Jesus of Nazareth - The Shame of Being a Child [Dotsmark - 2006]
Looking up Jesus of Nazareth's "The Shame of Being a Child", I found it oddly classified as grindcore. I suppose some of the music has a disposition in common with such freaked out 'cyber grind' bands as Agoraphobic Nosebleed, but here guitars (usually the focus of the genre) are completely absent, replaced with excess distortion on the monkey-simple drum programming and numerous forboding samples and electronic sounds which come at the listener in a rapid fire barrage, one after another, to quite jarring effect.
The production is rough and it doesn't sound like these are experienced electronic musicians; they quite possibly could have come from the metal arena, and the songs have remained short, as they typically are in grindcore... The 20 sections of the title piece "The Shame of Being a Child" average at about 1 minute and a half. The band has also included 3 unreleased tracks, and an excerpt of a live performance.
Anyway, much of this album is audio terrorism, to be sure... pure negativity. How much does one need of the stuff, and why is this necessary after all that has come before? Luckily, for this album Jesus of Nazareth had a few original tricks up their sleeves. First, however, I'll discuss some things about the that album come off as less than inspired.
Firstly, the 'drums', which are really just blasting bursts of samples repeating at warp speed. Not once do they settle into a pulse or create any kind of rhythmic feel in the pieces. Occasionally the way the samples grind into each other produces a pleasing textural effect, but their overall sound is incredibly cheap. Secondly, the howling vocals are typical grindcore shrieks that fail to distinguish themselves, though the sentiment is obviously genuine and their sheer intensity helps the album, even as they make it feel more cliched. Lyrics are completely indecipherable and perhaps non-existent, which seems to fit this record to me.
Neither of these is enough to really ruin any of the songs, but they distract the listener from digesting the subtler aspects, which do not always appear at full volume. The sampling and loops, quite cleverly handled, take center stage. The sound sources are just decipherable enough, and these eerie snippets and synths establish enough atmosphere on their own that the aggressive tracks come across as heavy handed.
The first 7 tracks are mostly content to attack the senses with this admirable but familiar ferocity, but the 8th track marks a change that makes the album far more interesting. For this and a couple of later tracks, we get sludgy, doomy, low frequency noise that could make a nice drone piece if extended, thankfully uninterrupted by screaming or drum machines. On the 9th track, forlorn fragments of the pop songs that used to comfort us as children seep through erosions in collapsing sewer tunnels. This atmospheric side saves the album from dullness and lends it depth and a core of very personal emotion, though it's almost all hopeless, anti-societal depression. Images of broken hopes and broken homes fill my mind, and it does have the vulnerability and lack of restraint of childhood, meaning the title of the album is relevant.
The 15th track is the album highlight. Mournful, slurred choirs moan through vinyl crackle, accompanying faint muffled guitar strings and stretched samples of speech. The intensely misplaced, lonely urban atmosphere recalls Burial, quite a compliment coming from me. Samples such as "Human beings have value only for what they can do" and "I am sorry for what I have done" bring the message home. There are enough tracks like this that they likely compose nearly half the album. By the 20th song, I've almost forgetten this is the same album that started out so noisy. A pained voice still harangues faintly far in the background, but the foreground is a warm, Biosphere-esque drone that swells in and out.
The 3 'unreleased tracks' following the 20 parts of "The Shame of Being a Child" are all violent bursts of guitar-less 'cybergrind', and are the least interesting part of the whole disk, lacking much of the atmosphere of even the loudest track of the main piece. It seems these musicians suffer from lack of direction when not working within the confines of a larger work.
The final track is live, and it would seem they have a live drummer for the occasion, and that in a live setting, the structure found on their albums is forsaken for an improvisation approach. At 6 minutes, it's the longest track on the disk and is mildly enjoyable harsh noise. Definitely, if they had let the album end with the end of the title piece, it would have made a much more powerful conclusion. These additional tracks are completely unnecessary.
In conclusion, "The Shame of Being a Child" is a strange juxtaposition of rainy, hopeless ambience and viscious bludgeoning screams and drum machines, neatly and effectively woven into a larger conceptual collage. Unfortunately, the much less original 'cybergrind' stylings of the band come up obviously short when compared to the refreshing and potently atmospheric compositions on the latter half of the disk. I would hope to see more of that from them in the future, and the aggressive side of their music de-emphasized. An interesting but flawed album.Josh Landry