Ave, thy hated heart, ave
It took me forever to write this introduction because you know, the works or this band defy any description. Words just escape me to properly describe the orchestral concept that is contained in the wax you have in your hands. I gave up so many times, thinking that only the music, the lyrics, the artwork combined, could give justice to a band that set a new standard, that nobody was ever able to follow. It is certainly a proof of genius when you create something so beyond any classification that every attempt at imitation results in just a cheap replica. Music alone can’t describe Nuclear Death. It’s a combination of characters and unique chemistry at the right place and time that sparkled the concept that evolved in what you hold in your hands now.
Teratomas, mutants, freaks, genetic disorders be they born of chemical manipulation, accidental exposure to radiation or just a bizarre tricks of evolution in DNA have given birth to the unique and the grotesque in the history of mankind. Nuclear Death is one such freak in the history of music. In math, they would be called outliers: data anomalies that just can’t fit any logic or trend and is therefore discarded when making coherent calculations. What’s so anomalous as to be frightening to start with, is that this band was born in one of the most forsaken, remote places in the middle of nowhere, in times certainly not suspect. Back in 1985 the seeds of what would became the world’s most twisted and bizarre experiment were planted: the demos that are contained in this collection should really steal the serenity of your sleep, if you reflect on where and when they were recorded. Where did this thing came from?
Even taken one by one, the elements that make up the Nuclear Death vision are as twisted and unique as one can dare to imagine. Horror blossomed from images of beauty, stitched together like dog fur and human skin, smeared with blood and curdled milk, saliva and insect ichor, music and lyrics and artwork transcend to an holistic work of demented art I still find myself contemplating in awe even after almost twenty-five years. All of the pieces in this metabolism could live alone and yet, when put together, they are something different than the sum of its parts, something that disregard any rationality.
I dare you to read the lyrics. To abandon yourself to a world of twisted harmonies, hallucinations, depravity, vampires, freaks, necromancy, incest, zoophilia, urban squalor as well as delicate brush strokes of grotesquely beautiful images of children playing in the garbage against the setting sun, of dead babies rotting in fields of flowers and beautifully depicted expressions of love, described by Hampson as the “black fruit that nourish the lice of the earth”. The words this band managed to put together completely stand out of average Death Metal (’cause this band belongs no more to Death Metal than to any other genre, and besides, Death Metal as a term did not even exist then it bred up). The feverish writing flows in a totally unique way, the songs are candid tales of beauty as seen by a bizarre, deranged, loving mind. You can perceive the morbid affection and purity of the hand writing these tales of horror. A child talks about her mother, a man tends at his garden where he planted rows of fetuses and fed them with vitamins and his own feces. There is nothing sadistic or angry in the tone of the lyrics, each a poem of its own. Sometimes, it’s a sense of abandonment and hopelessness in front of an ineluctable, greater evil, a realization of horrors beyond our reason we cannot face, but have just to accept. Sometimes it’s love and rapture. A song like “Proposing to the Impaled” we could just describe as a song of genuine and romantic love. A misplaced love that is. In the universe of Nuclear Death love is for corpses, animals, or infants.
And then we dogs, lots of dogs barking in morgues or barren streets.
“Homage to Morpheus”, unique in his genre, is a work of desperation, a scream of anguish: where is the beauty of the world? “When did it turn from blue to black”? My skin is pale, stretched on my skeletal body. And I have no more veins to feed. “Hail heroin”, it says, which keeps us safe from the ugliness of life.
I dare you to hear the music, that chaotic, dissonant, unique texture that takes its odd shape when you place the record on the turntable. Think about what you have read and abandon yourself to the crackling and insect-like buzzing of greenflies and black insects swarming on a sun bleached corpse. There, in the middle of Arizona, almost thirty to twenty years ago someone actually composed this music as a perfect complement to the tales of love and horror we examined above. A complex, atonal, convoluted, disharmonic guitarwork upon which ungodly vocals and furious, tribal drum beating just seem to follow their own patterns. Lori’s unique vocal resonance is the perfect complement, a work of disfigured grace: let’s not ingenuously digress on the fact that a girl was singing here! What we shall recognize however, is that behind the roaring and rasping there is a fair, distant note of fucked up femininity, which is the perfect icing for the innocent aftertaste of the lyrics. Our atavistic concept of mother’s milk, home and shelter is taken away one rabid bark at a time, chewed away by the lunatic fury of Lori’s unique style, with clenched teeth and a frothy mouth. Whitfield here is out of control, hammering at his drums with tribal, fumes chocked ecstasy. Even the recording of these albums and demos is dirty, muddled and sick as just, well, everything else.
I dare you to have a look at the painted art of these recordings. Hampson’s hand is unquestionably distinctive. His artwork has the bidimensional, perspective-lacking ingenuity of children or primitive cave art (have a look at “Carrion for Worm”‘s cover, see how the objects are misplaced, how the baby-headed, gutted dog angles awkwardly on the canvas?). Yet the scenes depicted all over are horrible and deranged. “Bride of Insects” could be a twisted representation of nativity, where huge hairy and knotty spider legs are the frames of the cave that saw the birth of Jesus. Our personal Mary is licking a blood-covered fetus cuddled in her arms, as bat-monsters hangs from the ceiling and naked kids with white eyes play with knives and their own guts on the ground. All these morbid scenes are however, as we defined earlier, innocent. There is no need for aggression because inert reality here is even worse. The horror is so ineluctable that chips away at your sanity for its intrinsic existence. As a last, significant note, I’d like to pinpoint the fact that both album covers are painted on grey canvas. Even the choice of the canvas is not casual, escaping all standards. The silver-grey of Bride, and the pockmarked, blood-rust stained grey of Carrion disturbed me more than every other detail. There is no place for colors in the world of Nuclear Death, except for some smear of blood or dried urine. It is a natural, bleak gray that just steals all hope. You could hide in black, but every joy is revealed in grey, and torn to pieces before being thrown in the garbage.
Where dogs bark.
And eyeless children play.
And vaginas have teeth.