Review: Sanford Parker – Lash Back

Sanford Parker has long been a lynchpin of the Chicago metal scene. He’s played in the slow and crushing post-sludge outfit Buried At Sea as well as the psychedelic metal band Minsk. He’s also produced records by Pelican, Voivod, Corrections House, Twilight, Tombs, Valkyrie, Coffinworm, Yob and several others. As one local publication put it, “If it’s heavy and it was recorded in Chicago, there’s a good chance Sanford Parker was at the mixing board.”

Now Parker is going it alone with his first solo album and it’s something of a departure from his metal roots. It’s based in electronics rather than massive drop-tuned guitar riffs but that doesn’t mean it isn’t still as heavy as your waistline after consuming several of those innovative newfangled pizzas with hotdog sausages embedded in the crust.

Parker is certainly not the first man to make the transition from heavy guitar territory to industrial dance music and his bleakly punishing compositions share certain similarities with earlier pioneers such as Kevin Martin (of God, Techno Animal and The Bug), Justin Broadrick’s JK Flesh persona and the industrial dub racket of Nick Bullen’s Scorn.

Lash Back opens in suitably intimidating style with what appears to be the sound of a thundering gale whipping itself against a corrugated rooftop. That’s just the tip of the raucous iceberg however, as frosty, ear-stabbing beats are introduced to the mix followed by miserably brooding synth chords and plenty more metallic clattering. It’s done to quite thrilling effect, somehow simultaneously frantic and static, and would make the perfect soundtrack to a grainy filmic scene in which a robo-Dracula hybrid chased a cyberpunk werewolf through the woods before beating him to death with lead pipe, and certainly not in a soppy, doe-eyed Robert Pattinson kind of way.

With its beats slower and more restrained, ‘Knuckle Crossing’ is a sparser affair. Paranoid power electronics fizz and pop below the surface, a bit like watching The Haxan Cloak perform his glacial imaginary scores while Pharmakon spits at the wall from behind an ostentatious blood-red curtain. As with the music produced by those two artists, it’s spooky and disconcerting but there’s also something strangely comforting about it, like re-watching a horror film you first saw as a child or looking forward to the sweet, worry-obliterating certainty of death.

‘Slow Children’ melds disembodied voices, menacing 80s-horror-flick pulsations, wheezing keyboard chords and Scorn-esque beats. Just after the halfway point, Parker takes it up a notch, increasing the beats, pausing briefly, and then piling them back on again. ‘Low Gaps’, meanwhile, sounds like zombie rattlesnakes are raining through the ceiling while Blanck Mass teaches the Phantom Of The Opera how to modernise his menace with a tableful of contemporary equipment in place of his cobwebbed old organ.

There’s something marginally upbeat and more triumphant about the vibe of ‘Your Feral Blood’, it’s perhaps a little more Escape From New York than Halloween or The Fog per se, although the antisocial noise elements become more amplified as Parker works his way towards its suffocating climax.

As if to ask how much more sonic punishment you can take, Parker saves his most abstract piece for last. The charmingly-titled ‘Sheep Slaughter’ verges on the sadistically nightmarish sounds of noise artists such as Prurient, although it does include quieter, calmer gaps in between the barrages of nastier noises.

Thanks to this metal interloper, electronica just got a whole lot heavier.

Written by JR Moores