The Soft Pink Truth - Why Do the Heathen Rage? - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Soft Pink Truth - Why Do the Heathen Rage?

by Rich Morris Rating:7 Release Date:2014-06-16

You wouldn’t really expect the side-project of one half of electro-weirdies Matmos to be easy listening and so it proves. Why Do the Heathen Rage?, Drew Daniel’s third album as The Soft Pink Truth, is an often dizzying, sometimes nigh-unlistenable, combination of highbrow queer theory and industrial metal. Here, he takes on nine black metal classics, warping them not just with Matmos’ stock-in-trade of esoteric electronica, but with club sounds implicitly associated with gay nightlife.

The second track, a cover of Venom’s ‘Black Metal’, lays out where Drew Daniel is at, with thick slabs of clanking metal, electronic hum and deadpan vocals. Brilliantly, the line “Riding hell’s stallions/ bareback and free” takes on a totally new connotation. ‘Sadomatic Rites’, which follows, is no more palatable, despite the presence of some sexy synth washes and a rhythm that’s close to EDM. In fact, degradation and satire of gay-friendly pop seems to be one of Daniel’s aims here: closing number ‘Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar’ (wonderful name!) takes Rhianna and Calvin Harris’ inescapable ‘We Found Love’, chops it into messes, and then buries it under black metal sludge. It’s a singularly eloquent act of desecration.

Elsewhere, Why Do the Heathen Rage? is easier on the ear. ‘Ready to Fuck’ luxuriates in sensual, squelchy synth-bass and tweaked female vocals. ‘Satanic Black Devotion’, meanwhile, is all harsh, whispered vocals and dense doom-tronica, before a jaw-droppingly unexpected but brilliantly placed sample of Snap’s ‘I’ve Got the Power’ transforms it into what sounds like Marilyn Manson riding the retro-house fad. ‘Beholding the Throne of Might’ combines dubstep and portentous goth muttering in a way that’s somehow quite danceable, while ‘Let There Be Ebola Frost’ is outright funky, topped with a house diva vocal and pump-it-up instrumental break.

There’s a couple of readings you can make of Why Do the Heathen Rage? The first is the most obvious, but perfectly valid: basically, homophobic, hyper-masculine, black metal dudes do protest a bit much, desperately trying to cover up the traces of camp in the music they love, like Batman putting on a gravelly voice while Robin pouts at his side in his weeny posing pouch.

‘Grim and Frostbitten Gay Bar’ seems to indicate, however, that Daniel also wants to challenge the orthodoxy in gay bars and clubs for anaemic, safe pop music and polished, depthless dance music. As gay people become (rightly, of course) ever more accepted and visible in mainstream society, the danger of self-sanitization, of sanding down our rough edges and brushing our messy, violent, sexual selves and history under the carpet, becomes a more pernicious problem.  

Daniel seems to be saying that, hey, we’re not that different after all, the gay boy voguing on his podium and the long-haired metaller, head-banging his precious neurons to a pulp. Certainly the spoken-word recitation of a radical faery poem by gay activist Arthur Evans which opens the album, its shamanic evocation of wild, natural freedom read in a deep, doomy pitch-shifted voice, seems to suggest that. Or maybe he’s not saying that at all. To be honest, my neurons feel a bit frazzled after listening to this album a few times. 

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