CANCERSLUG’S SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY is the *(supposed and proclaimed) FINAL album of an amazing band whose career has violated and brutalized punk, metal, and deathrock for close to 20 years. Their history is long and complicated, largely shrouded in mystery, with founding member ALEX STORY being the band’s sole original member *(essentially being CANCERSLUG himself), main songwriter, arranger, and virtually everything else *(at some point or another) throughout their duration. There are more band members and recordings, albums and demos than even he can recall. However, this is the CORE band that he has worked with since 2009, CASSIE and MIKE, and therefore the true triad heart and soul of their existence, and if genuinely final, the ultimate bestial growth of the darkness they’ve so embraced *(and vice-versa).
SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY completes what the band has termed “The Sadist Trilogy,” starting with 2012’s SEASONS OF SICKNESS, and continuing with May, 2016’s SASSY FOR SATAN *(which ALEX claimed to be the “fluff” prior to the total annihilation of this Grand Finale). And what a fatal finality of beauty and hatred it is: SEASONS OF SICKNESS was the come-on; SASSY FOR SATAN was the blowjob; SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY is the teeth being ground into the sidewalk. *(ROOTWORK was the payment exchange, heh.) For those who actually get this *(primarily the SLUG CULT), clearly and fully understand certain aspects of this band, SYMPHONY essentially is the completion of a sonic pagan death ritual – – – hungry, horny, primal, knowing – – – feasting, fukking, feral, killing – – – and reveling in the destruction of humanity at its own hands, slowly to burn away into its own nothingness, forsaken by the hubris of their ignorance, and watching the inevitable unfold with a fang-toothed and razor-clawed, nihilistic glee.
These are 18 songs that most any CANCERSLUG fan has heard before, often multiple versions thereof, each one always being a little different. However, ALEX has stated that some songs still weren’t recorded, in any version, to his ultimate vision of that piece. What we are treated to here is an amazing selection of songs that manage to highlight every aspect the band has ever displayed: pain, inner *(and outer) demons, rage, the thin line of love and hate, the true power of the occult, the primal nature of duality of the beast in man, and the Will. Likewise, a touch of every blackened musical flavor is explored like so many still-steaming, freshly exposed innards: Punk, Metal, Thrash, Deathrock, Doom, Goth, often all at once – – – not to mention all the sinister orchestrations buried *(more like subversively placed) within the absolute crushing gravity of sound being pushed down by long forgotten deities.
Whereas I’d wouldn’t necessarily consider SASSY FOR SATAN “fluff,” it is like a calm before a raging storm of hatred, it’s production being a little lighter, the songs slightly poppier in presentation, and perhaps even more romantic in their own beautifully perverse way; it is that album’s final song, “Lord of Death,” that paves the way for this blitzkrieg of brutality. SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY is the polar opposite of SASSY – – – the tuning is so low it that the strings sound like sinew about to sluice from the bone, and romance has been replaced with sacrifice, love traded for revenge. Most of these songs are black mood explosions of the soul, the rage of the Forgotten-Begotten, harnessed and projected to perfection. MIKE beats the drums like fresh decapitations on stands, with more brutality in his already amazing and diverse style than previously heard *(which is saying quite a bit); CASSIE’S bass is beaten hard enough to topple cyclopean, non-euclidian structures, the whole of the rhythm section tighter than the detonation point of a Doomsday Device. And ALEX has trained and honed his vocal abilities to sheer natural force, learned to control and balance his croons and roars, sometimes in startlingly new ways that never ceases to amaze. If this is indeed the final and ultimate masterpiece of their existence, it’s the absolute finest way I’ve seen *(er, heard) a unique flame snuff themselves out.
SEASONS OF SICKNESS was the foundation, the skeleton upon which the rest was to be moulded to; ROOTWORK *(not part of the trilogy, however, important nonetheless, and one of my favorite CANCERSLUG releases) solidified that deal; SASSY FOR SATAN was the gentle deception leading to this epic conclusion *(of at least their “Sadist Trilogy” – – – if this really is the end). Now I’m going to get weird for a moment. *(SOSSFSSOS, the anagram to their “Sadist Trilogy” – – – there’s a code there, a meaning of some kind, as is meant to be, and it’s something you need to discover for yourself – – – this, of corpse, is how my own disturbed and over-analytical mind has interpreted all of this, anyway.) This SYMPHONY has reigned down like a plague-poisoned fallout, laying all in it’s wake to complete and utter devastation and waste.
Opening with a sinister, brilliant orchestral din that slithers into a most vicious version of “Demighoul,” the album jumps from there and gets darker and more intense as the SYMPHONY progresses. As always, there are slight-to-major differences in some of the vocalizations and arrangements, deeming to make some of these indeed the definitive versions. “Rats In The Walls” is a prime example, played with a fury that renders it half the length of most other versions, finishing with a completely different, crushing ending. “The Pale Moonlight” *(one of my all time CS favorites) has a deeper tuning, some majorly different, wonderfully nuanced vocals, and music, to bring it all together as nearly a brand new song. “Love Songs From The Grave” and “Blood Magick” are both bittersweetly beautiful, these definitely being the best possible treatments these songs have received, and also the only hints of tenderness you will find here. For me, the major standout track is by far “Final Harvest”: thick, heavy, fast, brutal, a full blown anthem of apocalypse for the ages, and in this particular presentation, it manages to capture every aspect of the band’s full range of sounds. They put their all into this uncategorizable classic, and you can feel it.
All songs are played with the speed and fury of a thousand hells, or the moribund doom of a slippage-drenched corpse backing you into a corner, a scenario that will only end in the most horrific forms of brutality and degradation, desecrating every last aspect of your soul and being. Raw energy, astonishing production, and a trip beyond the Veil that most won’t be able to interpret correctly *(hell, who’s to say that I even have?), but both the SLUG CULT and fans of harsh, honest, in-your-face-I-don’t-give-two-shits-fukk-you music should absolutely love this. Even though it’s all great, there are still a couple of songs I’d’ve like to have heard redone *(and I’m sure others feel the same – – – but we’re also talking about choosing from a 400+ song catalogue – – – and who the fukk am I to bitch about the choices made – – – they were so for a reason). It makes one consider the psychological nightmare process the band possibly endured in merely choosing just what the fukk would be on this masterpiece.
This is also the final tour they will be enduring as CANCERSLUG, and finally, finally, they will be stopping here in Philly – – – and I will be there, come Hells or high water *(knowing my life as I do, neither would surprise me). Hopefully this shitbag of a city will treat them with the respect they deserve *(it is Philly, however, so who knows). If I have to take buses, trains, and stay on a park bench, I will be going to this fukking show.
As for CANCERSLUG’S SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY, it is just that, and it is absolutely beautiful. It’s real. It’s everything the band has ever been about, summed up with an absolutely amazing album cover that quite plainly states it all, *(and then some). Their sonicalypse has taken shape like a silver bullet to the throat of a lycanthropic dawn.
*(On a sidenote: This is the other Halloween album, incidentally, of which I was referencing in the previous JOHN CARPENTER review, and has absolutely made my Season of the Dead that much more joyous, that much more ghoulish, and that much more endearing, if not all around historic.)
I hate to use the word twice, but this is all rather bittersweet, as well, as if it is true, one of the greatest, most original and prolific *(Japan’s BALZAC is the only other band I can think of in creative-material output comparison) bands ever, a group with a philosophy which spoke, sliced, and branded it’s portion of the world like almost no other, forming a tribe, expanding minds, speaking universal truths and wisdoms, deep down to a spiritual core, that not all will get. A band neither fad *(so often lumped in with the seriously disappointing Horror Punk subgenre of clone-bands, of which CANCERSLUG has never been a part of, creating their own thing entirely, a point which needs to be acknowledged even to this day, regardless of how many times ALEX has specifically made that disassociation clear), nor fiction, but something quite real, entirely of it’s own surmise. One doesn’t come to CANCERSLUG, I’ve noticed; CANCERSLUG comes to them. Whether by word of mouth, mysterious bootleg in some bin, music-trading, masked prowler in the night, or youtube mistake, CANCERSLUG will find you. Many years ago it did me. It saved my life. I’ve listened to at least a song a day since then, the music and message *(often listener-subjective) feeling like it was made exclusively for my reality *(also subjective), in sound and scope, in content and contemplations – – – and it’s affected others the same. Once hooked, you’re done. That’s why there is a ferociously loyal SLUG CULT to which I am proud to be part of. This was something special, and it crushes my black fukking heart that they may actually be no more after the SYMPHONY and subsequent tour. There’s DOYLE for ALEX, and I’m sure more related projects are to come, from all members, no matter what they be. BORN IN ANGEL BLOOD as a full-time gig, perhaps as a growth of sorts of the themes of CANCERSLUG? Maybe a turn to straight-up blues, much like the ALEX & CASSIE release A DARKER SHADE OF LOVE *(which, incidentally, vaguely reminded me of SHADOW PROJECT’S final release FROM THE HEART, on a couple different levels)? Anything is possible. I feel like this is far from the end of the tale.
Like some strange LOVECRAFT rambling, I’ve told you both everything and nothing about this album. You need to experience it for yourself. Again, as with the aforementioned JOHN CARPENTER albums, I plan on sitting down and listening to “The Sadist Trilogy” *(SOSSFSSOS) in one shot. Fans of harsh, vicious, fist-down-your-throat, real punk with a blood-encrusted razor-blade metal infusion, laced with strange secret potions in proper proportions of Gothic Doom and beyond, look no further. Another rare HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION. And I gave the caveat: if you listen to any one CANCERSLUG album, it will grow inside of you, both a philosophy and an addiction.
A splendid Halloween treat; Light from Darkness in the Darkest of times. It’s a beautiful thing. You have been warned. GO BUY THIS ALBUM. NOW.
Check out CANCERSLUG’S official website for SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY at:
And look for tour dates as they’ll soon be coming to a town near you. They will be hitting Philadelphia, at UNDERGROUND ARTS, November 6th, 2016. Perfect timing. Also, I’ve included the “censored” teaser-trailer for SYMPHONY OF SAVAGERY down below *(I couldn’t find the uncensored, but this is just as[s] entertaining in it’s own way.)
SLUG CULT RISE
Vincent Daemon, writer, editor, musician, photgrapher, film/music buff and historian, and rabblerouser, can be found on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/vincent.daemon.1 as well as his spontaneously updated blog of writing news and nonsense THE WRITINGS OF A DEPRAVED MIND http://vincentdaemon.blogspot.com/Some of his music can be painfully experienced at http://www.reverbnation.com/vincentdaemonsageofdesire3 His email is firstname.lastname@example.org