Painkiller - Guts Of A Virgin / Buried Secrets
Earache Records
Avant-Garde Jazz, Grindcore
22 songs (51:46)
Release year: 1998
Earache Records
Reviewed by Goat
Archive review

Collected together on a single disc, Earache did fans of leftfield grindcore a real favour when they re-released these two albums. Featuring free jazz saxophone maestro John Zorn, producer extraordinaire and bass legend Bill Laswell, and ex-Napalm Death blaster Mick Harris, Painkiller melds free jazz and extreme grindcore in a unique and original way. Originally released in 1991 and 1992 respectively, these two albums are a confusing mash of screams, blasts, and squonk, often surprisingly tuneful, equally often headache-inducing and frustrating. It is brilliantly listenable, however, the two master musicians (and Mick Harris!) completely capable at their instruments and even with the lack of guitars, the resultant racket is extreme enough to satisfy even the most hardened of deathgrinders. In terms of sound, the nearest band is actually very early Napalm Death mixed with liberal doses of Mr Bungle-esque oddness, the slow rumble of the likes of Portent ominous and atmospheric next to the deranged yells of the eleven-second Handjob.

Painkiller are nothing if not varied, exploring ideas and sounds wherever they go, from crawling doom to hateful speed. There’s even a kind of disturbing funk to Dr Phibes, Harris proving his skills to be in more than mere blasting here as elsewhere. I’d go so far as to say that given time, the atmospheric value of these albums are more vital and interesting than the shorter, heavier pieces. Of course, there’s no point in listening unless you can appreciate the horrific noise of pieces like Purgatory Of Fiery Vulvas, twenty-five seconds of musical extremity that would test the ears of anyone! They’re not my favourite aspect of the listen, but I always enjoy listening to such short, nasty pieces as they are a great aural palate-cleanser for appreciating the longer, atmospheric pieces. Ask me to compare the two albums separately, and I’d have to give the prize to Buried Secrets, the shorter pieces feeling less chaotic and the longer having more experimental atmospheric pizzazz.

Yet Guts Of A Virgin is still more than worth your ears, building the tension until it is broken and released magnificently on the tracks on Buried Secrets where legendary industrial metal icons Godflesh pop up, a collaboration that yields fascinating results. The screeching six-minute title track is a great piece, setting your teeth on pleasurable edge and keeping them there as what sounds like one of Hawkwind’s effects machines possessed by a demon, joined eventually by Laswell and Harris’ rhythm section. The second, the seven-minute The Toll, takes an even more ominous tone at first, a crawling, post-apocalyptic soundscape filled with strange feedback and random percussive blasts, with despairing bellowed vocals atop it all... creepy stuff.

Obviously, it’s those with an ear for the harsher areas of jazz that will appreciate Painkiller the most. Yet metalheads with a hankering for extremity or weird atmospheres should love this, two of the most deranged albums in the grindcore sphere packaged into one easy collection. These will take years and hundreds of listens before I’m even halfway to figuring them out properly, the sort of music that carries you along with it for the running time and then deposits you back where you started, none the wiser but aware that something rather amazing has happened along the way. So, scoring them individually, Guts Of A Virgin gets 79, Buried Secrets 85, making for an overall score for the package of...

Killing Songs :
Scud Attack, Portent, Dr Phibes, Devil’s Eye, Tortured Souls, Buried Secrets, Black Chamber, The Toll
Goat quoted 82 / 100
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