Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Die Kreuzen - Self-titled

Die Kreuzen

Released 1984 on Touch and Go
Reviewed by Klaus Trofobya, 29/09/2008ce

The underground musical landscape of America in the early to mid-80's was very much a regional affair. The east coast still had the last vestiges of "No-Wave" which by that time had begun cross-pollinating with the more kitschy and accessible sounds of Athens and Boston, The midwest had its ever-faster, ever cheesier Thrash Metal, and the more picturesque areas of the west coast were belching out the picturesque, sun bleached nihilism of the now archetypal Black Flag brand of hardcore. These are fairly gross generalizations, to be sure, as all these areas had within the catacombs of their underground scenes respective sub-basements truly mad scientists whose musical genius-madness-perversity wouldn't come to the fore and be appreciated till much later, thanks in no small part to forums such as HEAD HERITAGE.
But (now that I've administered my obligatory handjob to this website) they are not who I'll be discussing today.
No, kids...Because in the midst of all that orderly chaos there arose one band who carefully designed a new musical direction for themselves and by studious awareness and resourceful sonic interpretation, fashioned a sound which incorporated all aforementioned elements into a wholly new and original whole. In other words, they were more than likely perpetually high to the point where saying "fuck it" and throwing everything they liked into a blender seemed like the least boring thing four kids in Wisconsin(!) could do with an afternoon.
Practicing as The Cows, the band soon changed ther name to the tougher sounding Die Kreuzen (the crosses) and released their earliest two tracks on the now legendary "Charred Remains" comp tape, which was soon followed by their debut ep, "Cows and Beer". Punchy and raw, with an ominous, neurotically hatched pen-and-ink cover, the ep was but a taste of the intensity the band had stored up for the positively monolithic self-titled lp.
My first experience with it was staring at the cover art, obviously done in the same maniacal hand as the ep, but more sinister, cogwork steam-train rottweilers snarling over the wasteland, blotches of yellow daubed liberally for maximum viewing unease. The cover in itself is neighborhoods away from any other lp sleeve from the era, and ranks among the best from any era, in my humble opinion.
...Then I heard it.
The word "hurricane" comes to mind, but misses the mark....Its more like being stuck in the middle of an electrical storm inside a mirror factory. In Wisconsin. The songs begin and end distinctly, but the album is such a wild ride, playing an isolated track just doesn't happen. Even when one of the tracks turns up on "Shuffle" mode, I have to go back and play the whole thing. This is the perfect album to listen to while driving through a storm you should probably pull over and wait out.
Most of the songs from "Cows and Beer" are re-recorded here, but with so much thick, rich, delicious vitriol poured on top, they emerge from their chrysalis virtually unrecognizable.
The recording itself is a thing of grotesque clarity: Brian Egeness's guitar has a brittle, trebly distortion that weaves in and out of Dan Kubinski's positively possessed vocals, both of which are recorded in a way that they seem in a crocodilian death struggle with one another (A word on Kubinski's vocal style- He is the most imitated voice in heavy music, especially in recent years with the grind, screechcore, and concrete noise genres paying particular respect, but never quite matching THAT intensity-though none of his legion of imitators seem to know who it is they are shamelessly aping) while Eric Tunison's drumming keeps an off-kilter time with his inhuman sounding double snare taps on the 4/4 gallop held up through most of the album, as if he's regularly twisting himself to watch the fight. Keith Brammer's Rickenbacker bass drips globs of molten copper on the proceedings, cauterizing every auditory wound before it has a chance to bleed.
Then, before, you know it, Its over. Leaving you sitting there, glass-eyed and with pants thoroughly shat. And thats it, really. After that hatchet attack of an lp, the band followed it up with an increasingly softer, (though not bad) "New Wave" sound, even adding horns after a few years. And who can blame 'em? Nothing short of blowtorching an audience could pick up the gauntlet they threw down before themselves with that first outing (and be glad they didn't, because fer chrissake, audience immolation didn't help Great White's career any.) So be thankful that you have it, there'll never be another one like it. 'Spretty easy to come by too, Touch and Go keeps the cd in print, but like everything they screw up, they pair it with the second lp, "October File" and put that first, forcing you to skip fifteen tracks to get to the goods. But if we can do it with pornography (and let's be honest, we do) we can do it to hear one of the most mind-blowing cornerstones of modern heavy music ever comitted to tape.

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