ÅRABROT’S HORRIFICALLY AWESOME SOLAR ANUS
The moment that best defines Årabrot’s latest comes about 30 seconds into the album’s title track and opener, “Solaranus” (the album is technically called Solar Anus, but close enough). The song starts out with a sole Kylesa-esque riff with occasional drum accents, all fuzzed out and reliably solid. But then the band kicks in, and they follow along, with one noticeable exception: the focal point of the riff has gone from a nice, reliable stoner foundation to an offputting brown note, dipping slightly lower than what the song had set you up to expect. And at that moment, you’re torn: is the riff showing too much of its hand in trying to be revolting, or is it a brilliant subversion of expectations? It depends on your head space when you approach it at first, but then it coalesces. Like all good noise rock, it’s full of a sense of danger that things are going to go full-on off the rails and be impossible to listen to. It’s a struggle between what’s palatable and what’s offensive, and what percentage of one can coexist with the other. In the case of “Solaranus,” it leans harder toward the latter as the song goes on. But the track is the longest on the album, more than twice as long as most of the others. It sets a killer tone for the rest of the record, which seems catchy from there. Solar Anus will be an endurance test for some, but for lovers of abrasion, it’s a personalized Valentine. Granted, that Valentine probably has a picture of a woman shitting on some amputee’s chest, but affection’s affection.
After the opener, the album veers back and forth between Melvins-style sludge (“The Ass Has Spoken,” “Odine”) and Jesus Lizard-esque feral caginess (“Valkyrie,” “Madonna Was a Whore”), all with nods to stoner doom. It’s equal parts noise and metal for the benefit of all (well, alright, the benefit of a few, technically), with vocals ranging from raspy screaming to ominous grumbling to unmedicated preacher bellow-singing. And there are plenty of curveballs in there, too: “Auto Da Fe”, in particular, features a choir subtly buried behind the angrily mumbled chorus and steadily riffing guitars, barely holding themselves together before they collapse into noise. And while that sense of dread is veritable throughout, Årabrot, convention be damned, can write a surprisingly indelible song. Granted, they’re a ways away from R.E.M. or British Steel, but the eight tracks here are pretty memorable. Like something slathered in hot sauce, sure, you feel a little gross afterward. But while you’re eating, it’s intense and delicious.
And look, I’m white and I went to college, so there are certain things that, while I don’t appreciate being pigeonholed, I thoroughly enjoy: The Wire (I own the whole damn series), Johnathan Franzen, and the production of Steve Albini, who manned the board for Solar Anus. And when he’s on, the bands he works with — from The Pixies and Cheap Trick to Weedeater, Om, and Neurosis, in addition to his own noise-adoring bands Big Black and Shellac — don’t sound right with other producers (*ahem* engineers, as he prefers to be called). The loud, natural, fierce, and full quality associated with his work fits certain bands like a glove, and Årabrot are one of those bands. They certainly sound like a Steve Albini-approved band, but they aren’t a carbon copy of one. All the correct pieces are in place on Solar Anus, so why in the hell does it sound so damn uneasy? Perhaps because the band find so much comfort in discomfort, and against all odds, that’s actually kind of fun to hear. So while almost every aspect of the band is aggressively unlikable, brash, and confrontational, you should still give it a shot. Who knows: you may like it.
(4 out of 5 horns)