“… you won’t ever hear another one like it.”
You know how sometimes you go to a gig and it sounds just like the record? Depending on the record, that can – of course – either be a massive disappointment or just the tonic. Well, should you ever catch The Final Age live it’s guaranteed that they’d sound nothing like the do on record and yet it’d also be certain that they’d still sound just as good.
The Final Age is primarily drummer Jesse Webb of Big Naturals and Anthroprophh and added to his mesmeric rhythms come an embarrassingly rich cast of co-creators: The Heads’ legendary Paul Allen on guitar, Gnod’s sax-slinger-for-hire Dave McLean, singer Annette Berlin, trumpeter Pete Judge and violinist Agathe Max amongst others. Nominally a score to an imaginary film (who hasn’t done one these days?), such meta-detail is blown first out of the water and then into smithereens by the collective’s ensuing maelstrom of blown-out improvisation, an out-there marker even in a left-field full of them.
Noise, post-rock, black jazz, punishing kraut, psych-punk: the results are chaotic and alluring. A true siren-song, one of the album’s many highlights “2 Second Rule”, for example, goes deep on a tribal bass-and-drum combo, freeform sax playing at its surface just waiting to drag you to its depths. Moments earlier “Trust Fund Death Camp Moan” roams the outer reaches like a prehistoric leviathan, Webb’s percussion gone full-on heavy kraut in a sea of demented synth distortion. The incredible “I Fail” in turn houses a devilish groove that snakes out of the battered kit and the fuzzed-out bass, a parallel stream of Eastern heavy metal if the Islamic Golden Age hadn’t folded in the 13th Century.
Vocals come either sanity-questioningly whispered or howled, field captured, warped or via another irradiated column of noise. String drones, synth oscillations and solemn bass intonations lend the title-track a Joy Division sheen of gloom before it spins off its axis into orchestral tune-up and urgent electronics. “A Certain Breed” is even kinda shoegazy thanks to Berlin’s hushed vocal, but the mood again quickly darkens as drones choke all air from the resultant vacuum.
Remarkably one of the more straightforward offering, the overblown “Punching A Hole” then closes out by plundering hard-rock and heavy-psych simultaneously, monolithic drums and bass getting hot and angry at the marauding guitar fuzz. Exiting its closing bars feels like exiting a battle-scarred capsule after a turbulent re-entry. And, miraculously, it’ll all be more progressive, more unruly, more blown-out still live and never played the same twice either. Though the same can’t be said for the record, you can still be safe in the knowledge you won’t ever hear another one like it.