Digression Assassin – ‘Alpha’ Vinyl Review

There are times when a less-is-more approach is exactly what you need to intrigue you about a project. Digression Assassins contacted SonicAbuse with possibly the briefest email we’ve yet received, informing us only that they had an album out on vinyl exclusively (enough, anyway, to garner our attention) and that it was to be released through a German label named Ampire. I hadn’t, to that point, heard of either band or label but I’m surely glad that I have now because Digression Assassins have transpired to be rather good and it is certainly unarguable that the raw analogue feel of vinyl is the perfect medium for these noise-mongering eccentrics.

The album opens with a swirl of echoing feedback and a song title that is as perplexing as it is awkward to repeat (“90s7 + P07. 5t+7 0 3.0”). Pinning a genre on these guys is nigh on impossible as the brief track (less than 3 minutes) takes in punk, jazz and math-core all without breaking a sweat. The participants undoubtedly survived or we’d be reading about it, but I’m not convinced about the instruments and the overriding feel is of Botch butting heads with Miles Davis at a Sonic Youth concert… or something. It’s confusing, engaging and possibly brilliant, although it’s so random I haven’t quite decided yet. ‘Laser ranging experiment’ takes things in a darker direction when the deranged riffs that open the song are suddenly cut off mid-blast and the track turns into a slowed-down trawl through the sonic quagmire of ‘confusion is sex’, it’s certainly not radio-friendly, but it’s maybe one of the bravest works you’ll hear all year… so actually maybe it is brilliant, albeit to a limited few acolytes who will ‘get’ what Digression Assassin have to offer. Taking a marginally calmer approach (presumably subdued by ridiculous doses of psychotropic drugs) ‘the guest’ is the sort of damaged music that you might expect to flow through the mind of a hopelessly-deranged psychiatric patient as he foams at the mouth in his padded cell with its angular stabs of guitar, obsessive-compulsive percussion and haunted vocals. It’s the music of the adrenalin surge and the amphetamine, and it sounds quite amazing even while it comprehensively rearranges your understanding of what heavy music should (and can) sound like.

Just when you feel Digression Assassins have lost their ability to surprise, they unleash the distinctly Mastadon-esque ‘Skyrunner’ which has a more coherent feel than the previous three tracks, although the death-metal style breakdown does reduce the familiarity of the sound somewhat as the track progresses. It is, however, probably the most straightforward rock track here – the sort of thing that gets heads nodding in glorious unison, and it is a testament to the band’s ability that they can make something that is both so quirkily unconventional and so thoroughly addictive and exciting. The title track offers a darker, more droning take on things – somewhere between Mastadon, Khanate and black Sabbath if you can imagine such a thing, and there’s a strong classic rock feel to the song that has you checking once again to make sure that this actually is the same band that you were listening to a mere ten minutes previously. Seemingly possessed by the ghost of Mike Patton, ‘foregather’ has elements of Fantomas littered through its ominously heavy metallic shell – sort of ADHD grind-core once again sending the music skittering off in a hitherto un-signposted direction. A short track at under two minutes, it rapidly gives way to the mental 237 which sounds like a scissor fight in Neurosis’ practice room between Nirvana and The Melvins. This is closely followed by a pretty little interlude that fails to entirely dim the suspicion that the follow-up will be entirely devastating, as ‘spring’ proves to be, even if it does sound like a party of Christian fundamentalists protesting outside a Napalm death concert with its high-velocity guitars contrasting with oddly wholesome voc al harmonies. ‘Platitude’ is no less disturbing although it does break format by sounding at least stylistically similar to the track before it, although the guitar playing soon takes a turn for the unstable and the unhinged roars peppered over the increasingly agitated riffs are enough to see most people reaching for the Prozac.

Digression Assassin saved the best for last however with the Fukuyama referencing ‘the end of history’, a six minute lesson in aggression and dynamics the like of which few bands ever master, let alone over the course of one track. It is a thrilling and startling closer to an album that never stays still long enough for you to pigeon-hole it. Excruciatingly heavy and dazzlingly inventive, this is the track you need to hear if you are in any way unconvinced by the exceptional skills of the band and if you are in possession of a turntable you should be heading to the official site with as much speed as you can muster.

How to sum up an album that is so utterly immense? Well, quite simply if you are attracted to inventive, constantly shifting music unfettered by commercial expectations or stylistic sensibilities then this is for you. There are myriad reference points littering the sonic battlefield and endless dips into popular culture, but ultimately these musical magpies have succeeded in creating something genuinely original and utterly wonderful. Demented genius, for open minded rock fans this is an essential purchase.  Find out more here: http://digressionassassins.com/

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1 comment

  1. Oz September 28, 2011 9:12 pm  Reply

    Wow this sound tremendous.

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