After a brief foray into familiar waters courtesy of Shotgun Sawyer’s Led Zeppelin riffing, I’m taking a turn in murkier environs once again by visiting Australian industrial mavens Kollaps. If Kollaps are interested in imitating any band, it’s Author & Punisher. Many of their instruments—er, implements—are primitive handmade devices: scrap metal, springs, and other industrial waste. Augmenting this cacophony are harsh percussion, periodic bass and guitar noise, and blistering, distorted vocalizations, all akin to the noisiest moments of Swans records. I love both of those bands, so despite GardensTale mocking me in the break room for having to settle for this album after I tried to steal his Ruff Majik review, I came into Mechanical Christ with slightly high hopes.
“Ankara” is a short introductory number. Throbbing subterranean booms couple with brief blasts of noise, and some sort of odd female voiceover that I’m sure I’ve heard before but can’t quite place establish a truly evil feeling to the album. “Crucify” is longer, and a bit like that industrial/noise version of the off-Broadway show Stomp, but completely insane, with Wade Black’s hellish, distorted vocals screaming at us throughout. The title track is epic in length, menacing as hell as it opens with a plodding percussive pounding and sinister vocals. Odd ambient ticks, squelches, and noises, along with sudden screams, amps up the horrific intensity to a pleasurable degree. There’s so much potential in this song, the feeling it evokes, the sounds used, it’s eerie as hell, but it’s the same at the 8:49 mark as it was when it started. Like a noisy, industrial Sunn O))), but less interesting.1
That’s the problem for all of these songs. Their arrangements are static. Each song has a feeling, or theme, and Kollaps can’t move beyond the initial motif they are presenting. This kind of music is ripe with potential when it comes to arrangements and movement, but nothing happens here. This even makes it hard to pick out a favorite track. In this case, I go with the opening number, “Ankara,” but mostly because it’s the shortest song, and thus doesn’t wear out its welcome. “Love is a War” closes the album out with an acoustic guitar, and is thus perhaps the most conventional-sounding track. It’s also the only song that comes close to having an arrangement, as it gradually grows in percussive strength while Black complements his sedate “love is a war” lyric with anguished shrieks towards the end.
If Kollaps don’t yet have the dynamics of a song down pat, they’ve certainly got the sounds dialled in for the effect they’re going for. The subsonic low end of some of the instruments, the torn-speaker distortion present on the vocals and even on the reverb of instruments; it’s all a perfect mix, full of sinister threat and almost-boiling rage. The clinical precision of Author & Punisher’s instruments is replaced here with an almost animal, elemental aggression.
I can’t understand the lyrics, but the band says Mechanical Christ is a “journey into the desperation and lack of resolve that is… at the very heart of the human condition.” The music deftly conveys this mood. This is music that makes one want to scream at concrete walls, to pull your hair out in anguish and futility. Unfortunately, Kollaps don’t take these songs to the next level by imbuing them with some momentum, some progression—anything to give the songs an impetus, to drag us to a conclusion. There is a basis for something amazing in these songs, but that seed needs to grow. Hopefully that happens on their next record.