Sunday, October 23, 2016

Seputus - Man Does Not Give

By Craig Hayes. US trio Seputus features ¾ of the lineup of technical death metal band Pyrrhon. But where Pyrrhon specialise in frenetic sound experiments, Seputus hammers home a musical message that’s dunked in punk, abraded by noise and black metal, and then kicked around the yard by grinding death metal.
By Craig Hayes.

Artwork by Caroline Harrison

US trio Seputus features ¾ of the lineup of technical death metal band Pyrrhon. But where Pyrrhon specialise in frenetic sound experiments, Seputus hammers home a musical message that’s dunked in punk, abraded by noise and black metal, and then kicked around the yard by grinding death metal. Seputus pre-dates Pyrrhon too. But the band was set aside and it’s Pyrrhon that’s ended up attracting critical attention in recent times. So what does Seputus have to offer? Hell on earth, my friend. Hell. On. Earth.

Seputus’ debut album, Man Does Not Give, was inspired by the band’s drummer, guitarist, and all round noise-maker Stephen Schwegler’s time in the US military. Obviously, heavy metal is obsessed with war. It’s a perennial trope. But the closest the overwhelming majority of metal musicians or fans ever get to military matters is watching war porn on YouTube. I don’t know if Schwegler served time in a combat zone, but his experiences in the military environment, combined with his role as prime songwriter here, help raise the levels of belligerence on Man Does Not Give by a significant warlike margin.

No question, Man Does Not Give has an ultra-aggressive temper that’s tuned to the discord of everyday life, as well as the madness and devastation of modern day warfare. Not every song on the album deals with outright hostilities, as such. But vocalist Doug Moore’s savage lyrics highlight the battles we fight every day nonetheless. “A Perfect Gentleman” frames a deeply uncomfortable scene, one of many disturbing pictures that Moore sketches out. His last line on the frenzied “Desperate Reach” (“just terminal velocity and the abyss”) succinctly defines the entire feel of Man Does Not Give as it hurtles towards the void. And Schwegler’s musical cruelty and Moore’s lyrical severity combine to present a unified violent vision on Man Does Not Give.

There’s a subtle genius to the way that Seputus intentionally tear their songs apart to make them more barbed and barbaric as well. There’s avant-garde elements, off-kilter tangents, and warped time signatures on Man Does Not Give too –– although it’s Pyrrhon that follows that path deepest into the woods. In the main, Seputus assaults with thick swarms of seething riffs backed by a heavyweight percussive bombardment; swarms bring the operative word here.

The band grind death and black metal together, and then coat that with a crusty, bass-rumbling racket on intense tracks like “Downhill Battle” and “Top of the Food Chain”. The result is that Man Does Not Give sounds and feels like a chaotic cascade of gruesome noise, and Moore’s vocals are a major contributor to the horrorshow. Moore digs deep on tracks like “Vestigial Tail” to come up with unhinged and bloodthirsty vocals. But he also adds psychotic screams throughout Man Does Not Give that bypass any easily affixed descriptor.

Man Does Not Give maintains a murderous mood throughout. The disorder at the heart of “No Mind Will Enshrine Your Name” and “The Fist That Makes Flesh” sees reality crumbling into that aforementioned abyss with homicidal glee. The production on Man Does Not Give has a cavernous depth and leaves a blood-soaked trail –– ensuring the album isn’t just cruel in content but is also confronting. Seputus sound like they’re documenting how hellish things are. But then, crucially, they also take great delight in rubbing your face in it.

The question was once asked, “war, what it is good for?” Well, if you’ve been paying attention to the endless parade of the victims on your TV screen, maybe “absolutely nothing” might be your response. But that’s not going to change anything. Because sympathy has never stopped a fair proportion of humanity from ceaselessly baying for blood. Man Does Not Give doesn’t provide any answers as to why we externalise or internalise so much brutality. Or why violence is so ingrained in us all. But the album does evocatively explore humankind’s desire for self-destruction.

In doing so, Seputus don’t just capture the rage around us on Man Does Not Give, they also help release the rage within us. And there’s your catharsis. There’s your unshackling of the beast. Sans the bloodshed. Ultimately, whether Seputus are tackling conflict in the abstract, or on the streets, battlefields, or in our own minds, the band’s ability to corral the chaos inherent in conflict is their best feature. It keeps the atmosphere on Man Does Not Give teetering on the edge of cut-throat insanity. Just like all of us. One step away from Hell on earth.

Tagged with 2016, black metal, Craig Hayes, death metal, Seputus
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