Review Summary: Rated R, in theaters this Friday. Bring your kids.
The Jaws Law of Horror says "The less you show of the antagonist, the scarier the film will be." Past the unspeakable gore, hulking bloodthirsty creatures, or cultic fright, the score of a horror film sits in the dark, pushing buttons and pulling levers and watching the needle in your blood pressure gauge waver into the danger zone.
Similarly, Dutchman and musical workhorse Mories' philosophy has always been to terrify the listener with masses of caustic sound rather than individual songs - a credo upheld by his best-known brainchild Gnaw Their Tongues' and their ninth full-length album, titled Per Flagellum, Sanguemque Tenebras Veneramus
. Mories' work with his five solo projects consistently straddles the line between extreme metal and noise, while each having a distinct feel, from minimalistic post-rock to raw lo-fi black metal. His works are meant to create images in the listener's head rather than on a screen. Coupled with darkly vulgar artwork and downright grisly titles (no doubt mirrored in the lyrics) involving everything from blood cults to death worship and torture, Gnaw Their Tongues manifests terrible sounds that immediately evoke images of Dario Argento-level occult gore.
GTT is known for its churning furnace rumblings, full of oppressive distortion and metallic clank. The effect is loud and extremely abrasive, like the inner clockwork of hell. However, unlike the vast majority of metal bands, the instrumentation is far less guitar-based, instead consisting of filthy electronic drone. The noxious atmosphere is broken by mechanical blast-beat drumming and Mories' unintelligible vocals, which take the form of high-pitch, agonized shrieks. GTT also makes healthy use of eerie samples, most pulled from horror films no less. Some brush it off as simply being fathomless noise, with no musical or artistic value whatsoever. The more open-minded consider it to be a genius use of sound, evocative and ensnaring.
Per Flagellum, Sanguemque Tenebras Veneramus
, which roughly translates into English as "With blood and whip, we worship the dark", sees Mories honing his jagged boiling drone and fleshing out his film score-like tendencies. The rancid churn of old GTT is now less atonal, making it less of an unyielding mass. The dramatic pitch drops are therefore all the more gripping and the clamor of sound effects clink eerily in the black rather than lurk far in the background. The record makes full use of dramatic bursts and extended tension. At several points Per Flagellum
seems to be the soundtrack to a sick cult film in Mories' head as he experiments with synths and sounds; "Tod, Wo Ist Dein Licht" begins oddly, almost as dirty electronica.
Through the less opaque haze, Mories has incorporated concussive percussion and synthesized brass as well as the significant presence of cinematic strings into his chaotic swirl. Momentary bell pings, tribal timpani, and blares of muted trumpet all swoop in and out like bats, as violins cry and squeal. These flecks of color add a surprising amount of texture and tension to Per Flagellum
that was absent with Mories' unadulterated machine roar. This is used most effectively on "Urine Soaked Neophytes", where the war-cry trumpet kicks off the exceptionally theatrical track. Omnipresent are voice samples, men denouncing god as well as a disturbingly long clip of a woman gagging and retching. Instead of a chubby gothic kid abusing a Moog in his basement, Mories has moved on to sounding like Howard Shore if he took a load of meth before the composing the Lord of the Rings soundtrack, and then only the scenes involving Mordor. Gnaw Their Tongues make an incredible nasty racket, one that will no doubt frighten and make most listeners nauseously uncomfortable. Only the elite few have the stomach to discover the masochistic pleasure derivable from GTT's vitriol.
Thus Gnaw Their Tongues adhere to another of horror's idiosyncrasies: When does obscenity cross from shocking to strictly offensive? What makes Paranormal Activity so popular but The Human Centipede unbearable? Mories' lyrical subject matter (all implied by the abhorrent track titles), as well as his sometimes salacious artwork, are more than apt to make the general population uncomfortable if not simply repulsed. Mories titles things with depravity and at length, in multiple languages, and his artwork ranges from minimalist to creepy to bondage to genital mutilation. With such blatantly misanthropic motifs, one starts to think Mories is purposely overloading his work with perversity, going for the shock effect. However, the majority of his other projects are mildly themed (one has white horses on an album cover). In addition, Mories admitted in an interview with Lurker's Path that this project is meant to express "That part of me that wants to kill the world.", implying severely anti-social mannerisms. But in the same interview the man whose more tamely titled songs include "Rife With Deep Teeth Marks" seems lax and voices his love of chill bands Animal Collective and indie outfit Broken Social Scene (although he makes his horror film fetish quite known). The question is to find the lesser of two evils. Is Mories openly insane? Or is he digging for cheap gasps of horror? And does either bastardize the value of his work?
Gnaw Their Tongues mordant brew of noise has not softened, simply been refined, if such a term can be applied to this inhumane cacophony. With increasingly gutwrenching titles like "Human Skin For the Messenger's Robe", Mories continues forward violently and unimpeded on his quest to find the line at which vulgarity outgrows its entertainment value. Whether listeners "like" the music or not, the thematic material takes uneasy contemplation to either appreciate or more likely ignore. But despite his probable psychosis issues, Mories lives and crafts in a realm of music where "crust" is a category and "filth" is a positive aspect, and within it he still reigns supreme on a throne of virgin bones covered in butchered Christians and semen.