Do you enjoy life? Do you feel like we are living in a world that is beautiful and rich in spite of the flaws of us humans? Do you look forward to each new day, full of light and possibilities? Well, fuck you, you worthless pile of nothing. We’re all but stains of blood encrusting the crime scene that is society, the festering remnants of everything good a long forgotten memory that is buried deep beneath the tar pits of our dying planet. That is the sentiment Meth. express with Mother of Red Light. Track by track, the dissonant noisecore outfit strips away any and all light and positivity, leaving naught but a smoldering scab of corrosion that lingers underneath the skin. Are you prepared for your spark of hope to be extinguished for good?
With their first full-length, the Chicago band continues a narrative set up by their last EP I Love You, revolving around a man cruelly brainwashed into thinking he’s God. Not that the story has much impact; the vocals are largely too harsh for lyrics to be deciphered, but they ensure that they can be felt. Their primary mode is screams of utterly larynx-decimating intensity, sprinkling confused and maddened half-cleans and guttural layers in where appropriate. The guitars spew dissonance in angular, jagged riffs, the rhythm often making constant side-steps to further disorient the listener. Praise be to the drums in this regard as well; the skin-pounder has a huge range of styles, from sledgehammer blasts to complex, technical fills, to doom-driven dirges.
One of the most common mistakes made by bands aiming for the extreme is going full blast, all the time. Here is where Meth. proves to be a cut above many of their peers. The dizzying assaults are regularly interspersed with quiescence, particularly in the latter half of the album, substituting harsh chords for gloomy atmosphere, with spoken word and sprechsgesang. These serve well to reinforce the creeping dread that pervades the album and keep you on your toes, not allowing for the wall of noise to become too comfortable and familiar. They’re also a solid vehicle for the vocalist to show off his range, as he does anything from the harshest to the softest in music. Through this balancing act, the band manage to stay on the knife’s edge between overly dissonant and overly melodic, finding a middle ground where you never feel lost but never feel comfortable either.
Sometimes the experimentation stretches the tension arc a bit too far, though, particularly in the lengthy closer “The Walls, They Whisper.” Even for a band heavy on dissonant atmosphere like Meth., there is really no reason to cram several minutes of garbled feedback before the last 30 seconds of actual song. It takes away from what is otherwise a perfectly serviceable finale even at 11 minutes in length, and quickly triggers a “let me turn this shit off” response. While effective at leaving the listener feeling unheimlich, especially when infrasound joins the wall of noise, it goes on for far too long to be an asset.
Whereas bands like Nightwish aim for beauty, and bands like Amon Amarth try for a righteous kickass factor, Meth. turn away from such positivity and good vibes, aiming squarely for the darkest, ugliest corners of the human experience. Their chronicle of tortured insanity comes to life through the dissonant riffs, the bleak atmospherics, the throat-ripping screams of madness and despair. By spacing their compositions and introducing tons of variety through calculated songwriting and a range of vocal stylings, the record rarely gets dull. Though not every experiment on here succeeds, particularly the closer that is bloated with unnecessary feedback, Mother of Red Light is a harsh and haunting platter that is sure to satisfy anyone with cravings for the most grimy and hideous music on offer.