Friday 26 August 2022

Review of 'God's Country' by Chat Pile

Grab a teddy bear to cuddle. The new Chat Pile album is absolutely harrowing.

God’s Country is the debut album from Oklahoma City rock band Chat Pile. It’s a thrillingly fucked-up concoction of extreme metal, noise rock and post-punk spanning nine intense tracks. Instrumentally, much of the songs consists of low-tuned distorted sludgy riffs and hostile pounding drums. These are topped with some of the most authentically tortured vocals I’ve heard in a while – a mixture of unhinged spoken word, pained wailing and blood-curdling screams. The production quality is meanwhile as filthy and uninviting as a pile of ‘chat’ (a form of lead-contaminated dust created while mining lead and zinc, which is found across midwestern states like Oklahoma – just in case you were wondering what the hell a ‘chat pile’ is). And as for the lyrics, well, they’re the stuff of nightmares.

What makes this album so brilliantly terrifying is the dynamic approach it takes to horror. The first two tracks, while each blisteringly heavy, show the two sides of Raygun Busch’s vocal genius (it’s worth noting that all the band members have pretty wacky pseudonyms). Opener ‘Slaughterhouse’ is an up-for-interpretation metaphor for either hell or America featuring poetic lines about God and gore. The vocal delivery is utterly berserk, made up exasperated bawling and feral shrieks.  ‘Why’ is contrastingly a very direct attack on the real-life horrors of homelessness. ‘Why do people have to live outside? WHY!!!’ repeats Busch throughout. It’s so direct in its message that it borders on ridiculous. And yet it’s delivered with such emotional conviction (and just the right amount of sardonic humour) that the band pull it off.

Other tracks later on like ‘Wicked Puppet Dance’ delve into personal struggles with heroin addiction with gruesomely visceral lines like ‘she says vein stuff freaks her out so I keep quiet/ everyone says they can’t handle vein stuff til they try it’. Then there are tracks like ‘The Mask (2022)’ that appear to be sung from the perspective of a serial killer. Throughout this middle section we get some relatively more subdued tracks such as ‘Pamela’ and ‘Anywhere’ that provide a brief breather from the more sonically brutal tracks. However, the lyrics remain unrelentingly creepy.

The final two tracks are without a doubt the most intensely frightening. ‘I Don’t Care If I Burn’ is three minutes of suspenseful ambience and murmured vocals with a lone scream serving as a jump scare towards the end (most likely inspired by Suicide’s ‘Frankie Teardrop’). Closer ‘grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg’, despite its humorous title, meanwhile turns out to be a hellishly scary nine-minute bad trip. The vocals sound so genuinely pained that at points the track becomes almost unpleasant to listen to. It’s like Brian’s shroom trip in musical form.

I can see the vocals being too intense for many listeners (particularly the last track). However, I personally love how extreme they are. I think the band does a great job of sounding creatively terrifying without sacrificing song-writing. A lot of intentionally scary albums can end up feeling more like meandering experiments, but God’s Country is able to still deliver actual songs, which isn’t easy to achieve.