Black Mayonnaise – VII

Black Mayonnaise is an “experimental doom sludge” one-man band (as well as “undecayed sediment, sewage, and petrochemical wastes” typically found on the bottom of harbors, bays, and oceans). Sludge is indeed quite an apt description of this album, as rumbling guitars fuzz contentedly alongside extremely garbled and low-end vocals (one website referred to them as “dying Elephant Man gurgles”, which is actually a decent comparison) and a persistent drum beat. While this lo-fi concept initially sounds as if it could be viable, there are a few points within the album which detract from what could have been a fascinating production.

To begin, the album’s main concept is that passages from Dante’s Inferno are supposedly being recited on top of repetitive sludge doom motifs. Yet, the vocals are so slow and mangled that they actually could be about paying taxes, cutting your hair, or reading the back of a cereal box, and no one would know the difference. While the lack of comprehensibility will probably not bother most people who would listen to this, it does make me wonder why he bothered presenting the album as a conceptual work with thematically linked pieces if there is no way to tell they are linked other than the fact that they all sound vaguely similar to one another? Without a lyric sheet, there is absolutely no way to be certain what is being “gurgled” out (and gurgled is a very accurate description, almost to the point of creepiness in places, such as in the fifth song, where liquid sound effects bubble and percolate throughout the piece…very unsettling, to be sure).

In addition, the overall repetitiveness and blandness of the songs themselves further blunt the experience. Sure, the repetition of patterns is a commonly held staple of doom in general, yet there is little that sets the individual tracks apart. What is frustrating about this is that, during many of the songs, there are elements that are thrown in that sound promising, but quickly disappear back into the murky quagmire of the general theme of the album. Notable instances of this include the mid-tempo intro to the third song (almost tribal in nature) which inexplicably stops after a minute and weird “electronic sounding” manipulations of the “vocals” in the second song.

Then, there is the sixteen-minute “Waves” piece: an extended set of various rising and falling synthesizer tones and pads, remaining fairly constant until ten minutes into the song, where strange “outer space” beeps and blips are added at random intervals. One can’t help but feel that this ultimately is filler of the worst sort (especially since without it the album would have run under 25 minutes).

Finally, the “bonus live track” is also quite a disappointment. Intentionally lo-fidelity production is further hampered by a mediocre live audience recording. While the previous songs were tolerable for curiosities sake, this is simply painful to listen to for more than short periods at a time.

Overall, this is an abysmal record. The majority of the songs have a feeling of incompleteness about them, with many of the more interesting moments vanishing just when they should have been explored further. It is also rather lopsided, as the “Waves” track could be considered the second sonic half of the album that should have been instead distributed in healthy doses among the rest of the songs. A small amount of research on my part revealed that he later would incorporate a somewhat cleaner production with various electronic on his first “official” full length “TTSSATTSR”, and thankfully it would appear that many of the negative aspects of the “VII” album were for the most part corrected. But be assured, that despite what has been said by promoting sources, this is far from “classic” material (indeed, the most appropriate final word would be from the front man, Mike Duncan: “The other crowd of discriminators possess a much higher level of integrity. These are the individuals who have listened to the project and have empirically reduced it to simplistic weird sounds created by an overactive imagination and not “music” at all; more or less a truism… for the most part”).

Gurgle, gurgle.

Black Mayonnaise (Official website)
Discogs Page
Emperor Jones Records
Midheaven Mailorder
(to order “VII” record)
Aversion Online review of a Black Mayonnaise split album

~ by John Lithium on May 4, 2007.

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