The Porcelain Throne: The Locust
The throne is occupied again, this time with something weird courtesy of W. If you want to see your favorite band here, by all means, hit us up!
In the heavy metal family tree, grindcore is easily one of the most noxious branches. Stripped of all melody, twisted into chaotic rhythms, injected with a healthy dose of sloppiness, and often bereft of any attachable riffs, grindcore is a demanding subsystem for the perverse and deranged. So what happens when the conventions of grind are defiled and warped with new wave dadaism and aesthetic intent? You end up with The Locust, one of the most unique bands I’ve yet encountered in the world of extreme music.
Formed in 1994 by mastermind/bassist/vocalist Justin Pearson, Bobby Dray, Dylan Scharf, Dave Warshaw, and Dave Astor, the band would eventually cement themselves into a four-piece lineup with a clear artistic intent: to subvert the norms of heavy music and bludgeon listeners with a wall of sound. Their style and personnel have changed over the years, but the band has always maintained their imagery and worked within their own manifesto. From the beginning, The Locust intended their output to be challenging and incomprehensible, straddling the line between art and music. It is meant to be bold, confrontational, and unpalatable. If you press play below, you should struggle and feel challenged; this ideology permeates everything the band has done. This union of politics and music, including a longstanding feud with Clear Channel Communications, only serves to prove the legitimacy of their convictions and christens their artistic revolt. Join me as we explore the bizarre grindcore/hardcore/powerviolence/noise rock/new wave/synthpop world of The Locust.
The Locust (1998)
The band’s debut full-length was preceded by two splits and an EP (also titled The Locust), but the band’s signature sound of electronic chaos would really come to the fore on this album. The Locust is one of the band’s last recordings as a five-piece and is characterized by a heavier emphasis on the zany electronics than on the more metallic instruments. Over the course of the album’s twenty tracks, the band toys with atmosphere and synth noises to create an ever-alarming sense of dread and disorientation, as though you’ve just wandered into an 8-bit horror video game with a heavy metal soundtrack. Look no further than the opening of “Moth-Eaten Deer Head” to hear how the band pushes the electronics to the fore in order to craft an unsettling atmosphere for the actual chords to play within. The band’s distinct visual element (characterized by their use of insectile Nylon suits and masks) would only lend itself to the surreal nature of the music. “Backbones of Jackasses” is perhaps the best example of the dual assault of electronics and grind.
Flight of the Wounded Locust EP (2001), Plague Soundscapes (2003), and Follow the Flock, Step in Shit EP (2003)
This period of the band’s career would see them truly cementing the “wall of sound” approach they employed in a live setting. In addition to the elaborate costumes, the band became known for aligning all four instruments (as feasible) at the front of the stage in order to create a unified force of befuddling noise. The music from this time period, now produced by the permanent line-up of Pearson, Bray, Karam, and Serbian, echoed the live setting; each song featured an unrepentant hurricane of dizzying riffs, d-beats, and electronic bloops and bleeps swirling in a nauseating maelstrom of shattered carapaces and broken ideologies. Songs feature truly brilliant moments, but these nuggets tend to appear as little more than rats scrambling about in the walls, forcing listeners to really dig beneath the layers of chaotic sheet-rock to find the buried treasure. “The Half-Eaten Sausage Would Like to See You in His Office” is a perfect example of this; there are some intriguing skronky riffs in this song that sound as though the band is bending space-time, but on first listen, you might miss them beneath the screaming and synth waves. If the song titles are anything to judge by, that steep learning curve appears to be entirely intentional.
Safety Second, Body Last EP (2005) and New Erections (2007)
The next few years for the band would see them dabbling in even more experimentalism before embracing a more straightforward powerviolence approach. Safety Second, Body Last was actually just one long song split into two halves. The two portions flow into each like bubbling magma belched forth from the gullet of a digital subterranean demon, the trademark wall of sound and blast-meets-electronics disarray present and cranked as high as possible. Interestingly, the band would actually tone down a bit for their next full-length, shifting focus to more concrete song structures, sharper riffs, and menacing atmosphere. The end product is a more song-oriented nightmare landscape characterized by a distinctly foreboding alien skyline. “AOTKPTA” is a perfect example of the new approach; the song progress naturally and actually employs concrete riffs and rhythms that drive the music between the electronic interludes. The varied vocal approach (mostly unheard on previous releases) is an added bonus. Each individual track is a unique and profane column upon which the entire solid structure is grounded, and every song serves to make this the heaviest of The Locust’s albums. This is perhaps my favorite release from the band, and it shows that they have the chops to harness all the schizophrenic energy into some truly memorable and captivating songs. Check out “The Unwilling… Led by the Unqualified… Doing the Unnecessary… for the Ungrateful” below.
The Peel Sessions (2010)
The Locust’s most recent release is sadly their least memorable. Recorded in 2001 for John Peel’s BBC Radio 1 show, it features re-recorded versions of older songs. There isn’t really anything memorable here aside from nostalgia, but if you’re interested, check out “Moth-Eaten Deer Head” below.
Sadly, The Locust have been quiet for quite some time now, presumably because Justin Pearson has been busy with wild noise rockers Retox. Still, this band remains an important footnote in the history of weird extreme music and, on a personal note, reminds me of my early days of stepping foot into the outer limits. Here’s to hoping they release new stuff soon and keep pushing the boundaries of art and music.
Thank you YourLogicIsFlushed for indulging my weird tatses! As always, check The Official Porcelain Throne Guidelines and help me fill up the throne!