Album Review: JOHN FRUM A Stirring In The Noos
The name John Frum comes from a group of natives in the South Pacific islands, who coined the alias as a means to reject oppressive European ways. Upon witnessing American soldiers descend upon their land with creates known as “Cargo”, the natives only knew how to describe these sights as god-like. The dropping of cargo influenced the native’s beliefs and lifestyles, as they began to understand there was a whole other world outside of theirs. From this, the natives believe that a mystical deity known as John Frum will one-day return to their island, showering them with gifts.
The band John Frum takes this story and its ideas to a whole other level in their new record A Stirring In The Noos (Relapse). The ingredients that make up this technical death metal wonder come from a variety of backgrounds. There’s Derek Rydquist (Ex- The Faceless) on vocals, Liam Wilson (The Dillinger Escape Plan) on bass, Matt Hollenberg (John Zorn) at the guitar, and Eli Litwin (Intensus) with the drums. This variety of musicians bring forth the whirlwind hell and magic that is A Stirring In The Noos.
While the material includes a mix of technically interesting tracks, opening title “Presage of Emptiness” starts off a bit slow. With a heavy technical crunch in guitar and drums, the sound turns into a fairly standard flow. It isn’t a “bad” song at all, but compared to the rest of the album, it lacks a level of technicality that embodies the work. The following song “Pining Light” piggy backs immediately off this sound, but nearing its halfway mark turns into a chaotic joy. The drumming and guitar work blast off into odd time signature shifts that generate a jagged and piercing sound. The song progresses into a semi melodic flow, giving the listener their first taste of the unique chemistry to come. In A Stirring In The Noos, vocalization aids at times in creating an emotional impact, whereas the bass adds a sense of heft to each track. The true stars of the material are certainly the drums and guitar. Together they help to create that sense of dynamic instrumentation found throughout the album. Emotionally, this is music seeped in a nightmare trance, hovering and crashing about with an unsettling aura.
“Memory Palace” is easily one of the most unique tracks on this album. The minimal approach shrieks and crawls in with a somber lingering, eventually unleashing into an emotionally crushing roar. In its nine-minute run time, “Memory Palace” dips and rises in tone to deliver a hectic instrumental distortion. The vocals rage in anger as the guitar starts off in a hypnotic drone, to building its way into a screeching solo that strikes like a lightning bolt. Guitar tones begin to layer this screeching effect in a hysteric style that comes off deeply disturbing. The composition of guitar work creates an aural energy that digs into one’s mind, and violently rattles about.
From here on out the rest of the album is an absolute mind fuck of brutality and instrumental technique. “Through Sand and Spirit” introduces some migraine inducing drum work, along with slick metallic guitar grooves. “He Come” is another standout title that will be remembered, for while it starts and progresses in a direct heavy fashion, the ending is bonkers as hell. Drumming begins to kick up and sputter throughout the composition as the guitar’s distortion screeches on. As the material comes towards the end, the music create a sense of walls closing in, the anxiety ramping up with the ever blasting and dark atmosphere.
A Stirring In The Noos is one of the more unique records in recent times with its emotional impact. There are plenty of technical and prog bands doing weird things with instrumentation, but rarely does a band masterfully elicit strong emotions to be felt by the listener. The band’s excellent use of dark atmosphere combines with brilliant technicality to portray a picture of magic and chaos. In the end, John Frum introduce an extraordinary work that not only slams away like hell, but buries itself deep within the skin.