(Orange Milk Records, 2016)
Wanna get punished? Sure, we all do – it’s probably an innate wish, no matter how deeply it’s stored in one’s subconscious. But do you want to get punished, aurally, over and over, with a cat-o’-nine-tails of a record and a repeat button? Just imagine, the metaphorical flesh flayed from your bones as you experience every flashing moment of sheer agony. Ear canals will never be the same, nor will the centers of your brain responsible for philosophical reflection. It’s like a gut punch to your emotions – it’ll knock your balance right off. Drose’s Boy Man Machine record does that to me – it’s a powerful presence in the room as I listen to it, compelling me to pay it the utmost attention. Drose is not for the faint of heart.
This record is a departure for Orange Milk Records, who have mostly released bizarre and fantastical experimental and electronic releases on cassette. Drose is different, and not just because it’s on (heart-)black vinyl – the Dayton, Ohio, trio, led by (not Kim Deal, not Bob Pollard) Dustin Rose, practices a hybrid form of noisy, messy drone metal, a deep, dark nihilistic path where compositions are physically painful (if you allow them to be – see, for example, the flaying simile earlier). Early Swans gets mentioned as a stylistic touchpoint, as does Godflesh, but I’m also reminded of contemporaries Wreck and Reference at points, a harsh, bleak San Francisco–based duo. Drose is just as noisy, but instead of using samples as W&R does, they take the traditional instruments of metal and flail away on them. The terror they wring from their songs is almost unbearable at times.
Weirdly, the first image I get from this album is M. Resplendent’s masterful The Fire Show, a chameleon of a band that has nothing to do with metal, but Rose’s wheezing vocal accompanied by very little instrumentation (and even less rhythm) calls this to mind. “The Unraveling” starts us on this path, and fills the vocal-less spaces with thunderous guitar and drums, the periodic downbeats pummeling listeners to utter smithereens. The bleakness is enhanced on “A Loss,” where there’s almost no accompaniment for Rose other than static and feedback, accentuating the despair he clearly feels.
But the deep, exotic, psychic power inherent in the tracks also recalls Dama/Libra, the drone metal “superduo” comprisred of G. Stuart Dahlquist (Sunn 0)))/Burning Witch) and Joel RL Phelps (Silkworm). But whereas Dama/Libra pen hymns to their own godlike observance, as destroyers, over the fall of humanity, Drose is at ground level, documenting the actual destroyed. Tracks like “Mechanism Is Lord,” “The Man,” and “His Reflection” pummel what little is left of this Earth, beyond dust, into more dust. Drose continues on this path, knowing there is no hope, but in this Sysephian hellscape where the same awful things keep happening over and over – to everybody – their cries of pain and suffering are their personal boulders that they keep trying to shove, somewhere, anywhere, for a sense of relief. Spoiler alert: there ain’t none.
As much as I hate saddling anyone with comparisons, I had to with Drose, because there are very few artists occupying similar territory, and I was ecstatic at finding similiarites between some of my favorite – and some of the most forward-thinking – artists I’ve had the pleasure to listen to. Boy Man Machine is the next great story in this aesthetic landscape – and an age-old one: boy becomes man, man becomes drone (as in, a slave to the grind, but not Slave to the Grind), man-drone becomes drone-drone in some sort of Krieger-ian robotics experiment, drone obliterates target on the ground, likely another boy on the verge of the “man” part of the cycle. Circle of painful, unutterable life. Prepare to be punished.