Born from the ashes of deconstructed post-structuralist hardcore, Twin Stumps have decided to take the genre to a semi-new yet utterly dangerous place. Of course, I'm not talking about Minor Threat/SSD-vein hardcore punk, but rather Slap-A-Ham, Infest, noisy "powerviolence" hardcore punk. Twin Stumps is bass-heavy, trudging, blown out, and it purposefully intends to alienate all but the most dedicated fans of 'mysterious guy hardcore" (whatever that means). What would happen if you took Drunkdriver, tuned them down a few octaves, and ground them to a halt? You'd get Twin Stumps. Essentially, the band was founded on the principle that hardcore punk should be extremely dangerous and heavy and even, at times, frightening. And, man, did they hit that nail right on its fucking head.
Seedbed, the group's sophomore release, is saturated in the hum of distortion. Everything squeals and shrieks with a disgusting violence, but the production value of the album never feels annoyingly low like it often does with these sorts of affairs. It almost leaves you in awe of producer Ben Greenberg (of Pygmy Shrews fame) and his ability to muck up an album this badly without resorting to the tried an' tired method of recording in a bathroom stall. Leading the sonic punch in the face is the behemoth-like sound of the bass guitar, which loops dangerously, putting listeners in a dangerous trance. This leaves room for the guitar and vocals to emphasize the violence Twin Stumps intends to enact upon its listeners. For Instance,"Missing Persons" (the album's standout track) uses the guitar like a penknife, poking shallow yet excruciating metallic holes in listeners' chest cavities while the bass guitar and drums ferociously pummel you with sledge-hammers to the forehead. The vocals are delivered in a brilliantly tortured tone, giving you the feeling that the backing music's brutality is directed entirely at him. Meanwhile, the drums pound perfectly in the background, tying the rest of the savagery together, thus making it seem as though the music would fall into the abyss of abstraction without their guiding rhythm.
Lyrically, the album is terrifying. The lead singer's vocals are always under some kind of effect, so it is often difficult to understand what is being screamed, but every now and then the music lets up just enough to make his message loud and clear: life sucks, he sucks, you suck, everything sucks and should die 666 hail Satan. For instance, the song "Pope's Nose" climaxes with phrases like "You'll never be what your mother wanted" and "you're just a mess of organs" repeated ad nauseam. I recently saw the band live, and while talking to the singer after their set, he told me that the lyrics for the album's opening number ('Landlord') were taken from a suicide note of some sort. So, long story short, if you're looking for something that isn't, at its best, misanthropic, look elsewhere.
What's truly outstanding (and slightly shocking) is the overall cohesiveness of the album. Seedbed, as a whole LP, flows extremely well, with instrumental tracks like "Pigs at the Trough" and "Body Plan" adding a surreal edge to the downpour of grotesque realism. "Body Plan" in particular is well executed, using samples of the New York subway to create a frightening soundscape for the listener that sounds as though something evil is about to drag itself out from underneath a dilapidated industrial hell. Every song is composed beautifully, with awe-inspring climaxes being complemented perfectly by awful, turgid noise.
If you at all enjoy the post-2000 wave of noisy hardcore bands, you will probably enjoy this. So far, this album has not left my ears for terribly long, and while I know this will not be everyone's cup of tea (infant organs?), fans of SQRM, very early Sonic Youth, Neon Blud, the aforementioned Drunkdriver, etc. will probably enjoy this album. I will be pleasantly be surprised if this doesn't end up on my top 10 albums of the year list, because it will mean that 2010 brought a never-ending torrent of amazing music to my ears. Simply put, this album is delightfully disgusting.