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Burmese - Men

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Artist: Burmese

Album: Men

Label: Load

Review date: Mar. 8, 2005

For Burmese, Whitehouse must have hit like an epiphany.

The San Francisco maulers spent the majority of their formative years obsessively – and successively – thrashing out low-end tarpit attacks with their distinctively destructive double-bass/double-drummer formation. After a grisly grind-core debut and a vividly violent Tumult Records follow-up, Burmese's aural bloodlust had plateaued. Their basses had been downtuned to the lowest conceivable throbbing decibel. The drumbeats had slowed and deepened to the most crushing and murderous slams a human arm was capable of bludgeoning out. A stylistic threshold had been reached. Then somebody recommended a Whitehouse record. And suddenly everything was new again.

The importance of William Bennett to Burmese's evil evolution cannot be over-exaggerated. In fact, the most sensible way to organize Burmese's discography is probably to divide it into pre-Whitehouse and post-Whitehouse eras. The former is inhumanely heavy, inflamed, serial killer rock and roll, while the latter is pale, withdrawn, torturous spoken word. Burmese's recent Whitehouse covers album made even more overt this admiration for and allegiance to the master of so-low-concept-it's-high-concept art hate.

Men, however, is the first Burmese record which attempts to bridge these two differing but parallel worlds of pain. It's like old Burmese finally meeting the new Burmese. In a pitch-black subterranean parking garage. Covered in blood. Not surprisingly, they kill each other.

"Rapewar" shrieks the album into life with nothing but anticipatory cymbals and the vocalist screaming threats and warnings like "I'm gonna fucking cum! Life is war!" before bottoming out into a low, punishing, wordless plod. On "Preyer" and "Thumbsucker" Burmese even revert to variations on their early death rock, with pissed-off, drone-punk drumming and string-scratching treble hiss prefacing the collapse into a bludgeoning crawl strewn with hysterical, white-in-the-face yells and cries.

But the pinnacle of Men’s heavy violence/Whitehouse synthesis is a dizzying, deranged track ridiculously titled, "Shut Your Mouth...I Paid For The Hour." Restless, blood-racing drums jitter endlessly while a jumpy, ominous bassline dances on top and the other bass rumbles foreboding feedback in the background. Then the drums cut out, isolating the bouncy riff for a few nauseating measures, before smashing back in like a pipe to the temple. It's like a soundtrack to the worst things humanly imaginable. Which is quite a feat, really.

Mercifully, Men is pretty brief, clocking in at just over 20 minutes, but it's some of the band's densest, darkest and most disturbing music. It's also their first for Providence’s bastion of extremist noise, Load Records, and Burmese fit in perfectly with Load's lunatic agenda.

It's unclear where exactly Burmese will go from here, how they could possibly further intensify such pure, lurid hostility, but Men is as powerful and terrible as anything they've ever done, and they show no signs of wavering from their pursuit of sick, sadistic evil. Fortunately for them, the human psyche is never at a loss for bad, bad, bad things.

By Britt Brown

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