Sonic Jesus – “Neither Virtue Nor Anger” (2015)

sonicjesusneithervirtueThis is the last of the Sonic Jesus albums that arrived in the mail the other day from Fuzz Club, and while it’s the last one we’re listening to it’s actually their first full length album. And it’s a doozy because it’s a double, 16 songs on four sides of wax, complete with a trip-fold gatefold jacket. Sonic Jesus obviously impressed the hell out of someone over there at Fuzz Club to warrant this kind of investment.

Whereas the other Sonic Jesus releases I listened to and blogged about recently had a certain unceasing relentless to them, Neither Virtue Nor Anger seems to be of a somewhat different breed. It opens with “Locomotive”, the kind of plaintive song that reminds me of Þórir Georg before picking up the pace and moving into more industrial territory. That leads into the full-bore “Triumph”, which also appeared on a 7″ single I wrote about recently and one of my favorite Sonic Jesus tracks, a aggressive driver of a number. By time we get to the tripped out “Sweet Suicide” to close out side A, I’m hooked.

The intensity seems to continue as we flip over to the B side, but it could just be the effect this type of psych has on my brain. At times it can wear me down, flattening me underneath a thick layer of fuzz that seems to surround me from all sides at once. Fortunately they bring it down a bit with a very Velvet Underground-y “Paranoid Palace” with it’s slow jangly guitar, a welcome respite to the sensory-numbing pounding of the previous four songs. It does build to a bit of a crescendo, but that initial breather is all I needed.

The one thing that differentiates Neither Virtue Nor Anger from the other Sonic Jesus albums and EPs I’ve listened to over the last few weeks is the vocals – while they continue to be effects-laden as they are the other releases, there’s more variance here in how the vocals are treated and that gives the songs a bit of variance, even when the guitar pedals are threatening to punch a drill bit into your brain. It gives everything a certain nuance that was lacking in the sheer weight of the later efforts.

Side C opens with “Monkey On My Back,” which originally appeared on Sonic Jesus’ self-titled 2012 EP, a song that reminds me a bit of the Brooklyn-based Imaginary Friends, and not only due to the monkey reference. (♠) In fact the C side in toto has a different vibe to it than the first disc did, more sparse at times in a way that gives more power to the meatier parts. And the D side kind of brings in a whole Eastern thing, so good on Sonic Jesus for managing to give us 16 songs that have an certain consistency while also mixing it up enough to keep things fresh.

(♠) But it does not remind me of Peter Gabriel’s “Shock The Monkey,” something that just sounds needlessly cruel especially when he goes on and on about shocking the monkey.