I’m a glass-half-full kind of guy, so I prefer to believe that, in person, Portland’s Elitist aren’t as inhumanly corrosive as their music. Yes, they say, “Our fucking lives ended when we started this band”, but they probably love their parents. Unless they killed them and ate their fingers like french fries.
Despite the fact that the music sounds like helpless bodies being dragged through a trough of broken glass and then dumped in a pit of salt so the lacerations will burn like a motherfucker before Elitist pee on them, they’re probably loyal friends and gentle lovers.
The jagged slurry of metallic slag that flows through these songs surely doesn’t flow through the veins of the band members. The tortured screams and ghastly howls in the music surely don’t come from the bleeding throats of caged demons within their bodies. If you were having a beer with Elitist, they wouldn’t really go for your throat like famished hyenas. They’d probably even buy a round.
This is what I prefer to believe — but after listening a few times to the band’s 2011 Season of Mist album, Fear In A Handful of Dust, I wouldn’t bet on any of it.
Most of the time, the music moves at the speed of a drunk driver trying to escape his wrecked, burning vehicle despite having lost both legs in the impact. It’s usually a slow crawl, but there’s a lot of frantic activity nonetheless.
The guitars and bass are distorted within an inch of their tortured lives, and the songs are loaded with feedback — all the better to tear skulls apart without finesse or anesthesia. Heavy fuzz, slamming or massively groaning chords, beefy bass, tremolo needling, and psychedelic swarming: these are among the implements of a wrecking machine that’s utterly heartless and wholly engulfing.
Mixing longer black-hole implosions with shorter blasts of barely controlled grind, Elitist keep the listener off-balance and uncomfortable. “Slowly Fucked and Force Fed” is doom-drenched sludge from start to finish, “Bound and Bent” is a driving blaster, and “Watch As They Worship, Yet Be Silent” is nothing but unstructured noise, without drums or rhythms but with an assortment of demented shrieks that would permanently traumatize the young or frail.
But most songs are a mix of tempos, molasses-drip sludge combining with cauterizing grind and whatever speed best captures the sensation of being stretched on the rack at maximum agony. Similarly, the vocal tone is also a mix, ranging within most songs from completely unhinged shrieks and howls to death metal roars, and every utterance is an expression of pain or vitriol.
Trying to categorize the music within well-accepted genre classifications is a fool’s errand. It harnesses elements of black metal, death metal, sludge, doom, grind, and some kind of experimental shoegaze for the undead. It’s the kind of music I’d recommend to fans of Portal, Mitochondrion, and 1349, not because Elitist sound quite like any of those bands, but because the music triggers a similar register on the Richter scale of extremity and has a similar disdain for you and your pathetic lives.
I like the way JGD at The Living Doorway ended his review (and it’s his review that first got me interested in this band): “Elitist are coming to collect all of our teeth whether we want em’ to or not.”
Here are two tracks from Fear In A Handful of Dust:
“Burning the Unspoken Gospel”
“Ivory Shavings of the Tools Unknown”
The album is available on iTunes and Amazon mp3, and in hard-copy form from distros you can find via these Elitist links: