Heads Will Roll

Extrema Ratio are a four-piece coming out of Turin, Italy, here with their debut album A Dangerous Method (ALMA DI NIETO DNN023C). At first gazoon this one seemed very far from subtle – a pretty grotesque noise assault made with sax, drums, electronics and an unhinged screaming voice, and one senses the band might be trying to convey some political ideas, as evidenced by the graphical images and slogans on the artwork here, which are heavily influenced by Communist propaganda stylings. There’s also a song called ‘Revolution’ based on a text by Mao Tse-Tung. However, I think Extrema Ratio are also concerned with advancing an agenda of personal liberation, as shown not just by the rather formless and heaving music which lurches around like a crazed dinosaur, but also in the use of texts by Pasolini and samples from William Burroughs which open the album (something of a gaffe, if truth be told).

In embracing the precepts of free improvisation, the band bring in Fritz Welch (formerly of PSI) to add vocals on one track, plus the trumpeter Luca Benedetto who has landed in with this mob from a jazz context. But the aim is to mix up free improv with punk aesthetics by way of political bands like Crass, and abrasive noise with many industrial elements, with the unhinged electronic sounds of Valdjau Katportha coming to the fore. Vocalist .xlaidox. might be the focal point for most of these energies and influences; he looks fearsome in his photograph here, yawping at top of his lungs through a megaphone (!) and equipped with bulging muscular arms that would raise eyebrows at a Mr Universe tournament; .xlaidox. has evidently been active within the counter-culture for over 25 years now, producing graphic designs and fanzines (hopefully full of dissident and agitational content) besides making records and producing other bands in the hardcore punk area. Plus there’s the disjointed sax blasts of Alessandro Cartolari, who rasps like a bad-tempered shark with bent fins, and the maniacal drumming of Diego Rosso…

While the foursome are capable of rocking out like the best of any post-Black Flag band to have appeared in the pages of Maximum Rock N Roll, Extrema Ratio are also capable of some insanely powerful dynamics, stopping and starting their mighty warhorse with the skill of a cavalry veteran, indicating they are not simply an artless three-chord punk band and have a lot more content they wish to convey, through their ugly and broken music, and their confrontational lyrics. They also have a manifesto which has to be read to be believed – it’s not simply the high-flown and grandiose claims they make with their slogans, but the abstruse language in which they say it, packed with fanciful adjectives and multi-syllabic nouns, constantly stressing how “unorthodox” they are and completely different to everything else. Perhaps they see themselves as inheritors to The Futurists. At all events, this record with its over-the-top cover art of axe slicing head in twixt is starting to grow on me, and when you get past the sickening crunch of its more violent moments, you will discover some truly twisted and highly inventive out-there art music emerging, breeding like strange worms underground. From 24th March 2021.