Vocalist and rhythm guitarist Matt Oakes of Boston’s Phantom Glue explains: “Worker-less Mill refers to a building that begins to take on the qualities of a giant living entity. It perceives itself as the messianic offspring of the Sumerian goddess Inanna. More broadly it’s about objects taking on living qualities. And the history of graven imagery and idols.”
If this explanation of the concept behind the song you’re about to hear peaks your interest, there’s more where that came from, because through the course of Phantom Glue’s releases to date, the band have been building a mythological occult history of the Americas (and an apocalyptic future). Their new album is named 776, and it “explores an unwritten history of the United States a millennium before the signing of the Declaration of Independence”.
As a lifelong fan of science fiction and fantasy (including alternate histories), I was immediately intrigued after reading these descriptions of 776, before hearing a single note — and then held my breath waiting to find out if the music would be as interesting. A sigh of relief soon followed.
Guitarist Mike Gowell describes the music in “A Worker-less Mill” this way: “The music started off as a nod to Morbid Angel riffing but ended up sounding pretty different once the drum patterns were put over it. The ending with all the noise was just messing around in the studio with an out-of-tune piano that Alec (Rodriguez – engineer) threw a bunch of effects on as well as laying a bunch of feedback overdubs on top.”
The song does immediately sound like the busy workings of an industrial factory run amok, with rapid pneumatic riffing and pile-driving hammer blows, like a giant die-stamp trying to punch holes through an anvil. With the raw, explosive sounds of the vocals added to the mix, the music becomes single-minded in its inhuman destructiveness, a mix of disorienting squalls and pulverizing grooves.
In time, the hammering of the bass becomes more prominent and a looping drum rhythm surfaces, the music pounding away with inhuman intent, laced with strange, dissonant notes and discomforting guitar buzzing. At the end, the song becomes even more eerie and unsettling, prodding your mind to generate its own psychedelic fantasies about what is happening in this hellish instrumentality.
Dark and deranged, this powerhouse of a song is indeed every bit as interesting as the concept that lies behind it.
776 will be released by Negative Fun Records on May 13, and you can pre-order it here on Bandcamp (where you can also check out the album’s opening track, “Ion Cloud”):