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Prurient - Black Vase

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Artist: Prurient

Album: Black Vase

Label: Load

Review date: Oct. 19, 2005

A live Prurient performance can be an remarkable experience. The searing peals of feedback and ragged human screams are impressive for sure, but the visuals of a Prurient performance are equally arresting. It’s a violent, cathartic spectacle, with Dom Fernow writhing at the bottom of a hulking tower of amps and speaker cabinets, brandishing microphones as if they were deadly weapons, surely something that can’t be captured on an LP or CD. Prurient’s recorded oeuvre isn’t a worthless one, though, and it’s striking how well some of his material translates to the format.

Black Vase is Fernow’s highest-profile release yet, and perhaps his most diverse. The disc begins with “Roman Shower,” vintage Prurient, 16 minutes of ear-piercing feedback. The track is aggressive and unrelenting, a physically difficult and mentally unnerving ordeal, and all the better for it. Were the remaining 72 minutes of Black Vase more of the same, though, the music’s excruciating qualities might stop becoming positives, and turn the album into too much of a challenge. But, luckily (and rather unexpectedly), the next two tracks on Black Vase embrace a facet of songwriting that’s always been an endangered species in Fernow’s work, a clearly formed rhythmic backbone. “Silent Mary” and “Sorry Robin” are Prurient’s most blatant ventures into songform, and they’re enough to make one hope this is an avenue Fernow will revisit soon. Black Vase quickly departs into more abstract territory, though Fernow’s excellent use of percussion to punctuate his distorted vocal eruptions reoccurs throughout the album, with good effect.

The darkness that is Fernow’s pet is present in spades, and the tortured pathos that he brings to his music is as palpable as ever. From any angle, Black Vase isn’t an easy listen, especially when its length is compared with the highly effective brevity of Fernow’s live performances, but while the disc may not leave many listeners wanting more, there’s something decidedly apropos about the Black Vase.

S&M is and obvious theme, both in terms of the imagery and lyrical content. It could be said, too, that much of the music is a manifestation of sadomasochism, with Fernow the dominator, heaping loads of sonic abuse on the ears of the willing. This album likely won’t win Prurient hordes of new listeners; this is polarizing music, and not easily digested by the newcomer. But, for the indoctrinated, and those who enjoy the torment, Black Vase stands as some of Fernow’s most accomplished work.

By Adam Strohm

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