Tuesday, November 8, 2011
Get Into: Livercage
A few years ago, Noktorn and I reviewed a few of Livercage's albums at the Metal-Archives where they were still completely unknown, hoping that the metal community might pick up on this unique and deserving underground band. Well it's 2011 and the metal scene still doesn't seem to care about Livercage at all. Earlier this year they released a new album, Stabbing You to Death at the Gate of Madness, which I only just found out about now, so while I figure out where to order a copy I thought I'd do a write-up of why Livercage is a band you absolutely should be listening to and hopefully this time people might take notice.
For a band whose output would later become very ambitious, it's funny that Livercage started out as a sort of joke band, and I think the band themselves might agree when I say that you can safely dismiss their first five albums as bored dicking around in the home studio. They were all recorded within the span of a year and sound worlds apart from the band they would later become. The fifth of these, while still dismissable, seems to be where they accidentally stumbled upon their sound. With Burned Alive and Killed things got a little more believable and otherworldly, and their cover art would take up a pattern it would continue for years to come, but it was still a lot of goofing around and half-baked ideas.
They pulled a 180 on this completely with their next album and subsequent recordings. What started out sounding like a bored guitarist playing with cubase suddenly became this very serious, fascinating and forboding black-industrial monstrosity that is miles more interesting to listen to than the vast majority of metal/industrial hybrids.
Let's just look at that concept of metal/industrial hybrids for a second. For a combination that should quite easily equal greatness, it sure does churn out a lot of completely uninteresting bands and only rarely do we see anybody fully taking advantage of the potential of such an idea. It should be a lethal combo - taking the twisted, evil and demented riffing and otherwordly atmosphere of the darkest extreme metal and mixing it with the cold, rigid, unflinching clockwork machine-like feel of real industrial should result in something horrific and monumental. It rarely does though. What we usually hear is bouncy, groovy, basically nu-metal riffs with perhaps the odd cheesy melodeath segment, with a vaguely machine-like drum pattern that resembles eurodance more than Skinny Puppy, and of course the obligatory keyboard set to futuristic synth. You're lucky to avoid autotuned or computer-filtered vocals. Usually, industrial/metal hybrids seem like they're made by people that aren't really into either genre very much, or at least have really bad taste in them. Perhaps not a lot of people are deep into industrial or metal enough to properly channel the best elements of both into one cohesive vision.
Perhaps that's why bands like Livercage rarely come around, but when they do, people should embrace their works, not ignore them and leave them dwelling miles below the metal surface. Now in all fairness, I can understand some metalheads not being all that into Livercage if they don't like industrial as that's pretty much the basis of these tracks. Ugly, repetitive, noisy pulsations form the foundation, as the guitar leads the compositions with nasty, deliberately unlikeable riffs, sometimes simplistic and sludgy, sometimes a bit more abstract and freely improvised. There are layers of other sounds introduced though, ambient soundscapes and noises, all sorts of horrific vocals (from fierce black metal shrieks to gore-drenched gurgles to almost spoken word style declarations), although the general theme is that they don't follow any logical patterns, interrupting the track wherever they might feel the most inappropriate.
The cover art is normally made of a cheaply copy-n-pasted picture of medieval torture art, although this music is absolutely not ancient sounding in any way. It instead depicts a horrifying future, of radiation poisoning and children in gas masks, of the human race enslaved by foul, totalitarian alien races and of the Earth finally crumbling under the weight of its own toxic mess. The atmosphere is incredible, you don't necessarily listen to Livercage albums for distinctive riffs or songs (although they do exist) but for the atmosphere of the album as a whole. For the record, Pick Up That Axe and Cut Them Down is their weirdest and most submersive, focused way more on taking you from your own world to a more dreadful place more than the other albums do. Strung Up and Left to Rot is their most conventional, and Impaled and Forgotten and Lord of the Bastard are somewhere in between and probably the best place to start if you're new to their works.
Although I can't speak for their latest, it's definitely their most readily available and could potentially be your best investment - I think the previous album, Lord of the Bastard, was their best yet and there's been a good three year break since then. If you choose to buy it, or any of their works, be sure to let us know what you think. Maybe Noktorn will mirror this with an upload of one of their older albums on Always Unprotected.