Daniel's Staff Pick: September 22, 2022

Rigorous Institution: Lords of Misrule cassette (self-released, 2022)

Last night Scarecrow played a fun as hell, stacked gig in Richmond with 80HD from New York, Public Acid, and Relief from Virginia Beach. It was Red from Scarecrow’s birthday (and close to the birthdays of the 1,000 other neurotic Virgos in attendance), so everyone was in a good mood and ready to have fun. The bands all killed it, and I was stoked to hear 80HD has a record coming at some point… whenever they can get it pressed, which is still a huge problem at the moment. Public Acid also played a couple of hot new tracks, opening with a new song that begins with some crushing mid-paced death metal riffing that is bound to soundtrack to numerous injuries in the future. You couldn’t ask for a better night.

A few weeks ago I was at the same venue for my first opportunity to see one of my favorite current bands, Rigorous Institution. This was just a few days after Scarecrow got back from our long European tour and the idea of snuggling with my dog on the couch was a lot more appealing to me than driving three hours in each direction for a sweaty punk show, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see Rigorous Institution. They were great, as expected, and the show was super fun. I was especially glad I went because Rigorous Institution was selling a new 2-song tour cassette. You know I grabbed a copy, and that’s my staff pick this week.

The a-side and centerpiece of the tape is a cover of the song “Horrible Eyes,” originally by the cult Italian band Death SS. For a band that has such an identifiable sound, Rigorous Institution has always been adventurous, yet “Horrible Eyes” still feels like something new for them. The song is more straightforward than most of their originals, moving along at a steady gallop that allows the focus to move from the song’s hypnotic organ melody (this is Rigorous’s invention and doesn’t appear on Death SS’s original version) to the always captivating vocals (the song’s lyrics are tailor made for Rigorous Institution) to a surprisingly structured, rock and roll guitar solo. I don’t think the track is streaming anywhere, but any Rigorous Institution fan is gonna love it.

If you like it (or just if you like music I suppose), Death SS is a band who is worth investigating. While the material collected on the compilation The Story Of Death SS 1977-1984 is within the era of heavy metal proper, Death SS doesn’t sound like a band influenced by metal’s first or second waves, but a group inventing the genre for themselves. They take a lot from Black Sabbath (they’re often name-checked in histories of doom metal, and Pentagram fans should look them up), but Alice Cooper’s shock rock was at least as big an influence. The band’s visual aesthetic is wild, a kind of campy horror schtick that’s like the New York Dolls crossed with Immortal. The music is like the Pentagram recordings collected on First Daze Here, but some parts are unexpected and off the wall… check out the song “Schizophrenic,” for instance. Also, here’s a tip. If you enjoy The Story Of Death SS 1977-1984, rather than jumping to the reunion album In Death of Steve Silvester (which only features the original vocalist), instead follow guitarist Paul Chain’s career. After Death SS, he started a group called Paul Chain’s Violet Theatre that continued pulling Death SS’s most interesting musical threads.

Back to Rigorous Institution. “Horrible Eyes” is backed with a rough, 4-track recording of the Cainsmarsh album track “Criminal Betrayers,” and it’s worth hearing if you’re as big a fan as I am. As I noted above, neither track appears to be streaming anywhere, but the tape’s insert says one or both tracks (it’s unclear) will appear on a 4-song cassette EP (also titled Lords of Misrule) Rigorous Institution will release in late 2022 on a new label called Dogs of Altamont. Hopefully Sorry State can get a big stack for all you freaks. In the meantime, listen to some Death SS and get wild.

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