I can think of no better band for Black Metal Monday here on the Archers Guild than Meads of Asphodel. This is a Blog For Heads, right? Well this is some heady stuff, man! These British lunatics look like extras from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail,” at one point had a rabbi perform with the band, released a record with Doom, Conflict, Hellbastard, Skeptix and Kinks covers, use more keyboards than Yes, and play a totally schizophrenic and unconventional style of music that, while using black metal as a sonic keystone, is so twisted that it almost defies categorization. Oh yeah and their bass player is in HAWKWIND! Far out!
Their fourth and latest album, The Murder of Jesus the Jew, can be described as no less than a total mindfuck. As the album opens, a deep voice intones, “On a cold spring morning, around AD 30, a man was hung from a tree upon a mound of dirt. This is his story – of a man named God.” A couple of minutes of almost cheerful sythesizer-based classical music play, and then, BOOM, heavy black metal hysteria erupts. The Meads’ brand of black metal is in the chunky and chugging vein, maybe closer to Samael or Hellhammer with a distinctly punkish approach ala Amebix or Venom. Pretty cool, but what sets Meads apart from the pack is all the other madness they put in the mix. On The Murder of Jesus the Jew, you’ll also find folk, psychedelia, punk rock, shoegaze, dance beats, show tunes, dashes of Middle Eastern music, and LOTS of synthesizers. In fact, more often than not the non-metal elements dominate the songs, the raspy vocals, blasting drums and harsh distortion taking a back seat.
I know what you’re thinking: What a mess, right? Wrong! It RULES! Normally too many different ingredients ruin the recipe, so to speak, but the Meads dudes are actually really talented composers, knowing when to throw a curveball and when to play it relatively safe. They keep you guessing, but their genre-hopping seldom comes off as forced or merely for the sake of being wacky. They seem to have a firm grasp on playing and writing riffs for all the genres they have chosen to incorporate into the band’s music. While some listeners will doubtless be turned off by the scattershot songwriting, those who want something unique and outside of the norm will find some pretty awesome stuff here.
Bonus points: the lyrics are great. Like their countrymen Sabbat from back in the late 80s, they deal with provocative anti-religious, anti-Christian topics in a more intellectual and sensitive way than the typical “fuck God” fashion – there’s plenty of room for that in black metal too, of course, but it’s nice to see a band that values lyrics as much as riffs. Main lyricist Metatron seems to be a bit of an amateur Biblical scholar and The Murder of Jesus the Jew focuses on his personal take on the life and death of Jesus – both the historical figure and the Biblical character.
All in all if you’re looking for something within the realm of metal to scramble your brain like a fresh egg pick up some Meads. Bong loads and mushrooms are purely optional but probably would not hurt.