We get a lot of metalcore at THE GARAGE. I’m always impressed with the technical skill and how heavy a lot of those breakdowns get. I noted this in the review of the Our Judgment/Fail to Decay show in December: some of them also get me thinking about New York crust punk godfathers, Nausea.
Though it began as a hardcore band, Nausea still stands out today because of their later evolution, deciding to pull in the speed and dirty guitar/bass gain of extreme metal (crust punk got the name because it sounded “crusty”). Coupled with shouted vocals and breakdowns, it’s pretty easy to see in Nausea’s music the primordial ooze from which metalcore crawled.
It shouldn’t be remarkable, but half of Nausea’s dual vocal attack was female. Amy Miret’s position at Nausea’s helm was part of the band’s radical draw and underscored the dearth of women in punk and metal. If aggression and a willingness to shred vocal cords were the admission to the boys’ club, Miret certainly proved she fit right in.
By forcing audiences to acknowledge the difficult, pandering, or even hostile environment for women in punk and metal, Miret’s voice became one not only for her band, but also the political.
This track nicely loops in the final notable part of Nausea’s DNA. That song, “Johnny Got His Gun,” is a reference to Dalton Trumbo’s terrifying World War I novel by the same name.
Terrifying how? Johnny Got His Gun is about a World War I soldier, Joe Bonham, who wakes up in the hospital having been blown up by an artillery shell. Slowly he realizes he’s lost all his limbs and face (eyes, ears, tongue), yet his mind remains. He’s a prisoner of his own body, seemingly without a way to communicate with the nurses or anyone in the outside world.
So, just because music sounds heavy or even makes listeners uneasy doesn’t mean it’s violent or advocating violence. Rather, the art—like much of good art—is a radical platform that challenges its audience to reflect and evaluate their own beliefs. This is one way art contributes.
Also, it’s a nice reminder to see bands pushing a genre in new directions, sonically or lyrically. Nausea just happened to have done both.