Ohio’s Craw might be one of the most criminally underrated noise-rock bands of the nineties. After the group’s demise, guitarist and founding member Dave McClelland moved to New York City and continued to pursue music, most significantly perhaps with the instrumental trio Skryptor. His guitar style, as heard on their debut album Luminous Volumes, had evolved significantly from his early days. While still possessing plenty of heft and muscle, the jagged edges had been somewhat worn away with time and replaced with an almost progressive sensibility.
Now, we witness McClelland at the furthest point in his musical journey with the release of his solo instrumental album under the name Massive Pit. Dagger’s Despair, Dagger’s Desire is the first release, and it is a powerful statement. While not entirely dissimilar to his earlier work, Massive Pit possesses an identity all its own and should entice Skryptor fans and others alike.
The first track, appropriately named “Opener,” sets the stage for what’s to come. The sound seems to spring from several reference points, but as soon as an influence is spotted, the thought is undermined. A first impression might elicit a Trans Am comparison, somewhere between The Surveillance and Futureworld, but the guitar is the lead instrument here. Same with any John Carpenter comparisons. The Fucking Champs? This isn’t metal enough.
Essentially, there exists a wonderful tension between the guitar as lead instrument and the sonic gravity of the rhythm section beneath it. “Opener” moves swiftly with a Neu!-inspired motorik-beat, yet in other moments, the rhythms are much more nimble. Meanwhile, the second track uses a similar alchemy but applies more of a noise-rock feel. Yet, “Follower” is a more graceful affair compared to Craw. The music is still heavy, but less grim.
“Bela Club Pop” leans even heavier into an almost synthwave mode, at least until the distorted guitar enters. “1983” is even more left-field, seemingly nodding to the obscure prog/RIO sounds of 5uu’s or Thinking Plague. The album seems to culminate with the almost seven-minute “Your Imaginary Friend is a Demon.” The song starts out a bit more subdued than what’s come before, but soon shifts to a blast beat, an unexpected turn given what has come before, but one that certainly still works. The piece moves through a labyrinth of hairpin rhythmic turns and maddening guitar work, hitting one climax after another in quick succession.
Dave McClelland has always been a badass. Craw created a dark and mysterious world with their angular and mysterious take on metallic noise-rock. Skryptor caught us up with a very progressive take on instrumental sludge. There have been other projects along the way, all seemingly hard to pin down, but of course that’s a good thing. Massive Pit is only the latest, and as a solo project, it gives us the greatest insight to where McClelland exists as an artist in this moment. He doesn’t seem content to stay in one place, and wherever he pops up next, it will be interesting to observe his continued growth as a musician.