Magnum Carnage’s “More Unreal than a Box of Precious Metal and Radioactive Ore” is an incredibly nostalgic record for me. Spinning this record takes me right back to the dim glow of my room in high school, as I spent hours on the internet trying to explore a yet-uncharted terrain through the vast world of extreme metal. At the time, I thought I had it all figured out – having spent hours on forums trying to understand the differences between various sub- and sub-sub-genres, I thought for sure I could pick a band out of a hat and have it suit my tastes exactly. Then I came across bands like Sigh and Fleurety, which threw my understanding for a loop, shocking my ears with weird sounds, quirky songwriting and occasionally, a sense of humor. This latest Magnum Carnage release, while bearing many sonic differences from “first wave” AGM like the aforementioned bands, shares a lot of intangible similarities to these groups, treating the concept of avant-garde not as an established formula but as a call to unbridled experimentation. What this does mean is that occasionally the experimentation doesn’t work as planned – but the album, throughout its hour-plus length, is a consistently interesting listen.
Currently, Magnum Carnage exists as a one-man band from Honolulu, with all instruments, vocals and programming done by founder Kai Laigo – with two guest guitar solos here and there for good measure. For all its eclecticism, the album seems to have a unified vision. Much of the album’s links to metal are rooted in tight black and thrash metal passages, with a bit of dissonant shredding thrown in for good measure. What brings these tracks to life, in my opinion, is the tight drum programming, the unconventional synth timbres and the vocal approach – sometimes these elements recall Depeche Mode, other times some severe, cyberpunk approach to RnB by way of death metal. (This is probably the first metal release I’ve ever heard to prominently feature Autotune as a compositional tool). Try Buick ’88 to hear what could be a slowly-building 80’s movie theme suddenly transition into a shout-along chorus that is almost, dare I say, catchy. Or Suitcase Nuke, for a teeming, dissonant synth intro that transforms into a plodding, extremely brutal tune that showcases Kai’s enjoyable harsh vocals as well as out-doing Lil’ Wayne at his own game with some Autotune toward the end. Night of the Chupacabra showcases some of the weirdest material the album has to offer, providing not-quite choral vocals over a flowing, dissonant black metal passage, before turning into what could be a hip-hop beat of strummed acoustic guitar and whispered vocals.
I wonder what earlier Magnum Carnage releases sounded like, when the group was a full band. Here, Laigo seems to be fully aware of the infinite possibilities one person can realize with digital recording software and some obvious musical talent. What this means is that occasionally, the songwriting is too busy for the mix, and certain elements are lost to most average sound setups. But this usually makes for a fresh listen – drum programming is not always limited to “realistic” standards and timbres, and synths, guitars and vocal melodies don’t resort to the normal melodic and harmonic standards of much metal of this type. You also don’t get the usual, highly-processed sheen of most solo-releases – Laigo seems, on occasion, to settle for an imprecise approach that really inflates the texture of the songs, rather than pinning each part down note-by-note. In “Temple of Doom,” he says “I don’t care if it’s out of tune, I don’t care if it’s out of time,” and this approach works quite well for most of this release, making even a highly digital, processed release such as this sound organic and natural. The album is so densely packed with brilliant ideas that it is somewhat exhausting to listen to in one sitting – but to me, the kind of songwriting here, fusing a Zappa-like sense of humor with serious musicianship, is the heart of the darkness that is avant-garde metal.
Avantgenre: Self-Aware Biomechanika Salvage Metal
Origin: United States (Honolulu)
Official site: http://www.Magnum Carnage’s “More Unreal than a Box of Precious Metal and Rmyspace.com/magnumcarnage
Review online since: 16.09.2009 / 06:43:41
01 – Titanium Apocalypse
02 – Drowning In Feces/Death (The Slow Process)
03 – Suitcase Nuke
04 – Night Of The Chupacabra
05 – Divine Comedy Pt. 1 – Damn This Age!
06 – Demon City Honolulu
07 – The Wolf
08 – The Ballad Of Brian Wells
09 – Platinum Hell Tour
10 – Temple Of Doom
11 – Depraved Fantasy
12 – No Fear Pt. 2 – Speed Vs. Stupidity
13 – No Fear Pt. 3 – Xmas Fight Song
14 – Gold
15 – Bronze
16 – Silver
17 – Plutonium (Awesome Song!!)
18 – Buick ’88
19 – Video Games Of The Gods
20 – Grain Reper
21 – 2012
22 – Nightmarish Full-Scale War