21 Jul 2021 - Chad
Death-Metal/Crust-Punk | Flesh Prison Records | Release date: 22 Jun 2021
I’m not generally a fan of Black Metal or Death Metal. However, this bizarre, imposing foursome have managed to drag me into their own unique spin on it, a feat which has only ever been previously achieved by Oathbreaker and Oranssi Pazuzu
After my band Burden Limbs unveiled a new song entitled “Flesh Prison”, my brother sent me a record label called Flesh Prison Records which focuses on the gnarly underbelly of the queer music scene. I fell in love with the label immediately and the band that really caught my attention was Melissa. If you like those two aforementioned bands (Oathbreaker and Oranssi Pazuzu), you’ll love this but, realistically, musically, Melissa is on a different playing field to either of those. Where Oathbreaker is often choppy and frenetic and trebly, Melissa is pummelling and relentless and domineering. It’s probably somewhere between Oranssi Pazuzu and Gnod. Huge riffs, heavy drums and well-executed repetition with a whole lot of bass.
Following a brief dark ambient-intro and a piercing shriek “Breonna” kicks things off with a band playing what sounds to be one giant chainsaw made out of three instruments. Jane Pain’s vocals are some of the only Black/Death (whatever the fuck it is) vocals that I can actually enjoy. It seems to be a fairly common feedback for the band that people who don’t usually like these kind of shrieking/squealing screaming techniques still enjoy them. I think the vocals have just the right dosage of raw expressionism to balance out the theatricality of the style. The main thing is that, everyone I’ve shown this album to so far, thought it was fucking amazing and so do I and so do all the comments I’ve seen on socials and YouTube. So, they’re doing something right.
I love how seamlessly “Jennifer” segues in, the production on this album is fantastic but, the sequencing (as always!) is a really important part of that because it just feels like Melissa drag you into their world and hold you there, pinned down with chains and hooks… The riffs are all absolute face-melting, shredders from hell on both bass and guitar and the drummer is an absolute machine. The tremolo on this track is both sinister and euphoric. I would love to see this band live, I bet they would be extremely unhinged and to hear more material would be amazing. This release is absolute gold for me.
“Jacob” takes things in a more choppy direction, I really like the swagger of the vocals in this track and the mixing of the different layers. I would actually love it if they included sections with singing and vocal melodies and choruses because it would give the band greater diversity of sound and everyone loves a catchy vocal melody or chorus. It could be Slipknot-esque where it’s mostly screaming with sang hooks or just actual songs that build to screaming. Slow jams. Ambient stuff. This band could do anything. As it stands though, the ending of this track is amazingly heavy, I love the rapture they build with the double-pedals and just the relentlessness of it. They’re fucking incredible
The final track on the album is “Christopher” and it’s one of my favourite pieces of music I’ve heard in a long time. The charging rhythm of the track sounds like rolling thunder burning through my speakers, somewhere between Black Sabbath’s “Children of The Grave” and Gnod’s “Bodies For Money”, it’s part-metal, part-Crust and for me it seems to perfectly fuse together what I basically like about Melissa. The track is just over four minutes of every member of this band slamming the listener over the head with their instruments and that is exactly what I want from my music. Something that finds all synapses in my brain that carry information, thoughts and ideas and crushes them under the weight of the sound. Something that switches my mind off and turns my ears on.
I take great pride in being able to help promote art from a self-described “queer/trans artist run label” especially one “informed by industrial music”. (Not to mention that, this self-titled release by Melissa is one of my early album of the year contenders). Over the years, I’ve covered so many bands comprised entirely of cis-het white men, especially where heavy music is concerned, it seemed that no one was really providing a platform or adequately demonstrating an effort to represent other voices in certain avenues of the heavy music scene and Melissa is a perfect example as to why a unique perspective and an idiosyncratic voice is essential to the development of art. A singular lens creates a rare image. When art is homogenous, it has little value. Where trends and genre exist, that’s where creativity dies. Over time, it is become a value of great importance to me, to focus on bringing diversity to my work as a writer, as a co-chair of a label and as a PR agent. The future is one of equal representation, one where bricolage replaces genre and hybridity erases homogeny. It has not been lost on me or my friends the total lack of an LGBTQ+ representation in the metal community, Pride and queer events can often be syrupy, tepid, pop-drenched affairs, that to a lot of people, especially fucked up people like me, are somewhat repulsive and uninviting. To have an Industrial zone of bleak, cathartic, sonic abrasion is a very rare and valuable thing. Much more so than any dime a dozen label putting out the same shit of angry cis-het white men, spewing over with toxic masculinity against the same old warehouse landscape in their implicitly volatile camouflage and barely ironic wife-beaters. It’s a shame that this is the first time I’m discovering a label like this one and yet, in the same community I’ve seen labels brimming with nationalism and nazism and white power in the same approximate genre for years. I’ve seen bands that I love turn out to be racists, rapists, abusers. People who were cheered as free-thinkers and artists, behind closed doors beating their loved ones and letting their cries fall on deaf ears. It’s funny, inclusion is often met with outcry, like it’s an unfair leg up but, people always seem so quick to defend the status quo of absolutely vile cunts who have already found success whilst trampling over and hurting many other people on the way up. I wanna be part of the future where art is progress, art is catharsis, art is resistance and expression and emotion and integrity; not hiding tears behind rage or fear behind a puffed-out chest. Art that says, “Here I am, as I am”, art that exists in the world as the unspoken truths, rather than walking down the street in disguise or psuedo-armour afraid of the judgement and oppression of repressed conformists and cowards.