Stagnant Waters - _Stagnant Waters_
(Adversum, 2012)
by: Dan Lake (7.5 out of 10)
French-Norwegian combo Stagnant Waters have finally answered that never popular question forever surrounded by undeniable irrelevance: if zeuhl-mongering Brits Guapo and black tempered Marduk double-booked a venue for an evening and neither band was willing to relinquish their time slot, and then Mick Barr and John Zorn inexplicably showed up with the unquenchable desire to play Jesu / Final covers (the idea itself is enough to give me permanent stroke-face), would anybody stay for the show? Would the resulting din even make any sense? (Okay, that's two questions we didn't care about.)

Answer to question one: maybe. Third eyes would blossom their own ocular trios with gruesomely fractal recursion. Some attendees might leave the venue, but most would have to be scrubbed off the walls and ceiling by bottom-rung club employees in plastic suits and respiratory masks.

Answer to question two: no. No. No. No. No. Nah-er-glip-rah-meh-grrrrrr-oooooh.

Describe the music? Fuck you, what music? Take the list of instruments played: drums, keyboards, saxophone, guitar, clarinets (plural!), electronics, bass, vocals. Pit these instruments, each wrapped in barbed wire and crackling with a dangerous electric charge, in a horrific cage match each against the others. Juice the whole cacophony with as much sonic amplitude as any equipment anywhere could possibly handle. Then strip naked, close your eyes and fall into it.

This album might have been painstakingly assembled to communicate an intentionally disturbing but cohesive vision; it is equally likely that the album was whipped together in a weekend of mutual musical masturbation. The hallmarks of both possibilities exist in these 47 unhinged minutes. The layers involved, the levels of sound processing (backward voicings, looped sound events, distortion-level volume on select elements in the mix) and some truly virtuosic instrumental performances speak to the former, but the air of improvisation and simple screwaroundiness hangs heavily on nearly everything. There is no preparation for this album, only warnings.

If you are looking for orthodox forms of extreme metal, Stagnant Waters are not even in your universe. If you like jazzy complexity, back away quickly. There is precious little space in the recording to separate melodies and rhythms from outright noise. If you dig the avantgarde scene, you might still have some standards for songcraft and musical integrity, none of which will be upheld here. If there is a current audience craving Mr. Bungle-style sound sodomy that has been updated for the 21st century metal scene, then maybe Stagnant Waters have a crowd to perform for. At least until that crowd is reduced to drippy radioactive sludge and scraped down the multipurpose beer / piss drain in the middle of the concrete floor. Good fucking riddance.


(article published 2/3/2013)

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