The Entertainment Experiment
Click to hear: “King Dead”
I can recall only three times in my life when music actually scared me.
The first time was in ’93, when a flatmate in San Francisco loaned me a Jesus Lizard CD (David Yow is not well). The second was a few years back, when The Fuge loaned me his copy of Fantômas’ third album, Delìrium Còrdia (Mike Patton: also not well). And the third was the first time I saw Confusatron, at The Big Easy, God knows how long ago.
The Cookie Monster death-metal vocals and ferocious guitar I could handle. But the way the trio kept switching tempos, musical textures, even entire genres on a dime, at breakneck speed, seemingly at random, shook me. I was disturbed by two related questions that even now, after years listening to their music, I still can’t answer: How the hell do they remember these songs? And what’s it like to walk around town with crazy shit like this burned into your brain?
I really don’t want to know.
Bands like Confusatron explain how sick became a synonym for really fuckin’ good. Guitarist Doug Porter is a heavy metal virtuoso. Bassist Jason LaFrance matches him on his instrument while manipulating a small laboratory of sound clips and effects on stage and in the studio. Drummer Adam Cogswell is apparently a genius. His ability to keep time — and do so in consistently interesting ways — while these compositions pinball around is stunning.
Ctr+alt+dstry is Confusatron’s second “studio” album. The term must be used loosely, as this is actually a collection of tracks recorded over the past seven years in three different studios, at least a couple of which likely double as band members’ apartments. (Regardless, the flat sound that detracted a bit from the group’s mind-blowing debut, 2003’s Chewbacalypse Now, is not a problem this time.)
Most of the music here first appeared on the 2008 live album Operation Livy. The studio versions don’t differ much from the live tracks — a fact that, in retrospect, only makes the band’s ability to reproduce these songs on stage more astounding.
“In the Shadow of the Living Room,” which clocks in here at just over 10 minutes (it’s a little shorter on Livy), has a nightmarish, doom-metal first half followed by a second section of death-prog. You will fear this song.
“Non Ha Ochi” (translation: “Has No Eyes”), an 11-plus-minute voyage through a drunken Balkan folk dance and up to the Hall of the Mountain Dew King, is even longer and weirder here thanks to an extended outro (dubbed “Floppy Disco”) that could pass for danceable on Goth/Industrial night at Asylum.
Like “Non Ha Ochi,” “The Unholy Threeve,” Livy’s mammoth closer, has been delineated into three comically titled sections on Ctrl (the first is called “Punched by an Angel”). The unholy trinity of Zappa, Patton and Zorn are clearly in the room, as are well-worn copies of Rush’s Fly By Night and Caress of Steel, but By-Tor and the Snow Dog would both get their ass kicked by the demons Confusatron is conjuring here. By the time the anthemic closing section is through, your head can’t bang anymore and you’re out of lighter fluid.
Ctrl opens with three previously unreleased, shorter compositions. The title track is a sound collage depicting insanity. This is followed by “King Dead,” a punishing rollercoaster ride through hell that’s as frightening and fun as you’d expect such a ride to be. Aside from some rogue waves in the middle, “Boxcutter” is a pretty straightforward psycho-surf track — which, in itself, is surprising.
Ctrl is obviously long-overdue, but it’s not as if Confusatron’s members have been idle. Porter’s recorded several albums and gigged extensively as a member of the peerless death-punk group Covered in Bees. LaFrance and Cogswell are the rhythm section of Man-Witch, the fantasy-metal group fronted by Bees drummer Tristan Gallagher. Other side projects abound.
Confusatron is gigging more frequently these days. On Feb. 19, they play Geno’s with Book of the Dead — a side project in which Porter and Cogswell team up with Candy from local doom kings Ocean — and Johnny Cremains, in which Porter joins, among others, Sean Libby and Erik Winter of The Horror.
How does Porter remember four bands’ worth of twisted metal material? Nevermind. I don’t wanna know.
— Chris Busby
ctrl+alt+dstry can be heard and, for a small charge, downloaded at confusatron.bandcamp.com.