‘Hammer of the gods’
(Comedy minus one)
This is a tragic story.
Silkworm were a prolific and extraordinary Chicago based post punk trio. Right from their 1987 inception they balanced the intellectual, highly literate black humoured song writing talents of bassist-vocalist Tim Midgett and guitarist-vocalist Andy Cohen with furious Karate gone Pavement wonky guitar solos, and a tight muscular rhythm section as unrelenting as that of Shellac.
No surprise then that it was Steve albini that recorded some of their nine albums, and that Steve malkmus played with them live as ‘The Crust Brothers’. They also won the respect of many fellow rockers from The New Year to Jason Molina who appears in the forthcoming biopic Couldn't You Wait? The Silkworm story.
As the film explains, the band ended prematurely when Jeanette Sliwinski deliberately crashed the car she was driving into a car at traffic lights in a suicide attempt. She failed to kill herself, instead killing Michael Dahlquist the Silkworm drummer and two other Chicago musicians.
With the 2006 EP Chokes! Silkworm closed shop and Midgett and Cohen joined by Chris Manfrin, (from slowcore band Seam) on drums and Brian Orchard on second guitar became Bottomless pit.
Bottomless Pit’s debut album Hammer of the gods (a book by Nietzsche, nothing to do with Led Zepplin) is a dark, psychological sojourn across the mythical underworld river Lethe and through the subterranean city of Hades. This is real life human suffering set to a cinematic soundtrack of cold alloy (Travis Bean) guitar tones, lonely reverb soaked drums and melancholic bass. This is Joy Division territory.
The album opens with The Cardinal Movements solitary drum march. Guitars and bass fall into line with a tight shadowy symmetry and crescendo into elegiac ecstasy as Midgett faces the heart stopping trauma noting the mundane reality of a world that keeps turning regardless of who leaves it and learns to carry on.
“when you know they won’t show up
when you think it might rain
when you get it in your mind to live again”
Dogtag is a personal song but I’d suggest Cohen is dwelling on the startling confrontation of unreality you get when at a funeral you view the casket containing the remnants of a person you once knew as a living entity. A mourning hymn clawing at the indigestible essence of mortality. Gravely, the bass line leads us through a hazy head fog of ghostly guitars and stony drumming-with haunting lachrymal vocals “saw the connection there, on the way down’ missed our connection there on the way down”
This standout track burns raw with crestfallen awe and the majesty of death.
Leave the light on opens with an atmospheric intro echoing of Joy division’s ‘New dawn fades’. Low slung trawling bass, duelling phased guitars and kinetic drums all drive the simple metaphor of leaving a light on. A ray of hope.
Repossession zings with the kind of zesty joyful bass you’d not usually hear outside Steve Hanley era Fall. This track is pure summer driving music. Mountains of guitar hurtle by, snare and kick shatter past and an inescapably sunny chorus races direct to your lips baring the fruit of optimism.
“you ever feel like you’re going crazy from the inside?
You ever feel things closing on you from you from the inside out?”
Greenery is straight Atheist rock. Fat snaking bass rumbles, guitars fuzz and swirl waves of motorific roar into a rolling maelstrom of drum soup. Cohen breaks the news to us ungently that “When you die that’s it you’re gone” This is a sonic war on the deluded fairytale concept of heaven. Death’s simple fact is stripped bare of the garnished greenery religion has adorned it with.
Human out of me is a fond farewell and thank you to a best friend and by far the most touching out of the eight tracks.
Pretty playful guitars comfort Midgett’s soft sullen vocals that express a palpable loss and the realisation that Dahlquist had made such an impact on his life and “helped make a human out of me”
While Silkworm’s almost flawless output dealt with a myriad of song perspectives from historical figures to insignificant drunks. Hammer of the gods is up close and very personal and a fitting tribute to a great drummer and friend. Gone are the crazed guitar solos and dark humour, replaced by a music of a more sombre and reflective hue. Their new Congress ep (out now) proves that this is only the beginning of bottomless pit and they will continue to rise phoenix like out of the furnace of grief. 9 out of 10
Comedy minus One