Review Summary: Hey, look, fuzz!
Don't ever say 'never.' Don't do it. Why not? Because just when you think that life is predictable, that there are no surprises to behold...BAM! Your perception of the world around you is horribly shaken, skewered, and drenched in that slime that we refer to as pure reality. Don't ever think that tomorrow is a given, don't doubt anything or anyone, and don’t challenge that oxymoron-ic constant known as change.
Even if it means succumbing to the fact that your favorite band did
record a crappy album.
The relatively obscure Sawblade EP
was recorded by Isis
in 1999, with a limited run of 200 CD-Rs that included both red and black saw-blade inserts (clever, huh?). The EP was sold during the band's touring stint with Neurosis and Candiria, with only 15 copies sold per show. The remainder were given away after the conclusion of the tour. Featuring only four songs (half of which are covers), this record caught my eye as one I had not heard of. Caught up in my period of wanting more and more material from my favorite band, I gave it a chance.
Emission of the Signal
A slow, chugging monster of guitar fuzz makes its presence known to kick off the EP. Strangely, this is a bit dance-able, so take that as you will. However it may sound initially, this quickly gets to be boring and mind-numbing. Nothing at all is going on here. Adding the most annoying of variation after a painful minute is the inclusion of, hey, more guitar! Perhaps this is in an effort to actually convey the 'signal' motif, but I'm not amused. This just grates my mind ever more. More pointless chugging ensues, and, like a child who's been ravaged by puberty, it's not cute anymore. Sweet relief comes in the form of a few prolonged, decaying fuzz sounds that quickly decay. The noticeable lack of percussion on this track tarnished it even further. Maybe it would’ve been better with drums. Then again, maybe not.
The first cover, that of the band Godflesh
, begins with an unholy assault of low-end madness, the bass taking a brief, prominent role. After the horror of the first track, this is a welcome change to the monotony. Splashing cymbals add to the cacophony, while faint high notes bring about a sludge-y bridge section. The next movement quickly chugs to life, only to die at the hands of the bridge section. Heavily distorted vocals blend with the din, and it's impossible to hear what Aaron Turner is saying, as if his voice is another guitar laden with distortion. The bridge section segues into an utterly groovy section, where drums take the forefront and the strings merely accompany. The electronics on this track are eerie as hell, a spirit to haunt the listener through this ride of terror. Sustained chords bring about a creepy synth effect that is truly mood-enhancing...oh hell, it's a frighteningly good way to usher in a fade out. This more than makes up for the rubbish that was the opener.
Hand of Doom
The last cover featured on the Sawblade EP
is a Black Sabbath
tune, and it starts out with bobbing bass line, joined soon by drums that bring about the groove as well as anyone. The vocals on this song are handled by keyboardist B.C. Meyer, and his processed voice sounds fantastic with the ensemble. Faint hints of guitar lead to an immense chorus of distortion, where Meyer seems to keep up in a supreme fashion. The verse returns, and I'm dancing at this point. Another chorus completely obliterates the scene, with every member just driving through the song with a passion. A lonely bass and hi-hat remain to cool things off for a precious moment, and here comes a flurry of guitar and drum bombast. The fuzzy chords almost overshadow the vocals, which seem to blend and break apart at once. This charging section picks up speed with every second, and it is glorious. Chugging guitars and marching snare provide a stage on which B.C. can give his dark manifesto before the rage of a wah-wah pedal is unleashed in the form of a mere guitar solo. The intro returns, and that can never mean anything good....oh, wait, the verse is back! Getting back in the groove is easy, and the chorus just charges the mood even more. We are treated to yet another verse and chorus, and it's nothing to scoff at. A biting, stinging section is unfurled, with hints of wah-loaded rhythm becoming ever more present. However, this does not last very long, as the song fades into that oblivion which birthed it, but not before resounding in a dying, machine-like chug.
House of Low Culture
This chug carries over onto the last track, where ambient whispers fill a black and cold slate of nothingness. A dryer-like hum pans from ear to ear as the shyest of guitar can be heard. The hum is quite nauseating, and is only bolstered further by a high-pitched squeal that progressively makes its presence felt. The fuzz it brings is almost too much, dropping out to continue drying its clothes. This time a fuzzy keyboard line tinkers to life...no, wait, that's guitar. Oh, well, it's all fuzz, so it doesn't really matter. As a tide washes to shore, this line goes back and forth, with a dull pulse. Getting louder still, it takes over, the dryer becoming nearly obsolete. The noise churns here and there without changing, dying away to even MORE fuzz, this time with the voice of some ungodly beast that is, yes, drying it's clothes. Joined by another, the beasts sing in a disjointed harmony with one another while some dude in the background starts huffing and making animal noises. Tedium sets in and my disdain for drone grows by the minute. There's a fine line between interesting and just plain obscene, which the band has crossed in near-arrogance. More dryer sounds, complete with some tinkling and an unsettling feeling manifest for the next 'movement.' Wobbly sound effects pop in at random, and the tinkling makes one feel like they are in a submarine that's being flooded. The dryer sounds remain for the last few seconds and then...sweet silence.
While ISIS may be my favorite band, this EP shows that nobody is perfect (but I'm sure you really didn't need me to tell you that). The band's original songs here are ambient trash, complete with every different type of fuzz effect known to man and some that aren't. Not much else can be heard, to be honest. The covers, however, are just incredible, Hand of Doom
especially. I recommend this EP for completist purposes and the covers only, for there are very few points of interest elsewhere on the album.
"Streetcleaner," "Hand of Doom"
The very beginning of "Emission of the Signal"
The rest of "Emission of the Signal," "House of Low Culture"
The fuzz is really overpowering
It's a shame that the covers are the high points