issue # 75
The 15th solo album by erstwhile Swans songstress Jarboe is her most inspired release since her 2003 collaboration with Neurosis, full of tribal avant-metal songs, thick with meditative guitars and orchestral strings that stay grounded thanks to Swans/Unsane skinsman Vincent Signorelli’s pulse-perfect drumming. Jarboe’s hydra-headed vocals vary from waif whispers to shrieking litanies and work organically with her supporting cast, while guest turns by Phil Anselmo on “Overthrown” and Mayhem frontman Attila Csihar on “The Soul Continues” act as foils to her operatic range. Heavy and hypnotic, the album confirms Jarboe as a musical visionary.
– Patrick Kennedy
ROCK A ROLLA
issue # 17
How powerful does an artist have to be to match themselves up against a god?
This is one of the many questions that Jarboe does her utmost to answer on her latest release, a multi-variant and all-conquering set of songs devoted to the Hindu deity Kali. The lure of the Universal Mother as an eternal personification of the female form has clearly wrought its magic upon Jarboe, already a legend for her relentless, questing creativity. Here it takes on an almost insurmountable force as its subject, and yet stands completely defiant. It is also no coincidence that this heavyweight encounter has gouged the very best out of yet another stunning line up of musicians allied to Jarboe’s cause, as a three-pronged guitar assault led by Kevin Hufnagel (Dysrhythmia) and Josh Graham (A Storm Of Light) snags and squalls its way across a fulsome seventy-plus minute suite of divine extremity. Jarboe’s fearless array of voices find some thrilling vocal kinships, firstly with Attila Csihar, but most extraordinarily with Phil Anselmo, whose swamp laden croak is perfectly suited to the down-tuned acoustics of “Overthrown.” ‘Mahakali’ is a thunderous achievement that in time may be judged as Jarboe’s very finest creation.
– KEVIN MCCAIGHY
THE WIRE issue # 298 U.K.
If Jarboe’s recent collaborations with Neurosis, Colorado ‘War Metal’ duo Cobalt and UK bliss-Metallers Jesu suggested that the vocalist was seeking to align herself with the constantly mutating world of avant Metal – not unreasonable given her part in Swans, perhaps the single biggest influence on this burgeoning area of music aside from the obvious likes of Black Sabbath et al – Mahakali (which features guest spots from Mayhem frontman Attila Csihar and Pantera/Down howler Phil Anselmo) serves as an uninhibited exploration of the possibilities she herself helped to crack open alongside her erstwhile ‘partner in filth and redemption’, Michael Gira. It’s intriguing that, while Gira bares his soul without recourse to Sturm und Drang in Angels Of Light, Jarboe, often considered the softer, more feminine (whatever that means) element of the NYC dirge machine, is leaning more and more towards extreme sonic violence.
Mahakali is hardly a cynical grab for the currently robust Metal dollar, however. These songs are expansive rather than claustrophobic, the aggression emanating chiefly from Vincent Signorelli’s pummeling drums rather than Colin Marston, Kevin Hufnagel and Josh Graham’s hyper-distorted riffs- the blackened, beatless drone of “A Sea Of Blood And Hollow Screaming” being a notable exception. The album hits its stride with “The House Of Void” and “Transmogrification”, which witness Jarboe shapeshifting from vengeful revenant to innocent martyr over shuddering fields of rhythmic noise.
As for her vocal collaborators, Csihar acquits himself brilliantly, festooning “The Soul Continues” with guttural sobs and spectral groans … Anselmo on “Overthrown”….Neither are a match for the overpowering presence of The Living Jarboe.
– Joseph Stannard