“Tipper Gore’s worst fears incarnate. A horrifying concoction of apathy and malaise wrapped in a delectable sheet of hatred, drowned in a bath of contempt represented here by club sauce. Great for parties, ask your caterer for details.” —Zack Weil, geeter and screamees
The most insufferable of people are those that tend to take themselves too seriously. You know the type, the infinitely self-absorbed, the unjustifiably snobbish, and intolerably holier-than-thou.1 The same maxim rings true when music and art in general are concerned. Without self-reflection and the ability to look at one’s own work critically and with humor, artists are bound to fail. But taking things to the other extreme, injecting frivolous toilet buffoonery into art, reducing whimsy to a series of cheap gags, can be equally detrimental. It’s a rarity, then, for a band to find the perfect balance between these two edges, and among them Chicagoan power trio Oozing Wound stand the tallest. They indulge in a balancing act between cynicism-imbued music, cartoonish aggressiveness and a real, grim social commentary. Supported by raucous, buzzing guitars, punk-like character, and incisive wit, they make nasty concepts and everyday situations that much easier to swallow. Whatever Forever, the trio’s third release to date, finds them at their best with a freshly discovered sense of progression in their pugnacious, unrelenting approach.
While in the past their style urged the listener to instantly utter the word “thrash” — especially the frantic début Retrash — Whatever Forever shows how far removed Oozing Wound are from such simplistic categorizations. Drawing from influences that thrash itself fed upon, their music takes the fused form of a variety of ferocious styles and genres, from proto-punk and hardcore to stoner, doom metal, and even drone. Whatever Forever is thus as much Big Black’s rowdy rock and Killing Joke’s rolling, socially involved post-punk as it is Napalm Death’s politically-outspoken grindcore or D.R.I.’s muttish crossover punk. Clues that these guys play whatever feels (in)appropriate are scattered throughout the record. On “Everything Sucks, And My Life Is A Lie,” for example, the downer, melancholy lyrics are surprisingly contrasted by a passive-aggressive, but quite catchy accompaniment.
While expanding upon the basic MO of “loud fucking guitars and screaming and shit,” their signature unpolished, in-your-face attitude remains alive and well. One has to look no further than potent romps such as “Deep Space” and “Tachycardia” for proof, but these are now cut with unexpectedly long slow burners, varied in their constant delivery of manic vitriol. “Mercury in Retrograde Virus,” “Weather Tamer,” and the lead single “Diver” are tumultuous tunes, shifting with breaks through wheeling themes and start-stop sections while also serving as unashamed headbanging invitations. All in all, there’s nary a low or overwrought element here, with all the songs fitted together into a whole that, even if significantly longer than their earlier releases, feels concise and to the point.
To top it all off, Oozing Wound emblazon their sonic attack with absurdist, at times outright bizarre lyrics that in reality deal with heavy themes. As if implying there really is no other answer other than laughing off even the worst of problems. On the brighter side of things, “Deep Space” marks a return to their sci-fi influenced themes that featured heavily on Retrash and acts as a tribute to the best episode of Star Trek.2 If I had to point out a minor niggle that troubles the record, it would have to be the relative lack of bite on Zack Weil’s seesawing riffs and screams, Kyle Reynolds circular, spastic drumming, and Kevin Cribbin’s distorted, wobbly bass. While it’s clear that the mastering and production values have been tuned towards a booming and warm sound to support longer songs, tracks like the searing closer “Sky Creep” made me miss the shriller, upfront mix.
When I wrote about Oozing Wound’s debut a few years back, I noted how their crude, no-nonsense music would never be cool enough to reach year-end lists. Today I say: fuck it, I won’t let that happen! Whatever Forever’s going to be on mine. This is a great album that has it all. Or, in Weil’s immortal words: “You want fast shit? We got it! You want slow shit? We got it! You want weird shit? Fuck yeah, you do.”