Review Summary: A fantastical musical trip on the worst kind of drugs.
Agoraphobic Nosebleed are special. No, not like that, but listening to their music will often make you somewhat unsure. Altered States Of America presents itself as a 99-track long (technically 100 if you rewind it) album of peculiarly titled songs. To be perfectly honest, it doesn't get much deeper than that - but does it have to? Agoraphobic Nosebleed ask you this question whilst beating you to death with drum machine software and extraordinary lyricism and imagination. Thus, I will try my very best to articulate a reasonable explanation for how ridiculous this release is as well as whether or not it’s worth listening to.
Scott Hull of Pig Destroyer & Anal Cunt fame directs the insanity through the programmed drums and guitars on this album, as well as two other contributing vocalists; Jay Randall (offering up incoherent bass) & Richard Johnson (with his disturbing samples & distortion appearing often). Collectively, Altered States Of America is a series of ‘movements’ with some songs coming as a pack or section due to their styles or song titles. An example of this being the ‘Days of Sodom’ covering tracks 35 to 46, featuring the fantastically hilarious lyrics for ‘The Third Day of Sodom: Serpent of the Gay Pride Rainbow':
‘EVE GROWS HUGE DICK AND ***S SNAKE.’
Or the Aum Shrinkyo/Japanese-themed, semi-electronic (yes, this IS what it sounds like) series of songs from tracks 21 to 34 – largely consisting of just the song title being howled out, e.g: ‘The Tokyo Subway Gassing'; some even reeling out facts about their song title. ‘Crop Dusting’ utilising some heavily distorted vocals to explain:
‘Japan’s Aum doomsday cult, that masterminded the fatal nerve gas attack on Tokyo subways, considered spraying the drug LSD from the sky.’
Whilst some are simply series of soundbites that have been altered or distorted in some way: ‘Domestic Solution’ being a 4-second repeated line:
‘Kick the *** out of you.’
So it’s fair to say at a glance, there’s a decent bit of experimentation taking place here!
However, for the most part you’ll find some micro-blasting sections of furiously fast programmed drums with blazing riffs right behind; vocals howling over the top in a style that reminds you of powerviolence. Sometimes they are merely spoken, such as on ‘Guided Tour’ & ‘5 Band Genetic Equalizer Pt. 3′. Sometimes they are growled in a significant grindcore style, ‘Deviant Arousal’ & ‘Ten Pounds of Remains’ being fine examples. More often than not, all of the vocal styles are combined; whether this be ‘A Chance At Reprisal’ breaking from spoken voice into a harsh hardcore scream or ‘Poland Springfield Acidbag’ ripping across powerviolence to grindcore harsh vocals in the form of screams and growls; it really does feel that the vocal department is almost impromptu in its performance – but this is very satisfying and gives an individual flair to some songs.
Speaking of individuality, the electronic & audio sample songs offer up disturbing and unnerving perspectives that act as interludes to further establish the distorted atmosphere of Altered States Of America. ‘The Artificial Religious Experience’ including an spectacular combination in 6-seconds of both:
‘We can not only cut enemy communication, we can cook internal organs’
‘I feel like my heart is being touched by Christ.’
From the outset, absurdity is commonplace across all tracks. This being evidenced in some amazingly ridiculous lyrics. Allow me, if I may, to display some personal favourites of mine:
Track 57: ‘Human Enhancement’ - ‘Mescaline kimono, chilli peppers. Woman ***ed by wolf.’
Track 68: ‘Marine Pornography’ (for Whale Cock Skateboards) - ‘I hump like a ***in’ whale and piss wherever I want. Thar’ she blows from my ***in’ dick hole, rolling down a rubber as old as the Dead Sea scrolls.’
and who could forget Track 14: ‘Drive By Blowjob on a Bicycle’ - ‘Your mother’s a drive by blowjob on a bicycle peddling her ass all over town. Ho sweet ho, it’s all about her cash sniffin’ nose.’
The drums provide a level of suitable chaos due to the impossible gravity blasts and blast beats that encase every single song in a cluster*** of snare & cymbals. However, sometimes they end up as simply too great a barrier for the rest of the instrumentation; blocking off the sound of Scott Hull’s guitarwork; despite the vocals being audible across practically every song they are featured in (there are only 2 instrumental tracks across the 99 on the album). Particularly when the band are on a streak of their ‘regular’ style of blasting insanity (largely coming across in the second half of the album); this becomes a big issue regarding the enjoyment one can receive from the instrumentation itself; but this in turn brings attention towards the lyrics, which never disappoint.
As aforementioned, due to the drums partly drowning out everything on the instrument side of things; Scott Hull rarely gets an opportunity to express his skills effectively. On the majority of songs, an opening riff can be heard for perhaps a second or half a second before the drums hit like a 50-megaton bomb and turn everything to dust. This causing the main riff to become incoherent unless the drums peter off momentarily for a change in pace or style. It’s a very Anal Cunt-esque way of songwriting that remains effective in the grind & noise format of presentation but in its basic practicality; it’s not the greatest idea. ‘Narcoterrorist Megalomaniac’ features the only solo on the album, which goes down pretty fantastically. So if you had to judge Scott Hull’s contributions to the album based on that track and the two instrumental tracks ‘Watching A Clown Point A Gun At A Small Dog (Reprisal)’ & ‘Scott Hulk on Intramuscular Steroids’ – yeah, he did a fine job.
Altered States Of America is a journey that’s worth taking all at once, despite its outrageous number of tracks – it works well as one explosive and ridiculous package that clocks in at around 19 and a half minutes. Dividing that by the tracklength – you end up with each track on the album being about 12 seconds in length.
Some songs will make you laugh. Some will make you cry. Some will make you shudder in disgust at their content. And the majority will just cause outright confusion.