Full disclosure time: I make no pretense about being an intense fan of Recs of the Flesh, the dark-rock unit formed in Sardinia, Italy by singer-guitarist-songwriter Massimo Usai. I basically came across their music secondhand, through their remix of a track from Prong's Power of the Damager, an album produced in part by Al Jourgensen of Ministry. I was surprised to find that Recs' own original music was of a style unique to either of those bands, blending the lush lyrical darkness of Joy Division with a gritty post-punk angst recalling early-era Killing Joke – bands which I'm certain had a strong influence on Massimo's songwriting. We've been friends ever since, so sure, maybe I'm a little biased. But don't forget, I would never have met him had I not been blown away by his sounds... and let's face it, life's too damn short for me to waste time (mine or yours) with music that doesn't interest me.
In the period after the release of their first two independently-released albums Illusory Fields of Consciousness and The Threat Remains and is Very Real (check out our review here), Recs went through a temporary hiatus and some personnel changes, but they came back stronger than ever with Fear, Lies and Collapsing Comets, which is by far their darkest, most disturbing and compelling work to date. The album's first single “You Kill” revealed one layer of this new darkness while maintaining a memorable hook and a retro-gothic feel, and I was thrilled to premiere the blood-drenched music video here on FEARnet. But that song was just a hint of the menacing sounds that lurked further beneath that accessible melodic surface; going further in, I found a groove that is brutal and frightening, even as it's paired with a lyrical undercurrent of pain and loss.
From the scorching opening riff of "Obsessive-Compulsive-Dispersive” to the follow-up "The Fire in Me,” you can feel the infusion of punk and metal elements that give this album a sense of barely controlled mayhem. The solid chorus melodies, paired with a warm organ-like synth line in the former, keep the violence in check, but it's always straining to break loose and get its teeth into you. Massimo's vocals have a snarling edge that was largely absent in Recs' earlier, more introspective work, and they're more attuned to the tension and anger that drives much of this record, including the lyrics. The doom-rock strains of "Smoking Head Spin" are an atmospheric breather, but don't expect to be let off so easy: the song is also one of the band's scariest cuts, peaking with a massive breakdown and closing with a deep and moody picked guitar. In the same key, it's really a kind of prelude to the rawer cut “Disclaim (Knowingly),” which gets its main energy from a sharp vocal multi-tracking that belies the simple but tragic lyrics.
One of my favorites, the nihilistic "Enemies" plays like a straight-up horror track as interpreted by Kurt Cobain, with its gothic synth chords soaring over waves of guitar grit and fuzz as well as a slamming bass-pegged breakdown that actually shook stuff off my desk. “You Kill” is followed by another single-worthy entry, "One More Wish,” which plays more pensive, but still has a threatening undercurrent that surfaces in the high-range chorus vocals and lyrics that literally address a sense of approaching doom. "Afterwards" enters the spooky realm previously visited by “Enemies,” but with a sensual, chant-like verse structure that feels slightly ritualistic.
I expected "It's All Gone" to be more moody, but that title is not coming from a place of regret, but of bloody rage – a blast of snarling, animal energy, blending speedy riffs and punchy cannon snares with shuddering tremolo keyboards and a jagged, unraveling lyrical delivery (“Sanity is nevermore/Lost in a nightmare of red”) until it finally explodes, packing the most sonic violence on the album. The doomy, drop-tuned riffage in "Of Fears and Liars" summons the savage pagan vibe of Killing Joke, effective in its muscular simplicity. The same vibe is cranked to a higher tempo for the climactic piece "Reckless Ways,” before easing down a bit for the thoughtful coda "In This Darkness,” which draws its main strength from purity of melody rather than raw aggression, even allowing for a graceful fade-out.
Over the course of all three albums, Recs of the Flesh have remained true to their core skills, laying down a solid foundation of dark cosmic rock over which they've been able to explore lyrical themes of outer and inner space. This album reveals that this core can serve more furious and even terrifying emotional content; in fact, I'd go so far as to say that's where their signature sound works best, and maybe that's exactly the approach they needed to kick their game to the next level.
Fear, Lies and Collapsing Comets can be purchased at this link. If you missed our premiere earlier, here's the vid for "You Kill"...