John Zorn - The Crucible
Experimental Rock, Free Jazz
8 songs (46:12)
Release year: 2008
Reviewed by James

2008 has been another very busy year for John Zorn. Along with more contributions to his Filmworks series, composing some more volumes to his Book Of Angels (Volume 10 of which was reviewed by yours truly a few months back) and The Dreamers, he's managed to squeeze in the time to record with his Moonchild trio and release The Crucible at the end of the year. The Moonchild project comprises of drummer Joey Baron, Secret Chiefs 3 man and frequent Zorn collaborator Trevor Dunn (who's performance here more than atones for his involvement in the disastrous Save Me From Myself, also reviewed here by me) and, most notable to outsiders, Mike Patton. The Crucible is the polar opposite of the more sedate The Dreamers, comprising of Joey Baron's almost tribal drumming, Dunn's thick, heavily distorted, metal-inspired bass grooves, and Patton's vocals and Zorn's atonal free jazz soloing battling for dominance. It's Patton's perverse version of scat-singing that'll hit you first, mind. The man screams, growls, babbles, and makes the sort of noises that cause the listener to marvel at the range of the man's voice box. It'll all sound like a load of noise to most, of course, but then, how many of you thought that when hearing, say, Nattens Madrigal for the first time?

And indeed, for anyone remotely into challenging music there's much to love in The Crucible. Is John Zorn's attack on the saxophone really all that different to what Kerry King does with his guitar? (John Zorn happens to be capable of playing more than one solo, mind). And even when it seems like it's falling apart, Trevor Dunn keeps it all together, keeping this firmly in the realm of music, not the mindless flailing some people would have you believe it is. And I dare anyone not to crack a smile at 9 x 9, sounding like Led Zeppelin played through a free jazz filter. Indeed, even at it's darkest,(Patton sounds like the devil himself on the aptly titled Maleficia) The Crucible is still fun. Music is clearly John Zorn's true love (well, it'd have to be to have a discography of 75 albums, not even including projects like Electric Masada, Bar Kokhba and Naked City and the collaborations he's done with other artists, including Bill Laswell and Yamataka Eye), and The Crucible buzzes with the feel of four men making music for the sheer hell of it, critics and commercial success be damned.

So if you've not come into contact with the works of John Zorn (and I'm ashamed to say I hadn't until this year), then The Crucible may well be a good place to start. It's more metal-influenced than many of his albums (despite the lack of guitars) and the tracks are all accessibly lengthed, only Maleficia straying over eight minutes. It's certainly a formidable album to the untrained ear, but I'm sure you're all a hardy enough lot to take this on. Even after 28 years and a discography easily in triple figures, John Zorn proves the years have not dulled him at all. The Crucible is as vicious and vital as he's ever been, and proves John Zorn is still a much-needed presence in the extreme music scene. And most of all, it proves you don't need guitars to kick up one hell of a racket.

Killing Songs :
James quoted 85 / 100
Goat quoted 82 / 100
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