"Ursus Americanus"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Machinery is the slave of mankind and exists solely to serve his needs...or is it? Could it rather be the other way around, with flesh and blood humans locked in perpetual servitude to industry, applying oil and electricity and making sure their so-called "servants" are in good working condition...because without them, we die? This is the essential question posed by Author & Punisher, the ultimate musical merging of man and machine.

Author & Punisher is Tristan Shone and those ponderous metal machines he crafts to express his ideas. Make no mistake, A&P is TRUE heavy metal. When activated by Shone's muscle power, the machines are capable of making earth-shattering vibrations and sounds. A&P is also TRUE industrial other act, even Einsturzende Neubauten, meets the definition of "industrial" more. It's not just evil disco music or a sequence of programmed blips and squeaks. Shone creates MACHINERY capable of riff and rhythm. No wonder the sound he creates sounds like it originates in a factory.

"Ursus Americanus" is a mega-heavy yet varied work that puts a whole new spin on the relation between man and machine. Seeing Shone physically exert himself on his "drone machines" while being engulfed by them is true performance art that will make you think. But what of the music itself? I can only compare it to the heaviest Godflesh, only more mechanical and primitive. "Terrorbird" starts the album with teeth-rattling rumbles, dragging metallic roars and aggressive shouts/grunts that sound like they come from the bowels of an industrial hell. Scary stuff! "Lonely" continues with an even more mechanistic, dehumanized beating...there's something faintly danceable about this monstrous tune. With "Mercy Dub", we get a different side to "Author and Punisher"...more restrained, spooky and ominous yet still with a cast iron spine. "Set Flames" is the horrific 10 minute plus epic of crushingly brutal industrial riffage and noise layered upon noise. It's an endurance test, but not chaotic...there is rigid structure here and in all the songs.

"Flesh Ants" is mercifully brief, as it possesses the harshest, most grating riff sound known to having your head in a drill lathe. In contrast, "Below and Above You" finds Shone using his machines to create a totally different kind of sound...ghostly and haunting, with eerie voices. It sounds like the subdued haunting of a long dead industrial factory. "Ill Consuming" ends the album with more LOUD and punishing industrial metal.

With the exception of "Set Flames" being too long for its own good, "Ursus Americanus" is a challenging and exhileratingly brutal piece of work that makes Fear Factory sound as industrial as Counting Crows.