I’m willing to wager it’s not homemade chocolate chip cookies, or puppies, or a Thank You card that says “Just Because” on the inside of it. Whatever else they’ve got in their vault, we can only assume it’s ugly, drug-addled and given to physical altercations. Seems to be the way it went with these guys.
They were only together for about a decade, but the chaotic legacy of North Carolinian sludge bastards Buzzov*en endures even as no one since has been able to capture quite the same level of fuck you-itude that seemed to come so naturally from vocalist/guitarist Kirk Fisher and the sundry musicians with which he surrounded himself throughout the band’s tenure. With the new Relapse collection, Violence from the Vault (Alternative Tentacles released the career-spanning Welcome to Violence in 2005), there surfaces five tracks recorded with Billy Anderson in 1995 featuring the same lineup as was on the 1994 Sore full-length.
Some version of “Mainline” was previously released on the 1997 The Gospel According… II EP, and “Nod” appeared on a ’96 split with Sourvein, but “Paintake,” “Breed” and “I Never” seem to have been unearthed for the first time. The sound is raw, with plenty of cassette wobble in “Breed” and a general tin-can feeling throughout, but who ever listened to Buzzov*en for the pristine production value? When I’m waist deep in the nearly 16-minute noise/drone/slow-riff/screaming stretch of “Nod,” clarity of sound is the last thing on my mind. Making it out alive is much more of a primary focus.
Basically, you have to approach it knowing you’re hearing archive material, and you’ll be fine. The lineup of Fisher, drummer Ashley Williamson, guitarist Buddy Apostolis and bassist LeDarrell were pissed and potent as ever, and there’s something synaesthestic about listening to a song like “Paintake.” It just smells like grease and stinking dreadlocks. Of course, the band’s trademark samples and tape loops are in play, in each of the tracks, most notably toward the end of “Nod” and at the beginnings of the other songs. This might feel tired now, but remember that Buzzov*en were among those who popularized the technique and that in ’95 it was still a pretty fresh idea. It works in context with the material.
“I Never” barely starts before it’s more than half over; one more example of the band at their most vicious and clearly not giving even the most basic of fucks. Just imagine. If you’ve heard Sore or other records by Buzzov*en, then you know the kind of slicing aural madness they got down with. Now imagine the stuff they didn’t get around to releasing. If maybe they listened back to this material and said, “No way man, that’s too much.” That’s Violence from the Vault.
One assumes it’s a contract thing with Relapse releasing this, but whatever the case, for fans of the band, Violence from the Vault is a few unheard gems from an act who made it seem like all the anger, all the hostility and all the drugs were real. All the time. They pulled it off as few could. If their catalog is going to get built up five posthumous songs at a time, well, alright.
Tags: Buzzov*en, North Carolina, Relapse