September 23, 2014

Venowl - Patterns of Failure (Remaster)

Written by Craig Hayes.

Artwork by E. Sawyer

I’m a big fan of experimental music, and what’s commonly denoted as falling into the harsh noise realm, so my tolerance for challenging sounds is fairly high. I’m not telling you that because I think I deserve a great big broad-mindedness badge pinned to my chest, but simply to point out that we all have different ideas about what constitutes music. As metal fans, we’re already predisposed to favouring nerve-grating and teeth-grinding sounds. But, even then, as individuals, we've all still got a line somewhere that decides what metal's pushed past our personal boundaries into the sphere of indecipherable and repellent noise.

Illinois trio Venowl are the kind of band that operates on that exact border. Venowl make no concessions to approachability, and they pile on the misery, misanthropy, and audio torture on their 2012 debut, Patterns of Failure – which was re-released by Broken Limbs Recordings earlier this year. The band describes their sound as, “snuff doom”, and that’s pretty accurate. Venowl mixes blackened-noise and sludge with various strains of monstrous sonic filth on lengthy and demoralising tracks, and Patterns of Failure is definitely the kind or release that'll prove thoroughly repulsive to some listeners.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

The three songs on Patterns of Failure are all toxic and tortuous screeds, and they certainly serve as a handy barometer for your emotional fortitude. Patterns of Failure’s title track stretches out to 17-minutes, “Hung Alive By The Ribs To A Gallows” hovers around the 11-minute mark, and “The Bounded and Loathed” drags the torment and ill-treatment out to 27-minutes. Every second of every one of those songs crawls along on smashed knuckles, with slow-motion riffs corroding into ear-piercing feedback and dissonant noise. To accompany that, you get hellish screams and throat-slit gurgles and grunts, all adding in the vocal trauma, and with remastering duties handed over to James Plotkin, Patterns of Failure is exceedingly heavy in tempo, tone, and temper.

If you want some reference points, then bands like Khanate or Primitive Man spring to mind, at least in Patterns of Failure’s malicious trudge. However, the droning derangement of Oregon-based Hell mines a similar level of apocalyptic audial battery, and soul-scouring gloom. Even then, that doesn't really capture what Venowl are doing here, because there’s anguished and despairing howls born from the deepest wounds on Patterns of Failure.

Photo by Carmelo Española.

There’s no way you could describe Patterns of Failure as an easily accessible album, or merciful in any way, shape or form. It is a challenge, even if you’re already a fan of monolithic music that’s testing and taxing. The entirely of Patterns of Failure is a deeply unsettling experience, and the album hammers suffering home with each and every unrelenting and punishing passage.

Of course, therein lies the attraction. Patterns of Failure is ceaselessly demanding, and it constantly tests your will, and the majority of art that provides such harrowing journeys promises a sense of release from your own woes in making it through.

However, that’s not the case here. Don't go looking for any joyous catharsis in the funeral doom and drone of Patterns of Failure, because it provides something far darker, and more dispiriting. You’re not going to be left with the feeling of freedom from your troubles here. Instead, Patterns of Failure offers you a glimpse of your own last and desperate grasps at life. Something you can expect to face, all too soon.

Obviously, Patterns of Failure is highly recommended. Death is coming for us all. You might as well get prepared for its arrival sooner than later.

[Go to the post to view the Bandcamp player]

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