Supercluster by JAAWRelease date: May 26, 2023
Label: Svart Records
Before the new Therapy? album dropped I had decided to write some words on a side project that Andy Cairns is heavily involved with. JAAW are a “supergroup” comprising of Jason Stoll (Mugstar, KLAMP, Sex Swing), Wayne Adams (Death Pedals, Big Lad, Petbrick) and Adam Betts (Three Trapped Tigers, Goldie, Squarepusher). Their music is primarily industrial metal and their debut 8-track album is entitled Supercluster. Namechecking Godflesh, Ministry, Lightning Bolt, Burial and Brazil’s Deafkids as inspiration, the lyrics are informed by the hallucinatory horror movies of Panos Cosmatos and Ari Aster’s Midsommar.
Opening track ‘Thoughts and Prayers’ features guitars that groan like dying dinosaurs before piledriving drums and riffs scorch the earth. This is much heavier than Therapy? given the drum sound and turbo loud bass and distorted guitars. Cairns channels Al Jourgensen with enraged growls and yelps. It all sounds like a fist fight on a dive-bombing plane hurtling to the ground. The brooding ‘Reality Crash’ is not a million miles away from Ministry’s towering ‘Scarecrow’ with a boom-clang beat and a droning guitar riff that heaves and pulls like an ocean of treacle. Cairns barely sounds like himself such is the level of effects laid on and the words are quite indecipherable, mixed low in the cacophony. I can make out an anguished “I need something I can feel!” It all sounds magnificent and monstrous at the same time.
Harsh industrial scrapes, squeals and splurges introduce the dirge that is ‘Rot’. An ugly riff shimmers while the drums and bass splutter like a broken machine. You’re relieved slightly when the roaring chorus brings in some semblance of melody, wouldn’t be a Cairns record if there wasn’t a hook or ten to reel you back in. ‘Total Protonic Reversal’ takes the temperature into more ambient zones initially with the initial quarter of the track consisting of whispers and groans. When the noise drops it’s a violent explosion of twisted riffs and electro sounds.
The bizarrely named ‘Bring Home the Motherlode, Barry’ sounds like a John Carpenter soundtrack filtered through a trashed amp. A thunderous beat with reversed cymbals adds a warped element to the distorted heavy tones. I love the way you appear to be maxed out with layers and the whole thing gets more bombastic and LOUDER. Icy electronic droplets add an air of chill to the sound and the track ends with a flurry of tumultuous weird noises. A snaking riff powers the rip snorting ‘Hellbent on Happiness’ as JAAW showcase they can do faster tunes too. Bordering on thrash metal, the song leaves you breathless and wrecked.
Country ballad* ‘The Dead Drop’ starts with a calm sequence of synths before the drums tumble out a clattering beat and the bass rumbles so low it shakes your bowels. (*absolutely not!) Firing into life, the song careers off the tracks skidding violently and breaking up into fractious little pieces. At last, the vocal distortion lifts for a moment of clarity and tenderness, if you could call it that! The album ends with a cover of ‘Army of Me’. Bjork’s bonkers banger was already bordering on industrial, based on a cyclical and brilliant riff over a stomping beat. JAAW’s version ups the noise considerably and the snare drum gets tightened to sound more like the beats from Cairns’ regular band. It’s a violent bastardisation of the Icelandic singer’s heaviest song but it transfers across most excellently.
One of my favourite albums of all time is Ministry’s crossover album Psalm 69. I’d got into that after buying a compilation album Hot Wired Monster Trux and their link to the Lollapalooza tour back then. From there I’d explore more industrial bands including Godflesh. The harsh, brutal noise that these bands create is a real tonic at times, when you need it. JAAW have captured this superbly on their debut album. Psalm 69 is very much a point of reference as I have alluded to already, but the combination of the participants brings a unique sound to proceedings. It’s up there with another Svart Records release, No Spill Blood’s latest. When you want to get a good buzz by blasting noisy heavy music, Supercluster is definitely a record to reach for.