Vortis - Take The System Down (Cover Artwork)


Take The System Down (2002)


Remember the first time you listened to Crass or Dead Kennedys? I sure do. I can still remember at first being terrified of the noise that was be blasted from my speakers, all at once it was loud, abrasive, shrieking, feedback, and vocalist that I could barely listen too. But while my initial reaction was to turn off the stereo and take this disc of noise out, I stopped because underneath all of that there was some being said, a message that with the music and the singing confronted the listener and challenged them to rethink their position in the world. It made you question what was happening in the world and learn more about what you are being told, and dared you to think for yourself. Well flash forward several years, now Crass and DKs are two of my favorite bands and I have trouble remembering the last time I had that same reaction to music, that was until about two months ago when Scott handed me a CD by a group called Vortis to review. "Well this should be interesting" I thought, "I'll see what the Fellow Traveler (a 60 year old philosophy professor from Purdue) can do".

Well to put it simply this band blew my mind in just the first three songs. After them I had to shut off my CD player. All at once the feelings from early in my punk life came flooding back to me. While the music was so different than what I had been used to, I knew that they were saying something important and like the moth drawn to the flame, I needed to hear what they were ranting about. Again I pushed play, the songs I had heard earlier sound better, and I began to listen more intently to the vocals to hear rants against the exploding boom in technology that is leaving humanity behind ("Hate Our Condition" "Unabomber"), racism and revolution, and white supremacists ("White Skin Black Heart" "Black Helicopters") with the lyrics "Hail, hail to the oven Jew! I'm the son of Satan how do you do? The son of Satan wouldn't ever have been if it hadn't been for anti-Semitism. So here I am, a fuckin' no account Jew. Don't tread on me or I'll stomp on you", the protests in Seattle and Generation Y's final lack of apathy ("Generation Y"), and even the impending war with Iraq ("Desert Storm") are also discussed as well as the failure of Democracy, not only in our own country, but in others as well ("Democracy") with lyrics: "The American people elected Bush so he could hand them to the fuckin' corporations. The Israeli people voted in Sharon so he could hand them to a fuckin' conflagration".

While the political and sociological discussions on this disc provided me with food for thought, the real challenge was the music itself. During my listening I heard elements of punk, funk, rap, lounge, country, gospel, Arabian, tribal African, noise, and rock. After a few listens the music sounds great and I loved how they never stuck to one formula or predicable sound, each song on hear sounds completely different but at the same time its unified. The hardest part to get used to, and something that might turnoff many listeners, is the singer's voice. While his singing style does remind me a lot of Jello's style, only much more high pitched and nasal (hell the guy is 60, and actually reminds me of one of my grandpas), but if you can get past that one annoyance then you can enjoy what he is saying.

To try and compare this to any group is an exercise in futility but I would say think of the Dead Kennedys meet Wire and the Butthole Surfers, with elements of Public Enemy and the Big Boys and you might have an idea of what to expect. But perhaps FT, the Fellow Traveler describes them the best "Our songs take form with no prior design. Each of us adds his unique force, and together we generate the swirl. As we tighten our sound, strengthen ourselves as the axis of the vortex, we reforge each song each time we play it, and so we never get jaund like they were ripped off a bumper sticker somewhere get this. If you want to be a challenged listener and actually be offended by music again pick this album up. The more and more I listen to this, the better it sounds, and more FT's rants and ideas makes sense to me, plus its just refreshing to hear a group with the balls to be different.