The Meads of Asphodel - _The Murder of Jesus the Jew_
(Candlelight Records, 2010)
by: Dan Lake (9 out of 10)
There's a short film called _Powers of Ten_ that shows, through a subtle but significant series of magnifications and zoom-outs, the sheer scale of the very small and very large objects in our universe. (I haven't actually seen it, but I've never allowed such a hindrance to stop me from claiming expertise on a subject.) Let's imagine the same for a music audience. Some subset of humanity enjoys rocking hard. A select group of those people sincerely wish to bang heads (their own, presumably). A much smaller, adventurous percentage actually delve into the extreme music underground. A portion of these lucky few harbor disgust for the Christian faith; many such heathen freaks boil in outsider suspicion, while others bought their frustration by enduring years of indoctrination attempts. We continue to narrow our focus until, eventually, we find the three guys outside the last video rental store on Earth (two of them inexplicably named Carl) who have absorbed enough history and mythology to throw horns for the most subcultural of subgenres: passion-drama Catholic metal.

Virgin Black took us most of the way there with their fabulous trilogy-minus-one _Requiem_ orchestral doom project, but the music was so amazing that acknowledgement of the band's intent was largely unnecessary. Meads of Asphodel cross the line, though, with their time-warped tale of that famed Nazarene's life, message, and bizarrely brutal legacy. Many a black metal horde has peddled blasphemies from snow-crusted crags and poorly ventilated basements, but few have achieved so eloquent (and, again, bizarre) a manifesto as _The Murder of Jesus the Jew_. This shit even comes with a twelve-section online historical apologetics dissertation! And if that sounds detail oriented, it's only a preamble to the musical strangeness on offer when the record actually gets going. Hold on tight, and prepare to get schooled.

Kicking off in true stage musical pomp, _Murder_ raises its curtains with a brief narration and piano-and-calliope overture. This intro's title? "Boiled in Hell Broth and Grave Dust". Good start, I say. "My Psychotic Sand Deity" wastes no time shoving a ravaging guitar riff and a blast beat up the unwary poop chute, but soon allows horns, acoustic strings, and a gorgeous, very unthreatening lead to break through the abrasive aggression. Yearning female vocals ensue, blooming into a full choir by midtrack. It's easy to say that the band always returns to its metal, but there's no less truth in saying that the excursions into extremity unswervingly return to more inclusive forms of musical expression. "Apocalypse of Lazarus" lays a bed of noise beneath ominous vocal warnings before a dance beat takes the reins, which itself is soon subsumed in a chugging electric riff that, in turn, falls prey to hand drums before retaking its triumphant place at the head of the track. "Addicted to God" descends from wistful keyboard progression to an electric sneer 'n' slash attack, later to embrace choral call-and-response routine that relinquishes none of the track's sacrilegious qualities. "Stiller of Tempests" gives its three minutes over to a tongue-in-cheek treatment of Jesus' populist associations, while "Man From Kerioth" punks out its celebration of a historical Judas. "Dark Gethsemane" weaves a haunted melody that slides perfectly into the doom-heavy "Jew Killer". "Genesis of Death" finally gets to the, um, crux of the farcical parade, as a Roman soldier chastises the bewildered carpenter's son for refusing a deity's mantle. By this point, the bulk of the record's purpose has made itself apparent, though it takes three more tracks to wind to a close.

This entire description should read like a disastrous Mr. Bungle retread. It ain't. I spent many hours in 2011 with _The Murder of Jesus the Jew_, but Meads released the album in late 2010 so it never made it onto my year-end-best-of list. The oversight needs correcting, and you need to hear this. Especially if your name is Carl.

[All Carls referenced in this article are works of fiction. Any resemblance they may bear to any actual Carls living or dead is purely coincidental.]


(article published 6/5/2012)

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