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Harkonen/These Arms Are Snakes - Like a Virgin

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Artist: Harkonen/These Arms Are Snakes

Album: Like a Virgin

Label: Hydra Head

Review date: May. 31, 2004

When the mighty Botch disbanded a couple years back, it seemed at the time like some sort of death blow to Northwest metalcore. But thankfully this isn’t the case, as is evident from the still-vibrant scene including, among many others, Playing Enemy and the two excellent bands on this split EP (ah, that old tradition – long may it thrive!). These Arms Are Snakes, in fact, is a quintet comprised of members of various bands – Kill Sadie, Nineironspitfire, and the aforementioned Botch – while Harkonen is related by blood, with Botch singer Dave Verellen’s younger brother Ben in charge of bass and vocal duties.

Harkonen (Verellen, guitarist Casey Hardy and drummer Matt Howard) trades in a kind of bludgeoning music which, in its refinement and reduction to essentials, might make them a metalcore version of AC/DC. They mix together an affinity for sludgy rock, a nervous energy that might be indebted to good old punk (not grindcore, as you might expect from a “metal” band), and a melodic kick that might reveal the influence of, say, Unsane or even Clutch. But they manage to whip up a kind of dissonant froth, a shimmering sheets-of-sound effect which can induce a trance.

TAAS (Steve Snere on vocals, Brian Cook on bass and keyboards, Jesse Robertson on keyboards, Joe Preston on drums, and Ryan Frederiksen on guitar) take that last element as their primary sonic component. Rather than pursue traditional hardcore or metal self-presentation as posturing macho men, TAAS investigate drones, feedback, angular harmonies, and a taut, nearly fragile form of expression. Sure they still rock, but they do so with the jittery intensity of vintage Jesus Lizard; they don’t hammer, they spasm.

So, where does Madonna come in? Maybe it’s the pink cover of the EP; maybe it’s the occasional lyrical reference (as when Ben Verellen howls “This is a holiday!” in the final collaborative track “Touched for the Very First Time”). Or perhaps it’s just a laugh these two bands are having at our expense. Regardless, this all too brief release practically hums with coiled energy. All five tracks segue together (two by Harkonen, two by These Arms Are Snakes, and the joint explosion at the end) like the soundtrack to getting your teeth kicked in. If you like hardcore tinged with spaced disorientation, nagging dissonance, and a serious sense of menace, do check out this innocent-looking pink record. It’s a nasty little kiss.

By Jason Bivins

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