It’s an album that begins with a beating and ends with a suicide. SUNN O))) and SCOTT WALKER’s collaborative album, Soused, is certainly one that’s drenched with the heavy feedback layers of Scott’s new robe-wearing doom-metal compatriots.
Despite the fact this is a collaborative exercise, it positively feels like a modern-era Scott Walker record, one with some obvious enhancements. In some ways, Soused represents a necessary tightening of focus and approach following the cast of thousands, avant-garde sprawl of his previous record, 2012’s Bisch Bosch – a double album permeated with eerie digital silences, the sounds of flatulence, and blocks of droning strings.
It feels strange writing a review of a Walker album so soon after hearing it – his more recent albums are ones that can take years to resonate with the listener, as songs presented on each are so loaded with meanings (both real and projected) and compositional left turns. We’re talking of course about the artistically renewed Scott Walker who popped out of some strange gossamer cocoon sometime in 1978, who first emerged on The Walker Brothers’ swan song “Nite Flights.” Following his rebirth, Scott became a slower-moving and more deliberate creature than the boozy existential Brel loving crooner that came before him. A lyricist who channels the horrors of our modern existence; whilst painting Baconesque portraits of historical events/figures; and encoding it all in a cryptic way that renders his lyrics into a word salad of horrific dream-logic that begs the listener to draw their own conclusions.
Soused is an album presented in the man’s own musical language; one that he has developed up over his second phase body of work. If anything, this album sounds to me like a scrappy and snarling ornery cousin of his isolated and barren sounding 1996 masterpiece, Tilt. Soused even revives “Lullaby,” a track written during that era, that was given to Ute Lempur to record at the time. Overall, it’s an album that’s more visceral and immediate than the previously mentioned Bisch Bosch and more aggressive than the at times almost gothic musical theater turns of 2006’s The Drift.
The album opens with the shifting textures of “Brando.” A track that displays Sunn O))) versatility as they attack their guitars to wring out epic drones and even licks that at times sound like mutated versions of guitar leads that wouldn’t necessarily sound out of place on a Guns ‘n’ Roses record. As Scott intones, “A beating would do me a world of good,” set to the score of bullwhips. The haunting “Herod 2014” uses the 2,000-year-old New Testament tale of King Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents as jump off point for a musical parable for any number of genocidal horrors both ancient and modern.
Elsewhere “Bull” begins with Walker at his most aggressive, chanting lyrics that sound almost like they were cribbed from transcriptions of a numbers station transmission. The track soon folds in on itself and evolves into paint-peeling feedback drones; allowing the listener a chance to get fully immersed. “Fetish” starts off sounding like some kind of post-modern industrial nightmare, as the track winds through sections of minimal grooves and metallic soundscapes. It’s instrumentation that wouldn’t sound out of place scoring a David Lynch film, while Scott here delivers some of his most nightmarish and grotesque lyrics. The album closer, “Lullaby,” presents a meditation on assisted suicide; its re-worked and revised here from it’s earlier 1990’s iteration into a stunning album closer.
With Soused, Scott and company has managed another artistic triumph. While the material and presentation is steeped in darkness and heaviness, it still somehow manages to be his most accessible album in quite sometime; one that reveals its mysteries and hidden meanings like some ominous black orchid with each repeated listen.
Genre/ Tags: Metal, Doom, Drone, Industrial
Soused LP: Tracklist:
2.) Herod 2014