(As part of our week-long series of new reviews by DGR, today we bring you his write-up on the debut album by Keratoconus.)
Few things in the world make me happier than getting to run ridiculous cover art on the NCS frontpage for a few days that will at the very least make someone scrolling along the page do a double-take. It was one of the reasons I enjoyed reviewing GenocideGenerator’s 2013 release this year, because aside from the music, the knowledge that the artwork would be going on the frontpage was enough to carry me on cloud nine for a couple of days. Thus, we find ourselves with Keratoconus‘ big ol’ blotch of blue for its new disc Inane Living Conditions splattered all over our canvas of red and skulls that make up the NCS page.
We found Keratoconus, a one-man project run by one Sam A. Mudd based in the UK, after the main man behind it reached out to us on our Facebook page, describing the music as something of a mixture of death metal and grind, while also having a random smattering of electronics throughout. Which, if anything will go to show you that we do notice the folks posting on our FB page — we just get backlogged super-quick, but we do give everyone a chance. In the case of Keratoconus, the project is very interesting, but if discovering it accomplishes nothing else, at least it has provided me with the joy of putting that artwork up on the front page.
Inane Living Conditions is the first release that S.A. Mudd (as most of his accounts go by) has put out underneath the Keratoconus name, a release that has slowly been in the works over four years and has gone through constant reboots and different changes. This is going to sound like Greek to a lot of you but upon listening to it, the first thing it reminded me of was the British flip-side of the coin to Brandon Duncan’s The Sequence Of Prime project and its album -Inter. Both discs are one man-releases that at the easiest you could probably describe as very “On edge” — like the person behind it was slowly losing his mind and decided to scream about it over a bunch of bouncing guitars and hammering drums.
Inane Living Conditions ratchets it up a little bit by going heavy on the death metal side of things as well as having a hefty grind influence pervasive in its numerous short songs. There’s also a little bit of love for interspersing random movie clips throughout the songs, which a lot of one-man solo projects like to do, especially to add context to their songs. My favorite is the one that pops up in the forty-seven-second-long smashing drum fest and guitar destruction that is “Health Drink”. It closes with this random-ass out-of-the-blue, “The fuck’s your problem?!”. Although, I also have a lot of love for the closer of “Throbbing Nerves”‘ random blast section and its, “This was a terrible idea”.
In fact, you could probably view “Health Drink” as something of a shift in mood on Inane Living Conditions, because the songs after it just get increasingly more violent. “Exploding Radiators…Playgrounds Ablaze” is actually a heavy as hell song, one that makes me want to throw stuff all over the room mid-rock-out. Most of Keratoconus’ Inane Living Conditions moves at hyper-speed as well, with some angular and chunk guitar work to keep things going. It’s just that there is this creeping sort of eeriness to the music as it grows into an angrier and angrier beast as the album moves along. It fits in well with making us think that the protagonist of the album is slowly losing his shit…and if not, it’s still a great excuse to scream more and more through the crushing back half of the release. The album opening with a YouTube/flash glitch (which I’ve actually witnessed myself, it’s an intense feedback loop) is a really great choice, especially with what follows.
If there is one thing that I have to bring up that bothered me about Inane Living Conditions throughout my multiple spins it’s that the album seems like it was mixed awfully quiet. Not a dynamics sort of thing, just that the general volume of it seems down a bit compared to most music, and because of that, unless you have it up super-loud, then Inane Living Conditions may actually seem a little flat. I’ve checked across multiple computers and Bandcamp downloads, and it just seems like a somewhat quiet release, an oddity in the world of metal. Considering this is Mudd’s first release, we can likely chalk it up to being a learning experience. It’s just that there’s actually some interesting stuff going on between the lines that gets lost unless you have the volume way up.
As a first shot, Inane Living Conditions is an odd, mutated beast. It has a lot of blasting fury to it, which is good for being a heavy metal release, but it probably isn’t the most approachable thing you’ll cross paths with all day. Keratoconus feels kind of feral, like it doesn’t quite trust humans yet, and so musically it spends much of its first release lashing out against anything and everything it can — and it does so in any way it can. Can it hit you with jarring feedback noise for the back half of the song? You better fucking believe it’s going to. The drumwork is so machinelike and precise that it almost feels like being shot at with a semi-auto machine-gun. You experience the joy of hiding behind a wall as it slowly disintegrates your cover.
It’s an album of shrieking madness that passes by fairly quickly, so it’s worth a recommend on that front alone. The fact that it’s been “name your own price” is even better, because at free, even as a first shot this thing becomes worth a grab. However, I must close by admonishing Mr. Mudd for having the Bandcamp release end out with “Endtube”, which is just him screaming. I keep forgetting to delete Devin Townsend’s last track on Ocean Machine off my Ipod because it did the same thing, and now I can’t ever fall asleep on shuffle because I run the double-risk of being awakened by some random prick screaming. Shame on you. That said, if you’re a fan of the weird and could use some super-fast metal right now, Inane Living Conditions has you covered.