Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive

At a Loss
rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Waging War on the Forevers
02. Narcotics and Dissecting Knives
03. Holy Flower of the North Star
04. Three Hours
05. Bloodletting and Forgetting
06. Wisp of Tow

This is an At a Loss band, plain and simple: Sonically devastating, musically challenging, and NEUROSIS-like in its brain damaging application. Weighty as a herd of elephants and flying just beneath the radar of the average heavy music fan, "Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive" is the antithesis of arena rock and the arch enemy of mall kids everywhere. And then there's all that noise and yelling. When it comes to Chicago metal (the good stuff anyway),keeping quiet or calming down are not options. Earth moving equipment and obese bass rumblings are primary ingredients, regardless of whether it's USURPER, LAIR OF THE MINOTAUR, or in many respects PELICAN (without the vocals of course). In the case of the latter two monoliths, as well as MINSK, it's Sanford Parker that plays a pivotal role in sending leaden-shoed victims to the bottom of the river. In addition to his production/engineering/mastering duties, Parker joins Tony Wyioming, Chris Bennett, Tim Mead, and Dustin Addis in assembling this epic 65-minute affair designed as musical accompaniment for cave dwellers and torch carriers. [The current lineup consists of Bennett, Parker, Mead, and Anthony Couri].

It is in fact the City of Minsk, Belarus that the band has latched onto for lyrical and musical inspiration. Considering the dense soundscapes and cold dirge riffing, the region's vibe is well represented here. Death-march tempos on tracks that average around 10 minutes each are made colossal through the use of mesmerizing tribal drumming. Combined with the bass churn and thick riff drone, a variety of sound effects (even a saxophone on "Wisp of Tow", courtesy of Bruce Lamont) results in a psychedelic journey through battle-worn cities. Rays of light do shine through on occasion, but these trips are usually taken at night.

"Out of a Center Which is Neither Dead Nor Alive" does not work as one of five albums played on shuffle mode in a five-disc rotation. A certain mind-set is required. Once settled into a groove, the experience is a moving one, made more stimulating through a pair of headphones. A chemically altered state is not a requirement, but may prove beneficial for some listeners.

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