Black Madonna
The Austerity Program - Black Madonna
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The Austerity Program
Black Madonna

Other than their hilarious promotional videos on YouTube, I don't really know a whole lot about The Austerity Program. I know that they're a duo and that they have a weird sense of humor while also being able to absolutely shred. Apparently, the two have taken nearly a decade to create their full-length debut, and it sounds like the work of a couple lab scientists gone metal head, with insanely precise guitar playing that barrels away over programmed beats as occasional screamed vocals burst forth. It's sounds something like what you might get if Big Black juiced up their sound and started playing math rock with a hint of progressive influence.

My description might sound pretty awful, but this is largely invigorating stuff. I mentioned their sense of humor earlier, and the liner notes for Black Madonna show it off as well, charting their musical components (distinct drum patterns, distinct bass notes, vocal references to death) in straightforward ways while assigning each of themselves to an instrument (Justin Foley on guitar and vocals and Thad Calabrese on bass) while simply giving the drum machine credit for percussion.

A lot of traditionalists would probably decide that something so machine-like might not be up their alley, but I think they might be surprised. With almost completely generic titles (the album opens with "Song 12" and also includes a couple untitled), it goes almost completely against traditional conventions for the genre, but makes up for it in other ways. Said opening track is five and a half minutes of ruthless drum machine hammering while guitar and bass blister away as well, locking into a closing breakdown that should have just about anyone banging along with it.

"Song 17B" (actually the second track on the release) sludges it up with some super juicy bass, and the vocals of Foley make their first real appearance as the second half of the track again pours on the intensity. A couple shorter tracks offset the more epic pieces, but the minute-long songs certainly don't take their foot off the pedal. If anything, the relentless "Song 18" is even more of a kick in the teeth as it essentially locks into full-throttle pummeling for the duration.

Only the closer of "Song 16" really takes things back a bit, and after blistering through chunks with rather frenetic changes, the repetitive beast comes as a slow-burning, festering welcome that piles some delicious and tense moments into several crazy bursts of dynamics over the course of nearly fifteen minutes. In the end, this eight song, forty-five minute album isn't groundbreaking, but it has a sort of outsider geek metal feel and some serious hooks that deserve a lot more attention than it's gotten.

rating: 8.2510
Aaron Coleman 2007-12-13 20:37:09