Review Summary: One big happy family with a passion for bloodshed.
Supergroups seem to often be a mixed bag, and seemingly always hit or miss. Hype usually surrounds their conceptions (I, too, am stoked about God Of Atheists) and they are often letdowns, due to the lack of focus and difference in musical discipline. Enter Corrections House, which is also a supergroup. This group consists of Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Mike IX Williams of Eyehategod, Bruce Lamont of Yakuza, and Sanford Parker of Nachtmystium, Minsk, and Buried at Sea. Due to the cohesion of the disciplinary backgrounds of all its members, Corrections House does well for itself, offering a fresh and darkening soundscape of sludge, Americana folk, spoken word, and noise rock, as well as an industrial twist and just a hint of black metal and jazz.
The album begins with "Serve Or Survive", opening with an eerie acoustic strumming and subtle electronic sample over it, as well as Scott Kelly's gravelly bass vocals. As he repeats the verse, leading up to a dissonant wall of crushing sound, it becomes clear that Corrections House is all about layering. This opener is a great example of this, arriving at this post-metal-esque climax, as Williams' vocals arrive and dual with Kelly's, doomy riffs, electronic beats, a vastly tribal sound (reminiscent of Kelly's own Tribes Of Neurot) and introducing Lamont's surprisingly effective saxophone, painting a droning and menacing soundscape behind the sludge, as well as providing a brilliant middle between Williams' cutthroat screeches and the muddily distorted riffs. Although one could argue this sort of combination is overwhelming or too much, the chemistry between its members is great, and simply works.
This trend continues, and the layers of industrial sludge in contrast with the dark folk continue to form a bleak and black soundscape void of light. Tracks such as "Bullets and Graves" and "Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill" are the most energetic, with and upbeat sound yet ghastly execution. The former utilizes an almost hardcore punk drum pattern, while the latter is densely layered and can easily be considered the most industrialized of the set (its opening could be almost compared to an Angelspit song). Continuing the contrast, tracks such as the opener or "Run Through the Night" are heavily folk influenced (although the latter concludes with some black metal riffing emerging from the fading sludge notes), a reminder of Scott Kelly's solo work, showcasing his downtuned and dreary strumming. However, the contrast lies between these dark tracks and the explosive dirging sludge tracks such as "Party Leg And Three Fingers" and "Hallows Of The Stream," of which show off an impressive addition of Lamont's sax and Parker's mixing.
I've neglected mentioning the final tracks of "Last City Zero" because the title track and "Drapes Hung By Jesus" end up being the immense two part climax and pinnacle of the album. The lyrics to the album come mostly from Mike Williams' book "Cancer as a Social Activity: Affirmations of World's End", and accordingly, the lyrics (although hard to tell during the first half) show an almost uncanny reflection of human nature and modern society, an uncomfortable reality. This all hits a quiet climax in the title track, with Williams combining his spoken word poetry with Kelly's eerie hopeless plucking. His words speak great truth, with cuts like "If New York is the 'city that never sleeps', why are people passed out everywhere" If New Orleans is the 'Big Easy', why is life so f**king hard" I believe in the pathetic, beautiful bullet aimed at the edge of your snotty nose. See how unimportant labels are"" and "Trailer parks are filled with madmen and prophets... ex-con fighters and unknown poets... newlyweds with a combined IQ of 44, ex-wives and estranged children... uncategorizeable left-wing immigrants, neo-conservatives, African slaves, gamblers, and religious zealots--one big happy family with a passion for bloodshed." The lyrics here are much more philosophical, and eloquently and poetically so, than others of their peers.
This track is followed by the sonic climax of the album, "Drapes Hung By Jesus". While the former tracks are harsh and brutal, the final track is particularly relentless and bludgeoning. While suffocatingly industrial, darkly tribal, and immensely sludgy, it is spearheaded by Williams' manic vocals, to a disturbing degree. Through its 9:40 running time, we're treated to Lamont's saxophone as the focal point, as if a lone voice exuding from the abyss of tar-like sound. At the end of the track, the track slows, while Williams and Parker dual spoken word and hellish screeches. The track fades with Williams speaking "Made-for-TV disasters", concluding the CD.
Corrections House is the example of a super-group done well, but due to the massively experimental nature of the album, it is prone to a few missteps, mostly in the form of the industrial tinge. For instance, the electronic beat and synthetic climax of "Serve or Survive" can come across as initially forced or dissonant. Also, the album is quite a tiring listen, as it is akin to constant sonic destruction of the sound. But in context to the successful experimentation of the work as a whole, these are minor qualms at best.
In the end, this album proves itself to be a masterpiece in sludge and experimentation, dabbling in a variety of other genres. The result is far more than the sum of its parts, as the chemistry is excellent and the various ideas are put forward spectacularly. The lyrics are more thought-provoking than much of the metal genre, and proves to be a needed yet uncomfortable commentary on our humanity and society.