I chew through a lot of mediocre music on a daily basis, washing grains of sound across the dark pan of my eardrums in search of those glistening nuggets of aural excellence. Those are few and far between, meaning that most days I return to my bed without treasure to appease my lust for gold. But every once in a while, an unexpected element drifts down into my staked out piece of streambed. That’s where things get interesting. As much as I love great finds, there’s something to be said for the merit of pure novelty. When something unprecedented washes into my hands, that makes it all worth it.
Body Hammer, a band almost devoid of documentation, is the solo project of Ryan Page. It’s definitely brutal enough. This sophomore offering, II: The Mechanism of Night, is even less comprehensible than the début Jigoku, a mission statement of violent, electronic, surreal grindcore. Whereas Jigoku relied on a backbone of abstract grind fleshed out with ambiance, strange samples, and the occasional hint of melody, this album is a different kind of beast.
II: The Mechanism of Night isn’t a musical recording. There are brief moments of music here and there, split second cracks of percussive grind and disembodied screams processed almost beyond recognition, and for a brief time, riffs, but for the most part, there is only sound. Ambient, chilling wails of feedback and reverb-drenched clangs dominate the soundscape, most noticeably in the industrial torture-chamber evoked by “Banishing Ritual”. “Untitled #2” is just a tiny music box-like melody tacked onto the end of a heavily processed field recording of some industrial yard, complete with suffocating wind noise and a barking dog.
For grind fans, there’s violence, but that tends to just be a flash in the pan. The sequence of “Dog Star Man”, and ”Greed Worm” comes close to being a song, but the raw energy of each is pent up and released in such minuscule bursts that it’s difficult to invoke musicality when discussing them. As a whole, II: The Mechanism of Night is less a musical album and more like a soundtrack. It’s aurally closer to David Lynch’s Eraserhead than to any grind record, which makes it difficult to review through the lens of the mainstream conception of a musical album.
Nevertheless, I have to recommend it. Despite its droning, almost entirely non-musical content, this is an interesting recording. It’s tortured, bleak and completely alien, yet, in an extremely uncomfortable way, intimate. The noises that make up the better part of the recording are everyday, things you could find if you looked in any large industrial urban area, but processed beyond recognition, viewed through a lens smudged with an oily gore of grime and bodily fluids. Body Hammer is gnawing away at the edge of sound, allowing structure to sift into a noisy substrate of feedback and warped field recordings. Truly unique and disturbing.