hammerMetal has two taxonomies: the sort with ballads, and the sort without. Demolition Hammer is part of the second sort. There’s not a lot of music here to show your girlfriend, although if the timing’s right she might relate to “Infectious Hospital Waste.”

Tortured Existence is the first of Demolition Hammer’s three albums. The third sounds like Pantera/Prong mixed with the shitty sixth Ministry album. The second is a thrash metal coat of many colours, influenced by Slayer, Sepultura, Dark Angel, and others. The first album, however, has tunnel vision for a single style, New York brand thrash. Demolition Hammer don’t do anything original, but they sound inspired and energetic.

The riffs are aggressive and unrelenting, similar to Stormtroopers of Death and Nuclear Assault and various other bands from The City That Never Sleeps (Because You’re Playing Metal Too Loud). The production has an odd character. The guitars are loud and guttural, with the mids EQ’d away, giving them a crushing but not very heavy aesthetic – listen, and judge for yourself. Tortured Existence feels like being strangled by a warm, soft paw.

The songs all sound similar, but to the attuned ear there’s variation. “44 Calibre Brain Surgery” is the craziest track, “Crippling Velocity” is the fastest, and “Infectious Hospital Waste” is the catchiest, with most of the other songs walking the territory in between. The songs stick to a formula of punishing riffs interspersed with lead breaks interspersed with barked vocals interspersed with gang shouts. And then, just as this album’s one trick is getting dull, it all ends.

Derek Sykes and James Reilly are a tight rhythm team. The deceased Vinny Daze is an able drummer, although unworthy of the embarrassing levels of praise heaped upon him by some members of the online metal community. I think he suffers from Dead Rockstar Syndrome, where talented, above-averaged musicians like Cliff Burton and Randy Rhoads get hagiographed into musical geniuses. Steve Reynolds barks out lyrics about social, political, and medical aberrations with a distinct Australian-sounding accent.

Tortured Existence was released in a year starting with “199-“, so the timing could have been better for this band. Rather than riding the upward surge of thrash, they had their halcyon days right when the genre was shutting down. They were consigned to cult band status when they had the talent and potential to be much more. They soldiered it out for two more albums (the last one being a horrible attempt at ripping off Pantera), then broke up. There was a cash-cow anthology release from Century Media in 2008 (publically disowned by Derek Sykes), and that’s it for these guys.

For now, though, the Demolition Hammer crashes down. It’s a solid release that deserves its cult status. You could never call it a game changer, but some games aren’t meant to be changed.

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anamorphosisThey used to ask the foul-mouthed “do you kiss your mother with those lips?” For Japanese mangaka Shintaro Kago, the equivalent is “do you think about your mother with that brain?” This guy has made a career of being fucked in the head, and the Shintaro Kago Mental Pathology Express keeps on rolling down the tracks with Anamorphosis, yet another collection of the bizarre and the grotesque.

The centerpiece is a long-winded parody of House on Haunted Hill. A group of people must stay on a haunted movie set for 48 to win a bet. Not his most satisfying work, but quite enjoyable if you like black comedy and macabre slapstick. Unusually elaborate for Kago, too. It’s not every day he writes something that needs a dramatis personae. It also has a fair few kaiju/monster movie references, and the result is amusingly syncretic – as if Vincent Price and Godzilla had a baby together (in the world of Kago’s manga, such a thing is definitely possible.)

The rest of the volume contains a bunch of Kago one-shots. “Bishoujo Tantei Tengai Sagiri” is about a female detective who must solve a ludicrous murder. “Rainy Girl” stars a girl who attracts rain wherever she goes, and the complications this brings to her sex life. “A Small Present” returns to Kago’s much-loved theme of infant murder. “Hikikomori” is about students refusing to attend school – with nauseating results. Kago’s gross-out work gets all the press, but he’s a talented satirist, too. “Behind” uses a common real-life fear – doctors leaving surgical tools inside their patients – as its kick-off point, although obviously he takes it to strange and unwholesome conclusions.

“Previous Life” is rather clever. A girl is possessed by a snake, and a spiritualist discovers it’s because one of her ancestors killed a lot of snakes (karma, etc). Fortunately, the spiritualist is able to go back in time and stop the snake killer in his tracks. The girl’s sister sees a business opportunity, and manipulates other peoples’ pasts to help them succeed in the present. She has an swimmer’s ancestor kill lots of fish to improve her time in the Olympics. She has a mangaka’s ancestor kill lots of mangaka to improve his drawing skills (there’s a funny panel with Tezuka et all getting blasted with a shotgun). She also has her own ancestor kill buxom women so that she’ll have big tits (her father: “I wanted her to stay flat.”).

“Salesman” is about a girl who approaches the forlorn, and, rather than save them, helps them commit suicide in the most efficient way possible. “Changes” is a freaky gross-out story, archetypically Kago. “Weightlessness” is the volume’s finest moment. Such an unprepossessing little story, but the reveal at the end really took me by surprise.

The nice thing about Kago is that his comics, offensive subject matter or no, are always accessible and user-friendly. There’s none of the abstract Boschian ramblings of Usamaru Furuya’s Garden or the dizzying web of imagery that’s Suehiro Maruo’s Paranoia Star or any of the other excesses of most products described as extreme manga. Only Junji Ito beats him in mainstream appeal. With the title story Kago diverts a bit from his normal path, and it’s no coincidence that “Anamorphosis” is the only part that drags. Kago’s at his best when he’s on a roll – hitting you with shock after shock, not letting you breathe. The title story requires him to devote page time to subplots and characters, and you can feel some of his usual manic energy ebbing away.

But never mind. Kago’s a consistently entertaining mangaka, and Anamorphosis is another superior product from him. Step right up, and join the Kago Kult.

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necrology-jacket-02-100dpiIn 2012, a book came out that changed everything. It rose from the dreck like a dark grimoire of power, incipient and wrathful, ready to turn doubters into believers and believers into zealots. A book that shattered your expectations, remade them, and shattered them again. You finished the book a broken and humbled man, with one thought resounding in your skull. “So that’s why my knitted cardigans weren’t up to scratch.”

This, however, is not a review of Knitting from the Center Out: An Introduction to Revolutionary Knitting. It’s about another book altogether, Necrology.

Half of the book is written by Creation Books darling Kenji Siratori. My first exposure to this overrated fuck was Nonexistence, a clown car pileup of nonsensical words pretending to be an cyberpunk novel. I thought Siratori was a troll then, and I think he’s a troll now. You can search online for samples of his prose, but suffice to say he’s heavily inspired by William S Burroughs and other experimental authors. He seems to have reduced some of his worst excesses, but he is still not a readable writer by any sane standard. I hope to forget about him soon and often.

The other half is by Gary J Shipley, a man I hadn’t heard of. He turned out to be a pleasant surprise, and he actually ends up carrying the book. His prose style is similar to James Havoc (another Burroughs-inspired author), with vividly described and frequently incongruent imagery designed to stick in your imagination. You don’t need to do much except get carried along by the slipstream of his writing. To mangle Robert Christgau, you don’t know what he’s doing, but you can definitely see that he’s doing it.

So what’s this book about? Siratori’s portions of the book are lexical white noise, but Shipley’s seems to articulate a theme of life being another name for death. Lots of his metaphors speak to that: babies dropping dead out of wombs, middle age being equated to decomposition, etc. Portions of the book resemble a narrative (although you’d be an idiot to expect a story in this sort of book), with some dystopian, transhumanistic themes being riffed on. Necrology is all over the place and doesn’t fit well into a genre category.

To muddle the book’s purpose still more, there’s a third author. Reza Negarestani contributes an afterword, in which we learn of a barbaric Etruscan punishment (victim sewed body to body and mouth to mouth with a corpse), that manages to be disgusting but also thought provoking due to Negarestani’s metaphorical conclusions.

The idea of being sewed to a corpse seems unpleasant, but that’s the reality of believing in a soul…that we are all spirits tied to meat anchors. That when you kiss a woman it’s her soul that reciprocates the gesture, and you are locking lips with a corpse. It’s very interesting, although Negarestani’s writing is academic and not really a model of clarity.

Siratori is a waste of everyone’s time, but the book is worth getting for the Shipley and Negarestani portions. It will certainly be of interest to lots of people who like weird writing, and if it doesn’t impress there’s always the knitting book.

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