John Frum sounds like a guy who will sell you insurance you can’t afford. Or a guy who will wash your car. Or cut your grass. Or steal your girlfriend. It does not sound like the name of a powerful death metal act that will rip your limbs off and shove them up your areas. And yet, as unlikely as it sounds, the latter is exactly what John Frum will do.
Well, in this context anyway. The actual name is derived from a cargo cult that worships an American WWII serviceman who brought them some chocolate or something. There is almost as much myth about how the cult formed as there is in the cult itself. Still, cool story, and a nice insight into the human need to believe someone better than us is looking out for us.
Listening to the music created by this band does not bring to mind any prosperity cults. It may, however, bring to mind other kinds; the kinds that have unspeakably stained altars dedicated to unmentionable beings who bring undesirable evil to our world. So the more traditional kind, I guess.
That some of the members of this beast hail from another band named after a semi mythical figure – The Dillinger Escape Plan (as well as the Faceless, John Zorn and various other outfits), is a nice in-joke, and may also give you an idea of what kind of death metal you are about to hear. To be clear, this is not “mathcore” or any derivative. It is much more aligned with prog metal and the kind of dark assemblings you get with Gorguts. To this add a feeling of traditional death – but really just that; a feeling.
This is an exquisitely produced record. Every piece of the ensemble is audible, and powerfully so. You are allowed to revel in the human endeavors behind the oddness. And revel you should. The performances are tight and expressive; the solos are spare, grounded, exciting, and never overwhelming. The vocals are roared and rasped with some gravitas. The rhythm section is stellar, as you could guess based on the pedigree. The bass gallops around the guitar work, while the drums use rhythm the way tigers use claws.
Compositionally, the songs are engaging on both an intellectual and primal level. The band wants to emphasize its metallic-ness by using big, smashing chords more than tricky riffing, and so when the riffs come they are all the more attention grabbing. “Memory Palace” takes the listener on a lengthy trip, first slowly aching across a hellish chord-scape, and then accelerating through an insane solo toward a chaotic and dark crescendo.
“He Come” gives the drummer a platform upon which to draw pictures using the splinters of deft, almost jazzy mechanics, all while the strings bash along like bomb bursts. “Wasting Subtle Body” is the closest to actual math metal, but uses the frantic relationships to close the album like an execution closes a murderous campaign.
Fanboying is what I do when music moves me. I don’t give a shit. This album moves me mightily. It sits very comfortably alongside Mithras, Wormed and the aforementioned Gorguts on my best of modern death metal shelf. I feel like you could only be doing yourself a favor by giving A Stirring In The Noos a listen.