Monday, December 22, 2008

Formicide- Formicide

15 – 58:19

(review by James Edward Raggi IV, f
rom the LotFP issue The Shameless, 2007)
People are such weak-willed fucking pussies these days. It’s not enough that everyone expects to not be offended, but it’s to the point that people expect to be praised for the insignificant nothing that they do. It doesn’t give the immediate gratification of manipulating some pixels on the ol’ X-Box, so it’s obviously not worth it.

Let me tell you a little story about what it means to do something for the sake of doing it, and not because you want your ass kissed. In the introduction of this issue, I mentioned that I, the publisher, don’t need you, the paid customer. This is true. I do this because I am driven to do it, by forces 100% known and accounted for. I’ve wanted to be a writer all my life. I was reading novels, real ones, at six years of age and scribbling stupid shit immediately after. It was all garbage, from the attempt to sell hand-made comic books to the neighborhood kids for twenty-five cents a pop, to passing around sub-quality sci-fi/fantasy adventure stories to co-workers in the 90s looking for critiques. Isn’t that the sorriest shit you’ve ever heard? Add heavy metal to the ears, and then add exposure to the independent press. Instant inspiration, instant output. The energy that heavy metal gives to me is indescribable, and it certainly is not containable.

My outlet is the written word, and it is my art and is my creation. This is the reason why I laugh when I’m hit with that great canard from some shit-ass priss musician, “Well where’s your album on this great big label, huh?” Such wisdom. First, if you’re confident in your creation, you listen to and reflect upon criticism, but you don’t get defensive and you don’t bitch like a four year old. The type of person who responds in this manner knows their career is built on publicity and playing financial grab-ass, and not on the principles of inspiration and creation. Judging your success (and apparent immunity to criticism) by what business entity you decided to sign the rights to your creation over to is pretty weak. (I’ve also released fewer bad albums than these whiners, so maybe I win the music race.) My ability to write about music has nothing to do with my ability to create it. If I was a creator of music, my opinion would mean even less, because it is a musician’s job to connect with a listener, not a peer, and a musician who doesn’t like what they hear should demonstrate, not illustrate, the deficiencies by creating music with these problems solved.

Let me tell you about criticism and under-appreciation. My [now ex-] wife refuses to read LotFP. The people I hang out with, if they’ve read it, haven’t been moved enough to say a single word about it. I’ll have to assume they hate it. Yet there is, scattered around this globe, a small group of people who appreciate it. Pay to receive it. Every so often I hear from someone that used to read in the better-distributed days and they tell me what bands they discovered because of LotFP. Once I even got a “star” reaction with a reader freaking out about meeting me when I went to DragonCon one year. There isn’t a country in the Western world where I don’t know somebody that will meet me and help me out getting around their city, or even halfway across the nation, if I need it. And my home is open to them if for some reason they need to stay in Vaasa for a day or two (house rules: No smoking, no drinking). Shit, I’m planning on putting my own mother up in a hotel when she comes, you know? A couple people have actually been inspired enough by LotFP to join the effort, and these guys pay into the costs of the mag to help produce it. No shit. This is why I think it’s funny when this past year people were saying that LotFP was “jealous” of Decibel and other mags when launching our assaults. Yeah, so jealous. When I hear the staff at Decibel are offering to buy a couple dozen extra copies and pass along a few extra dollars to help get the thing made, then maybe I’ll further consider the whole envy thing. And coming back to the readers, saying “I don’t need you” does not mean that I don’t appreciate you. Your comments are appreciated (especially relevant criticism), your subscription money a sign that I’m actually reaching people. But don’t you feel better knowing that LotFP will be LotFP whether or not you’re reading it?

There is a point to all of this, directly relating to Formicide no less, so stay with me. Andrew Westerhouse does the Aversionline and Blodårstid webzines/blogs. He’s passionate about music and has been writing for over half a decade. He decided to take this band, Formicide, that had never released an album, gathered up all their demo tapes, and released it as a CD. Didn’t even have access to the master tapes, it’s taken from the released cassettes (this is a good thing… no temptation to fuck with the sound, so it gets released sounding like it did when it was impressing him in the first place). The money and business part of the equation was so well-thought out that after the finished CDs arrived, he was talking about how he was going to get around to contacting distros about carrying it one of these days. The damn thing doesn’t even have a barcode on it. So the question is… why?

Because he’s a goddamn fan of the music and he thought it would be really cool to have this band out there, in a modern and convenient format, for the people who might be interested in it. He’s not concerned about business and finance, and the success or failure of this venture is completely irrelevant to his doing it. Even if this one doesn’t sell, there are still some other old bands he’s thinking about doing releases for, business be damned. (It’s in print now Andrew, so if you puss out on us I’m coming to rip your nuts off.) His criteria for what is worth doing are not determined by money, marketing potential, trends, or any insignificant bullshit like that. The truth is that a label with any sort of success can not be trusted, because the instant something becomes a success and the label owner sees money in his own pocket, the label changes. It does. New signings and all activity become all about sustaining success and worrying about money and what is good for business instead of letting the music and inspiration determine what is good and what is not. Fuck that. Commerce kills art dead. Financially unsound record labels are the only record labels that music listeners can trust.

Thing is, it’s bad enough when “industry professionals” (read: fuck-asses who are making money they don’t deserve while ripping off the people who actually produce what they manipulate other people into buying) and musicians who have had a taste of a bit of fame and monetary success fall into thinking that any of that matters. It’s fucking pathetic when fans act all concerned about the business moves of labels and bands like “good business” and “good music” have any relationship whatsoever. It gets even worse when fans pretend they are junior members of the industry who are helping promote the bands. Slave labor, right? Fool the consumer into thinking they are a provider. People… it’s this simple:


That’s all that “professionalism” is worth. Nothing. The ability to fuck you over with no sense of shame or responsibility. “It’s just business. Just doing my job. I didn’t make the rules.” Go fuck yourself and your soulless shell.

Of course, for the purpose of this review anyway, all of this is only relevant because Formicide is pretty good and will also appeal to people not named Andrew Westerhouse. It’s 80s American thrash, no doubt about it, with a sense of aggression and relentless riffing the likes of which seemed to stall in this time period as bands became more aware of MTV, money, and thinking Slayer and Metallica levels of success were really possible and desirable. That this album covers material originally recorded between 1987 and 1989, it’s impressive how the band ignores South of Heaven and And Justice For All’s slowed-down success and gets even more raw later on. It doesn’t stop, it doesn’t let up – it’s an album by metal for metal and nothing else. This doesn’t get in the way of the songs from being distinct and at times catchy. The singer (as opposed to shrieker or shouter) is quite articulate with real understandable words of apocalypse and being bellowed out with controlled anger. And if you don’t agree, the lyrics are all there in the insert in plain black and white. The sound is pretty damn effective for the material taken from the first two tapes. The third demo sounds like ass and there isn’t much saving it. A re-recording of some of those 1989 songs (done later that same year) get released on this album for the first time ever, and they do show a better sound quality, and highlight the longer and far more articulate (and important) lyrics the band was attempting. Formicide is everything good about what the American metal scene was capable of in the 80s. And they did it themselves.

Formicide only existed for two years. Why they didn’t last very long is unknown, but largely irrelevant. They did what they wanted to do, for as long as they wanted to, and the progression of the music shows absolutely no taint of outside influence in attempting to attract attention and get signed. Formicide serves two purposes – one, their music is worthy of listening on its own. Two, bands should treat their work seriously, for its own sake. You never know who is listening to that “promo” you are putting together, what effect it will have on them… or when. Formicide got what you just know they wanted back then – they got signed. Somebody put their record out. Should we feel it’s somehow irrelevant or “doesn’t count” because it was seventeen years later? Or should we just remember the real lesson: Make it good and shut the fuck up when the world isn’t beating down a path to your door. The point is to make something meaningful that connects with people, and the second you forget that in hopes of being an impressive line on some business’ accounting sheet, you’ve lost all relevance. Andrew Westerhouse is a thrash freak and he was moved enough to finance a proper album release of this material. Effectively, he liked it so much he bought a thousand copies. I’m not so much a thrash freak and I’m enjoying the hell out of it for its quality on a more general metal scale. How much more convincing do you need to be moved to investigate for yourself whether or not you should invest in Formicide?

No comments: