. artist : syndicate .
. album : appetite for destruction .
. year : 1996 .
. label : bloody fist .
. grade : a minus .
Appetite for Destruction was one of the earliest releases on legendary electronic hardcore label Bloody Fist. It combines breakcore and jungle with 8-bit sounds, horror soundtracks and hip-hop samples in a harsh, sleek slidewalk. It’s a chain-and-roller conveyor with flexion, commentary, and Splet-esque shine. Above all, it posits a kind of hawkishness in order to reprehend it, and, therefore, it’s two-for-one: thrill and censure.
The skanking, unconventional “Suicide” is too opulent but made to work, a nice gesture to the interpretable humanity of even taped electronic music or the liasons with dramatic ironies humans seem to need — each time this sequence comes around, the listener wonders, naturally, if Syndicate can pull it off. The incongruity of its delicate metronomic beats, fireside crackle and a vibe all floral curtains and sympathy cards is made sinister by the sample: “I’m the resurrector, be my sacrifice / Commit suicide and I’ll bring ya back to life.” Its organ tones create a sanctified and fatal cloister. “Nightmare V3” uses, of course, a door-defying beat, shallow and punchy, with horror strings that feel positively orchestral in comparison. It plays a double-dutch at the end; it shouldn’t be possible to give the linear run-around, but here it is. With an increasingly uncaring minor key and a B-movie exhalation (“Oh my goodddddd”) to close, Syndicate parodies their own hobbyism. “Live ‘N Love” begins with a scratchy, foreboding tremble, then buds a dub sample that’s articulated to imitate a qawwal with an optimistic tenor. The as-advertised “square wave kick drums” are not withheld — like a crowd of lemmings on a too-small platform, they runneth over. And just as with “Suicide,” “Love” becomes poesy in a tuneful resolution, a parlour room embrace or wedding dance of fond containment. “Appetite for Destruction” is a campy and fearsome record standout because it serves so well as an opener and lead in … its routine is exquisite and it sticks its landing. It’s not about “appetite” — it’s about gluttonous action, and Syndicate acknowledges what N.W.A. didn’t, using onomatopoeic approaches (e.g. illustrating, sonically, its “bang”) and a befitted broken record wind-up (“I do damage with a nine in my hand”). The break is more of a canyon-sized schism; at each phasic metamorphosis, one thinks it might, perhaps, spin out from there. But “Appetite” is too lengthy, and with distinct halves (one that’s clean, one that’s mussed), it forces the listener to confirm that it’s always only halfway through. “Jungle Fever” has nimble turntablism, reggae dub samples, and great beatbox work. Prominently featuring unidentifiable samples, “Jungle” is, to some extent, reduced to mere sounds: some slide-dobro-whistles; some samples buried (“hah!”); others reeled in, discarded and resubmerged (chipmunk); still others ambiguous in intent (“hmmm”). It’s one of Syndicate’s best, the beats and samples all beguilingly discombobulated.
Otherwise, “Wize Wordz” is a small song in a tired, unaware setting (a suburban creeper, a neighborhood horror). Maraca-shakin’ ornament meets the rest of Syndicate’s kitschy, often dissonant repertoire. The bass moguls as the song plays to close are winning as well. “Watch Me Bash This” is, they acknowledge, a silly statement (“Me, a maniac psycho” and “Pow — how you like me now?”), but Syndicate do what LL Cool J can’t by fleshing out and actually backing the attestations of the overstating rapper or horror soundtrack (so alike). “Bash” begins with a pow-wow wound round its “pow” and continues with a motile beat that’s powerful but futile, like a stair-stepper. Also note the surfy, wending, and coaxing eastern thread, the weathered troposphere, and the 4/4 drum corps complexity emergent as the song breaks (up). “Keep It Hardcore” begins tenebrously and slowly in horrific presentation. It utilizes zappy ammunition, turntable stunts and a frenetic pace. “Hardcore” is no joke — it positively hammers, and, as one of Syndicate’s harshest tracks, is perhaps too obvious and fatiguing. It does combine the same phrase repeated in the same verse of Run-D.M.C.’s original — as though it understands the entire middle of the verse to be irrelevant: “I’m takin’ the tours, I’m wreckin’ the land / I keep it hardcore because it’s dope, man” and “My voice is raw, my lyrics is law / I keep it hardcore like you never saw.” “Icepick” (“slowly through the temple”) certainly finds the grisly, sobering, slightly cliché mutuality between rap and horror. “Guerrillas In The Mist” makes good use of violence-in-8-bits effects and also arrives at remarkably life-like percussion production. The constant trilling of the beat — a relentless shuffle in which each is barely attended to — is a mass-production endeavor of oversize card shuffle in perpetual motion. Pneumatic lineshafts of beats seizure seismic upward, or else zip densely and dangerously (the perils of racquetball!) with precocious vivacity. “Guerrillas” is very clippy, indeed, and ammunition dispensation is its job (“Grab anotha clip / We guerrillas in the mist”). “Full Contact” celebrates the tiresome chipmunk voice, which is still hard to reconcile, especially so late in the album — that device hasn’t aged well. However, the small sampled “oh,” like a period at the end of each phrase, is a terrific ornamental touch and the completely unnecessary indulgence that makes the song. “Full Contact” is like a Mr. Game and Watch burlesque bugspray bell routine, or worse. It’s cartoony, unfathomable, and seat-shifty awkward, almost as awkward as Appetite’s closer, “Face Down Arse Up,” and the fact that yeah, you know this song and it was even scandalous (once). The vocals sped up without pitch control emerge like riot grrrl or Crass in an incidental genre crossover. The forgot-my-chute scream at the end is fabricated and theatrical … like the entire album.
Appetite is relentless and overstimulating in its repugnance, but it’s also pronated in a vexing way. It transports its listener to a place of mental apprehension and cultural reticence. Isn’t there a reason it’s called ‘horror’? — yes: it’s horrifying. By presenting camp that fails to grasp itself and themselves truly, impudently, coming to grips with it, Syndicate manifest the horribleness in question. Appetite for Destruction is provocative in a double-motion, and, therefore, it’s not an album to be taken lightly.
by Brittany Tracy