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Gnaw Their Tongues – Collected Atrocities 2005-2008

Crucial Blast

Gnaw Their Tongues - Collected Atrocities 2005-2008This is the record that you put on when you are lying entwined with your loved one, the both of you perhaps shimmering in a post-coital afterglow, the bedroom window open, a warm breeze blowing in the faint sounds of summer. Hang on. Actually, no. Sorry. That’s by The Isley Brothers.

Rather, this is the record that you put on when a small selection of your closest friends are gathered in your living room, the wine flowing, the conversation convivial and animated, as you open another bottle and stand in the doorway, filled with joie de vivre and deep sense of connection to your fellow man. Oh no, sorry, it’s not that one either. That one’s by Miles Davis.

What’s this then?

Might well you ask. This is the record that you put on when you are Edward Paisnel, standing in front of a full length mirror, staring deeply into your reflection, making sure that every element of your outfit is correct: ghastly faux-skin rubber mask, strange black fright-wig, nail-studded wristbands, dark overcoat. Perhaps it’s not even a record you put on, perhaps it is the sound that runs through your head every minute of the day, driven to commit your revolting crimes by some grisly inner compulsion welling up from deep within your corrupted soul.

Certainly it seems to be the sound that runs through the head of Maurice De Jong, AKA Mories1, the Dutch (although oddly also credited as Belgian elsewhere…) musician behind the cruel, imposing edifice of Gnaw Their Tongues. The band’s first few tentative EPs trickled out like bodily fluids oozing from a corpse a decade ago, before an album proper – An Epiphanic Vomiting of Blood – appeared in 2007. The band takes its name from verse 16:10 in the Book of Revelations: “And the fifth angel poured out his vial upon the seat of the beast; and his kingdom was full of darkness; and they gnawed their tongues for pain”, continuing on cheerfully, “and they blasphemed the God of heaven because of their pains and their sores; and they did not repent of their deeds…” And, indeed, neither did Mories repent of his deeds, as a generous output of pitch-black avant-doom has poured out under Gnaw Their Tongue’s aegis during the following years.

And so here, celebrating a decade in the entertainment business, is a compilation of the band’s skin-crawling highlights from the first three years of existence. Under a tinted family-friendly cover in which a black-bobbed young lady stretches a penis with pinched forefingers and attempts to separate it from its owner with a carving knife – Sada Abe would be so pleased – the intent is crystal clear from the titles alone, even before a compressed bit has yet left the speakers: “Another Study in Bleakness and Despair”, “The Uncomfortable Silence Between Beatings”, “Spasming and Howling”. Neither are the tracks liable for prosecution under the Trades Description Act. These are ferocious, nauseating, alienated cries from a poisonous mind. They revolt the conscience and tighten the stomach. I’m really rather fond of them.

Melding cavernous drones with ear-splitting howls, scrapes, cries and screams, this really isn’t teatime listening. A Hellish dirge might be a rather wafting, diaphanous thing in comparison. For many, Khanate are often the immediate point of comparison, but I was rather put in mind of some of the more outré entries in the Controlled Bleeding discography, perhaps something such as “Voices of the Dead”. But either way, when songs bear titles such as “My Womb is Barren and I Want Revenge”, well, you’d have to have a hard heart not to laugh and join in the fun.

In some strange way, I am reminded of the jokes that Richard Curtis and Ben Elton worked into Blackadder Goes Forth (the final entry in the Blackadder canon), taking the gags of the previous series and extending and distorting them so far they ventured well into the territory of parody, yet without actually sacrificing any of the humour. Gnaw Their Tongues seem to be operating in similar territory, their musical and visual tropes pushing ‘avant’, ‘doom’ and ‘dark’ absolutely to the border of absurd, almost comic, genre lampoon, yet without actually affecting or sacrificing the quality of the queasy listening contained within. Get your rubber mask on and turn the volume all the way up.

Nice one, Maurice.

-David Solomons-

1 Some people call him Mories, ‘cause he speaks of the Pompatus of love…

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