Review Summary: Metalcore in all its blood and grissle.
Metalcore has become redundant. A statement of truth that surrounds a genre now bathing in a sunbed. While some bands still try to hold the tattered flag aloft, others waste their potential and waste their heritage; a heritage that is buried in a time when the skies were black, the roots were young and shrivelled and the soil was dark as the subject matter the pioneering bands dealt with. These bands were disillusioned bulks, disgusted and angry with popular music and the modern world. Rorschach is widely remembered as one of the most macabre of these bands with their lyrical brand of nihilism and fury. After their disbanding in 1993, a full dissection of their discography was issued under the moniker, Autopsy
"Pavlov's Dogs" greets you with several seconds of silence with Chris Maggio's vocals bellowing in isolated bursts before a cry of "open wounds!" signals the entrance of basslines that swing back and forth like the movements of a pendulum. It is the perfect indicator for all the music to follow; barren, ominous and psychological. Instrumentation is kept to a bare minimum with the occasional voice clip but nothing more. Equally the off-key time signatures and the switching of riffs are kept within sensible limits, instead substituted with changes of tempo within the guitars, drums and bass. For this reason, the song structures are linear and constricting in their bid to crush the listener's character. The placement of the odd time signatures and tempo changes are irregular but not disrupting, Thom Rusnak's bass lines are taught yet mesmerising and over all Chris Maggio's hoarse vocals shout and growl the anti-popular lyrics. These elements stretch the tension to the limits of traction yet for all its mind-***ery and dissonance, Rorschach's music is inherently catchy.
It may be a great irony because of the band's ethos but irony is one of the ingredients of this sound; a clever black humour that laces the instruments rather than the lyrics. Bass lines and guitar riffs resonate with snide chuckles at the self-delusional beliefs of humanity and our current society. Through this they strike chords within the listener's mind and speak of the modern workplace's daily rush and monotony. It is something that is further compounded by Chris Maggio's vocals. While his early vocal performance is potent in its desperation and fury, it's the stark normalcy that grounds these two emotions and through the combination of all these elements, Rorschach's earlier sound conveys a haunting portrait of the hollowness and twisted nature of modern society.This was the sumnation of their earlier, more hardcore-punk sound.
However as Autopsy
progresses, the elements of their sound that are more sludge-orientated are brought to the fore. In proportion the faster hardcore components of their sound are heightened to keep the balance in their sound. The resulting sound is far more chaotic; Swans inspired riffs and slow bass lines abruptly change to rushing drum rhythms and off-kilter guitar work. To many it is old-hat but Rorschach’s compositional skills were attentive and careful, their layering of faster and slower elements are a testament to this.
A fast drum rhythm contrasted alongside the slow guitar riffs or a long bass line that would counter the faster guitar riffs would allow for ease of transition between the repeated three to four note guitar riffs that comprise each song. Within the maelstrom, Chris Maggio’s shrieks pierce through. The normality of the his breathless gasps is lost as has the intelligibility but the screams add a new dimension of terror to the sound, their precise rhythm and extension bleeding the fear into the instruments. Because of this, the band’s later music focuses more upon the tormenting the fractured mind. While it is trademark Rorschach with the spartan production, facetious irony and inherent catchiness the sound is far more dark, dense and dissonant. This type of music is evidence of Rorschach’s far-reaching ambition to create a music of total mental overload. While it is true that this music cannot match the fear factor of Swans, the production’s reverb-laden muffle playing quite a part, their power to drive the mind into a lightless room is unquestionable.
Overall Rorschach’s legacy is two, uneven halves; both sides only meeting upon rough surfaces and, like the sound itself, the transition between the two sounds in Autopsy
is jagged. Couple that with a seventy-four minute run time and the compilation becomes a true test of endurance. However for all its toughnss, the quality of the music allows for this compilation to stand tall as a monument to the band’s long-standing influence. Autopsy
shows the true potential for the metalcore genre and it is for this reason why Rorschach must never be forgotten.