Thursday, June 18, 2015

ALBUM REVIEW - Praxis: Sound Virus

As previously discussed on this website, the great Bill Laswell has a musical history that has embraced virtually every genre imaginable. A visionary workaholic to the nth degree, Laswell currently showcases several of his projects via his label, M.O.D. Technologies. On June 30, the perpetually expanding Laswell discography will welcome a new addition in the form of Sound Virus, the latest title by the mighty Praxis.

Issued as part of M.O.D. Technologies' Incunabula Series of digital-only releases, Sound Virus features what the label calls “re-stored, edited, enhanced and remastered” versions of Praxis tracks from their early '90s albums Sacrifist and Metatron. Praxis stands alongside Bladerunner and PainKiller as one of Laswell's most brutal musical endeavors. Although the project's discography has its fair share of reasonably digestible moments (including a good chunk of 2008's brilliant Profanation [Preparation for a Coming Darkness]), this eight-track collection offers the group's most uncompromising creations. This comes as no surprise considering that Sacrifist-era Praxis saw the band's core lineup (Laswell, guitarist Buckethead and drummer Bryan “Brain” Mantia) joined by the likes of Mick Harris (PainKiller/Napalm Death/Scorn), John Zorn (PainKiller/Naked City) and Yamatsuka Eye (The Boredoms/Naked City).

As soon as the double bass drum fury kicks in on the Metalized opening track,“Suspension,” it is clear that Sound Virus will be uneasy listening. If you're able to work your way through the album's saxophone squeaks, high-pitched screams and other eardrum-pummeling noise, you'll marvel at Buckethead's otherworldly talents. At its strongest, Sound Virus demonstrates the magic possible when a seriously gifted guitarist is surrounded by – and is sometimes causing – caustic noise. To get a clearer picture of what to expect here, somehow imagine Vernon Reid jamming with N. U. Unruh – or simply check out the nine-minute “Warcraft Triad,” a track as skillful as it is unsettling. Elsewhere, Metal plays a big part in shaping the sinister “Skull Crack Cathedral” (colored by arcade-like squeaks and chirps) and the stomping “Turbine.”

While such intense experimentation makes for an intriguing listen, it's also nice to hear musicians of this high caliber simply kicking out some straightforward jams. That comes in the form of “Inferno,” which starts off with Buckethead delivering a blistering Hendrix vibe before the song flows into some funky bass/drum interplay, veers off into some Dub and finally shifts its main focus back to the guitar. This is followed by the mellow ambience of “Low Time Machine.”

With the breather complete, it's back to the slaughterhouse with the 96-second Grindcore/circular saw/John Zorn nightmare of “Stronghold.” The aural ugliness sprinkled throughout Sound Virus reaches its zenith on the closing “Nine,” which finds Zorn blaring away on sax over a blast of Thrash not unlike Arise-era Sepultura.

Praxis certainly isn't for everyone, but adventurous music fans will find plenty to appreciate on Sound Virus.  

M.O.D. Technologies


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