Today, finally, I bought the Botch DVD. Named 061502, after the date on which this live set was performed, it is a surprisingly professional sounding piece of work (let us take a moment to remember the shit sounding DVD that came free with Miss Machine by Dillinger Escape Plan). I don’t want to bang on too much in this post, so The End Of Metal and Bitter Young Men themes will have to wait til later. Sorry. And yes, they are actual things I plan on writing.
The point here is that, historically, my favourite Botch tune has been ‘Man the Ramparts’. It’s pretty demented and is the last song proper on their magnum opus We Are the Romans. The major attributes of this one are the killer riff it kicks in with, the even more killer riff it ends with, and the five or so minutes of Gregorian chant-inspired harmonies sandwiched in the middle. Shouldn’t work, but it does. I get lazy; like to have musical shorthand. For example: someone asks me what my favourite album is, it’s Through Silver in Blood. Favourite Poison album: Flesh & Blood. My favourite something else: something to do with blood, I suppose.
Anyway, fave Botch song was always ‘Man the Ramparts’. As someone who increasingly judges the quality of music by how much it makes me rock (or, conversely, how close it gets me to tears – only three songs have ever pushed me over the edge, disappointingly enough), I like the fact that the post-Gregory return has me rocking in a way that Status Quo could only pretend to do all over the world, and way more than Def Leppard ever did, despite their continued promises in early 1992. The last couple of years, though, have seen a sly change take effect.
See, the song ‘C. Thomas Howell as The ‘Soul Man” has been creeping up on me. It all started when I innocently put it on a minidisc compilation in about 2004. The main facet of the song that hooked me initially was the oddly emotive backing vocal that crept in near the end of the song, ridiculously low in the mix and sung in total deadpan. The fact that it was ostensibly clean, melodic, singing set it apart from the rest of their work at that time. Obviously that was way superceded by the gorgeous (and gutting, seeing as it was on their swansong) ‘Afghamistam’ (not a typo! All the songs on that E.P. were named for countries, but with the letter ‘n’ replaced by ‘m’: ‘Japam’, Framce’ etc).
Where was I? Oh, the song. Yeah, it certainly hits the Noisecore buttons of stop-start dynamics, weird rhythms, and anger; there’s just more to it than that. Like Coalesce, Botch is certainly no fan of the hardcore scene, specifically the straight edge element. They let us know all about this with a bile-filled set of lyrics condemning messages that are drowned out by metal noise anyway (ironically, these lyrics are similarly drowned out/hard to figure out. Intentional?). The song on the DVD is prefaced by a dedication to singer Dave Verellen’s ‘straight edge friends’. I always hated scenesterism in Leeds, so maybe that’s why I like this so much. What I know for sure, though, is that the explosion back into action, after everything has dropped away leaving just a bassline, is a wonderful catalyst for chaos – both physically and psychically. The juxtaposition of this closing madness with the oddly restrained backing vocals is the icing on a beautifully deranged cake.
So there we have it: a changing of the guard, as it were. Obviously I still love ‘Man the Ramparts’ to an insane level, as well as something less obvious, like ‘Hives’ off their debut album. Who knows, maybe ‘Afghamistam’ is my favourite Botch tune after all that…