Today Is The Day – No Good To Anyone

Band: Today Is The Day
Title: No Good To Anyone
Label: BMG
Release Date: 28 February 2020
Country: USA
Format Reviewed: Digital Stream

I remember years ago reading a letter written into the British music magazine Q, asking “If Neil Young pissed in a bucket and recorded it would you give it 5 stars?”, to which they replied “We’d have to hear it first”. I’ve thought of this a few times in the past weeks as I prepared for the release of “No Good To Anyone”, the new album by American Avant-Garde Metal mind-fuckers TODAY IS THE DAY. Why? Well, I have a bit of an obsession with this band. As much as I love TODAY IS THE DAY though, there’s never much use in trying to predict where frontman Steve Austin’s singularly peculiar muse will lead him. Will we get 99 flavours of screaming psychosis (“Sadness Will Prevail”)? Or dirty, abrasive Grindcore fired through a jet engine (“Kiss The Pig”)? Or 70s Hard Rock filtered through a Black Metal nightmare (“Pain Is A Warning”)? This time, with Steve once again accompanied by a completely new rhythm section than on the band’s previous album (2014’s excellent “Animal Mother”), we are treated to one of the most understated and least “Metal” releases of the band’s career.

Traumatic life events often seem to go hand-in-hand with TODAY IS THE DAY releases. Prior to the band’s second album “Willpower” it was the sudden, violent death of Steve’s father; in the case of the band’s 2014 release, Steve’s mother’s recent death hangs over the record. In the time since that last album came out the band were involved in a horrific crash while travelling in their van to a show, destroying much of their equipment, and causing various injuries, and then Steve got Lyme disease and his dog died. These trials and tribulations are surely a huge factor in the overall feeling of the album which is absolutely dripping with a pervasive sense of weariness, like a mighty beast, shot full of arrows, dragging its punctured body through a swamp; determined to keep going despite the pain.

The opening title track perfectly reflects this sense of gritted teeth through whatever hardships life rains down. To a huge menacing, backdrop of reverberating bass, insistent drums, and a slithering, slicing guitar line, Steve details the grey drudgery of chronic, debilitating physical pain. Understated like a furnace, slowly heating before silently burning your house down, the track explodes into a furious fireball of screams and battering drums, with bass like a jet engine melting in the heat of the sun. Even during these fast, raging sections, the crawling sense of fatigue never goes away, with the spoken vocals coming off part soothing lullaby, part menacing nightmare.

While the slow, methodical sense of struggling through adversity is an ever present, there is plenty of variety here and a number of standout tracks. Some of the typical, lurching, angular feel the band excels at is evident on “Attacked By An Angel”, with it’s strange dragging rhythm, like the track is constantly on the verge of tripping over itself. The cautionary tale of rock’n’roll living “Burn In Hell” starts out like some stripped back Hard Rock, almost reminiscent of THE KILLS or THE WHILE STRIPES, before suddenly launching into a furious, rapid-fire, Grindcore mind, melt (well this is TODAY IS THE DAY after all). “Your All Gonna Die” with its simple, but relentlessly stomping bass and snare drum rhythm and intermittent machine gun fire double bass pedalling is irresistibly catchy; while the brilliantly sleazy, insinuating bass and hushed vocals of “Cocobolo” is so infectiously cool.

Although the uninitiated might be taken aback by some of the sudden furious passages, this is altogether one of the most restrained records the band has released. While “Animal Mother” and “Pain Is A Warning” before it both occasionally showcased a softer, more reflective side of the band, probably nowhere has Steve been so nakedly tender as here on the track “Callie” (named after his recently deceased and much loved dog). Floating, dreamy, but also deeply melancholic guitars, drift along, before opening into a disarmingly traditional acoustic guitar melody. Steve’s hushed vocals are so quietly vulnerable. It’s very poignant. Such an unusual mood for TODAY IS THE DAY and all the more powerful for it. This is a long way from the ear-piercing, multi-layered screaming that was such a big part of prior albums “Sadness Will Prevail” and “Kiss The Pig”.

It’s here around two thirds of the way through the record that the tracks get just a touch less memorable (though none go by without some quirky rhythms, head-spinning drum interludes, or satisfyingly, hypnotic pounding to keep the listener’s interest). Even so, this is a very well put together set of songs and unusually immediate in its appeal. You might miss some of the exhilarating psychosis of old (from former glories like “The Man Who Loves To Hurt Himself” or “The Descent”), but this is one of the band’s most likeable and least antagonist or standoffish sets of songs.

As a window into living through illness, debilitating physical pain, and imobile anguish, the sense of monotony that runs through the album might be exactly what makes it all feel so authentic. The production as well very much fits the tone of the record. Perhaps closest sonically to “Temple Of The Morning Star”, the guitars and drums are clear and crisp, with the thick, rich bass tones, making the music feel altogether big. But while that album was an overwhelming, mind-melt of multi-layered guitars and vocals, and bass so huge it might liquify your intestines, here alongside the more low-key vocals and more reflective music everything is dialed back a few paces.

TODAY IS THE DAY have produced some incredibly intense and harrowing music over the years, “No Good To Anyone” won’t rip your face off in a screaming frenzy, but the pain and struggle that went into this recording is so apparent. In the world of TODAY IS TODAY there is no easy entertainment. You don’t get to just watch and then move on. Altogether it’s a subtle, though surprisingly heavy, emotional punch to the gut. Steve Austin is back. Battered and weary, but still standing, still marching on, whatever the obstacles. 8.5/10 Tom Boatman

 

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8.5/10 To Greatness and Glory!
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