“Serve or Survive” opens Corrections House‘s debut album, Last City Zero, with Scott Kelly strumming a dirty chord and his voice intoning, calling the listener forth. (Buy it from Amazon.) The effect is powerful, but in some ways, it sounds like the beginning of a new Neurosis release. And then, a little under two and a half minutes in, electronic drums and chanted vocals raise the stakes, and the tension builds. It becomes obvious that this isn’t Neurosis, or even a solo Kelly project, but a new and mysterious beast. Harsh, industrial vocals begin to rant over the top of it all and then within a minute, the tempo increases and a Ministry-style section kicks in.
Thus begins a multifaceted and unpredictable journey. Given the pedigree of the musicians present, this would’ve been an easy album to phone in. Scott Kelly and Mike IX Williams, of Neurosis and EyeHateGod respectively, are underground legends. Meanwhile, Sanford Parker, who is perhaps best known as a producer but who also puts in time with Nachtmystium, Buried At Sea, and Minsk, and Bruce Lamont of Yakuza and Circle of Animals, round out the lineup. This is certainly a supergroup, without any of the pitfalls of being a lazy side project. And what they decided to do together isn’t a sludge album hinting at their previous endeavors, but an expansive and unique album, one where industrial influences take center stage and any number of influences support the overall vision.
“Serve or Survive” gives way to “Bullets and Graves,” the album’s most traditional industrial-metal track. By far the shortest song on the album, it’s a 2:40 primal scream session bringing to mind old Ministry and perhaps, on an even scuzzier level, Scorn‘s Vae Solis. The third track, “Party Leg and Three Fingers,” is an industrial dirge with moody accompaniment provided by Lamont’s saxophone. Each track brings something new to the table.
There is an ebb and flow to the album as a whole. Tempos vary and quieter moments begin to alternate with heavier sections and Mike IX Williams‘ spoken-word pieces take on a more primary role. In a recent interview, Lamont cited Williams’ book of poetry, Cancer as a Social Activity, as a primary source of lyrical inspiration. The entire mood might be summed up by the everyman nihilism of “Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill,” and “Hallows of the Stream” evokes the post-apocalyptic mood of Neurosis’ A Sun that Never Sets.
“Run through the Night” features desolate acoustic guitar recalling Death In June, while the title track is a quiet meditation on Williams’ poetry. Surrealism, depression and social decay blend together in a statement of utter despondency. The album closes with “Drapes Hung by Jesus,” where electronic drones give way to more industrial punishment and close the record out with more apocalyptic ranting, a fitting end to such an ominous album.
Last City Zero is an epic album. This is the product of four individuals coming together with a shared vision. They have the confidence to experiment with whatever idea comes to mind, and they have the competence to pull off whatever they are attempting. One is only left wondering what they might do with a sophomore effort; hopefully the world will have a chance to find out.
Stream “Bullets and Graves”: