Apr 212023

The Swiss noise rock band Asbest have been moving toward the May 19 release of their new album Cyanide in leaps and bounds. Beginning last fall they dropped a single, and then leaped… coming to earth a month later with another one… and then landing with another one a few months later… and another one a few months after that. Each one has been made available digitally, and each one has been an eye-opener.

The most recent of the singles is “Cyanide for Breakfast“. It landed last month. It might be the last single before the album release by A Tree In A Field Records / Czar Of Crickets Productions, but there’s still one more Asbest landing before then — a fascinating video for that same song that we’re presenting today.

The song’s name and its themes require some explanation, and those themes could hardly be more relevant today. For the album as a whole, the themes “condemn the compulsions of modern society: pressure to succeed, self-optimisation, self-exploitation. They explore the question: Is it possible to lead a truly happy existence within a diseased reality without denying oneself or the circumstances? To quote Adorno: Is there a right life in the wrong one?”

Those themes are rooted in the band’s own identity, which is connected to the LGBTQIA+ movement — a movement that’s now under siege, especially here in the U.S., where gay, lesbian, and trans people have become the target (again) of right-wing “culture wars” (as a very recent example, see this AP report of what happened in the Montana legislature just yesterday). With that backdrop, here’s what Asbest say about “Cyanide for Breakfast“:

In CYANIDE FOR BREAKFAST we tried to explore the connection between the requirements of a pathological society and mental health. We feel that an increasing amount of people need to ingest a cocktail of psychotropic drugs to survive everyday life. While we advocate people getting the help they need we feel that this development is treating the symptoms rather than the cause. An while we do not want to encourage suicide in any way we believe that fatalistically accepting the harmful status quo is also a way of giving up and denying yourself a life that is worth living.

You can see the lyrics to the song at Bandcamp. At the same place, you can see this Asbest synopsis of them:

The day starts with a pleasant slow dance in 6/8 metre. Some pills for a healthy breakfast, a nice dose of narcissism and a few self-optimisation hacks. The mantra goes: “A healthy meal consists of pills, our value is defined by our labour. Narcissism, a way of life. Optimise yourself away.“ In this cynical grotesque, Asbest give up during breakfast and swallow a metaphorical cyanide pill.

Needless to say, it’s not a cheerful song (any cheeriness in these circumstances would be phony), but it packs a punch on multiple levels that you can’t duck. It does begin in a kind of woozy yet methodical manner, like facing another sleep-deprived day of work. The riffing is heavy and bleak, and the rhythm section slug with visceral power. The sung vocals are somehow both grim and tormented.

You can feel the despair building as the guitars seethe and rake and the drums clobber. The guitars also glitter when the drums vanish, like a moment of gloomy introspection, bringing a daunting realization. And from there the music builds into a harrowing storm — the drums becoming more manic, the guitars beginning to sear in agony, the vocals cracking under the strain — and then collapses in a dismal denouement.

The video is a fascinating metaphor for the song’s themes… and that’s the only preview of it we’ll provide.

Robyn Trachsel – Vocals, Guitar
Judith Breitinger – Vocals, Bass
Jonas Häne – Drums

As noted, the album will be released on May 19th in vinyl editions, and you can check out the options and find more info about the music and the band via the links below. After the links we’re also including videos and streams of the other singles we mentioned at the outset — “Autodigestion”, “Dystopium“, and “Hubris“.




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