When faced with a work of art that purports to be avant-garde, invariably a question must be asked: is the all-but-total abandonment of classical song structure and melody a hallmark of innovation and a refutation of the musical establishment or is it merely the flotsam-and-jetsam of musicians lacking the skills to write a decent song in the first place? Type O Negative wryly quipped “Don’t mistake lack of talent for genius” on their seminal Bloody Kisses album, a sardonic, self-effacing middle-finger to pretension and those too blind to decry the emperor’s new clothes. I couldn’t help but recall the above quote from Vinland’s finest while listening to Creatura, the new noise/industrial/??? album from the Italian duo known as OvO. The torrent of shrieks, staccato beats, and mechanical mewling made me wonder if this was earnest artistic expression or some sort of elaborate prank designed to test the mettle of preening critics.
This is a difficult album to assess as most of the classical approaches to songwriting and composition have been thrown out with such fervor that a safety net would need to be employed to catch the baby that’s slaloming out with the bath water. Vocalist Stefania Pedretti wails and screeches like a banshee but rather than conveying existential angst her off-key tantrums end up grating more than a parmesan-wielding waiter at a booked-out Italian restaurant. I like a good female shriek as much as the next guy (put the notepad down, Freud) but like in all things there needs to be some measure of control, something other singers like Karyn Crisis and Jessicka Adams manage to accomplish without sounding like someone’s affixed a bear trap to their soft palate.
Alright, the vocals are pants, but that’s hardly a neck-albatross so long as the accompanying music manages to be worthwhile, but here things are decidedly mixed. Droning, pulsing guitar interspersed with squealing feedback, the throbbing pounding of a single-minded kickdrum, the belching churn of an electronic miasma all combines to create a nightmarish landscape of twisted metal. At times it reminds me of Ministry, Misery Loves Co. and Alec Empire only stripped down, cut into tiny pieces and then reassembled by a psychotic clown. Whereas some of the tracks may be able to lay claim that a distant ancestor at one point mated with something that resembles music, most of Creatura sounds like what I imagine a persistent migraine feels like to a sentient typewriter. “Buco Bianco” for example loops low-end fuzz, the buzz of a sonic drill and what appears to be someone braising ball-bearings on a frying pan for an agonizing six minutes. It’s claustrophobic and invasive but offers no cathartic payoff or deeper transcendence. I’m not opposed to atonal noise provided the mood is right and even enjoy the odd bit of Vverevvolf Grehv and Khanate on occasion, but those bands know how long to hold your face against a conveyor belt studded with broken glass before raising it for a moment’s respite. OvO, by contrast, seem to think that “subtlety” and “pacing” is a frivolous distraction belonging to the musical bourgeois.
Not all of Creatura is unpalatable, as the bloodless, detached drum battery embedded in the tracks acts as a welcome ballast, and despite marching to a typical industrial beat, it serves as a minor anchor amidst a swirling and unpredictable sea. What surprised me was that rather than being programmed the drums are performed by Bruno Dorella, the other half of OvO. The man is obviously talented so it’s a shame to hear him funnel his skill into replicating the synthetic percussion of a machine where a more organic approach a la Lightning Bolt would add a bit more color.
It’s hard not to shake the feeling that OvO couldn’t care less whether the music they make is pleasing so long as it is challenging. Having released a steady stream of albums and collaborations over the last fifteen years or so shows there’s a devoted following willing to pony up the cash to have their ears (and their patience) smashed to bits by a very small hammer. After my time spent with Creatura I won’t be counting myself among them.