For most, the name Man is the Bastard may not conjure up much more than a few misanthropic head nods, but for those who were skulking around the grind-core and power violence scene of the mid ’90s, you can probably recall the group’s brutal assaults. MITB existed between 1991 and 1997 in Claremont, California and terrorized audiences with their four-bassist pummel and Cookie Monster growl. Although MITB have been defunct now for years, their offshoot, Bastard Noise, have strongly forged ahead. This spinning-off proved to be a bit of a clarion call too, notable in that it’s really one of the first times you see a hardcore act turn their sights so adamantly onto pure noise, in effect highlighting the similarities and nexusing of the two genres. While groups like Black Dice and Hair Police would also eventually cross that ravine, marking a waning of the hardcore scene and explosion into noise, Bastard Noise preceded their efforts by nearly a decade.
Although the group have in the past enlisted the help of honorary members like John Wiese, Merzbow, and other members of The Locust, MSBR, and Agoraphobic Nosebleed, this release has Bastard Noise whittled down to the core members of W.T. Nelson and Eric Wood (though Justin Pearson and Bobby Bray of The Locust do provide vocal assistance on one of the tracks). Recorded by Matt Anderson (Heroin, Gravity Records), Rogue Astronaut is the first solo BN release in quite some time, and in addition to being a resurgence for Bastard Noise, it’s also a resurgence for Anderson’s Gravity Records, a label that was integral to the post hardcore scene of the ’90s. Since those more prolific days, Gravity has been relatively silent, releasing only a few records here and there, mostly from San Diego psychonauts Earthless, and now this Bastard Noise album.
Conceptually, Rogue Astronaut deals with an emerging outer space tyranny most likely galvanized in the wake of Earth’s destruction. With ever-expanding despotism developing right here on our planet, it’s hard to believe there are those who feel the need to dream up scenarios of extra-planetary control and misanthropy, but that’s exactly the prospect that Rogue Astronaut envisions. An exercise in control, Wood and Nelson implement their own brand of hacked synthesis and homemade oscillators to replicate the sounds of industrial malfunction, space stations becoming unmoored, space shuttles exploding and falling back to earth, nuclear submarines colliding underwater: the sounds of something going very wrong with the system. A conflagration of dentist drills, malfunctioning cranes, and synth squeals are met with varying embodiments of vocal harmonies; where an angelic voice heralds the dawning of a new age of imperial control, a Gregorian-ish chant mourns the loss of the old systems of despotism. But don’t worry, those Cookie Monster growls you learned to love from MITB are present too. All vocals are courtesy of Wood, and it seems that each of his vocal styles is an embodiment of a different character in this future world.
On Rogue Astronaut, Bastard Noise excel in never getting amazingly loud or noisy, but that’s not to say that there isn’t an understated brutality to the whole thing. Their brand of psychological abuse is more subtle, letting waves of tense paranoia build amongst the dead air before hitting you upside the head with an oscillation blast to the centripetal lobe, letting large chasms of tense, hanging space to seep into your psyche before blasting you with electroshock therapy. The packaging is completely off the moorings as well, as this limited-edition first pressing boasts the inclusion of “four vivid color ultra-gloss mission report documents, 1 R/A mission insignia commemorative sticker and one foil stamped poster for your stinking wall." Indeed, Rogue Astronaut is a must for any serious fan of noise and hardcore.
1. Tyranny Beyond Earth
2. Ryobi Party
3. Rogue Astronaut
4. Tyranny Beyond Earth
5. Moonpool Team
6. Radioactive Sunrise