We’re premiering the self-titled debut EP of the Montreal band Cell Press on the eve of its release. If we could see your faces when you listen to it, there would be a great temptation to write nothing about the music and just watch your expressions change as all the surprises hit you like battering rams, expressions that might range from joy to panic to spine-tingling fear, and perhaps revulsion too. But since we can’t see you, on we go….
By way of background, Cell Press are a relatively new outfit, coming together only last year, though their members have played in a myriad of punk, metal, and hardcore bands such as The Great Sabatini, Biipiigwan, I Hate Sally, The Chariot, Animal Ethics, Architect, Swarm Of Spheres, and Angles. They took their name from the 2001 Russian prison documentary The Mark Of Cain. If you know that movie, the choice will make some sense when you hear the songs.
Stylistically, the press materials report that Cell Press “play a sort of burly noise-rock that leans more on the hardcore and metal side of the swamp”, and it’s recommended for fans of KEN mode, Unsane, Mastodon, and Keelhaul. The band themselves report: “This EP sorta sums up what we’re about at this particular moment. Genre people might not be satisfied with our lack of adherence to any one sound for too long but we didn’t make these songs for those sorts of people. This might not be metal enough or noise rock enough or sludge enough or whatever, but we’re the kinda guys who get bored real fast, so there’s some channel surfing going on here.”
That there is. The band also say, “This EP sounds crazy”. And it definitely does. The music features riotous, skull-busting drums; growling bass contortions; raucous gouging and blaring riffs that come out abrasively distorted; twisted leads, and unhinged, enraged, throat-ripping screams. All that is thrown into the service of unpredictable songs that provide kaleidoscopic variety and prove to be mad, mauling, and mind-bending — sometimes fiery and frenzied, sometimes cold and brutally destructive, and almost always so viscerally gripping that it makes your whole body want to move (even if some of the movements are spasms).
Here’s another comment by the band: “We are not really trying to find ‘The Formula’. That’s boring to us. We all have plenty of ideas that we want to explore, and it just so happens that this combination of people is going to communicate those ideas in a very aggressive fashion. Some of it isn’t even really musical at all (“My Son Will No The Truth”). But this EP has bundled together 5 pieces that each stands on their own and don’t sound like each other”.
We’re further going to share with you the band’s track-by-track comments, which make for entertaining and informative reading. We’ll tell you that the first four songs hover around the three-minute mark and generally will kick your adrenaline levels up into the red zone and spin your heads all the way around, which makes the nearly 12-minute length of the final track a shocker. Once you reach it you’ll probably also be wondering what the hell a band like this might do with so much time, and whether you’ll still have any tatters of your sanity, or any un-splintered bones, still left by the end.
That long closer does indeed assault a listener’s sanity with a collage of unnerving noise and harrowing wails and yells, even though the incredibly vibrant drumming that’s going on within that maelstrom of madness still manages to seize attention. Other things surface as well, things that have recognizably human origins, unlike most of the sensations in this audio nightmare, but even they don’t give you much to hold onto. At times you may just want to focus on the drumming (which really is remarkable, though it also really is throughout the EP), like a seasick passenger on the deck of a heaving ship, focusing on the horizon in an effort to avoid ruinous nausea. Or maybe you’ll just want to give in, and give up. It does have a perversely mesmerizing effect.
Before we get to the band’s track-by-track commentary, you should know that the EP will be digitally released by the band tomorrow via Bandcamp, and that No Funeral Records and Ancient Temple Recordings are selling a cassette tape of it, which comes with a download code, as well as a tape-and-shirt bundle. The artwork on both were created by Wurmzilla Art.
TAPE (NO FUNERAL):
TAPE (ANCIENT TEMPLE):
And now for the band’s track-by-track comments — you can find them on Facebook here.
1 – Piss Police – We bookended this track with one riff which we play in different ways, as an intro and outro. The middle section was something guitarist Sean Arsenian had demoed at home for a different project. It found a better home with Cell Press. The bridge is a much noisier take on a Jesus Lizard type of riff.
2 – Desert Breath – This is sort of an inverted “Immigrant Song” type of riff, on steroids. The Refrain at the end is hijacked from a Woody Guthrie song.
3 – Blacked Out In Verdun – This song is sort of like a mish-mash of helmet and Keelhaul. The main riff has this elastic tempo thing towards the end of its phrasing that can be hard to achieve together, but its the most rewarding aspect of the song to guitarist Sean Arsenian.
4. Dead At OACI – This was the first song the band wrote together.
5. My Son Will No The Truth – Some folks don’t appreciate the “Filler” type of noise piece that some bands will have, but this track is as important to them as any of the other. They’ll never play it live (impossible to replicate), but they think it’s a really cool piece. “‘My Son Will No The Truth’ began with drummer Mark getting suuuuuper high at the end of the first night of tracking and ripping an 11-minute solo. The next day the band added layers with a kind of rule in play: whoever was tracking could ONLY listen to whatever was tracked last. So each layer was a sort of reaction to the prior layer only. The studio is located next to some train tracks… the train sound at the beginning was captured serendipitously at some point during the 2nd day.”