Here we have a challenge that really took us exploring.



I did a bit of digging for this one. A fair bit of digging …well actually a landfill worth. The no-drums-stipulation was a lot tougher to get past than what I had initially imagined. This seemed so straight forward; just pick any heavy, bombastic and ominous piece of classical music I like. Well… Timpani! Yeah, turns out they are as essential to lending heaviness to classically styled music as the regular drum kit is in doing the same thing for rock-styled-music. I went through everything from Baroque anthems I like to neoclassical epics and even cinematic scores. Where ever there was a brutal sound, there sure was timpani thundering along. On rare occasions when I found versions without timpani those versions just sounded weak rather than brutal.

Of Course i toyed for a bit with cheating and picking electronic music since most would not technically feature any drums but …yeah, that’s cheating. I did brows a fair bit of Merzbow, Demdike Stare and even Shackleton hoping to find something that was brutal without percussive electronic sounds or samples but came up empty. Again, the percussive elements seems to be the most potent bringer of brutality in that music as well. Whenever an artist’s heading that way with the sound of a tune, there seems little reason not to add some kind of percussive sounds.

I shelved the whole thing and enjoyed our year-end-playlists for a couple of days without thinking about the challenge. However one of the last additions to my year-end-playlist turned out to get me on the right path with this challenge. As I compiled the list a few weeks back I went through notes from my music listening/buying/whatever-ing from last year. That’s how I found the short message “check out new Girlpool” scribbled on a post-it. I hadn’t, up until then. It was pretty good and made the list. However, now listening even more to Powerplant I noticed something was different from their older material. The songwriting was as good as ever but it wasn’t as …brutal sounding… and it all came down to the fact that they had added *drumrollsoundeffect* DRUMS! *prrrrrmpth pwhiiicchhhh* Yeah! they sounded less gritty, less raw and I have to say, less brutal. I went back to their debut album and there it was! First song even, Blah blah blah. It is brutally honest, brutally straightforward but most importantly; it sounds totally brutal. It’s nowhere near a mere slap in the face, it’s one of them straight, hard sucker-punches right on the tip of your nose that makes your whole face explode and then hurt a tonne for way longer than reasonable.

On closer inspection I realize that the guitars aren’t even distorted, like properly, with a pedal or anything. That whole record was brilliant but Blah blah blah defies the laws of physics. Pure Genius!

As I was writing this It struck me that of course the easiest way out would have been to go for some freestyle rap. Quite a few are pretty heavy and brutal but then again, as brutal and as good as some of those might be they are not genius like Girlpool. It seems fair and well worth shouting out an honourable mentioning to Mobb deep for (just step prelude), it is a pretty hard tune after all.


Do you remember that time when Lisa felt sorry for Ralph and started to hang out with him. Later at Crusty’s show, when Crusty interviews children in the audience; Ralph proudly proclaims that he loves Lisa Simpson and that she is his girlfriend. Lisa snaps, finally she’s had it, she was just trying to be nice. She lays out the land for Ralph, in no uncertain way, and for anyone else watching the TV. Afterwards Bart pinpoints the exact moment when little Wiggum’s heart breaks, by pausing the VCR. You know it, right? That is brutal. Stuff like that is brutal.

The star of this little piece of text would have the following to say about that:

It’s funny
But it’s true
And it’s true
But it’s not funny.

es, you’ve guessed it, it’s Daniel Johnston’s: Some Things Last a Long Time. A brutal tune about heartache that hits you in your own heart like a pointy stone thrown at close range. In typical Johnston manner everything feels almost to real. I don’t think anyone believes that this is anything but a true story and for doubters there is always the documentary. The lyrics are that perfect blend of naivism and geniusness that we’ve come to love with Johnston. It’s raw and indeed it’s brutal. The kicker comes at the end; “some things lasts a lifetime”. Ouch that hurts like dislocated jaw.

The music is built around a piano figure, again quite naively. The piano and Daniels song are the two basic components with some colouration by an electric guitar. Everything executed perfectly.

Even though the tune is perfect, I think that Built to Spill actually added value to the song with their version. The value being that excellent electric guitar, that represents the turmoil of feelings, that sounds in the background throughout this whole piece.

There you have it, one of the most brutal tunes ever. Now breathe.

…and for our next task, we will find a tune that…

…is really fast without ever being brutal.

For good measure we should of course do a challenge on the flip-side of this coin.

See you in 14 days!