Julian Cope’s Album of the Month

Death Comes Along

Death Comes Along

AOTM #86, July 2007ce
Released 2001 on Psychdelic Inferno
Side One
  1. Psychedelic Inferno/Death Death Death (19.22)
  2. Children of the Death (3.02)
Side Two
  1. Psychedelic Inferno II (14.40)
  2. Psychedelic Inferno III (5.01)

Note: Much of the most useful rock’n’roll ever recorded inhabits that unrighteous place where the free-flowing twin tributaries of LSD and psilocybin disgorge their contents into a sludgy and barely-moving cultural canal awash with prescribed drugs, smack addicts’ discarded syringes and industrially-manufactured amphetamines. Rock’n’rollers, poets, musical prodigies, even a few disenchanted priests find their way to this mythical confluence, for the results of hanging awhile on that there riverbank are huge for those few souls sussed enough to lurk at such an unlikely cosmic intersection. For this is where Heavy Metal and Acid Rock meets the Avant-garde, where Punk Rock, Post-Punk and No Wave meet Beat Poetry and Free Jazz, and where Protest Song and current social comment meets the timelessness of the Psalms.

Not Wearing a Hard Hat in a Hard Hat Area

Born of that same late ‘80s Future Shockabilly that spawned High Rise and still going as of last year (2006CE), Death Comes Along are like some voodoo campfire buzzsaw electric mariachi band accompanying the local witchdoctor’s agonizingly strung-out ritual purge of a demon from a young girl. Their berserk sledgehammer of sound is a totally unique brand of monolithic gonzoid Klaus Schultzean NASA spacerock sub-sub-BOC Uber-bozo De-Twat Todd Clark-out-bozos-Kim Fowley sub-machine shop rock. And they don’t have a limited palette, neither. Full-on 20-minute free rock blitzes, followed by vocal-only child-scaring and synthesizer-only doom noodling (their first LP even included full transcriptions of ‘30s Japanese military music). And every incarnation is excellent. Excellent. Dam-busting avalanches of analogue synthesizers swamp and swirl as ecstatic screams and agonised screeches (both male and female) caterwaul hysterically; single-notes of spindly, claustrophobic psychedelic axe worship emulsifies the atmosphere, orchestrated by super-erratic splatter-clatter Crass-style snare-drum bursts. Songs about death and the memory of death, songs about violent death and the refuge found in death - welcome to the half-world of Tokyo’s Death Comes Along.

Led by the mysterious Crow, a photo of whose life-size face adorns the entire front of the LP sleeve, this loose aggregation of seven musicians/performance artists is a true rock’n’roll micro-cult built around the death-obsessed mind of this one man. Furthermore, whilst only Crow appears on every album track (his lyrical pronouncements are extremely loud in the mix, ‘Children of the Death’ being vocal only!), of the six other musicians that vie for places at the recording, only bassist Bondage appears on over half of the album tracks, implying that this project may be more correctly judged as the vision of one man alone, save for a bunch of younger helpers. The band remained underground throughout the early 90s, before finally emerging shocked and blinking from the sewers of the Underworld in ’94. That first record was the kind of brutal psychedelic voodoo that only the truly desperate feel the need to perpetrate (I’m talking here about an elite and specific bunch of miscreants: John L’s performances throughout side one of Ash Ra Tempel’s SCHWINGUNGEN (and most especially ‘Flowers Must Die’), Les Rallizes Denudés during their BLIND BABY HAS IT MOTHER’S EYES-period, Speed Glue & Shinki’s side-long Moog synthesizer suite ‘Sun, Moon, Stars’, the most out-there moments on Doors’ live bootleg versions of ‘When the Music’s Over’, Yo Ha Wha all the time for sure, certain moments of Cro-magnon’s legendary LP (especially ‘Caledonian’) and – most certainly - that huge double-vinyl LP NECROMANGEE COGENT by 21st-century black metal iconoclasts Furze). However, on that elusive debut album, Death Comes Along further demanded our attention by dedicating the music contained therein thus:

“Funeral March for Amebix, The Mob, Dirt, Antisect, Crude SS, May Blitz, Flower Travellin’ Band, Diamanda Galas, Ash Ra Tempel, Guru Guru, Amon Duul, Black Sabbath and German Oak.”

Ash Ra Tempel? Guru Guru? German Oak, fer Chrissakes? Now, we ain’t talking about some neo-Krautrock ensemble here, kiddies, because this disc was released in spring ’94, a full year before even my KRAUTROCKSAMPLER got published… which makes their German Oak reference even more seriously fucking heavy (see my Album of the Month #9 for February 2001CE). And what’s all this proto-metal these guys are name-checking? Black Sabbath is clear enough, but May Blitz? Flower Travellin’ Band? The lady’n’gentlemen of the Death Comes Along ensemble were/are on the case, and then some. Luckily for our purposes (ie: this record’s use as a meditative device), this second album DEATH COMES ALONG - released seven long years later - was a lot more cohesive and listenable than their unsane debut. On this Album of the Month from 2001CE, gone are the debut LP’s scratchy recordings of the aforementioned‘30s Japanese military music, gone too are the perplexingly irritating periods of so-called avant-garde ‘silence’, all replaced here by the kind of mythical cuntedness that renders the truly insane useful and worthy of repeated listening. Indeed, this record is so worthy of its Album of the Month status that I’ve been trying to shoehorn the sucker into the schedule for the past 18 months. However, this record never left the environs of my turntable long enough to be filed away, so here it is right now:

Tokyo damage report

Having been released on vinyl first, this DEATH COMES ALONG Album of the Month was clearly conceived of as the time-honoured ‘game of two halves’. Indeed, like Ash Ra Tempel’s first three LPs, it’s an entirely schizophrenic statement, ie: side one is a free rock power trio like Von LMO’s first No Wave outfit Red Transistor playing THE WHO LIVE AT LEEDS, with a Nihonese Todd Clark barfing prophecy out front; while side two is a scary and lyric-less kosmische black sheep industrial cousin of Popol Vuh’s IN DEN GARTEN PHAROAS title-track, or even Speed, Glue & Shinki’s aforementioned ‘Sun, Moon, Stars’ suite. Just like Ash Ra Tempel, therefore, this renders this record incredibly useful for the serious psychedelic explorer. Burn out into the stratosphere with side one’s spacerock, or abseil down into the Underworld through the crack drilled in the crust by side two’s instant cave recipe.

Let’s look at side one in proper detail, for its near 20-minute medley ‘Psychedelic Inferno/Death Death Death’ commences with all the spacerock aliens-are-landing portentousness of an early Funkadelic LP, as UFO analogue synths and barked Todd Clark-meets-Damo S.-meets-J. Rotten-meets-P. Hammill-meets-J. Morrison pronouncements-in-a-Metal Urbain-stylee prepare us in no way for the ensuing Troggsian spacerock (‘Feels like a Woman’ as played by Eno’s ‘Needles in the Camel’s Eye’ ensemble) as unleashed by the stentorian and anally-retentive (fer shit damn sure, heh heh) Chaingang on their legendary Kapitalist 45 ‘’Son of Sam’ b/w ‘Gary Gilmore on the Island of Dr. Moreau’)… It’s VDGG’s ‘A Plague of Lighthouse Keepers’ as played by Lightning Bolt… blatter, blatter, blatter, blam, blam, was there ever so Crass-fuelled a spacerock as this bunch of Wolf Eyes-ian faith healers? Man, as an old motherfucker who recorded his first single back in 1978, I gots to tell y’all that rock’n’roll has certainly downgraded superbly since the days of post-punk. I mean, in those back-in-the-days, such stuff as the fucking Nihilist Spasm Band’s epic (and arduous) quarter-of-an-hour rot-fest ‘Destroy the Nations’ was considered by most of my Liverpool scene mates to be on the very edge, perhaps even over the edge of what was considered to be music. No such debate anymore. For while side one of this Album of the Month is no less gruelling a meditation, yet the 21st-century ears of the Real Heads have become attuned and accept, nay, need such stimulation overload in order to really get down… to get doon. And, as though the 19 minutes of ‘Psychedelic Inferno I’ were not scary enough, Crow chooses to conclude side one with three minutes of vocal-only stirring it with the cheery ‘Children of the Death’. Who knows what his hisspering on about, but it’s long and it concludes with three repeated sentences spoken/intoned in English: “Children of the Death… Children of the Death… Children of the Death”

Side two’s a whole other bathtub of beasties from the depths, as the 14-minute opener ‘Psychedelic Inferno’ declares from the opening moments, a raging Crow letting loose on his analogue synthesizer and squawking and chattering along in a torrential blitz of shamanic torment, as new boy Sugiyama gamely tweaks and twirls the dials of his own monosynth like some radio ham frantically recording the co-ordinates of a ship sending out an SOS. Personally, I’d prefer a heavily extended version of this particular track, as it ends far too soon to be of maximum usage, but its near-quarter hour of electric beehive from hell at least approaches the mind meltdown that Takehisa Kosugi achieves on his masterful 1975 LP CATCH-WAVE. This album concludes with my favourite track of all - the sheer outrageous absurdity that is ‘Psychedelic Inferno III’. It’s fabricated around a lovely and subtle FAUST TAPES-style minor chord sequence, on which Bondage has switched to guitar, joined by new guitarist Yuki and new drummer Kenji. However, the abrasive Crow here chooses to be the intoning priest aping a fly buzzing in the high vaults of the cathedral, his tone riding roughshod across the loveliness of the chords. However, as Crow’s performance becomes more and more out there, the track flies out of control like some rock horror movie in which a berserk Dikmik tone generator the size of Big Ben escapes from its Hawkwind backline flightcase and descends upon London, deafening all who dare to stay outdoors. This bizarre and absurd song is a fabulous conclusion to this bizarre but hugely catchy (and useful) album.

Crow 2006ce

So what becomes of a band such as Death Comes Along? I’d like to be able to conclude this piece in an upbeat and hopeful manner and say that Death Comes Along is getting more successful every week, but my searches for the band on the internet have yielded precious little information and only a couple of photos, including one of Crow performing last year in Tokyo, still wearing the same shirt that he’s wearing on the cover of this 2001CE release. For all of you rock morons whose heroes are intuitive non-career movers, you gots to admit Crow might be right up your strasse! Get down…


FIRST LIVE ALBUM (Mangrove Root 1994)
DEATH COMES ALONG (Psychedelic Inferno 2001)