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Nature’s Revelation

1 Jan

In the mid 90’s, no doubt my favorite heavy Maryland band who weren’t THE OBSESSED woulda been UNORTHODOX. The way they’d pile endlessly inventive riffage atop a killer rhythm section to buoy Dale Flood’s passionate singing was and still is hard to beat. At the dawn of the new millennium, it was INTERNAL VOID who had my undivided attention among Wino-less MD acts: the bluesy lead gtr of Kelly Carmichael carried their melodic, mid-tempo tunes into soulful territory that few so-called doom rock bands seemed capable of locating. But oh man it’s AGAINST NATURE who are, most definitely, the most exciting and vital rockers riding the heavy tides of Maryland at present. Hands down, they’re my pick as the most inspiring rock band in 2008.
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I only really cottoned on to AGAINST NATURE last year at the urgings of Ray’s Realm in this post. Ray turned me on to what remains one of Thee Great Heavy Records of this or any eon: AGAINST NATURE’s The Anxiety of Influence from 2007. That record offered up two very deep, album side explorations into a modern form of heavy rock composition and playing, in the process redefining the peaks to which doom rockers were capable of soaring in the new millennium.

But that might as well be ancient history. Since then, these boys have released so much music I can barely keep up: two full length CDs, a further pair of 25+ min. CD EPs, not to mention yet another full length CD under their trad doom alterego, REVELATION. They clocked in a total of – get this – 3 hours and 32 minutes of fully formed, kickass rocking over the year. And while I am aware quantity, in and of itself, isn’t particularly meaningful – when the quantity is as varied and rewarding as this body of work is . . . well brother, it’s a Herculean achievement.

Following AGAINST NATURE this past year reminded me of what is was like trying to keep pace with BLACK FLAG as a young teen back in ’84/’85. You remember: just as soon as you’d get your head around all the new aesthetic choices coloring one Greg Ginn record, along would come another, challenging you to step that much further. From the somber DEEP PURPLE funeral march of their Much in Little & Descend EPs, to the hardrockin’ BANG chug of Natural Blue, to the more optimistic BUDGIE/RUSH inspired prog tones of their latest Accumulus CD, AGAINST NATURE have repeatedly shifted their approach, restlessly reconfigured their sound, and constantly widened their emotional range – all the while remaining, at base, something only identifiable as AGAINST NATURE. Perhaps the continuity across these records rests in the smooth and surprisingly un-metal vocals of John Brenner, who at times reminds me of a more moody, less hickoid Curt Kirkwood. Or maybe it’s the ROBIN TROWER-like breathing room these guys always allow their rocking; nothing is ever rushed or hurried, riffs are allowed to develop in earthy, organic fashion, with leads only materializing in due course. Even then, volume levels only hit 11 when it’s absolutely necessary – which ain’t as often as some of you stoner types might demand. But it’s really a quite beautiful, historically rooted but non-retro rock that they make, and they’ve made it all their own. I absolutely cannot wait to see where they might decide to take it in 2009.

The kicker is that all their music and so much more besides is downloadable free of charge directly from them on their website. They even go so far as to quote 1st century Roman philosopher Seneca on their homepage: “there is no delight in owning anything unshared.” Hear hear! Thus while others debate the morality of downloading copyrighted music from the web and/or whether information just wants to be free . . . AGAINST NATURE are pragmatists who ask: in an age when its unfeasible/impossible to control digital information transfer, why even try? Apparently, they’d rather stop arguing and just get their music out there where the people can actually hear it. And with the music industry collapsing around us all, smart money says that AGAINST NATURE will still be standing long after Warners/EMI/Universal/Sony Music are but a fading, unpleasant memory.

AGAINST NATURE – “Melopoeia” (from Accumulus, Bland Hand Records, 2008)