Know How To Carry A Whip is Corrections House‘s second album following on from 2013’s unique Last City Zero (both Neurot). Colder, Harder, Bleaker than before, Know How To Carry A Whip takes that what they did before and refines it.
A potent mix of clashing styles hung together with a framework of pounding industrial beats and loops, punctuated with mechanical clanking courtesy of Sanford Parker, leave the listener on the back foot as the rhythm travels down the off-beaten track. This mechanical cacophony brings to mind the factory sounds of the industrial English midlands which famously inspired Black Sabbath and continued with bands like Godflesh of which this shares a sense of aesthetics.
Layers are hammered together disjointedly with crushing and oppressive riffs courtesy of Scott Kelly (Neurosis) and Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), which feels like you could imagine Dälek covering Neurosis’Through Silver In Blood (Relapse) would sound like, whilst also having a similar feel to DHG in the way the styles are shoved together.
Added to this potent mix, Mikey IX Williams (Eyehategod) puts in one of his finest performances to date with his distinctive lyrics and poetry that’s both persuasive and abrasive, a dystopian flow of decadent imagery and sharp-witted wordplay as evidenced on song titles such as ‘Crossing My One Good Finger’ and ‘I Was Never Any Good At Meth’ delivered with fervour of a manic street preacher who’s doing it for his own amusement rather than to save anyone in particular.
This is most notable on the tracks ‘Superglued Tooth’ and ‘Hopeless Moronic’ which contains some Mikey’s more memorable lines, delivered with cold calculated fury and working in tandem with Scott Kelly‘s intoned incantations and reverberating roars: layer upon oppressive layer of jarring discordance and a cold machine-like calculation make this album a step up from their first album.
‘When Push Comes to Shank’ shows more than a smidgen of influence from Joy Division, but with even more despair: love won’t tear you apart it’ll leave you in an alley missing a kidney. The album finishes on the lengthy ‘Burn The Witness’ a bleak meditation on the industrial world grinding to a halt and tearing itself apart with a fury and efficiency, machines drown in a black sludge of despair.
Know How To Carry A Whip sounds like a soundtrack to the end of the world as we know it, and it sounds more relevant with each and every listen.
If you didn’t catch Corrections House on their brief run of US dates, before Mike IX Williams fell ill, and they canceled the remainder of the tour, that’s a real pity. Catching the band in Boston on a dead Sunday night the band played a superb set, oblivious to whether the room had been packed or not. Each member of the collective was laser focused and on point. If Mike IX was feeling ill, his performance showed not an iota of weakness. Just anguished brilliance and passion that he delivers every time he steps on stage. It was interesting to see the band spread out on a decent stage for once, rather than smushed together uncomfortable as I had seen them in the past. Bruce Lamont and Scott Kelly made the most of some extra foot space, thrashing around at times, convulsing in time to riffs and movements. As per usual, Sanford Parker may take his spot at the back of the stage, but his sonic work speaks volumes and is the glue that holds the group together. In addition to jamming cuts off of Last City Zero (Neurot), they played their touching, twisted cover of ‘Cortez The Killer’ by Neil Young. The band promises to spread more discontent with their sophomore release in 2015, as well as more touring, so don’t sleep next time!
Super-groups have become a dime a dozen aspect in the music world, where players from well recognized bands team up to create music in a variety of ways that allegedly differ from their point of origin. Corrections House is that rare project where four personalities brought together spoken word pieces and experimental rock and metal into an experience beyond what many could truly comprehend.
Corrections House features Mike IX Williams (Eyehategod vocalist), Scott Kelly (Neurosis guitarist), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza saxophonist) and Sanford Parker (Minsk bassist/noted producer who handles keyboards and extra percussion). Their live set consists of their entire Last City Zero CD, along with “Hoax The System”, which closed the set.
The foursome had an interesting set up, as Williams’ lyrics came from his book Cancer As A Social Activity, as he recited lines from it in between songs. The show operated as part experimental metal show and part spoken word set, which blended well and his words were quite powerful yet grim. Lamont and Kelly both traded vocal lines at times with Williams, adding to their atmospheric vibe to their sound. Plus Parker playing the multi-instrumentalist role switching from keyboards to percussion gave them a cold industrial-esque vibe on top of their already darker overtone.
Despite only having a limited amount of material, Corrections House still managed to resurrect a powerful live show and left quite an impression. The four members bring a lot to their overall sound and made it quite the interesting experience. Hopefully this won’t be the end and future material is in the works, either musically or through future writings by Williams or any of the other members. This is something fans of dark, experimental music should not miss as it is unknown how often they will be bringing Corrections House onto the live circuit.
Corrections House is a super group of sorts, bringing together five creative minds into project that evolved in front of the public’s eyes and ears. Featuring Scott Kelly (Neurosis), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Mike Williams (Eyehategod) and Sanford Parker (Minsk), they quickly evolved their experimental sound into this powerhouse project and took the world by storm.
Lamont was vague about how the band moniker (as well as many other specific points about the band’s overall message and vision), due to their Minister of Propaganda, Seward Fairbury, being missing in action at the time of the interview. Lamont said Fairbury is the spokesperson of the band but could comment further on his involvement.
As for as what is known about Corrections House, they made a huge splash into the world with a brief North American tour in 2013 and an underground buzz grew.
“I think close to a year,” explained Lamont, about how quickly Corrections House came together. “It evolved into a band out of some previous collaborative efforts. Scott Kelly and myself collaborated. We’ve done some shows together as well – his solo and my solo stuff. Mike (Williams) and I have also collaborated a number of times, some noise and experimental works. We discussed to doing a tour and doing a collaborative effort at the end. Sanford (Parker) got mix as well and said why don’t we write some songs and start a band. So we did and went on the road for three weeks in January and February of 2013 with three songs recorded. We did some solo sets which all merged into one thing. Then the collaborative works at the end – that was it. Then it blossomed from there.
As of interview time, Corrections House has done one North American tour of twenty or so dates and a couple of one off shows in Chicago prior to their debut European tour.
“We did one three week tour. It was twenty plus shows,” said Lamont. “We are doing a European run when our record comes out. It’s twenty shows when we’re there. Then we have a West Coast run in January, and then we’re going back to Europe in January. We definitely have enough shows under our belts – definitely comfortable in the live setting.
He explained how they make the set list work with a minimal number of songs. “We were interweaving ourselves in and out of each other’s stuff. The set would begin with Sanford and Scott (Kelly), and then I would come in, and then Mike would do something. Then we would go in and out of stuff, which is the basis of a lot of the recordings of the record.
They released their debut full length Last City Zero (Sargent House), amidst a strong buzz in the underground music scene, where fans as well as the press were raving with anticipation over the release. Despite the hype, Lamont claims this never influenced a second of Corrections House and their decisions on how to operate this project.
“No. I could speak for all of us and none of us think like that. It was something we wanted to do. We love each other and working together is satisfaction enough. As far as there being reaction to it at all, obviously it’s nice that there’s positive reaction but there was never a thought about it.”
The lyrics behind Last City Zero works like poetry in motion, and the members of Corrections House creating a piece of musical works that went beyond anyone’s expectations. Inspired by writings taken from his book, it took on a life of its own and created a work of art.
“Like it says in the liner notes of the recording, it said it was either taken from or inspired by Mike’s book, Cancer As a Social Activity, a few years back and went from there,”
“Things were written with that in mind. Everybody had their hands in that kind of stuff. Majority of it is Mike. He’s an amazing lyricist. His spoken word stuff – you get a sense of it in couple of the songs. He did “Last City Zero”, which is the second to last piece which he does a spoken word thing. When we play live, we would change it up and do different pieces every night. His choice of words is excellent. Normally I’m not so critical of it because it’s been done so often and poorly. I could say every night the three of us watching him is captivating by what he’s saying and the way he articulates his words. It wasn’t just us who felt this way. The crowd was pin drop quiet. They were hanging on every word. The guy’s the real deal. It’s amazing what he could come up with.”
Vocals were also a collaborative effort. Even though Williams is the main voice in Corrections House, Kelly and Lamont also take part in the vocal mix- “We all sing. Mike sings the majority of the vocals. The three of us – me, Mike and Scott – Sanford does some backing stuff, but Mike sings not all of it but a good amount. It’s like the song ‘Serve Or Survive’, the first song on the record – Scott starts, then me and Mike. Then we go back and forth.”
Musically, each member has its unique styles from their individual bands but found a medium into creating Corrections House’s dark, experimental sound.
“It’s still a collaborative effort. It was still all of us working with each other. In various situations, we recorded in multiple studios. Sometimes at the same time and sometimes not, but we were able to bring it together. Sanford is not only a member of the band but he’s also the main engineer of the band. He was there or bringing things together and making it cohesive. The base of all the writing was already there, but he pulled it all together. Having the engineer one of the creative entities makes things a lot easier.”
Lamont’s saxophone sounds do shine through on the record and once again his role shines through in Corrections House. He speaks about his background and his writing style:
“I trained in my youth. Then I gave up for a while, and then I picked it back up 15 or 16 years ago. I had some formal training, like a one on one basis. But I do have that training and can read music, but I didn’t intend on becoming a jazz player. I do have interest in other music besides that – heavier stuff, experimental music, noise and soundscape. I started tinkering with the horn and electronic by manipulating sound and looping pedals. I’m into that kind of stuff. It’s a lifelong challenge trying to do something different or taking a different approach or not settling and getting comfortable with one idea or style. I try to take in as much as possible. I listen to a ton of different styles of music, internalize all of that and somehow seep into the creative juices – keeping the mind open to new possibilities.”
Corrections House is embarking on their debut European tour in December. Fans there should be expecting quite the experience, and will be hearing much of Last City Zero live. Lamont explained:
“We’re going to play the majority of the record. We may have some open-endedness, more like the first tour we did. We always like to keep the audience and ourselves on our toes. We may have some improvisational moments. We’ll see where it takes us. Mostly stuff off the record and a song off our last seven inch – that’s basically what you can expect.”
That word alone conjures up many strong opinions depending upon who is in it and what we believe they are in it for. But there is one thing most fans can agree on. Known musicians from different groups who decide to embark on a project together should represent the best of what those individuals bring to their “home” bands. This ideally combines into a mind-bending experience in which we get to hear what those same bands may force those musicians to shelve, rein in, or repress.
Needless to say most of these blended projects are either too trendy, too lackluster, ego-fueled, or seem to be songs not good enough to make the cut in the musicians’ main groups. Sometimes the combination of people just doesn’t work, or the overall sound is so far from some of the members’ usual sound that they may as well not be involved.
I am very pleased to say that Corrections House nails it. Not only should most folks know at least two of the members once heard, the lesser known members bring enough to the party to make this release even more exciting and intriguing. The Corrections House lineup is Neurosis‘ Scott Kelly, Eyehategod‘s Mike IX Williams, über producer/Minsk/Buried at Sea‘s Sanford Parker, and Yakuza‘s Bruce Lamont. These are four people you might see drinking together at some European festival, but never attempting to blend their unique sounds together without it sounding like a train wreck. However, this works, and it works brilliantly.
Corrections House had released the Hoax The System/Grin With a Purpose EP/single earlier, but that really just hinted at what was to come. Curiously, neither of those songs are on this full-length, Last City Zero (Neurot), which is just a sonic immersion. There is nothing one-dimensional about this group or their music. It is engrossing, never allowing you to get comfortable with a tempo, a style or an approach. The songs are great and each one is its own bird without losing overall cohesiveness. This is achieved without Kelly, Williams or Lamont straying too far from what marks them musically, but giving them a type of musical space where they can do their thing and then some without forcing it. Kelly‘s screams still cut to the bone, but his guitar playing remains utilitarian, showing a tasteful restraint when he could have easily made too much of being the only guitarist. Williams voice is unmistakable, but here he shows more of his poetic side. Lamont‘s saxophone seems to appear exactly where it should, even though this is the last instrument you would expect here. What ties this all together is the keyboard/electronics work of Parker, whose sonic landscaping appears to be the basis from which of a lot this well seems to spring. Each member is flexing his maturity and confidence in what he does, and it sounds so natural that it’s almost unfair such artfully crafted, yet deliberately unsettling music is their first release together.
Standouts include the opener ‘Serve or Survive’, with starts out with a very Neurosis feel at first, but twists into something different; ‘Party Leg and Three Fingers’ has a very cool swerve to it; ‘Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill’ has an almost dance-y Ministry bent, with Williams citing poetry in the middle break. Williams‘ poetry is the focus of the title track, which features a beautiful, minimalist guitar melody as a backdrop.
Like their main bands, there is no relegating this music to the background. It is so insidious, stark and sure of itself that it righteously demands your full attention. Corrections House has much more depth than labels such as “Doom” or “Experimental” could ever justify. This review is prejudiced by the fact that I was lucky enough to catch them live during a stop in Atlanta, where the experience was that much more intense and suspenseful. Not only are these men masters of their own individual sounds, they have managed to create something together that is bigger than themselves. And that is a “Supergroup” that gets it right.