by Paul Stephenson
It’s testament to the sterling production work that has been done by one Mr Steve Albini that mention of him on a press release is enough to engage this reviewer’s attention, and so it is here with the UK debut (it’s been out for a year or so in their native Norway) of Norweigan oddity Arabrot. Incidentally this is not a vaguely racist epithet but instead the name of the band’s local ‘institution for troubled youth’ where the band initially met, and this is quite apt in fact, since this whole album is filled with the sort of deranged noise rock one would expect from people who met whilst institutionalized.
The first thing that greets you when spinning this for the first time is the bewildering vocal stylings. I have no idea what the singer’s name is, but he comes across at first as a cacophony of the bloke from Medulla Nocte, Elmer Fudd and Andy Kaufman all singing together drunk and out of tune. Layer these vocals on top of a heady mix of Melvins, Daughters, Sleep, Zeke and Neurosis and you have a mix that is not always entirely listenable, but is always interesting.
To be honest I haven’t a clue what the hell it’s all about (although I’d wager that it’s some pretty pissed off subject matter, rather than a critique of the dwindling influence of Barbie in the face of the rise of the Bratz, although when you think about it, that would make a brilliant subject for a concept album. Perhaps by Manowar. Actually fuck that, I want that to be the subject of the next Neurosis album) and by the end of the album most people will start to find their patience is wearing a little thin, and may want to hear something at least resembling a conventional note. But there are flashes here where you will be enthralled and entranced by the sludging dirges, perfectly laid down by Albini. Apparently they have also been produced by Billy Anderson and toured with the likes of High On Fire and Kylesa, so they have a pretty good pedigree too.
It’s certainly not going to win any beauty contests (or indeed end up on any end-of-year lists) and it’s running time is far too long for a record that should be a short sharp shock. But here and there you can see there is a streak of crazed ugliness and inventiveness on show that demands your attention, at least in fits and starts.