Sometimes Al Jourgensen seems tangential and unrelated to the DMU mission, but given how many projects he’s had his hands in, you won’t have much trouble finding a lineage between one of them (probably Ministry, since they tend to sound like metal even when the underlying songwriting isn’t aiming for that style) and something more directly related to our usual interests. Al has recently created a page on Patreon full of invective against the music industry and promising video backstage type content in addition to the usual industrial metal stuff in return for financial support. Musicians in general seem to have embraced the Kickstarter/Indiegogo type funding model more rapidly than Patreon; if you ask me, it’s easier to adapt the business model of the former to an LP every 12-36 months than it is to adapt to the more rapid releases that Patreon campaigns benefit from. Either way, the push towards crowdfunding and other means of financing free of major record labels is something our business-oriented readers may want to keep an eye on.
Sometimes great albums happen. Multiple forces converge — influences, musicians, leaders, ideas, opportunities — and everyone involved becomes more than they are. They rise above their mortal lives and create something profound enough to live in, a musical world we want to inhabit and take up its struggles and make it turn into the full potential we see nascent within its objects.
Streetcleaner falls into this category. After a stylistically-inspiring but somewhat deconstructive first EP that never really created a direction of its own except aesthetically, the three individuals who comprise Godflesh returned with a new energy. They combined influences from their fledgling industrial grindcore, indie rock and death metal, and came up with an album resonant with layers of potential. Instead of aiming to destroy melody, they built it from the smallest elements so that it could only be seen when those overlapped and only then often by implication, creating a haunting album like an ancient mansion full of unexplored pathways and secret rooms.
Slowing down their attack, Godflesh carved time into a space through the selective introduction of sounds which then received an ecosystem of other sonic fragments with which to interact, creating an atmosphere that also had form and narrative. From indie rock they borrowed melancholic but affectionate melodies, from death metal complex song structures, and from industrial the sound that genre had always desired to express, namely a machine crushing human hope like a Charles Dickens novel. Together these influences formed a sound like Killing Joke accelerated into apocalyptic nihilism with the raw sonic experimentation of death metal.
Streetcleaner came together like an impossible dream. It borrowed from many musical traditions but the band kept both its own voice and a style specific to the album. What really distinguishes this album however is the content. Streetcleaner captures a range of human emotions in response to the disaster of human emotions that creates our modern world: individualistic selfishness leading to herd behavior empowering vast evils. In putting this into sound, Godflesh opened a dialogue with the darkest parts of our souls and the reason those souls are dark, which is that we know the possibility of light.
The band never concentrated its energy in such a way again. The following album, Pure, went back to a higher concept version of their first EP, but never managed the emotional intensity that the interwoven melodic streams of Streetcleaner brought out among the crushing noise and abrasive battle robot rhythms. They swung back the other way toward indie rock for a few more albums, but those went too far into face-value emotion and lost both intensity and honesty. Eventually the band faded out into a series of projects pursuing influences as most senior underground efforts do. However Streetcleaner remains as the apex of industrial music and the album every dark topics band wishes they could make, as well as a profound influence on the rising black metal movement and the second wave of death metal.
Mike Scaccia, the brilliant guitarist of Rigor Mortis and later, Ministry, has died. He collapsed onstage December 22, 2012 while performing with Rigor Mortis and could not be revived. He is survived by a wife and children, and much excellent music.
Before you read further, consider this song he created with Rigor Mortis:
What made Scaccia’s playing distinctive was his sense of melody, finely-tuned strumming and tendency to use more than low crunchy notes, as well as an ear for a quality riff and an ability to use precise arrangement to let a song unfold to the greatest impact on the listener.
No one wants to type words like this. This is a tragic loss for metal, for music and for humanity. Scaccia was not only a killer shredder, but widely acclaimed as a decent human being. He inspired many of us with his literate but emotionally intense music.
That music survives him and will serve as not only his legacy but the best insight into his character. What do you hear in this music? Darkness, beauty, equilibrium and violence. Like the man himself, more complex than a few paragraphs can do justice to, but also based of a fundamentally life-affirming but realistic outlook on existence.
It’s events like this that make me hope there is a Valhalla or reasonable equivalent. The body can die, but the greatness of a musical hero lives on long after the dirt obscures the coffin. We’ll be thinking of you, Mike, and the family and bandmates you left behind, with today’s all-Scaccia playlist.
Al Jourgensen (Ministry) tribute:
I JUST LOST MY LIL’ BROTHER AND MY BEST FRIEND – THE 13TH PLANET COMPOUND IS DEVASTATED,COMPLETELY IN SHOCK AND SHATTERED. MIKEY WAS NOT ONLY THE BEST GUITAR PLAYER IN THE HISTORY OF MUSIC, BUT HE WAS A CLOSE, CLOSE, CLOSE PART OF OUR FAMILY – AND I JUST LOST A HUGE CHUNK OF MY HEART TODAY. OUR LIVES ARE FOREVER CHANGED. LIFE WITHOUT MIKEY IS LIKE ORANGE JUICE WITHOUT PULP – KIND OF BLAND. I HAVE NO WORDS TO EXPRESS WHAT THIS GUY MEANT TO ME, MY FAMILY, MY CAREER….EVERYTHING!
GET TO KNOW HIS LEAD PARTS – FOR THEY ARE IN THE PANTHEON OF MUSIC! UNFORTUNATELY, MOST OF YOU DIDN’T GET TO KNOW MIKEY’S SOUL -WHICH IS IN THE PANTHEON OF HUMANITY. HE IS MY HERO, MY FRIEND AND MY IDOL. MIKEY WAS ALWAYS BESIDE ME – MY RIGHT HAND MAN – THROUGH THICK AND THIN, THE GOOD, THE BAD, THE UGLY AND THE BEAUTIFUL.
REST IN PEACE MY BROTHER, MY FRIEND, MY HEART. PLEASE PRAY FOR MIKE SCACCIA AND JENNY, HIS WIFE AND THEIR CHILDREN, AND HIS FAMILY…..AL