It’s not often I’m lost for words, but Metallic Taste Of Blood’s self-titled debut album has left me speechless. It’s a collaboration between four unique and very different musicians. Colin Edwin will be familiar to anyone with an interest in prog, as the bass player with the mighty Porcupine Tree, Ex-Wise Heads and Random Noise Generator. Guitar and electronics duties are handled by Eraldo Bernocchi, a musician, producer and member of Obake who has previously worked with Mick Harris (ex-Napalm Death) and whose music featured in Gabriele Salvatores’ award winning film, “Denti”. Hungarian drummer Balazs Pandi is also a member of Obake, has worked with Merzbow and his band Wormskull recently released their “Sound of Hell” album. Finally, keyboard player Jamie Saft has also composed for film, is a member of New Zion Trio and has worked with John Zorn. To really understand this album it’s important to know that this is a truly international, multi-talented affair; only then can the listener really appreciate the myriad influences that have gone into its creation.
The album itself is remarkable; each musician has brought with them such a level of creativity, accomplishment and compositional ability, it’s difficult to know where to begin. A huge variety of sounds and instruments has been assembled to create some truly original music. It’s certainly not an album that is easy to categorise; in fact, it’s damn near impossible.
‘Sectile’ sets the tone for the album, beginning with a haunting, exotic sound overlaying what appear to be fairly standard bass, drums and guitar: so far, a little out of the ordinary – but where is it heading? The answer arrives when the rhythm mutates into a rapid drum and bass passage with moving, plaintive piano, which then becomes crashing and discordant. Writing about it doesn’t really do it justice – you really need to listen to it to fully understand. Throughout, the song moves between these two styles, never truly settling. This and each of the subsequent pieces are much more than mere songs; they are musical soundscapes, full of imagination, exploration and sonic variation.
‘Schizopolis’ is a sinister affair, with almost doomy guitar and playful – but disconcerting – keyboards, which then becomes much heavier, with fuzzed up bass and a proper Bonzo back beat. The experimentation in this album is as profound as it is wide- ranging, with almost anything being possible while still remaining unapologetically musical. It’s really heartening that today’s music scene accepts and appreciates musicians who free themselves to this extent.
Jumping to ‘Bipolar’, it’s wonderful to hear a song that uses harmonics and hi-hat in the introduction. The keyboards lend an almost ambient texture to the piece as the instruments coalesce into the main body of the song, driven by a bass line with a real groove and featuring industrial guitar that wouldn’t be out of place on a Rammstein album.
At this point I just want to carry on exploring the songs and describe every element and new idea; but I need to leave much for the listener to discover. This is a real voyage of musical discovery, and no matter how many times you listen to it, you will always find something new, something that was not apparent the last time.
To pick out a few more gems from what is essentially a horde of musical treasure, ‘Maladaptive’ uses a heavy, dirty bass groove against a clean sound by the rest of the band; while ‘King Cockroach’ arrives like the buzz of an angry insect swarm, before becoming a kind of cosmic reggae number.
In ‘Crystals and Wounds’, another soundscape built on glorious bass and drum lines, each instrument serves dual functions – to carry the melody and also to provide texture to the sound. This is an album of supreme unselfishness, as each musician is given plenty of space to explore; and because of their individual capabilities, whatever it is that they choose to do (and they all choose to do a lot) always fits perfectly within the shape of the overall piece. Where the song requires them to step aside, that’s exactly what happens. No one really dominates, but everyone’s contribution is considered, powerful and ultimately essential.
There are no vocals and Metallic Taste Of Blood doesn’t need any. Surely there is no space left for them; the instrumentation is so complete and the composition so rich in textures that vocals would be utterly superfluous.
The final three songs offer further musical journeys coloured by discordant keyboard stabs, syncopated bass and drums, ambient sections and even an almost bluesy closing number that brings the whole thing to an atmospheric, mellow conclusion.
Metallic Taste Of Blood defies expectations and any attempt at categorisation; but with these alumni it’s difficult to know what you should expect anyway, other than the kind of creativity that would make any band envious. What it does is astounding, combining so many sounds, styles, instruments and four very different musicians to stunning effect. It is a staggering piece of work.