Voice Crack than to use malfunctioning equipment. Atsuhiro Ito is a member of Intonarumori Orchestra and Optrum. If you ever Google for a picture of this fellow you’ll notice that he’s never in public without his hat (like the guitar player Taku Sugimoto, another credited with developing the slow and near-silent performing style that was later dubbed “onkyo”), and also that he appears to be gifted in playing the fluorescent lighting tube (actually it’s his “optron” – see below). Now I want to revisit his contributions to the Improvised Music From Japan box set from 2001. Lastly we have the second guitarist Naoaki Miyamoto whose name is new to me but whose career also dates from this millennial “tabula rasa” point of 2000-2001 when the music was taken for a long walk in the snowdrifts around Mount Aino, and lost its memory.

The groovy thing about this 52-minute mo-fo (continuous playing, no edits) is that the musicians characterise their work primarily in terms of the frequencies they generate – e.g., Tetuzi dominates the high frequencies, Atsuhiro occupies the lower depths. Then there’s the instrumentation itself, the “optron” played by Ito 1 and Tetuzi’s resonator (all-steel body) guitar played with a samurai sword, to get that doubled-up effect of metal on metal. This is not “minimal” music as regards the volume or the presence, which is full-on and extremely “solid”, producing a goodly chunk of impenetrable smoke in the listening parlour. But it is also extremely disciplined, the four musicians locking into a tight unit and keeping the intensity on an even keel, without wavering for a second. What great sailors they would make, pilots of an old-fashioned tea-clipper. There are no excessive gestures or unnecessary sounds, and the musical bundle is as watertight as a full-body protective suit made of epoxy resin. As far as Rock & Roll Societies go, this is one “smart set” where you’ll be glad you signed the membership papers and paid your monthly dues. As far as “satanic” goes, this record may not exhibit the same brand of theatrical horror that we get from Sunn O))) or Black Metal records, but it is still extremely – erm – affecting, both for the bodily and mental cavities. If we regard a satanic rite as something which requires intense concentration and never admits the possibility of a mistake in the procedure 2, then this record is a masterclass in the “dark arts”. Would ya believe this uncanny production, composed and produced by Tetuzi Akiyama, been boiling in the vaults since 2004? What hath befallen the world in the eight year interval leading up to its release?

  1. One pundit on YouTube has dubbed it “Merzlight”
  2. This line of thought isn’t too far-fetched if you’re of the school of thought that ascribes the “Black Mass” to the perverted invention of late 19th-century decadents, who simply created an intellectual inversion of the Catholic liturgy.