Saturday, February 23, 2013

Confessor - Condemned (1991)

Confessor are one of the most depressing bands I know and this was one of the first CDs I owned - picking it up second hand and presumerably pretty cheap. This is the music I would listen to, loudly, when I was feeling at the most miserable low point of my teen angst cycle. I remember, screaming and sobbing along with the lyrics to "The Stain" and also carving the word SUFFER into my upper arm. The scar still remains there 'til this day. So, I am not sure whether listening to this CD will be like a nostalgic trip down memory lane, or perhaps more like a ripping out and crushing of my inner soul. The old me, the teenage me, is long gone and my hopeless thoughts and assorted depression has been replaced by a more optomistic, hopeful me. But... I wonder - is that inner, tortured teenager still there, trapped deep inside of me, waiting for the right cue to release her?

And if not, will I be able to listen to an entire Confessor CD from beginning to end.

Unlike many of my listenings, this will not be a repeat performance - some I have listened through twice before reviewing, this one I think will be a struggle for once. It's not that Confessor are bad, just that they are so melancholic, so bleak and brooding and filled with utter hopelessness, each song dripping with despair. And the vocals are kinda a bit painful too.

Let's see how it goes...

To date they have released only two cds - this one in 1991 (they broke up soon after, then reformed in 2002) and Unravelled (2005), along with several EPs and self produced "garage" albums. According to Wikipedia, they are also considered progressive metal, and of course are doom and gloom. 

The cover suits the music, by being disturbing and bleak - a man, muscular torso bared, blindfolded, gagged and tied. Around him, a jagged mass of lines and what appears to be a bloodstain behind his head. Inside, the lyrics in a strange and spiky font, the band looking long-haired and slightly menacing - the sort that if you met in the woods you would be wary of.

The lyrics? Well, I'll deal with them as I listen to each songs.

The CD opens with the grinding "Alone". The drums and bass are a chugging wall of agonised steel and wire the vocals the shrill screech of a lost soul. And my CD... it skips! The rugged zit-zit-zit of the CD struggling to play through the multitude of scratches (it's second hand, remember) somehow seems to add to the doom and gloom. Or maybe it's actually supposed to sound like that. It seems to be struggling through, regardless.
"Dying for help, I hear their scream to end their frantic dream..."
Now it is time to "Prepare Yourself" to die. The drummer seems to have a mind of his own, and it sounds like he's playing on a hand drum and the agonised tortured instruments can only be matched by the vocals - as sharp and shrill as a razor. I didn't think he could get any higher, and then he did. I believe this is an anti-religion song.

Indeed, the drums are almost tribal - sounding like raw skin pulled taut over the drum. Not sure where the "prog metal" tag comes from - maybe their later stuff. "Collapse into Despair" - the title says it all. The guitars chug along in a weird and slightly demented little off-cord rhythm of their own. Musically, it's very evocative.
"Darkness confronting all my dreams, wasting away towards tomorrow's pain."
Then he starts singing lyrics that aren't even printed on the sheet. Hrm... hoping there's nothing subliminal in here!

What is this? A title with a positive spin? "Defining Happiness" - no wait...
"The pain of rejection dwells in the present. Never to forget yesterday, always wonder about tomorrow) what's the deciding factor? What determines happiness?
The vocals aren't too bad, if you consider it like a razor slicing through the chugging rhythms. There's even a vague attempt at a nice swooping  verse or two, but the instruments are just ever so slightly discordent which feeds the uncomfortable, tense atmosphere.

"Uncontrolled" suits its title. The music is jerky and disconcerting, perhaps the tiniest pitch off key. The drums sound like they've been recorded in a basement the chug-chug-chug of the bass pounds into your psyche and the vocals jerk and shriek like a tortured mannikin. The lyrics seem more philosophical than hopeless:
"Born to live in your state of confusion. Life's only illusion visionary dreams of logic penetrate the unconscious. Unproductiveness, worthlessness."

The skin drums have been replaced by something somewhat more organic sounding, as it throbs in with the bass of "Condemned". The vocals are really distorted and twisted here, stretched and pushed and jerked about like that crazy tortured pupped on the strings. It's all intentional of course, to create a discordant, not-quite-unpleasant but certainly disconcerting rhythm of jerky, broken craziness - like dreams splintering into a thousand broken pieces. The song stops and starts with seeming abandon. Stuttering and chuggering along. I'm starting to wonder now if it was even skipping in the beginning or if that was entirely intentional.
"Difference of opinion my way is not like yours. Difference of opinion that doesn't mean I'm wrong."
 "Eve of Salvation" has some coherancy to its melodies. Not much, for sure, but it begins with some and then degnerates into another jerky, disconnected, tortured melody.

The next track is my favourite - if you can consider anything "favourite" on this tortured, painful, hopeless and brutally razor-edged album. I remember sobbing into my pillow, screaming along with the equally miserable lines of this broken, disturbingly beautiful song - "The Stain".
"Today I lost my will to live, it simply spilled out on the floor. Next to a pile of broken dreams. I didn't realise until I saw the stain."
It's like poetry macabre. It has a long and suprisingly smooth intro, the vocals rising, tortured misery. Even they seem stronger here, slightly lower pitched, and the chorus is .. kinda stirring, in a depressive way:

"Pain has been my dearest friend - it was always there for me when my dreams crumbled"
It's beautifully bleak. I actually really do still like it:
"Without hope there is no need for pain, so now I have nothing. nothing!"
Quite frankly, you could pretty much throw away the rest of the album and just keep this brutal, tortured masterpiece.

 Yeh, and then with "Suffer" we're back to the discordant, twisted, jerky and irritatingly high vocals. I do love the fact that there is the line: "Judgement of the marionettes" because I kinda feel like that is what this music is - a marionette, broken with tangled strings and disjointed limbs.

In a way it's beautiful, but the vocals do get on your nerves after a while, and despite the extremely good, poetic and disturbingly bleak "The Stain" the rest of the album is pretty much forgettable.Thus, I'm going to give 'The Stain" a 9/10 and the rest of the album 4/10.
Which would technically give it an average of 7/10. But let's ignore that and just listen to "The Stain" again.

Well, I survived, and with no physical - although maybe the slightest bit of aural, damage.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that really does sound like tortured music; a soundtrack to a suicide. I've never listened to them much at all. It was always along the lines of: 'gosh, what an unusual voice, that's interesting and strange...okay, I'm going to shut this off now'. And those lyrics...yikes.

    I was never that depressive of a teen. I was more the angry, resentful type: angry at my folks, at the girls who didn't like me back, and ultimately angry at myself. Thank God it's a temporary phase, who can live for any length of time with that kind of intensity?