rating icon 8 / 10

Track listing:

01. Doubt
02. Compulsion
03. Blush
04. Give In
05. Cruelty
06. Shame
07. Blackmail

Superficially speaking, heavy music is a form of entertainment. But when one encounters an album like "SHAME", all normal parameters and expectations are obliterated, leaving only the harrowing screech of ignominy and the looming shadow of death. Although they look fairly affable in their promo pics, METH. have harnessed a level of bleakness and brutality on their second album that frequently defies belief. Four years on from their "Mother Of Red Light" debut, the Chicago quintet have bolstered that record's surreal extremity with a personal touch that makes "SHAME" a challenge to listen to. Inspired by frontman Seb Alvarez's own personal experiences, which range from a struggle with Catholic guilt to a deeply challenging battle with alcoholism, these seven slabs of iridescent ugliness amount to a grand act of catharsis, and presumably for all involved. But while countless bands use personal trauma as a launchpad for music that fails miserably to evoke any such thing, METH. have absolutely nailed it here, both in terms of atmosphere and the crazed sonic values that set this apart from the like-minded but creatively impoverished rest.

"Shame" is terrifying, grueling and proudly, defiantly weird. It basks in its own misery, doling out hideous, slow-motion riffs like razorblades on a psych ward, and sucking all the color, air and life from the room with every repeated, desolate rumble. The production is vast and overwhelming, but rooted in sonic values that most modern metal bands would instinctively reel away from. "SHAME" is harsh and unforgiving, like a power electronics blitzkrieg, and oppressively monochrome, with only Alvarez's anguished gurgling providing a rescue rope to humanity.

The opening "Doubt" is an audacious piece of experimental songwriting: a dissonant ritual that hinges on a gruesome, one-note grind and bursts of lacerating noise, with Alvarez lost in the void, brutalized and desperate. Several degrees nastier than anything on the first album, "Doubt" is the sound of hope collapsing and being ground underfoot. Crank it up loud enough, and it sounds like the end of the world. Impressively, "Compulsion" sustains the intensity, picking up the pace and erupting in blastbeat-driven fury, while still wading through a river of dismal, dispirited sludge.

Even more likely to make you lose your mind, "Give In" toys with a stuttering rhythmic motif and insidious, post-punk drones, before dissolving into wild and feedback-drenched noise rock, spiteful enough to make teeth itch and permanently teetering on the edge of chaos. Somehow, however, METH. keep upping the ante. The title track is so all-encompassing in its sense of bereft dismay that it seems less like a song than a collective meltdown, with discord used as a lethal weapon and dynamics used solely to heighten the power of this band's real-time descent into Hell. The closing "Blackmail" goes even further, twisting METH.'s lobotomized aggro into a hellish, schizophrenic march towards the abyss, replete with jolting doses of math rock angularity that can only add to the sense that nothing is right and everything is wrong. As Alvarez vomits out the last of his self-loathing, "Shame" fades to terminal black, and the only sensible response is to feel shellshocked, traumatized and completely blown away.

Author: Dom Lawson
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