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Artist: Gore

Album: Mean Man's Dream

Label: FSS

Review date: Jul. 29, 2008


Gore - "Mean Man's Dream" (Mean Man's Dream)


Gore’s second album, 1987’s Mean Man’s Dream, can still be found in used bins throughout this great nation, part of a stalled import distribution campaign that came crashing down when Atlanta’s Fundamental Music label went bust. I found a copy in Chicago earlier this year, priced around $2, an after-effect of cultural obsolescence.

Yet you can hear more of Gore’s threatening, forceful influence on bands today than you’d suspect. This Dutch outfit was one of the first bands of the '80s to take instrumental music away from jazzy noodlers and pacifists, and thrust it into the greedy, sweaty grasp of metal. They even wrote would-be lyrics for each song; ugly, hate-filled screeds in somewhat broken English with titles like “Out for Sex” and “To the Gallows,” the kind of words that land teens into counseling.

Moreover, Gore’s single-minded musical direction created a foundation for any number of male-dominated bands of the late '80s and early '90s, bands that grew out of hardcore and punk, sidestepped the Sub Pop grunge machine and AmRep sleaze pits, and leaned into music that was as serious as it was aggressive. Bitch Magnet, Slint, Bastro, Don Caballero, Dazzlingkillmen and about a dozen other outfits of that stripe all owe Gore a large debt of gratitude, for they were all able to add their own touches to Gore’s simple formula and make it their own. Black metal, as a whole, should also be thanking Gore for helping to voice miserable, horrifying thoughts into a cohesive musical whole; scrape away the layers of distortion and screaming, and you will inevitably find the same elements of songcraft standing bolt upright in the damning sun. The “Gore” in the German band Bohren und Der Club of Gore … you guessed it.

It’s also hard listen to Mean Man’s Dream and not think about where a younger Steve Albini might have gotten some ideas for how recorded drums should sound. Danny Lommen’s drums, with the help of eventual Rollins Band producer Theo van Eenburgen (nee Theo van Rock), presented a menacing front line that made room for Pieter de Sury’s searing guitar tone, which leveled all that stood in its path. Gore later appeared on one side of a split live album with the Rollins Band, and would work with Albini in some capacity on an overblown double album entitled Wrede, on an extended canvas that included one song per side.

Back to the issue at hand, however – Mean Man’s Dream, now available as digital download from FSS, with a reported physical version on the way from Southern Lord, depicts a long carving knife on a scratched metal surface as its cover art. This is a step down from the cover of their debut, Hart Gore, which shows a more ornamental blade thrust through a cow’s heart, but in essence is even more menacing. Refreshingly direct and needing little explanation, Mean Man’s Dream is a culmination of slasher movie imagery and serial killer worship. Its thick, muscular character plods along mid-tempo runs of stuttering riffs and oompah-band skanking (check the two-beat on “Loaded”), and each of the 10 songs within feels free from the need to explain itself. Here’s instrumental rock that leaves you to fill in the pieces. Their music is not necessarily narrative; more of a study in metal aggression than a contained story. In essence, these songs put the semblance of foreboding character from your nightmares behind shatterproof glass, allowing you to examine for yourself and fill in the blanks. It’s also Gore’s most successful album, and though the group’s finest moment (“Arena,” off the live split) is lost to time, Mean Man’s Dream displays for a new generation the same sketches that launched an original sound for hundreds of bands to follow.

By Doug Mosurock

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