Saturday, December 31, 2011
Review: Catasexual Urge Motivation - The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders
I think it's time now.
Like most of the best moments in one's life, my discovery of Catasexual Urge Motivation was unintentional and roundabout. No one recommended them to me- I didn't see a review or interview which piqued my interest, nor did I randomly stumble across them on Youtube (since Youtube was barely a glimmer when I found the band.) They've achieved no more fame or notoriety, really, than they had when I discovered them nearly a decade ago. I first heard of the band, funnily enough, on Darklyrics, the same place that so many nu-metal kids from my age bracket seem to have cut their teeth on before moving to bigger and better things. Hell, I didn't even really "discover" them there- I merely passed there name over and over on the way to other bands in the "C" section. I didn't actually investigate the band until years later; they were nothing more than a name that I passed over and over again.
Still, the name alone stuck in my brain like a bit of food lodged in the craw. I saw the name while I was just beginning to dabble in extreme metal, and despite my flirtings with Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse and the like, the name alone was enough to give me pause. Long collections of unfamiliar syllables- you basically understand what each word means but have no idea of how to assemble them into a statement- that together created a sort of primordial, sickly groan of a name. It was distinctly obscene yet weirdly detached and cold- there was no emotion attached to its grim, murmuring moniker. My exposure to extreme music at that point had displayed a genre where each band seemed to be competing to achieve a level of heat and intensity exceeding all others- this mysterious band, on the other hand, was content to be positively frozen in its delivery, and it was a distinction that enticed and unsettled me. Still it wasn't for a couple more years that I decided to actually investigate them fully.
One evening at the tender age of 14, milling around on KaZaA, I was randomly searching for bands that I'd heard of but never bothered to actually listen to. By this time I was firmly entrenched in extreme metal, and my random searching of half-remembered artists had previously brought gems like Cryptopsy and Skepticism to my attention. This time, though, I keyed in "Catasexual Urge Motivation" and let the search rip. I was massively surprised when it turned up results- who the fuck would actually have music by a band with that name, after all- and what results they were. A seemingly endless list of short, horrifically titled tracks popped up, and at that point I realized that I was going down a certain rabbit hole that I'd never seen before. I wasn't particularly shocked by the content of the titles, but the way they were expressed: cold yet frenzied, detached yet oddly joyous and celebratory of the violent sexual acts depicted within. As was my general policy at the time, I downloaded the first track off the full-length I found, the ominously preparatory "Mutilation, Rape, and Serial Murder As Modern Metaphor," and slept on it to listen to at school the next day on my Ipod.
My first class of the day was Introduction to Information Technology (really just a typing course given a more elaborate name,) which featured a teacher generous or apathetic enough to let us do whatever we liked after completing our work. I got through the day's assignment (which, for all its seeming pointlessness, is definitely the reason for my WPM today) and decided to give my new pet project a spin. Keep in mind that I had never seen the band even mentioned elsewhere but in my own experience- I hadn't mentioned them to anyone else nor vice versa, and I was coming at it from a completely clean, unfiltered perspective. It was untainted in a way that nearly none of my other musical discoveries were, interpreted through a prism of reviews and forum discussions to the point where and objective opinion was difficult if even possible to form.
It's a rare joy when you manage to isolate a moment in your life that you can describe as wholly euphoric and revelatory: this was one of them. Sitting in that class room at 14, listening to that song, was the moment that crystallized that extreme music was my ultimate passion in life, and that I wanted to make music of my own. It was, in short, the most important song I'd ever heard. I discovered what was and continues to this day to be my favorite album and band of all time- music so unique, atmospheric, and brilliantly composed that I continue to listen to it to this day and feel all the same majesty I did as a young one.
To articulate exactly what made it such a heady experience is nearly impossible. Discovering it at such a formative stage in my musical development certainly helped, but even now there are aspects I can't quite put my finger on. It ignited a love in me of certain aspects of extreme music that are often benighted: drum machines and electronic influences, goregrind's incoherent, barely held together blasting, and an appreciation for the basest, most prurient aspects of art often hastily discarded in favor of the more outwardly intellectual. By this time in my musical history, I'd come to fall in love with both brutal death and goregrind's insatiable, gnawing, entropic sense of chaotic beauty, and just as importantly, early industrial metal's (most importantly Godflesh's) oppressive, chilling stomp on the mortal soul. Never before, however, had I heard the two ideals merged in such a compelling and intensely harmonious manner. It's probably more telling that most of the people I showed this music to were completely unable to understand it- even the other metalheads in my school who appreciated stuff like Behemoth or Emperor had opinions ranging from "this is weird" to "this is total shit." For me, though, it was like coming home.
After hearing this first track (which continues to be a favorite of mine,) I went home and devoured any and all information about Catasexual Urge Motivation I possibly could- which, I would find, was very little. Even today, in the age of cross-referenced information and wiki pages, finding stable, coherent information about the project is a challenge, and every time I go through a storm of Googling looking to unearth more information, I dredge up some new chunk of information: an interview I've never read before, a release that may or may not have ever materialized, or strange whisperings of other side projects. I insistently added tidbits of information to the Metal Archives and devoured any track from the band I could possibly find. I laboriously unearthed the band's ritualistic noisecore project Sadistic Lingam Cult (also brilliant but tragically difficult to acquire material from) and delved into the band's bizarre, rarely elaborated upon philosophical views. Discovering information about Catasexual Urge Motivation is still, to this day, an artifact of Web 1.0- endless reprints of zines hidden on forgotten Angelfire pages and desperate clawing for snatches of mentions on forums back in '02. It's challenging and rewarding in a way you rarely see anymore.
This hodgepodge of facts which never seemed to coalesce into a coherent narrative, however, only further obsessed me. That there even were bands that could still be so shrouded in mystery amazed me, and when combined with what I still say is some of the darkest, most purely and unrepentantly evil music ever recorded, created an overall impression of a sort of criminal musical enterprise. It wasn't hard to believe, given all the insane elements involved, that these guys just might be stalking schoolgirls and putting them to blood and semen-streaked ends in alleys and basements across Tokyo. Their origins in Japan, seemingly Earth's center of the sick and unquantifiable, just made it better- there was no way Westerners could construct music like this. It was just too far removed from everything I defined as rational and human to explain.
And here I am, eight years later, still with more questions than answers about these guys. I'm hoping, though, that by writing this, I might learn a little more. Enough chatter about me. The ensuing dissection of this album's is one incredibly obsessed person's elaborate and abstract interpretation of it which may or may not be accurate. If you want a simple statement as to whether you should purchase it: yes. And that's the last time in a discussion about this band that anything will be straightforward.
"- Mass Murderers: A man talked to himself about how many people have I killed. This is the reason he cannot count because he cannot stop killing. Murder is his life. To kill is to live. This also is very interesting as above."
Catasexual Urge Motivation is a Tokyo-based project staffed by brother Tomoaki and Ujin Kanai, backed by a drum machine they've dubbed Cyber EMF. Tomoaki (under the name Sadochist Ejaculata) handles the majority of musical composition, while Ujin (Sadochist Spermata) assembles the lyrics, artwork, and conceptual nature of the band. Each is crucial to Catasexual Urge Motivation being what it is: despite how lightly things like lyrics and aesthetics are taken (and rightfully so) in the metal scene, Ujin's contributions in the more abstract realm are just as essential to what Catasexual Urge Motivation is as the more concrete musical aspects- the band is a complete aesthetic package and must be taken as such to fully appreciate. To date, "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" is the only full-length the band has managed to release, first seeing the light of day on the obscure German label Deliria Productions in 1996 with a 500 copy release (one of which I'm proud to own,) and later seeing a re-release on Razorback Records with new art, layout, and very slight remixing in 2000, now also out of print. Copies of the latter, though, are still easy to acquire.
Catasexual Urge Motivation- what does that mean, exactly? In an interview, one of the Kanai brothers stated that the name means "motivation that causes catasexuality"- in short, the urges and precipitation causes that inspire murder as an instinctual act. The acronym C.U.M. is not a joke or playful coincidence- it's the word for sexuality's most vulgar, violent, and unromantic act. Other interviews with the band (and exposure to their music alone) reveals that Catasexual Urge Motivation is, at its core, a conceptual project by two brothers with an utter obsession and fascination with serial killing, mass murder, torture, and violent sexual acts. Tomoaki Kanai has himself in an interview admitted to being a practitioner of extreme, deviant sexuality, as well as a proponent of cannibalism and vampirism. The band states that they don't "worship" serial killers and mass murderers, instead preferring to examine their psychological states alone, but the content of the music suggests otherwise: Catasexual Urge Motivation appears to revere these sadistic killers in a nearly religious manner, elevating them to a nearly godlike status and openly celebrating their acts and the lingering aftereffects thereof. Just how much of it is artistic license and playful aesthetics is hard to determine, but from what I've seen, the brothers are the most believably evil and deranged characters in this niche of extreme music. They are, in a sense, death/grind's equivalent to the black metal celebrities of old: unapologetic, utterly distant from "normal," and unrepentantly infatuated with the worst aspects of humanity. But where the black metallers seemed to have a goal or direction with their criminality, Catasexual Urge Motivation masturbate to crime scene photos for the sake of it. It is wholly negative music: there's not a single trace of humanity to be found.
What we hear on "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" is a combination of old Catasexual Urge Motivation tracks (cultivated from an ocean of split tapes, demos, and 7"s) rerecorded for the full-length and new material. What you hear on this album is not actually its original form; after the band approached Deliria Productions with the established tracklisting and running time, the label requested the band compose enough extra material to pad the record out to a full hour. It's not possible to tell which tracks originate from this decision- they dovetail perfectly with the rest of the material, and the hour-long block of music, which would be tedious and overlong from another band, flows flawlessly, as though the new tracks were meant to be there all along. It is, in my mind, one of very few perfect albums- not in that it's objectively flawless, but in that I cannot think of a single element I would alter that would improve it. It is a monolithic work which stands whole and unyielding- to change it in any way would be to its detriment.
"- Sexual Homicide: Man killed woman because of his sexual desire. Murder is erotic. He knows it."
Catasexual Urge Motivation describe themselves as a death metal band first and foremost with significant influences from grindcore and industrial music. To neatly categorize their sound, however, is impossible, as no band before or after (including worship projects like Psychosadistic Haterapist) has managed to capture the band's essence fully. Frankly, while death metal, grindcore, industrial, and event hints of doom are all apparent when listening to the music, it doesn't really sound like any of them. Catasexual Urge Motivation's sonic presence appears to be hewn from whole cloth, and even the bands that the brothers cite as influences bare few, if any, traces on the end product. Instead, Catasexual Urge Motivation seems to speak to a sort of musical ideal, first arrived at conceptually before being translated into sound. While the band's earlier material has more in common with death metal and goregrind, by '96 Catasexual Urge Motivation had evolved into a wholly different and more terrifying beast, composed of technical and conceptual elements never seen before or after the band in question alone. Others have been influenced by them, but none have arrived at the no-man's land that the band appeared to revel in whenever the opportunity arose.
It's necessary to break the music into its compositional elements to have any hope of creating a sonic impression. The pieces: vocals, guitar, and drum machine (with, if I recall trawling through interviews correctly, a programmed bass guitar.)
The drum machine is in many ways the core of the music: as stated in interviews, the usage of a drum machine was an intentional musical decision rather than a plan B arrived at by the lack of a human drummer. Hearkening back to the band's stated appreciation of bands like Godflesh, Pitchshifter, Dead World, and even Ministry and Nine Inch Nails, no effort is made to give the impression of a human drummer; the drum machine is used as an instrument on its own terms. In lieu of conventional, metallic programming, the band's industrial legacy shines through in its rhythmic composition: the majority of beats on this disc are claustrophobic, scattered, and even somewhat danceable in nature. Where traditional rock or metal beats might have sufficed, they've been replaced by wandering, undulating waves of Godflesh-style syncopated snares, offputting note placement, and a strange combination of passages packed to the brim with contrasting rhythms (as though the band literally added as many sounds as possible before it overwhelmed the entire song) and moments of similarly unbelievable restraint and minimalism. It's without a doubt the best programming job I've ever heard on a record- it neither dives into breakcore excess ala Noism nor lazes about with the static, brainless rhythms of the most generic of black metal. Peeling apart the layers of rhythms is in itself a joyful task, and the detail given to the programming is clearly a labor of love: careful listening reveals tiny, almost inaudible background samples that mesh with the rhythm's greater whole to subtly accentuate notes and give the songs a richness they'd otherwise lack.
Of course, as a record influenced substantially by grindcore and goregrind, it's not all mid-paced dance numbers: vicious blasting does make up a certain portion of the music. While typically not inhumanly fast by today's standards (Catasexual Urge Motivation rarely indulges in the spine-splintering blasts of Mortician,) the blasting is cluttered and suffocating due to the nature of their programming. Instead of obeying the unwritten laws of metal programming (namely, again, that it should reflect a real drummer,) the blasts are typically composed of far more than just hi-hat, snare, and kick drum. While that will form the skeletal system of a blast beat, other elements will be introduced: multiple cymbals crashing on top of each other, glimmering electronic effects dousing the blast in synthetic coldness, or quiet background rhythms refusing to obey the ostinato, instead playing along with the riffs or wandering off in their own direction entirely. Listening to some of the band's older tracks, it's clear that this style of programming is something arrived at through years of practice and reinterpretation; older tracks rerecorded here feature much more elaborate, compelling programming than before. Through the band's staunch refusal to compromise their musical vision to fall in line with a conventionally metal sense of rhythm, they've created something infinitely more memorable and exquisite than would otherwise exist.
Notable in the programming are the sample choices themselves, nearly all of which are, like the rhythms, more in line with electronic music than metal- one of the elements which has caused many to describe Catasexual Urge Motivation's sound as a sort of primordial form of cybergrind. The kick drums fall into a delicious spot right between clicky, triggered modernity and the hammer-on-flesh tone of old death metal, and the snare has a vicious, barren crack to it, but the rest of the pieces are much more electronic in nature. The cymbals have a washed out, synthetic tone to them, as though they don't originate from an actual cymbal recording, and they glimmer in the upper registers of the album's sonic room, shining like moonlight on a killer's blade and providing a respite from most of the rest of the music's churning low end. Other, more openly electronic effects are also implied: chiming tremolo effects, the perpetual, smooth rumble of the programmed bass moving in lockstep with the drums, ghostly, shimmering tones, and a thousand other tiny additions that might appear on one track and then never again. Very occasional, brief samples of human voices laughing, crying, or screaming sometimes emerge from the morass, woven into the fabric of the music and never lazily used as an intro or outro to stand alone. The level of compositional detail is dizzying.
Just as dizzying is the sheer variety of drum sounds employed on the record: counting the number of different cymbals and electronic effects used would be nearly impossible. A sense of dynamics comes out in the sample choices: the band even uses different snare drums in different musical sections, or even alternating within the same musical passage for dramatic effect, with one softer and more murmuring and another vicious and snapping. Catasexual Urge Motivation circumvents the drum machine's problematic static tonality by providing a veritable buffet of different tones and effects to the listener, making the songs feel alive and organic despite the machine's cold, unyielding presence. Despite the danceability of the beats and the wide variety of samples, though, the machinelike quality of the programming is essential to the overall sound: never is a note misplaced, and that incredibly sterile, industrial sound provides an intensely unsettling undercurrent to the often more chaotic other instruments that writhe and twist above and within it.
The drum machine is the crucial, driving engine of the music: it's the most complex piece, by far, and is what sets the pace and tone of the song more than anything else. It's musically and conceptually essential, and provides the logical, emotionless core from which the horror emerges.
"- Torture: To hear screaming of death is what I long for. It shivers me."
While the programming is an omnipresent force driving the music, the guitar is what takes up the majority of the sonic space, sandwiched between the drums and the vocals. Unsurprisingly, like the programming, the guitarwork is an utter inversion of the standards of extreme metal, but instead of looking towards electronic music for direction, it strips all the commonly appreciated elements of extreme metal and reinterprets them in a fashion unlike any other band. Before we delve into technical aspects: the tone. Gutwrenching. Like maggots writhing. Like partially coagulated blood viscously dripping from a cooling corpse. Incredibly distorted yet possessing a purity of tone that allows the riffs absolute coherency, its rumbling, sickening presence is one of Catasexual Urge Motivation's most defining elements. While not tuned unbelievably lowly (only to around B or A#,) its tonal construction and the album's overall production makes it one of the most unbelievably heavy and unsettling guitar sounds ever heard. It's flawless for this music, a perfect fusion of dirt-caked filth like it was unearthed from a shallow grave and a clean, melodious presence that's essential to maintaining the instrument's musical commentary.
The tone, of course, is only the aesthetic face of the riffs, which are themselves some of the most fascinating, dark constructions I've ever heard in extreme music. They are assembled without what one would think are some of the most crucial building blocks of metal, leaving behind and incredibly unique and enthralling and equally dark style utterly at home with the band's bizarre sense of songwriting. First and foremost: tremolo riffing is almost entirely absent. Even during the most vicious and speedy blasting, rarely will the guitar match pace, and when it does, the tremolo riffs are typically ultra-minimal, two chord constructions that would appear more at home on a Von demo than from people who cite Impetigo as a primary influence- and when those chords aren't in tremolo mode, they're typically etching out slow, hypnotic patterns of repeatedly strummed, blurring curtains of bare, creeping melody.. Speaking of which, appreciate those chords while you have them, as they're a rare treat. Catasexual Urge Motivation uses chords sparingly: the most common style of riffing eschews them entirely. So with little tremolo riffing and little usage of chords, what, exactly, is left behind?
Single notes. The majority of riffs on "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" are composed of snaking, single-note assemblies, leaving the crunch of chords or the chaos of tremolo to transitions and blasts respectively. Picked at a staunch midpace in a deliberate, predatory, sinuous fashion, handfuls of notes are used as melodic fragments that loop into themselves, beginning and ending in the same place like a ouroboros of darkness and violence. Over the push-pull of the dancing, grooving rhythms, these riffs delicately coil around the drum machine's rhythms, black and serpentine, like the darkest, most doom-ridden parts of Autopsy given a repressed, tense energy, perpetually hiding and preparing in anticipation of exploding into a frenzy of violence and aggression. These slow, sensual, ritualistic riffs are the building blocks of tension that come tumbling down when a blast detonates. They're the distinct, unmistakeable sound of a serial killer: slow, drawn-out predation that only at the perfect moment unleashes itself on the unwitting victim in a frenzy of blades and teeth. This is to say nothing of the occasional "solos," which are so noisy and insane you'd think Kerry King was jamming with Ride For Revenge.
What you are hearing, I think, is the sound of an amateur guitarist with absolutely no formal study behind him. Tomoaki's riffing style brings to mind, oddly enough, Justin Broadrick: someone who is not by any stretch of the imagination an accomplished musician on a technical level, but who forces themselves to do the most with what they possess. In lieu of striving and failing to make conventional death metal or goregrind riffs, Tomoaki remakes that music in his image and makes songs based around his own unconventional style of playing. While just about any guitarist with functional hands could play these songs, very few if any but the originator could write them, as they necessitate dissociating from conventional compositional rules so completely that something entirely new arises in their stead. Even the somewhat amateurish playing works to the benefit of the album; the imprecise timing and note changes that all appear to be exaggerated slides add to the degenerate, virulent feel that the album masters. While Catasexual Urge Motivation is not a particularly riff-oriented band, the riffs, simple as they are, are still some of the most memorable I've ever heard.
"- Rape: This is not physical movement. To rape one's mind is the one I wanted to say. First the mind, second the body. Talk to her sweetly and give slow death with raping."
Finally we arrive at the final piece of the puzzle: the vocals. Perhaps the element which stands out the most upon a cursory listen, they are, like the rest of the music, perfectly assembled and crucial to the music's overall vision. They are, in a word, appalling, and yet again refuse to cooperate with the rest of extreme metal in manner of delivery or application. There are absolutely no convention growls or screams to be heard on the album, instead replaced by an ensemble cast of vocal styles as rich and varied as the electronic effects which dot the programming. It's possible that they're all inhaled, but the manner of delivery is irrelevant to the ultimate effect: that of sheer terror, disgust, and a desolate hopelessness that's usually more the domain of Austere than goregrind.
First and foremost among them is a sort of half-spoken, half-gurgled groan of a style which forms the main voice on the album. Alternately murmuring in the background and stridently proclaiming in the front, it salaciously purrs and moans in a manner both uncomfortably sexual and potently threatening, sometimes seemingly mumbling to itself and other times philosophically monologuing its views on rape and torture (not that you'll be able to decipher the lyrics.) Leaving it at that, though, would be far too simple for Catasexual Urge Motivation. The other styles are almost like a cast of characters, or voices in a schizophrenic's head, all employed for different purposes. The next most present style is a sort of blood-flecked hiss, ranting, impish, and breathy, like the sadistic id made manifest via the throat. Much of the vocal performance on this record is composed of a sort of dialogue between it and the central groan, a perpetual conversation or argument occasionally intruded upon by other voices: a pitch-shifted, monstrous gurgle that rarely seems to articulate actual words, a distorted, Last Days of Humanity-style roar, or ghostly, nearly subliminal whispers that play in the background like the trapped souls of forgotten victims.
Of course, those different voices merely existing separately would be much too simple for Catasexual Urge Motivation, so expect their employment to be just as offputting and abstract as the rest of the music. Rhythmically they fall more in line with normality than the other instruments: they snake and coil with the riffs, and they rant in a fairly straightforward manner during the blasts; they're entirely indulgent when the rhythm allows for it, but also understand that sometimes less is more when they need to be the spearhead for the music's message. The way they styles play off each other, though, is far from normal: they dart over, under, in, around, and through each other, almost randomly swapping between smiles or colliding into each other, seemingly reciting different sets of lyrics, creating an utterly chaotic cacophony of voices during the music's most intense and aggressive moments. I'm not sure what's the more disquieting effect: when they all seem to battle with each other for dominance, or when they come together, chanting a single line or word over and over again, an order from five different demons all screaming the same thing.
As the only appreciably human element on the record, it might have been easy for the band to rest on their laurels and give a mediocre vocal performance, but instead they chose to make it as compelling as the rest of the music. Ironically, being appreciably human might make the vocals the most hideous, frightening voice on the album; while the other elements can almost be discounted as a soundtrack composed in another dimension, the human voices, most often devoid of any sort of electronic treatment, force the listener to confront the torturous, despicable reality of what they're hearing. Tomoaki and Ujin Kanai aren't demons: they're human beings, like you or I, capable of acts so evil and treacherous that they might well be monsters wearing mens' skin. The immediacy of the vocals and their utter refusal to bow down to the rest of the instruments is what gives them such power: the rhythms are assembled as you would assemble them; they sound as you would imagine the voices of the insane would sound. They form the bridge connecting the listener to the more abstract musical elements, which allows one to truly feel the darkness which seethes from this album's every pore.
"- Cannibalism: You know the ancient history. We ate each other at the time. But now? Religion doesn’t allow us to do that. Animals eat animals, and we should eat people. This is my opinion. And this is my opinion on cannibalism. It's not illegal."
When you put these various elements together, the effect is utterly entrancing. Catasexual Urge Motivation do what few metal bands manage: create a collection of songs that all stand on their own but also mesh perfectly as a whole album. The technical elements of each song are essentially the same (though, much like Goatwhore's willingness to add disparate elements to contribute to individual songs, Catasexual Urge Motivation doesn't shy away from adding solitary features to tracks to perfect them); there are no ambient interludes, acoustic passages, or intro samples to laboriously and mechanically define them. Instead, they let the music and aesthetics do the talking; they show and don't tell. Each track is staggeringly unique and identifiable from mere seconds of beginning, but never do they feel at odds with each other, despite the impressive level of variation the band has managed to establish with such seemingly simple elements. While some tracks are frantic, minute-long bursts of frenzied dementia and others are sluggish, doomridden beasts, all of them are recognizably Catasexual Urge Motivation. A slow track doesn't feel like it was included in an arbitrary effort to round out the album, nor does an extremely fast one feel like a grasp towards some endpoint of extremity; each is a natural outgrowth of the band's musical vision.
From what I've gathered, Catasexual Urge Motivation's songs are assembled in a top-down manner; a title or concept is decided first, and then the music is composed to match it. The result of this preparatory sort of songwriting are songs which are all distinct narratives or discussions about human depravity, and it bleeds into the music in an outstandingly clear fashion. Each track very clearly has its own story to tell, despite typically lacking any sort of guidance for the listener apart from titles and the very occasional snatch of lyrics (only 8 songs have had their words published.) Every track is filled to the brim with personality and really allows the listener to construct their own personal nightmare scenario out of the dread-ridden riffing and cackling, maniacal vocals. Interviews reveal the subject matter of a few: "He Shot Her Down and Ate Her Flesh, and Then He Said Excuse Me For Living But I Prefer to Be Eaten Rather Than to Eat" is an exploration of famed Japanese cannibal killer Issei Sagawa, while "I'll Confess Everything That I Have Ever Killed 5 People and One Was a Little Girl" is a tale of a serial murder's cathartic confession, and "The Man Who Aimed At Maximum Murder to the Greatest Pleasure" centers around one killer's quest to achieve the world's highest body count.. The rest, though, go unexplained apart from song titles, and most feature Japanese lyrics which further shroud them in mystery.
While the riffs are simple, the songs typically aren't. While they tend to begin and end in similar places (the cyclic nature of the riffs and the songs themselves give an eerie, hopeless, ritualistic feel,) they tend to twist, wander, and transform over the course of a track before coming home, as though an exploration of a murder has led to a justification of the murder itself. Despite the album's mastery of aesthetics, its true genius lies in the underlying structure of the music itself. In the pursuit of unique, independent tracks somewhat shackled by the inherently simple riffing style, the songs are forced contort and surprise at every turn. The core of Catasexual Urge Motivation's songs, like in most great music, is a flowing dance between tension and release, and this band has mastered the dynamic in ways most others can only dream of. They'll establish almost unbearably tense, slowly piling fear before cathartically unleashing it upon the listener in a bloodsoaked musical orgasm that only they can truly craft.
Certain tracks, primarily the shorter ones, have more intensely specialized, single-minded structures, but among the others there's a bit more commonality. Many of the songs have a fairly simple dynamic at work: a slow, brooding, preparatory establishing section followed by a centering, anchoring blast passage which allows the track to ground itself. Where it goes from there, though, is where things get interesting. With blasts mostly used as tension-releasing valves and the oppressive, doomy sections employed as openings or interludes, Catasexual Urge Motivation is left with the real meat of the songs left for their most unique and varied stylistic playground: a mostly midpaced, multidirectional attack that spirals out like a spiderweb, lightly guided by the song's narrative before collapsing, heaving and spent, at the song's climax. Every song is satisfying and every song is unique, and it's very much the mood and atmosphere established by the melodies and song titles which dictate its trajectory: some are bleak gauntlets of crushing slowness, others tortuously patient and perpetually transforming, and still others emerging as brief, explosive bursts of activity like a rapist's thrusts.
"The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" doesn't come together as an album so much as a collection of short stories, but it doesn't suffer for it. Each individual song is an absolute joy to experience, and they're so equally strong picking out favorites is most certainly a matter of opinion- none stand out as being head and shoulders above the others. Still, I have my picks, through which you might pick up on this band's particular game.
Opener "Mutilation, Rape, and Serial Murder as Modern Metaphor" is clearly designed as an intro track, with its simple and hideously catchy structure. A lurking, excitable drum machine and one of the most hideously gleeful and sinister riffs I've ever heard set the stage for a simple alternation of shimmering blasts and d-beat(!)-laden passage that sounds like it comes from a Neuropathia track before dissociating into a wild, uncontrollable solo. "Bleeding For Spermqueen," the track which has seen perhaps the most refinement since its early forms, is one of the most memorable on the disc, heaving its bloated, sluggish frame onto the scene only to devolve into a deranged ménage à trois between hyperspeed blasting, crawling, worming midpaced sickness, and long stretches of dead silence occupied only by Tomoaki's murmuring, purring vocals. "Multiple Parasexuality Disorder," one of the most complex tracks on the record, is a nefarious, tortured, indecisive animal that perpetually twists and reverses on itself before settling into the album's most rock and roll passage where it's finally given direction.
And on and on it goes, each track with as much elegant, carefully planned brilliance as the last. Even through an hour of the release's particular brand of sinister malignancy, at no point does the listener feel bored or as though the band is retreading previous ideas. The sheer uniqueness of each track, and the individuality of their stories, gives the record a staying power and replay value unknown to most other metal records. This is not to say that it's not an exhausting listen: by the end of the album's running time, the perpetually building and dissipating tension that the music embraces so firmly will definitely take its toll. At the end, though, is a feeling of satisfaction; "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders," especially for those not firmly entrenched in the most repugnant and hideous parts of extreme metal, is an album you sort of undergo rather than listen to. Needless to say, for the full effect, it should be listened to laying down, the lights off, and allowed the time and space it truly needs to worm its way into your brain.
"- Vampirism: Believe it or not, I really wanted to become a vampire at my younger days. I was possessed. Vampire is my father. Blood is my mother. I am a vampire, too."
The prism through which much of the music we consume is interpreted is the production; it's the lens through which we "see" an album. Fortunately enough for "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders," a flawless lens was selected. Recorded in Tomoaki's bedroom on a simple 8-track, the resulting production job is almost unbelievably well-rounded and perfectly in tune with the musical style. Despite its home-recorded origins, the mixing job is remarkably free of common errors, and displays a blend of intelligent, seemingly professional production experience with a willingness to step back often unseen in metal production. It sounds like it comes from a mid-range studio well acquainted with this style of music: the inherent filth and putrescence of the band's style is firmly intact, but this allowance of extreme metal's aesthetic flavor doesn't prevent Tomoaki from assembling it in a pleasing fashion. While filthy and distorted, every instrument is extremely clear, given enough filmy, imprecise fidelity to let them blend into a single mass but letting the listener pick out individual parts with ease. Despite the hyper-distorted guitar tone, every riff is clear and easy to make out, even in the blasting sections, and even with the band's infatuation with volume dynamics in the vocals and programming, even the most subtle electronic glimmer or murmuring growl is given its own sonic space and representation in the tracking.
Going beyond merely representing the music, however, the production accentuates and propels it further. Each voice has been doused in a significant amount of reverb (particularly cavernous on the vocals,) but not in the digital, echoing manner of modern black metal; instead, you get the sense that the music was recorded in a subterranean chamber of sorts, warm from its analog origins but letting the sterile, cold drum machine maintain all its impartial, synthetic cruelty. The reverb provides the music with a nightmarish, surreal quality, as though what you're hearing is a quarter-step off of our reality- just enough, perhaps to let a human suffer more before they eventually succumb to death, or to give a killer the strength to pull chunks of flesh off of bone without the need for tools. The end effect is as though the album was something plucked from the dumpster behind a motel primarily occupied by hookers and methamphetamine addicts, or found in a plastic bag washed up on the shore of a polluted urban river- the musical equivalent, perhaps of Harmony Korine's "Trash Humpers," but more immediate and concerning than you'd ever like it to be.
All of this, of course, is in pursuit of the feature most often ignored by this sort of extreme music: atmosphere. "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" drips with it, from the bizarre, fetishized cover art to the silence between tracks. Other death metal or goregrind bands deal with similar topics as Catasexual Urge Motivation, even from the perspective of serial killers and mass murderers, but none force you to step inside the mind of one in the manner that this band does. Instead of focusing purely on the murderous, violent acts that dot other bands' album covers, Catasexual Urge Motivation realizes that there's much more unsettling material to be mined in the psychological and philosophical aspects of these acts; they spend more time on the mental state and the preparation for a kill, and as such, the music worms its way into the most negative, depraved part of your brain in a way few others can't. Atmospherically, this music reminds me of artists like Wormphlegm, Intestinal Disgorge, or XXX Maniak more than the conventional big names of extreme music; "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" encapsulates the depraved, sickening core that drives those bands and takes joy in dissecting it and analyzing it from so many different angles that you're exhausted by it.
More unsettling, though, is the tact the band takes with their subjects of choice. It's a matter of rooting for the killer in a horror movie taken to its natural conclusion: Catasexual Urge Motivation forces you to become the evil individuals it details in its songs, and to embrace every part of them: the chaotic, mentally ill, incomplete mindset, the romanticized act of ritualistic murder, and the joy of sadism, exploitation, and victimization. Rather than Devourment's goal of disgusting and shocking the listener, Catasexual Urge Motivation all but invites the listener in to stay for a cannibalistic dinner party. While the conflicted, perpetually shattering and recombining nature of the songs might suggest some level of regret or internal strife, this is merely a symptom of the sort of mental imbalance which causes a person to commit such gruesome acts. Ultimately, as the band's moniker suggests, these impulses are innate and instinctual, embracing a sort of atavistic, hedonistic worldview that suggests no alternatives: to rape, torture, and kill is life's greatest joy, and all actions running up to it, no matter how mundane, are like foreplay to the sexual act of murder.
As an aside: the song titles and lyrics, as sparing as the latter may be, are masterfully realized and three-dimensional in a way few other bands are with their written works. It's easy to discount Ujin Kanai's contributions to the band as minimal, but his presence is felt in every note, even if he wasn't the primary composer. As the individual responsible for the aesthetic whole of the music, he's as crucial as Tomoaki. It's easy to discount these elements at first glance, but keep in mind the brothers' all but stated vision of Catasexual Urge Motivation as a conceptual project dedicated to analyzing the violent urges of humanity made manifest: while the band may be indulging in many of the same subjects as the rest of the goregrind or death metal scenes, they come at it from a wholly different perspective. The somewhat mangled English employed, surprisingly enough, does not make the writing come off as silly or ridiculous; instead, it gives a bizarre, surreal tone to the proceedings, creating images and concepts that are shockingly unusual and vivid due to the lack of fluency in the language. The intent is not to shock, however- those involved in extreme music are hardly shockable, given what they're exposed to as the bread and butter of their content- and yet shock the songs do. Even in the lyrically hidden tracks, the titles alone convey a sense of evil far greater than most black metal bands could realize with their reliance on Satan: Catasexual Urge Motivation realizes that the truest evil comes from human beings with the ability to do good who choose the left-hand path. A demon is evil because it is born from evil; a human, on the other hand, embraces evil with a love for it in his heart.
Perhaps the most distinct aspect of the song titles and lyrics worthy of discussion is what they omit. Rarely do they mention a violent act in and of itself; direct references to killing or other violence are a rarity. Instead, they savor the act's surrounding elements: fear, despair, joy, cruelty, and indifference. In addition to this is a ritualization of the acts described, almost portraying them as either spiritual, religious experiences or as psychological states which can be appreciated on a logical level. The only way to truly understand the insane, however, is to become insane oneself, and so we are forced to embrace the ideals and concepts of a worldview opposite our own. Of course, the insanity is something of an assumption; can a serial killer be called insane if he methodically plans his abductions, executions, and attempts at evading arrest and authority? And if killing is the ultimate act, is the serial killer or mass murderer not something of an ubermensch, asserting dominance over the more feeble humans unable to stop such acts or commit them themselves? And so comes the pseudo-religious aspect: these are creatures beyond men who merely wear the skin of men, godlike beings with the power to assert their will over others in a manner most of us could never conceive.
"- Mutilation: Murder is art. What do you use when you draw or build a sculpture? Dead body just lying on the floor is not interesting to me. To make it better, that means to mutilate the body and create an original sculpture with the body. Human body is a canvas. You can paint it, cut and paste it, taste it, move it, and feel it."
The following is purely my own conjecture. As Catasexual Urge Motivation is the most philosophical and conceptual band I've ever encountered in the goregrind scene (or the metal scene, really,) I think it's a shame that no one has made the effort to analyze their music on this level. I'm hoping that now I can get some of my personal thoughts on the band down and perhaps open up discussion for the more academic (or pseudo-intellectual) reaches of the metal scene; while a goregrind band is hardly the first stop for those looking for heady, psychologically intricate metal, I've come to think that Catasexual Urge Motivation might have gone further than nearly any of the more ostentatious, obviously self-conscious bands out there.
As Catasexual Urge Motivation is the product of a sort of prurient obsession- with murder, with sexuality, with insanity, and with evil and darkness- all parts of the ultimately package logically point back to that obsession. What this means for the listener is that the conceptual basis of the music and the music itself are inextricably intertwined: it sounds the way it does because of the concepts used to create it, and the concepts are transformed and manipulated by being viewed through the prism of the music itself. If the Kanai brothers were simply interested in discussing the nature of violence, sexuality, and cruelty, they would write a book, but instead they wrote an album, and so the philosophical ideals of the music are inherently filtered through their expression as an artistic piece. While Tomoaki states, as mentioned above, that Catasexual Urge Motivation is supposed to be a detached, objective study of the subjects at hand, I'm going to be so bold as to suggest that that's a cover story. Despite the unbelievably bizarre and distinctly unapologetic way Tomoaki speaks of subjects like rape, torture and murder, I think that calling Catasexual Urge Motivation's music an objective, apolitical look at the subjects it preoccupies itself with is nothing more than a poor attempt to veil reality: that the Kanai brothers are more entrenched in a romanticized portrayal of criminal violence than they'd like you to believe. It's protective dishonesty, and half-hearted dishonesty at that- one glance at the music tells you much more.
Catasexual Urge Motivation's songs, universally about the act of murder, tend to be openly sexual, with rape, sexual torture, and fetishism as a frequent theme. However, I think this is a somewhat redundant exercise: the sexuality inherent to the songs (which even pops up in the band's name) isn't enjoyed on its own terms. Sexuality is used as a form of torture; rape is a tool with which to terrorize, demean, and ultimately destroy with. The band's usage of fetish-related imagery (with the shibari on the cover of the Deliria edition being only one example of many) points to the sexual aspects of the fictional crimes as being part of a more elaborate sadomasochistic, dominant/submissive fantasy. As my own experiences with BDSM have taught me (and as Tomoaki himself states when discussion rape,) the impulses which drive such deviant sexuality- rape fantasies, humiliation, sadomasochism, and dominant/submissive behavior- are not a twisting of sexuality so much as a sublimation of a more psychological craving for authority, dominance, and control (and in a roundabout way, love) than they are about the sexual act itself. Sexuality is merely the mechanism through which these urges can be satisfied; the root of it is entirely psychological in nature. Little satisfaction is found in dominating a partner in and of itself; what is satisfied instead is a perceived reflection of the self as powerful, in control, and (in the case of men) masculine.
The sexuality is merely a more distinct, communicable exploration of the more abstract reality: that the murder itself is a sexual act far beyond that of intercourse. As the band states with "I Am As Beautiful As I Have Killed," "The knife is my hand/The gun is my phallus," and so sexuality and violence are inextricably intertwined: any sexual act is inherently violent, and any violent act is inherently sexual. Musically, the band mirrors both a sexual act and a homicidal one, and in turn the two mirror each other. The songs begin with a slow, preparatory passage (foreplay vs. stalking and observing,) transform into a midpaced, more complex, varied one with slowly growing tension (the primary sexual act vs. abduction, torture, and sadism,) and end with an explosive, violent climax (orgasm vs. the actual act of murder.) While the heart of music is in a gradual juxtaposition and progression of tension and release, Catasexual Urge Motivation's music features tension and release so harshly delineated and destructively realized that it's hard to imagine that the resemblance to both violence and sexuality, given the band's themes, is entirely coincidental. The gradual growth and eventual chaos that most of the tracks contain is so distinct and carefully plotted that each gives the impression of a sexual encounter concluded, or a violent act realized. With the lexicon of the band and their conflation of the two, though, the idea becomes even more distinct.
As sexuality is instinctual, and aggressive, sometimes violent (depending on interpretation) sexual events are somewhat commonplace, it's easy to see the two as inherently linked. When men have their brains analyzed while viewing pornography and/or violent media, many of the same receptors light up. Many of the same chemicals are released into the brain and bloodstream, and, in general, the same parts of the brain are used to process thoughts regarding the two. The compulsively and regularly violent, from murderous criminals to British football hooligans, have stated that the runup to a violent act as feeling similar to the act of approaching and flirting with a woman, and the realization of violence as providing a high similar to that of a sexual act; it should come as no surprise, then, that a common theory among psychologists and psychiatrists is that the compulsively violent are in some ways addicted to the dopamine and other chemicals released during a violent act- the same mechanism that causes many sex addicts to compulsively seek sexuality (who themselves often state that the bulk of the fulfillment of the sexual addiction is not in the act itself so much as the pursuit and eventual attainment of the sexual partner, again mirroring the stalk and slash fantasies of Catasexual Urge Motivation or the reality of many serial killers.)
We're again forced to realign our view of Catasexual Urge Motivation's subject matter- it's not about sexuality, and surprisingly enough, not about murder. It's a morbid and elaborate fantasy centered around power and control- the dominant's desire to obtain it, and the submissive's desire to cede it or have it stripped from them. Catasexual Urge Motivation is composed of men, though, and likely those with dominant sexual fantasies- the submissive side of the equation is entirely unexplored. What composes that aspect of the music's conceptual framework is an empty vessel: Woman. Men are never portrayed as victims, and the only women featured in Catasexual Urge Motivation's music are those being victimized. The apparent misogyny of this frame of reference is tempered by two things. The first is the Japanese culture from which the project grows, which places a premium on female submission, powerlessness, and a demure, coquettish approach to sexuality which often involves simulating pain or unhappiness during intercourse (watch any Japanese-made porno and you'll see.) The other is that the women are faceless and intensely objectified; they're reduced to bodies without personality or will through which these power fantasies can be realized. The generic and anonymous Woman that portrays the victim in Catasexual Urge Motivation's songs brings the cultural influence into clearer focus: they are not murdered because they are women, but because women are culturally perceived as weak, and in the sexually dominant man's mind, weakness is to be conquered and battered down by strength. Children are another prime target of the music's malice for the same reason.
Throughout this shamelessly misogynistic portrayal of women, though, runs an undercurrent of obsession and infatuation that's subtly noticeable. The act of murder (inherently visited upon women, the band's perfect victim) is never portrayed as a burst of anger; in fact, anger and hatred are rarely mentioned at all, and when they are, they're random, chaotic, and surprisingly self-contained. Murder and sadism are, instead, portrayed as joyous, celebratory realizations of human instinct, and through this, women are portrayed as those able to make these realizations occur. Through song titles like "Bleeding For Spermqueen," "I Am As Beautiful As I Have Killed," and the later "Whore Is Beautiful Like a God, and God Is Voluptuous Like a Whore," one can see that the victims of violence and cruelty are not hated, and the violent acts visited upon them are not an inherent manifestation of repressed anger or hostility- they are instead, in a roundabout way, deified. Many rapists, in reality, have stated that to forcefully dominate a victim is not an ideal realization of the psychological compulsion; instead, it is a compromise for the real desire: for the other party to give themselves over willingly and without reservation.
Beyond the realization of the power fantasy, though, is the band's implied distaste for the modern state of society. In interviews, Tomoaki states that the acts described in Catasexual Urge Motivation's music- rape, violence, and murder- are not a perversion of the human experience, but an inherent part of the human experience itself. It follows logically, then, that the civility and pacifism that much of human society has embraced is a great corruption of reality than violence and cruelty are. It's nothing more than death metal and goregrind's interpretation of the sort of social Darwinism that so many black metal musicians espouse: that humanity has weakened itself and abandoned authenticity and reality out of fear, replacing it with the constructions of religion, morality, and politics to make up for its absence. In a way, Catasexual Urge Motivation is holding a mirror up to the human condition: it's not that the acts they describe are unnatural; you are the unnatural one, as without the system of checks, balances, morality, and punishment, this is what you'd either be doing or suffering from. In a society where the most inherent signs of strength and weakness, dominance and submission, and success versus failure (particularly in Japan's incredibly repressed, claustrophobic society, with its industrialized sense of corporate slavery and debt to various power structures,) the achievement of a true sense of power, control, and strength is impossible- leading one to sublimate these urges through deviant sexuality, political/social maneuvering, or heavy metal.
It is for this reason that the serial killer is deified and his actions are ritualized. As one of the few who has chosen to obey his instincts to kill, rape, and seize control of the world around him, the serial killer is, in Catasexual Urge Motivation's eyes, the last free man, and perhaps the only man to perceive reality as it actually is. The average human being, through their cowardice and unwillingness to embrace the nature of reality, is viewed as less than an animal (the title of a demo tape and an unrealized compilation CD being "Death to Pigs" is hardly coincidental) and as such free to be victimized at the leisure of the strong. The serial killer (a step above the mass murderer in Catasexual Urge Motivation's hierarchy, as the latter is reactionary rather than deliberate,) however, has obtained the level beyond human. The deification of murderers, the religious iconography used to represent murderous acts, and the ritualization of the preparation and execution of murder itself are all part of a system of belief which elevates them to godhood. The band states it themselves with the song title "Mass Murder, the Only Way to Become God": the truly free man, and the only thing above animal, is the man who is conscious of his impulses' instinctual, natural motives towards evil and chooses to embrace them. Catasexual Urge Motivation: not merely the cause of evil, but the embrace of it as an animal right.
We come back to reality and close the circle with the missing piece of the puzzle: that of hatred and aggression. One of the most curious features of Catasexual Urge Motivation's aesthetic is their handling of hatred and anger, typically the core of black, death, and grind. It's oddly absent except in fits and starts, and even more oddly, it isn't outwardly directed. Instead, hatred in mentioned purely within the context of the self, and though it's never distinctly stated, hatred needs a direction, without which it is rendered meaningless. Catasexual Urge Motivation is too philosophically rational to bother blaming society, religion, or culture for the state of man (and by extension, their own, as they haven't murdered anyone to my knowledge,) and so the only remaining direction for hate to be directed is inward. Songs like "Hate From the Womb" ("I am the master of hate/Symbol of being hatred/Hate is the reason for being") or demo track "Sonic Hate Spleen Rupture" ("Sympathy with the serial killer/Absolute order from them/'Do it, at all costs'") portrays hatred variously as a natural outgrowth of existence devoid of an origin or an external force that possesses the narrator. The serial killer doesn't feel hatred, as he has realized his calling and place in the natural world... Tomoaki and Ujin Kanai, however, do. The subtly veiled self-hatred reveals the key to assembling the album: much like feudal Japan's view of ritualistic, honorable suicide, death is preferable to a life of weakness and shame, and so through the death of the songs' many victims, they are granted a gift and a level of dignity they would be unable to obtain on their own.
And so reality snaps swiftly into place; the elaborate power fantasies portrayed in the songs are just that: fantasies. The hatred, anger, and general emotionality that occasionally flickers into view on this album is both the cause of failure and an outgrowth of it. Trapped within the eternal cycle of shame at being unable to realize one's place and seize power, and yet the shame itself preventing the individual from obtaining that place and power, is the core of this music's philosophical concept. Surprisingly Buddhist in structure, the idealized serial killer is deified because he has thrown off the shackles of society, morality, and the unnatural state of man to embrace a valueless reality beyond modern culture- but as individuals raised within that culture and brought up with its ideals and values, we are powerless to obtain the glory with which the band describes its murderous "protagonists." And so the shame, failure, and dissatisfaction with the self and the surrounding world perpetuates a cycle of endless grief and misery, sublimated in one way, covered up in another, but perpetually painful like a wound left open. Like most of metal but more distinctly and clearly than most, Catasexual Urge Motivation's music is the sonic realization of existential angst and cognitive dissonance: intelligent enough to see outside the sham reality we've constructed for ourselves yet without the strength to break free from it, we are left adrift with only our fantasies, hopes, and dreams to provide us comfort. Be it through murder, love, or achievement (all of which have the same general structure,) we battle to reconcile our desires with reality, and express our perpetual frustration and occasional triumph through art and the ultimate divinity of the human experience.
This, of course, is all conjecture. But no other album has made me think so much, and that alone, I feel, is worthy.
"- Sadism: Violence. Anger. Hatred."
For all the philosophical and psychological commentary above, "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" is first and foremost a heavy metal album and an artistic piece. In both of those facets, it succeeds to the fullest possible degree. As a heavy metal album, by deconstructing the genre's most ostensibly standard and essential elements, reinterpreting them, and coming back as both a brilliant heavy metal album and a brilliant album of its own volition, and as art by presenting a flawlessly unified aesthetic that transports the listener and makes them think, feel, and question themselves and the world around them. If a piece of art's impact on the listener is its measure of value, "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" is priceless: it wholly transformed the way I see music and art, showed me what my central passion in life is, and inspired me to attempt to create art of my own, which in and of itself has been one of the most wonderful, intensely rewarding experiences of my life. Be it drinking beer with bandmates while tossing out ideas for lyrics, sitting at home alone puzzling the next riff in a black metal song, or simply letting go on stage with music I wrote in the ultimate act of catharsis, I have this album to thank for it, and for that alone I'm eternally grateful to the Kanai brothers. It might seem funny to think such hideous, intensely negative music could have had such a beautiful, positive impact on my life, but sometimes life throws you a curveball and you have no choice but to catch it. And I'm happy I did.
The most important thing that "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" taught me was that the perceived boundaries of music, style, and art were just that: perceptions. If one merely described this album's individual components, it might sound more like a weird bit of industrial experimentation than heavy metal, but a few seconds of listening tells the whole story: it's distinctly, obviously, and inarguably a metal album, despite how it inverts every typical element of metal and chooses instead to dwell in the genre's negative space. This revelation went further down the line, though. This album proved to me that one could compose breathtaking, incredibly real art out of the base, uncomfortable, and sinister; art itself has no boundaries of taste, intellectualism, or perceived value- one of the reasons why even today I make it my mission to expose and examine what appears to be the lowest and most vulgar music and treat it like others would a symphony. Perhaps most importantly, though, is that this album taught me the relativity of perception in a way nothing else has. Where others I showed the music heard only brackish noise and chaos, I heard perfectly ordered and phenomenally constructed compositions. Where others perceived blunt stupidity and shock value, I perceived sharp minds, both psychologically and musically, that chose to seriously explore the topics that all of us thought about but few would ever mention out loud. Where others saw ugliness and emptiness, I saw beauty and verdant richness. And ultimately, where others felt negativity, "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" felt like one of the most positive things I'd ever encountered. As long as I took joy in something that mattered and was true to my own feelings, nothing else mattered.
I've long passed the time where I thought that this album was a hidden gem merely waiting to be uncovered by the metal scene- in discussions about it, both prompted by me and run across on the internet and at metal shows, I've heard just about the widest range of opinions possible. Some dismiss it as prurient garbage, other discount it as mediocre and unremarkable (the opinion I disagree with much more vehemently than a wholly negative one,) a large chunk find it bizarre and fascinating but ultimately not for them, some still enjoy it in a simple, straightforward manner, and finally, a handful are like me and express an obsessive, slavish devotion to it that I've rarely seen elsewhere in the metal scene. While I'd like to say that I know more about this strange, nearly forgotten project than anyone else, I very much know that I don't; to this very day, I continue to research them, trawl through reams of websites, and eagerly snatch up any tidbit of previously unknown information I can find, as though I'm looking for a final piece that will ultimately make sense of the puzzle that the band is. Frankly, though I think I've made a decent dent in grasping their whole "point" (presuming there is one,) I think that one of the things which makes Catasexual Urge Motivation so magical to me and others is never truly knowing the answer. Seemingly unconnected with the scene around it despite a multitude of split releases, shrouded in mystery not due to intentional posturing but from simply being buried and forgotten, and playing music so strange, evocative, and stridently independent that it seemingly insists on some sort of explanation, they're exactly the sort of band designed to inspire such a rabid and cultlike fanbase. Funnily enough, I'm not the only person I've met with this sort of quixotic infatuation with the band; Catasexual Urge Motivation is almost like a secret handshake among goregrind grognards, and mentioning their name on forums will more often than not feature someone coming out of the woodwork to show off their collection of rehearsal tapes, 7"s, and nostalgic memories.
I suppose it goes without saying that I urge everyone to give this record a try. I harbor few illusions of somehow creating a movement of new fans with this review (if you can even call it that)- it seems, sadly, like most of the people who would fall in love with it like I did have already done so. That being said, all melodramatic, slavering hyperbole aside, it's a record that's worthwhile to listen to. Even if you hate it, it will almost certainly make an impression on you; "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" is something you experience more than listen to, and your ideas about metal will probably be expanded a bit by listening to it. Tomoaki and Ujin supposedly reactivated the project a few years ago in anticipation of upcoming releases, but as is nearly all information about the band, there's a lot more rumor and assumption than concrete fact. I was privileged enough to speak to them briefly on Myspace a few years ago- they were gracious, kind, and appreciated the support shown by their crazy little fanbase scattered across the globe. I feel that I owe it to them, in some way, to bring as much attention to their weird, unlovable classic as possible. You'd be surprised just how many bands cite Catasexual Urge Motivation as an influence; its tendrils spread far and wide, and yet the band never seemed to achieve the sort of recognition that I always felt that they were on the cusp of. I hope that if you decide to give this album a spin, you fall in love with it and take joy in trying to figure out the puzzle of the band along with the rest of us.
Of course, I'm lying about all this. There's no secret. Tomoaki and Ujin Kanai are a couple brothers from Tokyo who loved extreme music and wanted to make their own. They picked a cool aesthetic, wrote phenomenal, horrifying songs, and played characters in interviews; from my brief contact with them, and with logic guiding me, I know full well that they're probably just a couple weirdos- not much weirder than the rest of us- who like heavy, extreme music. I certainly know that there's no such elaborate, existential concept behind their work like I ranted about above- it's just taking bits and pieces of interviews and musical ideas and assembling into something I find pleasing. I know that the musical techniques I'm so in awe of and fascinated by were likely mastered by other, equally obscure bands before- hell, I'm sure that Catasexual Urge Motivation's particular sound was likely pioneered by bands before them that they merely rejiggered and made their own. I know that, in the end, there's no grand secret, no philosophical revelation, and no puzzle to solve. "The Encyclopedia of Serial Murders" is, in the end, just a heavy metal album. Catasexual Urge Motivation is just a heavy metal band, like many others before it and after.
But it's my heavy metal album and my heavy metal band. Even if things are just as boring and normal as they seem- and in all likelihood, they are- this ultimately irrelevant heavy metal album changed the way I felt about music, art, and life. Like nearly everything else in the world, I know that it's disposable, but it's not disposable to me. If a heavy metal album, as plain as that sounds, motivated me to write so much about it, and listen to it hundreds of times, and come up with thought experiments about its lyrical concepts, and pick up a guitar and write stupid black metal songs, and feel such joy and positivity and creativity, how can I dismiss it as valueless? It's not. To this day, there's few things I enjoy more than sitting in the dark, cranking this album up, and soaking up its sinister, wonderfully evil sound with a grin on my face. It continues to be, without competition, my favorite album of all time, because it makes me think, feel, and experience things I never could on my own. Even looking back now, so many years later, I tear up thinking about it, because when I listen to this album, I'm 14 again, sitting in my high school classroom, listening to this music for the very first time and getting the whole world opened up to me. It's a moment so special, tender, and real to me that even if it came from a curious place, it continues to be and will forever be one of the most important and wonderful things I've ever experienced.
In the end, I guess this review was less about Catasexual Urge Motivation and more about my Catasexual Urge Motivation. And if you haven't found yours yet, I hope that someday soon you will.
"Be sick to the core
Straight to the day of end
I am insanity being
Dancing in cocytus
At the moment of dying
I'll awake for myself"
Happy new year, TBO readers. Do something you love.