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Matterhorn

Vol. 1 The Earth Began Without Man...

(Thinker Thought; US: 4 Jan 2011; UK: 4 Jan 2011)

Rock 'n' roll apocalypse

You’ve got to love a metal band that takes as its theme the destruction of the human species through volcanic eruption. Well okay, maybe ‘love’ isn’t the right word. Certainly, though, there’s a conceptual element here that raises Matterhorn’s Vol. 1: The World Began Without Man… above some of its sillier counterparts, and it deserves acknowledgment.


Not that the concept is brought out through the lyrics, because there aren’t any, apart from occasional snatches of real-life TV commentary. It’s the album’s liner notes that make it clear that the first song, “Long Valley Caldera, 8:32 a.m.”, is about the eruption of a volcano that spews “6700 cubic kilometers” of ash. From there, as you might imagine, things only get worse. By the time we reach the final song, “99942 Apophis”, we are dealing with “global fire” and “continental molting”. Yikes!


The good news is that the vocabulary of heavy metal—pounding drums, scorching layers of distortion and feedback, chunky rhythms and the occasional bit of nimble-fingered fretwork—is the perfect medium to suggest global apocalypse. Lack of vocals means also a lack of—thank God—cookie-monster growling that passes for singing with so much of the metal fraternity these days. The five songs that make up this 30-minute arc vary in tempo and structure with enough sonic surprises to ensure that the proceedings never get dull. That’s as it should be: the last thing anyone wants from the end of the world is to get bored.

Rating:

DAVID MAINE is a novelist and essayist. His books include The Preservationist (2004), Fallen (2005), The Book of Samson (2006), Monster, 1959 (2008) and An Age of Madness (2012). He has contributed to The Washington Post, Publishers Weekly, Esquire.com and NPR.com, among other outlets. He is a lifelong music obsessive whose interests range from rock to folk to hip-hop to international to blues. He currently lives in western Massachusetts, where he works in human services. Catch up with his blog, The Party Never Stops, at davidmaine.blogspot.com, or become his buddy on Facebook (or Twitter or Google+ or whatever you prefer) to keep up with reviews and other developments.


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