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E pluribus unum: out of many sections, one track - 90%

NausikaDalazBlindaz, January 21st, 2013

Scenario: it's just past your bed-time, you've been a good little boy or girl and Mummy and Daddy have said you can listen to one more song before lights are out. What song will you choose? Why, you would choose none other than "The Great Barrier Reefer", a whopping near 80-minute monster that is also the debut album for the marvellously named Bongripper. The song has the added advantage of telling you a brief bed-time story from Revelations in the New Testament over a gentle one-note strum loop in its first seven minutes before launching straight into the music proper. The story is relayed in a peculiar multi-tracked distorted vocal that mimics the voices that might exist in your head if you were possessed by demons.

The main body of the track crashes down just before the last of the voices finishes speaking and it's an almighty shock indeed: thunderous, crust-laden riffs hit you like almost crumbly concrete tombstones and pound your head repeatedly, aided by relaxed yet quite precise drumming. The guitar sound is thick with sharp-ish noisy crunch. As the track proceeds at its steadily accelerating pace (surprisingly fast for a stoner doom / sludge metal band), the guitars become increasingly busy and take on the air of a turbulent acid-rain shower cascading down in the background, the drums are positively jaunty and a clean-toned bell-like guitar melody starts up. The rhythm changes, becoming choppy at times, and the drum-beat changes too, speeding up the song and changing the mood from serene and laid-back to frantic and near-deranged. The track passes through experimental stages such as one at about the 20th minute where the only instruments playing are two guitars, one distorted and bleeding raw texture, the other very clean, pure-toned and dreamy and tranquil in mood while its counterpoint twin tears itself apart.

An excellent section comes at the 25th minute, dominated by a repeating loop of pummelling drum-beats which the guitars imitate and with the help of effects convert into something very spaced-out and deliriously mind-spinning. There follow about 17 minutes of crazed space sludge guitar flying high in the air and clean raindrop guitar tones going splish-splash about in no particular direction while the percussion forges ahead with its own demented exploration of rhythm texture and pace amid crazed cymbal crashes. The music comes to a near-climax but withdraws teasingly into another outburst of drumming and cymbal chaos and chuggy motorik guitar texture. Past the halfway mark and the music enters a relaxed, desert-beach-hazy mode in which a lazy acoustic guitar loop repeats over and over with echoing licks ascending into space like runaway balloons.

The music changes again and again and astute listeners will have noticed that each section of the music, lasting at least 5 or 6 minutes and sometimes as long as 20, is based around a repeating riff or rhythm loop that gradually but insistently unravels or increases in intensity or mood until it becomes unrecognisable and the musicians have gone in different directions, rather as though they started at the point of the Big Bang and then everything zoomed out, expanding and spinning out variations and their variations as it does so. Generally the music speeds up, becomes choppy and unhinged, the mood is more excitable and listeners will think anything and everything that can happen, will.

If the Bongripper fellers recorded this entire track in one take (give or take a few polishes here and there), then they certainly put in a lot of effort and concentration to wring out of disparate pieces of music strung together in linear fashion something that feels quite unified, whether it be in the similar structural approach of each section of the music or in the way each succeeding section seems to build on the previous section in complexity and mood. Initially the different sections retreat from what would be their climaxes but each section gets closer and closer to the pyrotechnic stage until at last the expected Mother of All Explosive Climaxes arrives and it's a very beautiful thing to behold.

Perhaps the music could have been edited for length and the whole thing made a bit tighter but personally I don't mind the track being so winding and leisurely in parts. Some listeners will find it too long and others too short. From a purely technical point of view, I think the piece could have been separated into numbered tracks for ease of listening - but then children will be robbed of that one last song before bed-time and I wouldn't like the poor kiddies to curse me for that suggestion.