Review Summary: The 4th album from noise auteur Steve Austin, and his first for well known metal label Relapse Records, is a journey into the disturbing and bizarre, while still remaining a true reflection of a real human soul.
' NecroticWurmKultLord takes his pretentious soapbox and places it squarely in front of his feet. He promptly steps onto said box and begins to speak’
Catharsis is a Greek word often translated as ‘purification’, ‘cleansing’, or ‘purgation’. Interestingly the original use of the term bears little resemblance to how we would understand it today; it was a medical
term used to describe the literal purging of a fluid from the body. In fact, it was the Greek philosopher Aristotle who, in his seminal work Poetics, said "It is the human soul that is purged of its emotions".
He said this in reference to the tragic theatre of his age; he theorised that through the viewing of these plays, the more destructive energies of human nature could be released and the person would be kept in a healthy emotional equilibrium as a result. Of course it goes without saying that in this review, and on a larger scale this site, we are concerned with music, not drama.
Music is unique as an art medium, perhaps only rivalled by film in the respect that it can at once be an expression of universally relatable feelings and a well thought-through, structured, deeply intellectual experience. A beautiful melody cannot discriminate in the same manner as a copy of Gravity's Rainbow. Good music can mainline any unnecessary rational thought or language barrier and appeal to the earlier, primal instincts that unite us as human beings. However this excellent, life-affirming music is almost always not so by accident; composers and artist have, for centuries and much longer than centuries, used musical ingredients such as consonance, dissonance, melody, harmony, rhythm etc., to inspire by turn moods of joy, sadness, fear, empathy, and anger. Sometimes the utter emotional heft of a musical work is so substantial that we are quite uncontrollably moved to tears. This is what brings me today to review the 4th album of the main project of noise auteur Steve Austin and his revolving door of backing musicians, Today Is The Day. How often have you been unsettled by an album? Genuinely afraid of listening to it in the dark however irrational it may seem? Steve Austin employs musical devices to create something that is in some ways incredibly innovative and in many more wholly disturbing, while still remaining a true reflection of a real human soul. It's ugly, it's not pretty, it's dark, angry, frustrated, angst-filled, but not hopeless.
I've always viewed the music of Today Is The Day as a less electronically-inclined Trent Reznor applied to extreme metal with a greater willingness to indulge in the more abrasive aspects of his music; i.e. the noise and the metal. Both Austin and Reznor have amazing attention to detail and subsequently have produced works of sizeable depth. Both men are frank about their problems to the listener and seek to release these issues through their music. Although Steve doesn’t have quite the same taste for anthemics as Mr. Reznor does, some Today Is The Day cuts have a fragile, even soulful tunefulness that would suggest he is interested in portraying a much wider variety of colours that most of his noise contemporaries would dare to. The main difference I see between them is that at least in my opinion , excepting The Downward Spiral, Trent has perhaps not produced anything as disturbing or as psychologically draining as Steve has done for most of his career.
Now to the music itself.....
Across its 17 tracks, Temple Of The Morning holds a unique place in the TITD discography in being, sound-wise, caught between the more overtly metal and brutalising albums( In The Eyes Of God, Kiss The Pig etc.), and the wildly ambitious and experimental, if not bloated, two-hour long journey Sadness Will Prevail.
So what you can expect is an eclectic yet strangely cohesive mix of odd sampling, examples of prime spastic rhythm buggery , crushing guitars, eastern sounding interludes, evil, monolithic drone (Hermaphrodite), astounding layered noise (Crutch) and the occasional heartfelt melody. It also include a hidden cover of Sabbath’s ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, which is in itself very poignant in the context of the album. Vocally, Steve Austin largely expresses himself in multi-tracked processed screams with a delicate, naked singing voice only appearing in the album’s most sombre moments. Lyrically, he is direct; with no poetic pretensions he goads the listener in ‘Kill Yourself’, “Why hold back? Kill Yourself!/Take a blade! Do it fast! Do it clean!”. His lyrics range from the painfully confessional (Title Track) to the bizarre and disgusting ( Pinnacle, Hermaphrodite). The two title tracks emphatically placed at opposing ends of the album, one acoustic and electric otherwise with same lyrics, music etc., lend an interestingly cyclical air to the album. The second song, charmingly entitled'The Man Who Loves To Hurt Himself', is very much representative of the heavier side of the album. It starts with a seemingly innocuous sample of a country song. Things soon take a turn for the sinister as distorted screams are laid on top with similarly menancing vocal samples. Before long, we are locked into a sickly, uneasy, albeit catchy groove with forceful vocals aplenty. 'Root Of All Evil', while by contrast a more subdued and melodic song, still possesses powerful, affecting crescendi to stop it from becoming filler. The cover art is also interesting in the way that.......well, you can see it yourself!
Overall, if are considering exploring this album, indeed any TITD album, I would do so with an open mind, as the they can seem almost willfully abstruse in certain instances, but given a chance, they can be both rewarding and cathartic. Just remember to keep those lights on, ok?