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Car Bomb – w^w^^w^w

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w^w^^w^w came out a few weeks ago now. Ordinarily, I try to finish reviews before the album’s release date, but I don’t feel so bad about my tardiness here. Car Bomb is not beholden to normal album-release rhythms.

Nor are they beholden to the music biz in general. Car Bomb has escaped reliance on labels, producers, and distributors more thoroughly than most. They have been mostly silent since 2007’s Centralia. Relapse dropped them in 2011. I thought they had disbanded because of the harsh realities described in vocalist Michael Dafferner’s tour documentary Why You Do This (discussed here). Not so.

The band records at their own pace and serves at their own pleasure. The press release for w^w^^w^w call their operation a “black box”, which fits. Each member works a technologically-inclined professional day job, which restricts their schedules but offers them uncommon financial resources. Some bands build their own studios; Car Bomb built their own microphones from scratch.

It took Car Bomb four years to gestate w^w^^w^w. The monumental amount of work that they invested is obvious from the first. As on Centralia, this album marries The Dillinger Escape Plan (off-time, jagged, ADD) with Meshuggah (off-time, repetitive, robotic). The combination is easier described than accomplished—it hurts my head to think about rehearsal hours these guys must have put in. Their performances are physically intimidating.

The music thrills as much as it daunts. I haven’t heard a metalcore album this exciting since Cleric’s remarkable debut in 2010. Like that band, Car Bomb pushes stock adjectives like “mathy” and “technical” to their breaking points. Metalheads looking for power chords and speedpicking will hear naught but noise here. They aren’t far off. Most of Car Bomb’s riffs boil down to alien percussive sounds, mapped onto Byzantine rhythms.

But like any good band in this vein, Car Bomb’s screwball tones have an agenda. The band structured w^w^^w^w around the idea of recursion—a sort of self-referential repetition best captured by imagining two mirrors facing each other. Themes appear and then reappear as pieces of larger themes. Dafferner’s lyrics feature elaborate, hip hop-style internal consonance in places:

“Psychopathic slut shuts the mouth sewn shut / About to turn dead / Temper the burn / Ignited in turn to kill dead time”

And involve Labyrinth-style paradoxes in others:

“ ‘Is a lie when preceded by its quote’ / Is a lie when preceded by its quote “

This may all sound incredibly dry and academic. It certainly will be in practice for many people. But for some, w^w^^w^w will provide an irresistible brain teaser: frustrating, but stimulating to tackle. Whatever the ultimate consequences of the modern hyper-DIY model, I’m glad that it’s given us albums like this one.

— Doug Moore

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