No Anchor – Real Pain Supernova (self-released)
by Scott Creney
Oh, the agony. Right from the start I can tell that No Anchor and I are probably not going to be friends. Real Pain Supernova? As opposed to a Sham Pain Supernova?
Don’t be fooled by the title. No Anchor is not joking around. No Anchor is the sound of serious white masculine men taking the world, and themselves, as seriously as white masculine men can take these things (which we all know is very serious indeed). Their music is tied to its genre (pick your metal prefix – thrash, sludge, drone, doom, stoner), and never strays outside its constraints, which means Black Sabbath chord changes, and a huge Melvins influence, as well as Boris, a bit of Sunn O))), Earth, etc. [Remind me one day to tell you the story of how Dylan Carlson once told me he’d been motivated to form Earth after seeing The Legend! perform live in Portland – Ed] And like most of this music, it sounds like the members live in an exclusively heterosexual treehouse made from steel and painted black, with a sign on the door that reads in big letters ‘No Girls Allowed’.
No Anchor is angry about something. I’ve been trying to figure out the what and the why for three days now, and I’m still not any closer. But as artistic statements go, I’m just not sure I find brutal testosterone all that compelling. At least not by itself, as the entire painting.
Nevertheless, No Anchor are at their most effective when they rage, when they put their heads down and rock. Or when they slow down, when they pull back and contemplate the ringing echoes all around them. Unfortunately, most of this double LP exists in a middle-ground between the two, a mid-tempo crawl that —for me, anyway — soon wears out its welcome.
I like it when the 17-minute ‘Gatton Bohemia’ devolves into pure noise, blows of feedback that summon up images of dinosaurs being swallowed up by tar pits. I could listen to that bit forever. It’s one of the few moments when No Anchor comes within spitting distance of transcending their influences.
At the other end of the spectrum, ‘Dead Pony’, which may or may not be based on a real-life experience, is No Anchor at their most ferocious. It is fantastic. But what about that pony? Did No Anchor kill it? Did it die of natural causes? An equestrian assassin? Or is it just an (odd, I’ll admit) Fatima Mansions reference? Is it a cover of this Nico Stai song?
I’m pretty sure it is not a cover of this Nico Stai song. In fact, I am definitely sure that neither of us had ever heard of Nico Stai until now, and we would all be better off if I hadn’t looked it up in the first place. Maybe the title is another joke? A reference to the whole ‘beating a dead horse’ thing?’ Maybe it’s about killing heroin?
Either way, I hope the double LP comes with a lyric sheet.
Listening to No Anchor, it’s hard not to hear a weaker, less interesting version of their heroes. The best of this style of music blows your face off like a jet engine. First and foremost it should be impressive. It should force you to take a step back, slightly dumbfounded. Real Pain Supernova has its moments, but for the most part it is more brooding than brutal. It doesn’t rage so much as it slumps. It staggers more often than it swaggers. And not from a lack of effort. In fact, the biggest problem with No Anchor may be that it all too often sounds like effort. In place of transcendence, it offers cement.
By the end of the double album, it’s one ‘When The Levee Breaks’ drum beat too many, it’s one more incoherent scream into the abyss. And all you’re left with is a 50-minute soundtrack for stomping around the apartment, lumbering from foot to foot like a rampaging monster, bestriding your beige carpet like a neutered colossus.
The band lives in Brisbane. From what I can gather on the internet, they seem like very nice, sincere, decent people, with shitloads of integrity. For that alone, we should probably be grateful, and attempt to encourage them whenever possible.