May 09, 2006

Crush Kill Destroy "Metric Midnight"

Although the music of Crush Kill Destroy isn’t as pummeling or destructive as the band’s name would imply, I can assure you that this Chicago quartet doesn’t consider the preservation of your hearing a priority. The seven songs on CKD’s sophomore album Metric Midnight are epic journeys that mix Drive Like Jehu’s aggression, June of ‘44's angularity and Shudder to Think’s dissonance into a sonic cocktail that will make your head spin.

Guitarists Brian Hacker and Jacob Kart are masters of labyrinthine interplay. They let jazzy chords clash against each other at the oddest moments, and scatter “wrong” notes all over their arpeggios like shards of glass on concrete. Bassist Toby Summerfield and drummer Chris Salmon are a flexible yet steady rhythm section. They make even the trickiest meters swing, and hold the songs together when Hacker and Kart go on long instrumental tangents...and with an average song length of six-and-a-half minutes, there are a LOT of tangents!

Metric Midnight’s 12-minute centerpiece “Is the New Black” is the biggest offender. It begins with Hacker and Kart hammering away at the same distorted chord for 90 seconds, slowing down and speeding up without any regard for what the rhythm section is doing. They strum so hard that their guitars fall out of tune with each other. When they remove the cloud of distortion from the guitars, the beat frequencies generated from the strings produce a sense of unease that lingers for the rest of the song. Three minutes into the song, the bass line is doubled on a gurgling synthesizer, and the guitars are stripped of their attack, which enables them to slowly produce soothing drones. This gives Summerfield ample opportunity to show off his skills with some fleet-fingered improvisation. When the song reaches the eight-minute mark, Hacker and Kart take back the spotlight by gradually layering arpeggios on top of each other. By the end of the song, I feel like I’m stranded in a factory full of malfunctioning grandfather clocks!

These instrumental tangents are often more interesting than the actual verses and choruses. The band seems to know this as well. Brian Hacker’s nasal snarl is the instrument you hear least on this album. When it does appear, it’s buried underneath the guitars. Not only that, but two of the last three songs on Metric Midnight are instrumentals. It’s for the best, though: if given too much air time, Hacker’s voice would quickly grate. Overall, Metric Midnight finds Crush Kill Destroy playing to their strengths. The songs are long, but the band keeps them interesting through creative musicianship and the element of surprise (dig the trumpets on closer “Walkers, Sleepers, Eaters”). The Chicago music scene seems to pump out bands like this on a daily basis, but CKD are definitely part of the cream of the crop.

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