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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

CD Review: The Accused - The Curse of Martha Splatterhead

The Accused - The Curse of Martha Splatterhead
2009 Southern Lord
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Cannibal Corpse and Gwar are the poster children of American splat metal, but running along with these over-the-top gore chompers--albeit with far less recurrence--is Seattle's The Accused. Forget Pearl Jam. Forget Soundgarden. Forget Nirvana. The Accused is Seattle's best homegrown product ever churned from its cloud-choked skies.

Okay, so maybe not, but guitarist Tommy Niemeyer and The Accused were well onto something when The Misfits and Cryptic Slaughter were amongst the few to get any notice for horror-themed punk and metal until Gwar came along and changed the ethos forever. Not that The Accused will be found tearing limbs and squirting their audiences in the face with colored water, but like Gwar, they've found their roots in the horror genre and likewise produce a fast-paced, heavy panting breed of punk-oriented metal. Both frequently sound like they've recorded their reckless noise at the bottom of a chum bucket and though Gwar have gotten more reputable at their instruments, neither relents an inch in the cacophonous disorder department.

Though it's been since 2006's Oh Martha when The Accused have been with us, Niemeyer resurrects The Splatterbeast into action once again, turning his mistress of mayhem Martha loose in a female version of Ed Gein on the band's latest hardcore-gore endeavor, The Curse of Martha Splatterhead.

Officially formed in the early eighties, The Accused drifted along with DRI, Cryptic Slaughter, Suicidal Tendencies and Broken Bones into the speed metal sweepstakes, albeit with far less obviousness than their peers. Both punkers and metalheads were found amongst The Accused's fans, even as they adopted a longhaired, leather and denim look. However, punk and hardcore are as much their identity (if not more in sound) as their eventual tidings in thrash metal. Today they receive more accolade than blame for their part in helping usher the two genres into harmonious discord. It's largely because they were truer about their intentions and it didn't hurt their splatter-lovin' hybrid was pleasingly dumb fun.

On The Curse of Martha Splatterhead expect nothing more or less than what The Accused have delivered in the past. Thank God, since Niemeyer is the only remnant of the old days after seminal Accused vocalist Blaine Cook (also of The Fartz notoriety), Alex Sibbad and Steve Nelson formed a mass exodus out of the band a few years back.

Worry not a drop of sweat about this album. You'll be headbanging within seconds of "The Splatterbeast" and "Stomped to Death" as The Accused 2009 rip and snort with the same propensity for distorted chaos as More Fun Than An Open Casket Funeral and Grinning Like An Undertaker. The Curse of Martha Splatterhead moves like a champ and seldom takes its foot off the pedal, save to interrupt the brisk thrash of "Bodies Are Rising" with a perfectly-timed, traditional hardcore breakdown (kids take note, please) on the finish.

New vocalist Brad Mowen may not be Blaine Cook, but he's a damned fireball in his own right. At times he sounds like H.R. of the Bad Brains only with less righteousness. Mowen is kept busy as The Curse of Martha Splatterhead shakes and bursts with brackish pounding and paint-peeling solos by Niemeyer. Drummer Mike Peterson and bassist Dorando Hodous likewise fill their slots with a determined resolve to replicate The Accused's glory days (if they ever really had one beyond cult status), cohesively booming in unison on "Elijiah Black," "Stomped to Death" and "Seriously Dead"

As The Curse of Martha Splatterhead gets into Murderous Martha's skin-tearing doings, complete with the sounds of a sewing machine on the bouncing "Hemline" forming a skin mask ala Leatherface and his real-life predecessor Ed Gein, the energy level The Accused expounds almost makes you forget there's an EC Comics story grinding beneath it.

"Scotty Came Back" sounds appropriately like a train wreck into an unkempt graveyard and "Die Violently" is perfectly titular with its careening tempo changes and shrieky dissonance. "By the Hook" is soundtrack to running into the steel girders of a bridge at 100 mph, catapulting through the windshield and plummeting into the drink below. "Fuck Sorry" is about as slow as this album gets, trying for a Black Flag-oriented spirit of lament for a few bars before picking things up in an abbreviated finale.

One of the most purely metal songs on The Curse of Martha Splatterhead is naturally "Martha's Disciples," a jabbing death march for much of the ride supplemented with doom grooves and a quick funk tweak from Niemeyer.

The more you spin this slab, the more it grows on you. Unapologetically old school with new blood steering The Accused's vehicle of tone destruction, The Curse of Martha Splatterhead might be the comeback of the year. Imperfections galore, headache-inducing lunacy, it's all as it should be in Niemeyer's scheme and it will still become addiction in the underground as The Accused were in the eighites; take it to the bank.

Rating: ***1/2


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