Poison Blood’s Punk Hypnotism
Sometimes the best combos hide out in plain sight. For Jenks Miller of Horseback and Neill Jameson of Krieg, the fusion of black metal, punk and psychedelic wizardry has proven bold. The two musicians have forged together to form the sparkly new extreme outfit, Poison Blood: a group scary, dreary, but also hopeful. Something brutally honest drips all throughout the band’s self-titled debut record. You sink deep into it; the walls echo off your inner chamber like church bells at dusk. It’s amazing that these guys haven’t even physically met each other.
“I assume we’ll have a play date eventually if our parents are okay with it,” Jameson laughs. “For me personally this isn’t the first time I’ve done long distance projects, I’ve been doing these style collaborations since the 1990s.”
The debut record is grimy and oozing, and completely full. It’s raw as hell, and experimental (you’d expect nothing less). There’s a real variation in terms of environment, but it blends seamlessly. You’re left floating in a surreal and cubist-like haze, swaying down, then up, over, and then around. It’s conceptual, but simple: sort of like walking simultaneously through the night desert and some snowy blizzard in hell.
“Neither of us in our main outlets tend to venture into anything that doesn’t have an organic footing,” Jameson notes. “Digital or overly polished recordings are sterile, boring sounds for boring people.
“My other heavy-ish project, Horseback, has a big conceptual element to it,” Miller adds. “Usually a concept pushes me into new places creatively. But sometimes I like a more direct channel, which is what Poison Blood is. It’s far more raw. Neither Horseback nor Mount Moriah [Miller’s project with Heather McEntire and Casey Toll] are extremely polished, sonically (though Mount Moriah has cut a clean sounding record in Nashville!), but I really tried not to ‘overcook’ the Poison Blood record, even by those standards.”
There’s rigid simplicity to Poison Blood’s music. Never is there overindulgence in form. Each shape has a sense and a purpose. The band has that early second-wave black metal tribalism tattooed across its heart: the churning, the anger, and the unprocessed realism. It’s reminiscent of the early and more acute days where each riff and rough drumbeat pounded like an eternal hammer through the mind. The skies, the wind, and the Earth were moist, and even the concrete was fluid.
“I just hooked up a thrift store cassette player so I can listen to mixtapes I made 23 years ago,” Jameson says. “Early second- and third-wave bands had an emotional honesty which was valued higher than ability. While a lot of these bands sold their souls long ago, the really early records still capture the mysterious and creepiness that moved in like a fog when I was a young man. Not many bands capture that anymore; now everything is too concerned with trying to sound like dead languages professors while spending more time buying witch hats and incense than writing something captivating. Everything is all dissonance now; it’s like listening to two reverb pedals fucking in a cave. It tries to be mysterious, but in order to have mystery, you need to have something that draws people in to be curious. Most modern bands don’t, they just have record labels that know how to market them so they sell out quickly and go for moronic sums on Discogs.”
There’s an infinite darkness and swirling appreciation that both Jameson and Miller weave throughout Poison Blood. The technicality and the symbolism live in tandem with the punk rock fury. Both musicians lay out a grand statement on how to deliver direct power and hold back just enough to create the tactile depth of mystery that proper black metal exhibits. There’s nothing faked here, it’s all laid out, bled from within, boomeranged from youth to adulthood: the two life periods interwoven as one epic spasm.
“Growing up, punk was more of an abstract ethos or an idea,” Miller explains. “When I was younger it didn’t matter what bands you listened to — punk was about making something and finding your own way of putting it out into the world. It just meant ‘independent.’ Now it’s more of a commodity, or a sub-cultural signifier, with a well-trod history and a specific image and an established canon of bands associated with it. These days it seems like it doesn’t really matter what you’re doing as long as you listen to the right music or wear the right clothes. But maybe I’m just old and out of touch.”
“My interest in punk didn’t really become obsessive until ten or twelve years ago,” he says. “Until my discovery of Amebix and Rudimentary Peni, I really never even went to punk shows. Growing up in Ocean City, NJ, the punks and metalheads stuck together unlike a lot of places, I guess out of a shared sense of being the community fuckups, but if I’m being honest, I thought what they listened to outside of a few bands sucked. I never gave a fuck about GG Allin or Crass. Still don’t. But we watched each other’s backs, at least until drugs came into the picture. As for punk now, it’s kind of a reversal for me: I love a lot of punk bands but think a lot of the people in that scene suck, but I can say the exact same thing about black metal, or any music, really. It’s a lot of people talking about big ideas they never follow through with, or people who are so frighteningly sensitive to the most minimal shit that they tend to damage their credibility with causes that actually impact more than someone’s hurt feelings. Rationality is fucking dead, everything is for sale, and nobody’s driving.”
The brutal and desolate “Circles of Salt” closes the new record out in haunting style. The song is lonely and vast — but like the entire record, there’s some definitive hope nestled up in there. You can walk with purpose, crawl with reason. Jameson showcases some wickedly reverberating scowls and yelps throughout, almost like an ancient hymn to the endless night sky and torture of existence, albeit tweaked with modern technology.
“That was painful,” he says. “I used to be able to do vocals like that, the higher register, for hours. Now age and smoking has left its mark, so I tend to only do it for the right moments. And as it’s the ending of the record and the least direct song on the record, I felt that it needed the most amount of that weird desert chill through its bones, so I wanted my vocals reversed. I think on almost every recording I’ve ever done something’s been reversed, I fell in love with the process on Danzig’s IV, and it’s stayed with me since.”
The song creates a door in the sky, like something out of Stephen King’s Dark Tower series. You step through, are bathed in the morphing tones, the outer rings. You can see the outside, and ponder walking back through, yet you’re drawn intensely. This is the circular atmosphere of Poison Blood shining its core.
“I like repetition in music,” Miller states. “Both as a listener as a compositional method for my own music. I enjoy being hypnotized by music, and that can happen quite easily when tracking this kind of song.”
Poison Blood’s debut offers a trip into many worlds, a chance to walk the earth and skate the skies. The band creates a dimension bore of rage and technique: the perfect combo for a duo with some honest intentions.