. issue X : viii .

by barathron

. artist : self-corruption .
. album : history of clowns .
. year : 2012 .
. label : grindcore karaoke .
. grade : b plus .

History of Clowns

Self-Corruption’s History of Clowns is a recent grindcore effort that won’t disappoint. With brutal riffing and a barrage of cries, Clowns is a temperamental success, though in the traditional sense — a relief these days, where sounds are basted into appetitivity. Fortunately, there’s nothing tuneful, just a grindcore outfit down-to-business, even when they do break the mold. The fetid keyboard runs in “Mouthbreather” are mildewed and corrupt, keys all askance, surely, like the plastic incisors in arcade shootouts for pre-pre-teens. “Drop Out Do Nangs” is nail-on-chalkboard ambient rain — assuredly disreputable. Punks. The 90’s-mod of “Silence” disintegrates as Self-Corruption claw their way out of the trench. “Keep Calm And Carry On” fluently runs bass and cymbals under the chorus in a phasic, mathy mode. And the too-clean riffing of “Sickle Cell” evokes classic punk than grindcore — it’s not disagreeable, though a bit pastiche. Otherwise, History of Clowns is largely run-of-the-mill, though well-executed.

Vocals are shrill and incisive (re: Karel Hlaváček’s “Exile”); guitar-and-bass are staunch rather than showy, but proficient rather than scrummy; and the drums are intense and factorial — they runneth over — though scarcely imaginative. The authenticity of History rests in its impeccable tempo shifts: roughly every 15 seconds, the listener’s bearings are wiped again. Though sometimes the mere addition or subtraction of an instrument (with a certain pace) alters the tempo experience without a complete compositional severance (as when the guitar-and-drums hammering of “Ashphalt” is relieved with measured arena sweeps), most frequently, the change is utter and abrupt, and often lasting just as long as the listener needed to reorient. “On Flags,” the shortest composition (0:30) and “Keep Calm And Carry On,” by far the longest (at 4:22) are the choicest examples of compositional restlessness, though “On Flags” could be split into two, and “Keep Calm” grows through its branching, incorporating new elements as it goes (e.g. the oi calls, that nifty chorus instro).

So what’s good to hear? Well, nothing; and there’s even nothing for show. The album art is a grotesque portrait of a horde of clowns whose makeup drips like their faces melting: average people, sporting bowl-haircuts, comb-overs and bangs, aged before their time, and unhappy. There’s also a few severed limbs, and, impolitely, a pig. This is the ‘after’ picture, one supposes — invite this ‘clown’ to your party and you’ll feel like they look.

by Brittany Tracy