Recording >ARSEQUAKE DETECTION
Gore: Hart Gore/Mean Man's Dream
All too often, bands credited with being ahead of their time are, in fact, just making music that nobody really wants to hear. In the case of Dutch band Gore, the sonic sludge they produced in the mid-to-late ’80s was a harbinger of things to come.
While many fans of sprawling, aggressive metal point to the albums made by Dylan Carson (aka Earth) as the genesis for the doom-drone movement, in reality the die was cast a half-decade earlier, during a period when heavy metal was exploding with creative tangents. When Justin Broadrick split from Napalm Death in 1986 to indulge in the noise-rock majesty of Head of David, it was clear that some of the more talented minds in the underground metal world had begun seeking alternatives to the “faster-louder- faster” metric.
This development appealed less to the leather-clad masses than to pointy-headed rock crits like Simon Reynolds, who went more than a little nutty for this slower and more ominous take on heaviness. Reynolds appropriately dubbed the sound “arsequake,” though the scene never really expanded beyond a handful of bands.
Gore was one of those bands. Hailing from Venlo, in the Netherlands, the band was defiantly anti-image and rooted in crust-punk aesthetics. They were also pioneers. Hailing from a remote town in a country nobody looked to for new music, the members of Gore seemed to bear no illusions of stardom and were therefore unconcerned with making music that was remotely compromised. As a result, their first two albums – Hart Gore (1986) and Mean Man’s Dream (1987) – were exceedingly heavy. Or, as Reynolds said in a 1987 Melody Maker review of Mean Man’s Dream, “a sick, pointless triumph over the times, a mesmerising spectacle of self-destruction.”
On the latter point, Reynolds was particularly astute; as much as metal proclaimed itself the music of downcast outcasts, all too often the tone of the genre was triumphant dominance. In Gore’s turgid, oppressive sound, one can find the pained cries of disaffection and despair. Even today, it’s rough making it through these two albums; with their riffless walls of guitar and half-tempo canyons of drums, they sound like a more depressing, alternate resolution of heavy metal’s post-Sabbath evolution. Needless to say, neither Gore nor any of their few peers made much of an impact during their original run. Their third release was a live LP with Gore on one side and Henry Rollins on the other; Gore engineer Theo Van Eenbergen was poached by Rollins for the Rollins Band and rechristened Theo Van Rock.
It’s fitting that Hart Gore and Mean Man’s Dream were reissued by Southern Lord, the label home to Boris, Sunn 0))) and even Carson’s still-operational Earth. Every psychonaut doom-metallian on the label owes a substantial sonic debt to Gore and the other arsequakers, and for the Dutch band’s work to be so lovingly restored (the double-CD set not only contains remastered versions of both albums, but also tacks on nearly two dozen live tracks, demos and rehearsal cuts) is a long overdue homage to a band ahead of its time.