John Frum

A Stirring in the Noos

Young gods
dB rating: 8/10

Release Date: May 12, 2017
Label: Relapse

John Frum are a death metal supergroup who take their name from a deity worshipped by a Melanesian cargo cult in the South Pacific. The John Frum movement was formed during WWII, when U.S. servicemen, stationed nearby, exposed the islanders to a bounty of consumer goods, medicines and foodstuffs. This material wealth and technological advancement blew their minds. They saw the hand of god at work. Listening to John Frum, you might see it, too. You may also consider their name a metaphor, with death metal as the indigenous culture, and John Frum enhancing it technically, offering an iconoclastic reinterpretation of an art form rooted in its own primitivism. Or maybe this is just what death metal would sound like now if the G.I.s had dropped Suffocation and Obituary records on 1940s Vanuatu.

For their part, John Frum regard themselves as “patron saints of altered states” and, sounding like a Ken Russell hallucination away from orthodox death metal, that seems apt. Comprising Matt Hollenberg on guitar, Eli Litwin on drums, Liam Wilson on bass and Derek Rydquist on vocals, John Frum were always going to jumble death metal’s grammar. Here, they incorporate Khanate-esque doom clang, weird post-metal angst and jazzy noodling to sauce the stew. There’s a fidgety, improvisational feel, too, trace elements from Hollenberg’s work with John Zorn and Wilson’s with the Dillinger Escape Plan. Altogether it makes for an alien and challenging album, intermittently brutal, psychedelic, brooding, but always apocalyptic. Meanwhile, back on Tanna, Vanuatu, the men paint “U.S.A.” across their chests, praying their American messiah returns to rain Coca-Cola, Tylenol, iPhones, etc. upon them. May he deliver them this record, too.

— Jonathan Horsley

This review taken from the June 2017 issue. A Stirring in the Noos is available on vinyl from Relapse Records.

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