Whenever Jazz and Metal are associated it’s to underline the virtuosity of the musicianship and a lighter style of drumming mostly at odd with Metal and it’s punishingly heavy use of double bass drums. Few bands have successfully integrated both cultures into their repertoire to create ground breaking music. People such as Davide Tiso (Ephel Duath), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Toby Driver (Kayo Dot), Ben Weinman (The Dillinger Escape Plan) and now Andrew Mortensen (theHEAD, Serious Beak), the head behind Kurushimi.
More Jazz than Metal, Kurushimi involves, on top of most expected instrument in a Rock/Metal setting, turntables, an alto, tenor and baritone saxophone, and a flute. Mortensen is not only credited for playing bass and the turntables but mostly for conducting, a key term for an album displaying more of a Jazz atmosphere, of the Free kind, rather than composing. Although all songs are structured and each musician has a specific place instead of playing frantically at the same time, it’s obvious that they all have been left some breathing place to exist as individuals as part of a collective rather than pieces of an ensemble. Here is probably what defines Jazz in opposition to Metal where every musician plays its part in complete coordination with the others. Musicians in Kurushimi are being given directions but they also have individual voices to make this debut the fascinating piece it is.
According to an online Japanese dictionary, the word Kurushimi can either mean pain, anguish, distress, hardship or suffering. Whichever it is, the term relates very effectively to the strange atmosphere found throughout the album where track are called with names such as Kimon (« The Devil gate« ), Amanojaku (Perverse person, also used in the Hentai Urostukidodji as the name of the main demon) or Shinigami (Death). However, Kurushimi doesn’t reference any stereotypical Japanese melody but instead finds common ground with the multi-faceted Japanese noise rock of The Boredoms. Ornette Coleman is also a reference named on their Bandcamp page but also in the exhausted melody from Lonely woman (from The sound of Jazz to come) found at the beginning of Amanojaku behind a wall of blast beats.
The Metal side of the music comes into play with the more frantic parts of a song such as Shinigami or Kimon where the saxophones turned into wailing beast and the drums smashes in an exuberant manner like Pete Sandoval rehearsing for Morbid Angel while the guitarist loses all inhibition and turns to pure dissonance without relying on distortion. Most of these elements could also be found in Free Jazz musicians such as in the repertoire of John Zorn but they found a definitively Metal footing in the overall troubling and dark atmosphere created therein.
Finally, to complete the paradox created through the music, an album that offers so much can be downloaded freely on Bandcamp via the netlabel Art as catharsis. Daunting but rewarding, Kurushimi should not be understood but appreciated for all its sonic qualities. An inspiring release.