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‘Exorcisms and Psychic Visions' EP by Massasauga

Review

Out at 1800 today was the long awaited EP by Massasauga, ‘Exorcisms and Psychic Visions'  which is also a compendium of most of their recent singles: "Motorbeast" "Psychic Visions", "10-46" & "Switchblade": only last month's "Bury Me Deeper Than The Rest" (which was conceived to pass their time while the EP was being prepared) is not included.

As all four merited their own review on their individual release, it isn't easy to pass further comment on the merits of each song (please do however feel free to refresh your memory as to what I said), but combined into a group, the overall impression is pretty breath taking.

 The band throw heart, soul & the kitchen sink into each song, meaning processing & dealing with them by themselves can just about be within the human capacity. Four in a row however will place considerable demands upon your nervous system: so be warned.

Equally, if you are intending to play the full EP on speakers, you might want to prewarn your housemates & neighbours if you want to reduce the possibilities of shock, medical emergencies etc. Pets too probably need your protection. It's that powerful.

Guitars fuzz & snarl & emulate wild animals. Drums thunder. Trucks attack you. There's murder, threatening behaviour & visitations from beyond. If you want to encapsulate Massasauga in some sort of nutshell, then  ‘Exorcisms and Psychic Visions'  does a perfect job: in fact as an introduction to their way of doing things, you couldn't really wish for anything better.

You can stream the EP from the usual sources, though I'd recommend to die hard fans that going to Bandcamp might be to their advantage……..

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"Bury Me Deeper Than The Rest" by Massasauga

Review

Out today at 8 pm is the new Massasauga single, with the sort of title you have come to expect from this band with a penchant for the darker side of existence: "Bury Me Deeper Than The Rest"

When I reviewed their previous release, the Spielberg inspired "Motorbeast" back in February, I mentioned that that single & its predecessors would meet up on the forthcoming ‘Exorcisms and Psychic Vision'  EP.

That EP is on its promised way, but the band themselves couldn't wait, so wrote this one to exorcise any frustrations they were experiencing in the interim (I'm of the belief that it won't be on the EP itself).

A most curious amalgam of styles & influences, "Bury Me Deeper Than The Rest" is perhaps a bit more of an orthodox blues approach to their characteristic fuzz rock sound and while moody & magnificent in its sombre way, the riffing has a very T Rex feel: imagine if Marc Bolan had joined The Cramps & you're in the right area. However you also have to factor in an ominous & measured tread of doom a la Black Sabbath: yet the whole is actually pretty catchy (well to me at least & I accept that Radio Two isn't about to add it to their playlist any time soon), despite the whole narrative evoking the undertakers carrying the coffin to the gravesite: and perhaps the Grim Reaper accompanying them?

"When I'm gone there's one request,
Bury me deeper than the rest"

they sing, so one can only assume that the corpse has a feeling that he won't be sleeping very quietly given his sins on earth: which are more implied than stated. It also rather suggests that he's not quite a corpse yet & they he's being taken to his own grave in anticipation of his imminent demise. How macabre is that?

One other aspect of their evocation which I often mention but perhaps do not draw enough attention to, is that nearly every time, the band incorporate one sound into the arrangement to reflect the song's meaning: such as the beast sounds last time. On this occasion, the inspiration of the single's tagline "light your cigarette with the last spark of your lighter" is reinforced by the snare drum having been replaced by the sound of the spark from a lighter.

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"Motorbeast" by Massasauga

Review

One of my favourite movies by Steven Spielberg, has always been "Duel": unfortunately as it was his 1971 feature length debut, it has been grievously overshadowed by so much he has created afterwards which is a pity as this one shows how great a director he could be without special effects nor presumably much of a budget. It's a genuinely scary tale of the repeated attempts of the driver of an antiquated truck (whom we never actually see) to drive a car driver off the road on a long cross-USA trip: for reasons which are far from clear. I'm sure I'm far from the only one to know this film (though I guess a lot of Spielberg  fans may not have seen it), yet it's still something of a thrill when our area's greatest fuzz rock duo, Massasauga, use it as the departure point for their new single, out this afternoon, called (appropriately enough)  "Motorbeast".

As the film essentially only portrays the truck as the antagonist without overt reference to the consciousness controlling it, so Conrad Lummus & new drummer Adam Stewart (in his second single for the band) are able to evoke images of a hunt across arid, empty country with a machine chasing down a human quarry.

If this sounds a bit like some sort of robot narrative, all about clinical & futuristic violence, then you don't know Massasauga. This is visceral like all their work: just as the truck in the film is far from cutting edge: it's dirty and past its mechanical prime, so is this story far from cyborgs. The tale the two tell is as much about the fear as about the nature of the threat.

Pretty much all their work is of course about fear: much gothic in form, though not necessarily set in the hours of darkness: "Motorbeast" is about terror ‘neath the burning skies. It echoes the rather Latin tendencies of earlier work like "Bullfighter" and shares with that great single the notion of two very different forces arrayed against each other: one seeking the kill, the other prepared to fight to save itself.

"Motorbeast" is destined for an EP to be named ‘Exorcisms and Psychic Vision' and it will be interesting to see placed in juxtaposition with their other recent tales of fear: "Psychic Visions", "10-46" & "Switchblade": all frightening tales but each very different in its evocation.

"Motorbeast" in fact goes a bit further than these in attempting (successfully) to depict the narrative directly through the music: there are various guitar snarls which while pretty much all part of the Massasauga musical DNA, in this particular instance are designed deliberately to conjure up the mental picture of a carnivorous creature about to pounce & consume, or its rage at not succeeding.

Equally the mood is one of relentlessness (like the truck driver, the Motorbeast once started, marches grimly on without break or need for rest) and a chilling lack of humanity in Conrad's vocals: whatever the motivation of the Motorbeast might be, it clearly doesn't give a damn about the feelings of its prey: it probably doesn't even conceive of what feelings might be.

And you get what you want from a Massasauga song: riffs galore, atmospheric sonic attacks & thunderous drums which like Keith Moon's, carry the tune more than drums are supposed to do.

The other reference point which struck me a little was the similarity in the name of the song to Motörhead: whether that was intentional or not, I don't know I'm afraid, though you do get the same wall of sound, creating in itself an indelible reaction while retaining the clarity of vision of a melodic song within it. You also (at least I hold my hands up to this) get the vicarious thrill from the chase & dare I say enjoy listening to what is someone being pursued on a lethal quest. I probably ought not, but it had that effect on me.

There is (as ever) an excellent video which references the source film at:

 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQ9ET96prM8

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"Psychic Visions" by Massasauga

Review

Way back in the day, Hallowe'en was a rather different sort of festival, a sort of development of the pagan Samhain harvest festival but embracing the memory of the dead. Today it's not just become secularised but heavily commercialised with heavy pumpkin iconography, though in other parts of the world, observances such as the Día de Muertos retain senses of the genuine macabre. It's hard to imagine most Hallowe'en celebrants not freaking out if the dead returned to walk the earth.

Thankfully, Massasauga have decided to inject a renewed sense of the scary back into the day with today's release of  their "Psychic Visions" single. Of course the band habituate such territory all year round: consider if you will their "7 Nights of Terror" earlier this year or their most recent single "10-46"  dealing with the unsolved murder of Artemus Ogletree  (yes, really) in Kansas City in 1935.

The first release to feature new drummer Adam Stewart (and the track has its roots in a jam before he actually joined up properly), the song thankfully avoids pumpkins, ghosts looking like sheets etc and instead heads for the genuinely frightening territory closer to the Día de Muertos and Baron Samedi.

Personally I'd be quaking more than a little in visiting a shaman of the sort cited in the song, let alone submitting to their rituals: taking some hallucinogenic trip to somewhere completely different.  And that somewhere different seems a way further south than Kansas City. If that song had an American Gothic underbelly, then this time we are talking voodoo territory. There is an unsettling quality which may be due to some sort of drug, but there is also a true malevolence lurking in the shadows: a quality which previous Hallowe'en specials such as the "Monster Mash" didn't even begin to channel.

To be fair, there isn't much of the New Orleans musical gumbo in the sound, despite the subject matter: I suppose if you'd sent Black Sabbath to that city in 1968 with an ample supply of the appropriate substances, then you might end up with this sort of end result: a very riff driven, heavy track filtered through some groovy media and with the vocals apparently beamed in from outer space: in fact on reflection, Hawkwind comparisons might also apply a bit. Whatever else you might come up with though, you'd never guess this was a Coventry band..

Massasauga are a unique band who have already not only carved out their own unmistakeable space in our local music scene but even more commendably have managed to forge a trademark sound while still releasing songs which sound different to each other: it's a difficult compromise and a great many, even very successful artists don't always manage to pull it off. It also gives us thankfully one more decent song to play at Hallowe'en: there are so few that it's good to have another option.

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"10-46" by Massasauga

Review

It was back in April when out of their "7 Nights of Terror" competition, Massasauga fans voted the chilling "Switchblade" to be their single. Now they are back with Hallowe'en starting to loom on the radar with another tale to chill us, namely "10-46".

It's interesting, and a sign of the depth of the material they are writing, that this is a brand new song rather than turning to one of other excellent ones which featured in the contest.

Based on a perfectly true story, that of the wonderfully named Artemus Ogletree who was murdered in the room whose number gives the single its title, in the Hotel President in Kansas City in 1935, the song not only tells what it can of a complicated & puzzling unsolved slaying, but perhaps more importantly, tries to capture its atmosphere. For the many details which accompany the case, I refer you to Wikipedia. The cover of the release however is a genuine crime scene photo.

Despite fitting so easily into the band's body of work, "10-46" is in fact something of a watershed release, marking the beginning of a new era being their first recorded professionally in a studio, and the end of another, being the last of this Massasauga configuration. Expect news of a new drummer soon..

The good news is that going into a studio has in no way diminished the power of the band's music and it has emerged as dirty & rough edged as their fans would expect: in fact if anything some aspects of the sound are muddier than previously (presumably reflecting what they were going for in trying to capture the uncertainties and unknown elements of the story): I was grateful for the lyrics provided in the video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICZxL_2j34A

as they were not entirely clear first time without seeing them. The overall sound approaches grunge to some extent as the vocals dip into the stew of anguished noise & hide there from the ominous approach of the Grim Reaper (the continual repetition of "It's Coming" is eerily unsettling). Where the band perhaps differ from the actual history is that they place the events within some much bigger picture: their take on it is one of a much more primeval sense of evil, one which has waited "a thousand years" to slaughter the unfortunate Ogletree. Taken at this level, the more than four minutes of mounting terror reaches new heights of horror: exacerbated by the slow & steady tempo whose brilliant slow build is superbly constructed: anything faster would seriously have diminished the atmospheric impact. Presumably the poor man met his end in some prosaic way which knowing would also remove the power of the narrative: suggesting that he was the victim of some timeless and possibly immortal power makes for a much more gripping one.

Massasauga do seem to be going from strength to strength with each release & for a duo they strike a very effective balance between generating an awful lot of racket with so few instruments with not overdoing it, factoring in the power of tension created by restraint. And beyond all that analysis, the track is simply a very compelling one which is going to stick in your minds & refuse to leave.. which is another macabre story in itself I guess.

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