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By Ben Cohen a “legendary master of the left field.” -BRP!

“Unintentionally misunderstood since 1975.” –Anonymous

“A big f@#k you, to the audience.” -B. Pendarvis

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Friday, May 29, 2009

John Zorn : The Crucible

If you come across this without the prerequisite appreciation; if not love for free jazz (miles davis), noise (john cole) and metal (black sabbath) then you will arrive with an aliens perspective, likely repulsed. This is not an album I would freely play in my home; my family would not appreciate these elements in combination. As Mike Patton’s free jazz vocal solo emerges in the midst of the first track Almadel I finally began to see where Mike Patton is headed with these collaborations of late with John Zorn and company. I am quite sure he has not reached the result, but now I can see the journey bears fruit. There have been great highlights surrounded by curiousness in their collaborations in the past (Mr.Bungle’s first album, Pranzo Oltranzista, Elegy’s third track, Great Jewish Music Series, Ennio Morricone’s The Ballad of Hank McCain, to name most of the great). As of late, they have been on a journey mixing the basest worlds that Zorn and Patton emerge from, worlds invented by John Cage and Black Sabbath. However, in the projects like Moonchild and Astronome there has been an antithesis to palatable, something that in my opinion each artist needs to keep the audience engaged in the process of pushing boundaries. I often in the most accessible of Patton and Zorn’s work am left defending its genius to others. In the previously mentioned projects I have found myself questioning as others certainly would…what is this crap. The Crucible is the pay off or at least the beginning of it.

This process and success would not have been achieved without trusted and tried partners to go down this path. Zorn relied on longtime collaborators drummer Joey Baron and guitarist Marc Ribot. Basest Trever Dunn who has collaborated with Zorn and is an accomplished free jazz composer adds a special connection with his life long friend and metal & anti-genre collaborator Patton.

In Almadel the album explodes in a beginning that is structured much like some of Zorn’s best Masada pieces with catchy nuanced harmonized palatable Jewish bookends.

Shapeshifting brings with it garage rock fused chaos. Dunn’s base pounds while Patton builds the influence of both the Tasmanian Devil and Yamatsuka Eye with a control that persist through the album. Baron’s cymbal work builds with equal parts jazz technician and rock force.

Where Mr. Bungle left off with The Bends, Maleficia continues with an eerie whisper that shows you the inside of Patton’s mouth while Zorn’s sax echoes through high through the allies between skyscrapers.

Ribot takes over in 9x9 with a blues based clearly and admittedly, zeppelin grove that is sandwiched between two other rock influences of different eras, that escapes me. His solo is superiorly executed “real” rock blues. The song almost gives permission to the exclusivity of the underground to explore and enjoy the over exposed in rock. A gift Patton gives often in lighthearted covers, but it is unusual to find it on projects of Zorn’s outside of Naked City.

The sax and vocal harmony remerges in Hobgoblin a free jazz influenced track that highlights the best of Baron’s cymbal work. In this song, the onslaught has time to breath in classic jazz posses where the cymbals settle into the abyss. A surprising perhaps subconscious display of Patton’s post Mr. Bungle and Faith No More carrier comes through as you hear reference to the vocal works of Rahzel and Dokaka.
Dunn provides a slow relentless base grove that could be mistaken for a Obituary or Suzie and The Banshees song in Incubi feeds into Yoko Kanno like city night sax playground for Zorn and company.

The espionage soundtrack kicks it up a notch in Witchfinder a hesitant journey with metal rhythm and Yamatsuka Eye desert drive grove. This is just a flat out fun rock track.

The Crucible comes full circle with Initiate where summations of elements converge to build a hard driving chaos with wispy night sax and cymbal accents. Patton and Zorn crescendo and then like Wyle Coyote fall off a cliff rapidly with the enthusiasm of Taz into an even deeper abyss of echoing sound. Only to clime as steady and steep pace that exceeds any heights previously created with Patton’s voice and Zorn’s sax. It plays right back into the explosion that began the album.

The packaging while appropriate and to the point seems to play to close to the cliché of Japanese influenced American Horror films of the past few years…or maybe I am reading to much into it. I just hate those films and the previews even more. It is a black and white photo of a smoldering crucible…what’s wrong with that. I am usually underwhelmed with Zorn’s packaging, unlike Patton run projects.

I digress.

As time passes, Patton has begun to hint that he is slowing down and his tour schedule seems to play this out. Should there ever be a performance of this album live I would suggest it is a not to be missed event. It will likely play 12 times in Europe and twice in the US (NYC and SF) if I were to guess. Not because it is the greatest album, but because what Zorn and Patton do with a descent records when played live can be unbelievable.

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