Life is a long gradual process of decay leading to death. The music of J.R. Robinson and Esther Shaw, the doomsaying duo at the twisted heart of Wrekmeister Harmonies have never shied away from expressing such an unequivocal perspective on existence.
In their earlier work they assembled larger groups but for this latest project they decided to strip things back to become an army of two assisted only by long-time friend and Swans drummer Thor Harris and producer Martin Bisi.
Furthermore, the couple retreated from the intensity of Chicago to work for around two months in the relative seclusion of the coast of Astoria, Oregon. Robinson likened this period to a “cult like affair, just the two of us, thinking the similar thoughts and working them out with hours and hours of conversation, totally alone.”
This self imposed exile came after dual tragedies of the passing of a loved one and the traumatic experience of caring for another family member with a chronic illness.
Not surprisingly, the resulting compositions are dense and dark in tone. Some will inevitably be turned off by their morbid obsession with mortality but there's a fearless integrity in the refusal to compromise.
The tone is ominous with a menacing sense of foreboding as the six tracks are dominated by slow drones with the imposing baritone voice of J.R. Robinson. The words are spoken more than sung in the manner of a hellfire preacher; like a cross between Scott Walker and Nick Cave.
Chilling titles like A 300 Year Old Slit Throat and Covered In Blood From Invisible Wounds are designed to deter the faint hearted.
Esther Shaw's classical training means that the textures are more nuanced and considered than the thrash and burn of death metal. The bleakly beautiful ambient aspects actually make this ideal headphone music.
Heard this way, you'll also experience the full shock value of the high-pitched screech on Behold! The Final Scream and feel disturbed by the eerie samples of hysterical laughter and garbled conversation in the epic dirge of Forgive Yourself And Let Go.
Above all, if you're having a bad day, this album will remind you that things could be a whole lot worse.