A few years back, I wrote a piece about Release Entertainment, the long lost sub-label of Relapse Records dedicated to experimental sounds of all kinds, from dark ambient to noise to death industrial. One of the the most extreme albums to come out under the Release banner was Merzbow’s Venereology, a salvo of pure, corrosive sound that would serve as a gateway for many metalheads (including yours truly) into the world of harsh noise. I previously bemoaned the fact that Relapse seems to have no interest in preserving the legacy of Release Entertainment, but perhaps they’ve come to their senses at least somewhat, because in honor of Venereology‘s twenty-fifth anniversary, they’re giving the album a rather lavish-looking vinyl reissue, replete with remastered sound and re-touched artwork, as well as three previously unreleased bonus tracks.
Since I’ve already covered the album extensively in both the aforementioned piece on Release and the micro documentary I created for the THKD YouTube channel, I thought I’d take this opportunity to focus on the bonus tracks.
The first new track to appear is “Last Splash,” which starts off with distorted guitar strumming that sounds like it could’ve been lifted from the 1993 Breeders album of the same name (specifically from the song “Invisible Man”), but from there the track quickly descends into utter chaos and goes totally apeshit before settling back down into low drones and crackling static in its final few minutes. “TD 3″at first resembles the incessant beeping of an alarm clock in hell accompanied by the screams of someone being mercilessly tortured before disintegrating into ungodly oscillations and swarms of undulating white noise designed to turn your brain into pulp. Something resembling a beat appears near the end of the track, only be swallowed up by the raging, relentless distortion.
“Outtrack 1” and “Outtrack 2” end things on a particularly nasty note; the former track sounds like that weird noise dial-up internet makes when it’s connecting being ran through a chain of Boss DS-1 pedals into a malfunctioning Marshall amp that’s being smashed with a sledgehammer for fifteen minutes, while the latter is another exercise in rhythmic white noise juxtaposed against an all-out assault of piercingly high pitched electronic tones that ends just as abruptly as it begins.
Of course, Merzbow’s work on Venereology was known to be influenced by death metal and the additional tracks certainly uphold the dark and brutal atmosphere that the original album has become infamous for over the past two and a half decades. There’s nothing in the accompanying press materials that discusses the origin of these extra songs, but one would have to assume that they were recorded at or around the same time as Venereology. This of course would’ve been during the height of Merzbow’s first analog period, which also produced classics such as Pulse Demon, Oersted and Hybrid Noisebloom. In this respect, the quartet of tracks are very much in line with Merzbow’s mid-nineties oeuvre; relentlessly abrasive, ear-splitting torrents of sound manipulation at its most violent. As such, there’s nothing particularly revelatory about them, but more material from what is arguably the the most extreme period of Merzbow’s lengthy career is always welcome.