• Merzbow – Venereology (Relapse Records) Album Review

    Merzbow – Venereology (Relapse Records) Album Review
    Released by: Relapse Records
    Released on: March 1st, 2019.
    Purchase From Amazon

    Japanese noise god Merzbow’s 1995 album Venereology gets reissued (on vinyl for the first time if that matters to you) via Relapse Records, who have opted to include over twenty-minutes of bonus material, making this a reissue worth checking out for fans of Masami Akita’s project, now in its fortieth year of existence!

    The twenty-minute Ananga-Ranga Part 1 opens the album with a barrage of industrial noise, wailing in the high end and pummeling in the low end, bulldozing you with a wall of distortion and feedback. You realize, after listening to only a few seconds of this track, that this album was mixed to sound VERY loud, so know that going in so you don’t blow your ear drums. It is, as abrasive as it is, a remarkably atmospheric track, sounding very much like the soundscape to an early film that David Lynch never made.

    Ananga-Ranga Part 2, the nine-minute successor to the opening assault, is every bit as abrasive and obnoxious and enveloping as the track that came before it. This one isn’t quite as rhythmic, and only Akita knows for sure why it’s titled as a sequel as so much of his material (especially from this era) sort of blends together as this giant wall of noise, but it makes for an interesting and at times unsettling backdrop of sorts.

    Klo Ken Phantasie, at almost nine-and-a-half-minutes, is considerably less intense. That’s not to say this is a mellow track by any stretch, but it’s got more palpable bass and a less assaultive higher end to it, the noise that will likely give you tinnitus if heard at the right volume dialed back just a bit here. It still hits you like a brick to the face though.

    Last Splash sounds a bit less like pure noise and a bit more like industrial music, albeit far from traditional. If nothing else, it’s got a discernable beat anchoring it that the other tracks on this record omit. At just over five-minutes in length it’s also shorter than anything else on the album, which means it is more precise in certain ways that are tough to explain when trying to write about an artist that deals in frequencies more than notes. Slave New Desart, which you can preview below, runs just over six-minutes and it too has an audible beat behind it, but Merzbow just uses that to launch wave after wave of admittedly very frightening noise and looped samples of a crazy man laughing and laughing and laughing. This shit is nightmare fuel.

    TD 3 ends the album proper with seven-and-a-half-minutes of craziness. This track starts off with the sound of an emergency alarm going off, which already puts the listener in a state of nervousness and anxiousness. Once he starts mixing in the ‘noise’ that makes up the bulk of the track, it doesn’t get prettier from there. The rest of the track is a headache-inducing wave of clamor that, the closer you listen to it, proves to be effectively, and I’m sure intentionally, disturbing.

    The bonus material that Relapse has included with this release are Outtrack 1 and Outtrack 2. The first track is a fifteen-minute piece that sounds noticeably rougher than the material that made it onto the record. It’s a swirling, whirlwind of high pitched frequencies and lower end dirge that hits you right in the lower pit of your stomach. The second track, which his just under five-and-a-half-minutes in length, is of similar sound quality and works on the same level as the rest of the material here.

    Merzbow’s stuff can be hard to take, in fact it can be nausea inducing, but when you’re in the right frame of mind for it, it works. The remastering here is solid, never diffusing any of the intensity inherent in the recordings but somehow adding a bit of clarity that you may or may not want. The real appeal to this reissue is the pair of bonus tracks that the record includes. The sound quality isn’t quite as solid but fans of this insanely coarse material will appreciate the soundscapes that have been created here.