Stinking Lizaveta – Sacrifice And Bliss (Monotreme)
To balance such wild and burning disparities of influence takes immaculate skill, and the powerful-as-rampant-influenza stronghold of Philadelphia’s instrumental Stinking Lizaveta completely shit the competition. This is not a genre-hopping disparity (the band are defiantly evil and sludgy), but one of delivery. Jazz-inflected guitars dance wildly over muscular grinds of bass and drum, before crushing homophony arrives and unites them in purpose – you’re listening or dead.
Though it’s easy to mistake a portion of this shockingly well-feeling riffage for a simpler, ass-grabbing time spent with Hammet & Hetfield, the rock is distinctly more righteous than that. The focus at all times is, surprisingly, on melodic interactions. Again, it’d be easy to think that the melodies can only function as the soaring guitar lines, but it’s distinctly more intricate than that. The closing The Man Needs Your Pain develops slowly, eking out the most painstaking and delicate, chromatically escalating line in the guitar. Then, to completely SLAM it to all the doubters (though by this point, there shouldn’t be any), the bass takes the melody up whilst the guitar amuses itself with some plonking chords. To weave melodies amongst instruments in an ensemble of three might sound easy, but surprisingly few instrumental acts can manage it properly, giving crucial balance to the milieu.
When they occasionally open themselves up from their fingertrap tightness, like on the strangely lyrical When I Love You, they achieve a rare distinction as a metal outfit that can convincingly bring emotional focus without it sounding forced or hilarious. The chords disguise a lot of the melody but, again, it’s anchored so firmly by the bass that the ear is drawn to the right path. When, at the second statement of the theme, the guitar effects begin to burble and slither atop the lot, it’s only because the listener can hear the already-stated material rattling underneath that we accept that guitar’s freak-out. We are constantly steered, prodded, pushed into hearing precisely what Stinking Lizaveta want us to.
Other particularly intuitive moments include the clunks and Zakk Wyldde-esque histrionics of the opening Autochthony! Autochthony! and the alternating open/mute guitar strokes on Zeitgeist The Movie, but the whole is a fried platter of darkness and chug. By no means is it cool. Equally, by no means does it demand that you slide on some sweatbands and dig a grave for a crow. What it does demand, though, is that you are attentive and fully open to the power of melody in hard rock, for few bands are capable of directing focus towards it so clearly.
Sacrifice And Bliss comes out on March 16th via Monotreme records. It’s really great.