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Keep On Grinding

Caspar Brotzmann
Mute Massaker
(Thirsty Ear)

The son of saxophonist Peter Brotzmann, Caspar Brotzmann was exposed to music from the time that he was born. Instead of taking up a more classical style, though, he discovered the electric guitar at an early age and blasted the hell out of the amp until he was captivated by everything from punk music to Jimi and Jimmy (Hendrix and Page respectively) and realized that you could actually create walls of sound that were not only loud, but actually went somewhere.

He moved to Berlin in the mid 80s and met up with two friends, formed a band called Massaker ("Massacre") and started up with things proper in 1988 with a first release entitled The Tribe. Since then, he's continued along and changed his style a bit (stretching out songs into claustrophobic inprovisional sessions that often times approach the 10 minute mark) as well as collaborating with artists like FM Einheit (on a Christmas release), Page Hamilton (of Helmet) and his own father.

While the album name is Mute Massaker (and his previous album was simply called Massaker), judging from some of the song titles on the release ("Cheyenne," "Indians," "Rain," "Woodstock Hymne"), it seems like the album could be a concept release of sorts, dealing with the brutal treatment of American Indians by the US government and the reality that such attrocities are rarely even mentioned anymore. In fact, the first and title track of the release ("Mute Massaker") moves along with an almost tribal drumming and rhythym bass, while Brotzmann trickles in the guitar before laying down an absolutely huge wall of sound with it and trickling things out at the end of the track again. The second track "Cheyenne" starts off with that very same chiming of guitar, but soon the track breaks into more of a rock-oriented track, with all instruments working together to lock into something that would have nearly any fan of guitar rock bobbing their head up and down (as it's just not quite hard enough to head-bang to).

Really, the album is sort of just variations on this theme, whether it is the almost purely guitar "Pearl of Utah," or the epic-length (although at 6 tracks running almost 60 minutes, nearly every track is epic) "Indians" in which swirling guitar washes meld with the drums and bass every so often and crunch down for some solid ear-splitting rock. One of the nicest things about the release (it's wailing and swirling, almost hypnotic effect) is also one of its weak spots. While Brotzmann is obviously a very talented guitar player, there simply isn't enough variation in the tracks to hold the interest of most listeners (or myself).

This is one strange album, mainly because I can not only see instrumental guitar rock snobs enjoying it, but I can also envision those mullet-hear guys who hang out at the guitar shop and drive Z-28's getting into it and jamming as well. It's avant garde enough to appeal to those who enjoy almost hypnotically freestyle guitar work, yet rocks just enough that you won't feel guilty breaking out the air guitar every once in awhile while in the safety of your own abode. True, most of those mullet-heads would still probably prefer Steve Vai, but if they really wanted to one-up their friends, this is what they'd listen to.

Rating: 6.25