5 out of 5
Label: Skin Graft
Produced by: Steve Albini
You know me as a man of integrity. Hesitating to pull the trigger on the ol’ five star review unless it’s truly merited. “To be considered a top ranker on vaguely-offensive is to truly feel on top of the world,” some have said, encouraging them to make their films and their booky things expressly to earn such praise. And thus fail, since no one likes a suck up. It’s a tough life.
But integrity and all that, and not the type to just hands out the stars for kicks. So here be a rarity, yon followers: that Face of Collapse has its flaws, but because it’s such a goddamned heavy hitter overall, I’m rounding up.
When I was feeling out my indie roots and started to dabble in heavier things that weren’t expressly hardcore, you start to flow into the “pretty” variant of heavy music that often nods to Mogwai. Cool, bro, but they never really did it for me. Dabbling deeper brought whispers of Slint, named-dropped as progenitors of everything, apparently, and I scrambled down to ye ole shoppe, dumped quarters equaling CD costs onto the counter and skedaddled with Skeez… which also never really did it for me. (Though unlike Mogwai, I’d come back around on Slint.)
So what next? And as you’re rooting around in Touch and Go archives, you start to get a grasp on the anti-music rumblings that the label signed in its early days, which at some point will probably crossover with someone signed to Skin Graft Records. Sift through that pile and some key names definitely emerge. Dazzling Killmen among them. …Wait, they’re from St. Louis? Where I’m from? …This probably would’ve been easier if I’d looked up and seen the posters in that ole shoppe, but oh well, I made it eventually.
The band’s history is short and turbulent, with rare releases and then, really, just this one easily-available Skin Graft album (the other SG disc being a singles comp), but I’ll go ahead and say it’s all you need, which is also part of what bumps the album up to a five. DK’s attack is singular. Nik Sakes dark and violent lyrics shouted across staccato guitar shreds and Darin Gray’s juxtaposingly flowing bass, the drums trying as hard as they can to be heard in the best of production-quality fashions, like the beats of a swimmer clawing at the surf to stay above water. Not over-powering, just desperate. This is the intensity that fuels Face, while the tracks dont have much demarcation from one another except to speed up or slow down. The result is a seamless attack for forty minutes, your pursuer plunging the knife in at different depths and locations to keep you alive. Which belies the consideration behind the design: That fury (a la opener Staring Contest) will be followed up by stop-and-starts (Bone Fragments), to then kick back into gear in a flurry (My Lacerations). The flurries are the missteps; the recordings aren’t as sharp and DK dont really know how to conclude songs so much as stop playing, so they’re somewhat hiccups in the flow. But despite these tracks making up 25% of the songs, that every other moment stacks the decks – especially Blown (Face Down) and the penultimate 12-minute morphing distress of the title(-ish) track – it’s totally okay. You forgive DK. You forgive the album. You’ve heard “harder” or more intense but this is one of those name-drops that finally makes sense: Something unbridled temporarily reigned for a brief and intense recording.
You don’t need more than this. Which was a lie: Of course you do. But that is to say that there’s no “you gotta hear this to appreciate this…”
Just put it on. You get it from the first fuckin’ blast, and the deal is sealed every pounding note thereafter.