Gore - _Hart Gore / Mean Man's Dream_
(Southern Lord, 2008)
by: Jeremy Ulrey (7.5 out of 10)
A curio amongst the incessant deluge of post-'90s reissues, even the diehard middle aged metal fan could be forgiven for overlooking Dutch instrumental trio Gore, particularly if that fan did not spend their formative years in the small Northern European sphere Gore ever sought to break out of. As manager-cum-bassist Rob Frey recounts in his voluminous, charmingly English challenged liner notes, Gore came together furtively in the autumn of 1985 and fell apart surreptitiously almost two years to the date afterward.

More sympathetic to the punk scene than anything particularly metal, Gore in its brief incarnation played European shows with a fair cross section of the post-punk scene -- Swans, Bad Brains, Young Gods, Sonic Youth... and perhaps most significantly, the early Rollins Band. In fact, though Gore never quite made it to the US, a purely band-less west coast foray by Frey was made in an attempt to secure a record deal with Henry Rollins' band mate Greg Ginn and his SST Records. According to Frey, he'd befriended Rollins during a Black Flag tour in 1984, while Frey was still in the business of promoting gigs himself. As the story goes, it was at Rollins' behest that Frey flew out to California, only to find that Rollins had just quit Black Flag and was no longer in any position to introduce Frey and Ginn on friendly terms. Suitable alternatives not forthcoming, Frey rejoined his band mates overseas, the unsold demos eventually becoming the band's swan song, _Mean Man's Dream_. After struggling along in increasing internal turmoil for several more months, Gore evaporated in a semi-acrimonious miasma of creative lethargy and unfulfilled promise. Long forgotten by all but the few who were there at the time, Southern Lord has seen fit in 2009 to reissue the aforementioned swan song packaged together with the band's debut, _Hart Gore_ (presumably a lame pun on 'hardcore'), in a lavish package celebrating the trio's legacy.

Wait a minute. Legacy? What legacy? Good question. Frey's liner notes are humble and non-pretentious -- no fault there -- but Southern Lord are marketing this as some sort of lost masterpiece which influenced all instrumental music for years to come, from the modernist post-rock of Pelican and Explosions in the Sky to the noise rock of Jesus Lizard and the proto-grunge of the Melvins. Of the above, the only resemblance I can hear is maybe the Melvins, and then only in a loose sense, as the cross fertilization of Sabbath and latter period Black Flag bearing different fruit. Probably the most astute comparison made is to Godflesh, as there is a certain mechanical, lock groove feel to Gore's rhythmic progressions. There's no direct sonic correlation between the two bands, but that mutual sense of a band finding a crunchy, salient riff, falling in love with it and milking it for all it's worth is definitely present.

That strategy worked for Godflesh because Justin Broadrick has a gift for churning out memorable phrases and wedding them to abrasive noise textures, but these nascent efforts by Gore are marred by skeletal and underdeveloped motifs which do not quite rise to the same level of interest. It's not so much that the same riffs are merely repeated over and over, but that they just don't progress very far from where they originated. They keep circling round and round a central theme without straying far from its nucleus, essentially sounding every bit like demos that were meant to provide riff fodder for (eventually) fleshed out songs. But then when a singer failed to materialize, the lyrics were forgotten altogether and the resulting music released as is (Frey insists the material was always intended to be instrumental, but the fact that imagined lyrics were included for both albums in some sort of ill defined stab at creating supplemental imagery kind of makes you wonder).

As usual, however, only part of the appeal in this Southern Lord package is the music itself. In addition to a 32 page booklet containing everything you could possibly want to know about Gore, each of the two records has been augmented on CD by live versions of all ten studio tracks apiece. A little too threadbare in the songwriting department to stand up to similar contemporary music, the package encourages a historic appraisal in which Gore fare a lot more forgivingly, a strange instrumental combo caught naively between the early industrial leanings of Swans and Killing Joke and the later, discordant sonics of Godflesh and even old Napalm Death in their less grindy moments.

Contact: http://www.southernlord.com/

(article published 15/1/2009)


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