Buzzov*en – ‘Sore’ Re-Issue Review

One should never, as this beautifully packaged re-issue shows, approach Buzzov*en lightly or ill-advisedly. A highly influential precursor to the sludge genre, distant cousins of Neurosis and Swans, they play a disconcerting, disorientating brand of sludgy, droning rock laced with horror movie samples and unhinged lyrics the like of which will have lesser mortals cowering under their beds in terror. The opening two and a half minutes alone is enough to bring you out in a cold sweat as a distressed women pleads for help and sinister voices mutter in the background. It’s a harrowing beginning to an album that rarely lets up on the atmosphere or tension and when the brutally distorted guitars and scorn-filled vocals do appear it’s a blessed relief.

Metal Minds, a Polish label, seem hell-bent on getting their hands on some of the finest and most overlooked gems of the last twenty years, polishing them up and releasing them in limited, beautifully designed digi-packs for a whole new generation of listeners. Here, hot on the heels of the excellent Sorrow reissue, comes a revamped version of Buzzov*en’s ‘sore’, complete with a bonus disc and liner notes. This is not something you want to miss if you have a taste for the disturbing.

With track one running the whole gamut of fuzzed up unpleasantness, ‘unwilling to explain’ is a vicious, feral blast of hate-fuelled vocals and chainsaw guitars while ‘hollow’ takes the pace down to a sub-sabbath crawl complete with a vocal performance that still shakes with rage and hatred even after all these years. A venomous, unhinged entity, this is not music to listen to as you drift off to sleep unless you want some seriously unpleasant dreams. Indeed, when it comes to creating unsettling and unpleasant soundscapes, Buzzov*en do this better than most with ‘sore’ requiring several listens before a review is even worth attempting – as an album it’s just too dense to do in any less than multiple sittings.

Of course, this is undoubtedly how Buzzov*en would have liked it. ‘Sore’ is a singularly unpleasant piece of work recorded by singularly deranged individuals and the band never quite reached this peak of aural violence again thanks to endless line-up shifts, heroin addiction and arguments that saw the beast limp on but lacking the ferocious bite that it mustered here. Picking highlights is simply impossible – it’s like trying to find the best patch of mud in a swamp, and each and every track oozes its own vile character without significantly falling above or below any of the other samples offered up.

Speaking of samples, Buzzov*en should also be noted as one of the few bands who didn’t use movie samples as an amusing prop to cartoonish horror metal but who inserted snippets of dialogue which genuinely helped to create the atmosphere of grim exploitation that pervades the entire album – never again has an album so successfully engendered the urge to bathe oneself in bleach as this one does thanks to the overwhelming feelings of helplessness and filth that Sore conjures up.

That said, Sore is still an excellent and highly recommended foray into the world of the unhinged. Firstly, it is unique; not even Neurosis have created so dark an atmosphere as they generally temper their darkness with shades of grey. Secondly Buzzov*en could really play. The arrangements may well be sparse and sludgy, but everything from the vocals to the drums are beautifully played and executed so that nothing sounds out of place. Thirdly the band inspired so much of what slithers and slides in the underground today that this is the ultimate history lesson for people who think that the current crop of sludgy doomsters are unhinged. Finally, the remastering job done here is worth even a second purchase (and for the truly brave there are also some extra tracks on the second disc, although you’ll ideally need a stiff drink before taking a journey even further into the abyss) and the packaging has been well done, including some liner notes to help ease the uninitiated into the world of Buzzov*en.

Ultimately this is dark, strong, unpleasant stuff but it’s well worth a trip for fans of doom, sludge or just for those who want to explore the real dark underbelly of rock music rather than the sanitised, Disney-rendered gloom of Nickleback – this is what genuine hatred sounds like and it is certainly not pretty. A definitive edition of a timeless album and another jewel in the crown of Metal mind records.

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