The Norwegian noisemakers in Årabrot don’t play nice. They wrench and jab at their instruments as if they’ve got a score to settle, leaving little room for subtlety or serenity among their merciless pounding. It should only make sense, then, that they took their name from a Norwegian waste dump. Leaving aside the cliché jokes about garbage, this is extremely ugly and abrasive music; think Jesus Lizard, the Amphetamine Reptile catalog, Harvey Milk, or any of Steve Albini’s most antisocial projects. That the song titles on Årabrot’s fourth album, Revenge, include “The Most Sophisticated Form of Revenge,” “The Wretched Child” and “Murder” only serve to illustrate the antipathy and brutality of which this band is capable.
For a band fixated on guttural and vicious sounds, however, Årabrot are exceptional at what they do. In fact, even within the thunderous beatdowns they dispense, there are hooks, melodies, and rhythms that demand fist pumps from all. “The Wretched Child,” in particular, crunches with badass sludge metal power chord fury. But hooks, here, aren’t the primary focus. Rather, they’re a mere sideshow act to the visceral tour-de-force that the band imposes upon the victim, er, that is, listener. Leadoff track “The Most Sophisticated Form of Revenge” is all tension, two long and rumbling minutes of bassy brutality that leads up to a brief but satisfying climax. Yet the band offers only a handful of tracks that fall under the traditional constraints of a three-to-five-minute rock song, instead juxtaposing a pair of 12-minute noise rock epics alongside some one-minute wonders. One of those epic orgies of destruction, “The Dolorous Years,” is a fantastic showcase of the band’s strengths, from screeching feedback to chugging riffage and exceptionally eerie verses. That it falls next to a 90-second exercise in terror merely shows off how many hues of blood and shit one can display within a seemingly narrow range.
Revenge is the stuff nightmares are made of. Årabrot make no attempts to ease up on their listeners, just a brief chance to gaze and reflect on the bruises they inflict before the pummeling starts again. It’s ugly and disturbing, and it’s guaranteed to set your pulse racing. If only more records could be so uncompromising.
Listen: Arabrot – MySpace
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.