The Art of Self Defense (remaster)
Upon a wall stands the legendary warrior Pike. Lord supreme of the axe. God of the Shred. Master of Fists. Gripped in one hand is a massive battle axe which will soon be used to devour the legions of 'Hipstaarz' that threaten to invade his green lands. Beside him along the walls are many warriors, ready to join him in war to prevent their home from being butchered by the dreaded black-rimmed spectacle-wearing quirky tattooed followers of “Eeestpak”, the violent God they worship that demands all its followers wear backpacks. Gazing at the hordes, marching towards the wall en masse in their millions, the warrior of myth and legend gazes at his axe, and aims it at the Hipstaarz. “NO QUARTER TO THESE CUNTS”.
Yeah. Pike was fighting Hipsters in that wee opening paragraph. Imagine him butchering hundreds of Vice readers attacking him with canes and umbrellas. Like the Siege of Rhodes, Malta, Helms Deep, Storms End & Thermopylae all rolled into one. Matt just Conan/Darkwulf (from Fire & Ice) style chopping fuck out of them. Excellent. You see, that is what I keep imagining everytime I hear the opening riff to 'Baghdad'; I imagine Pike on some castle ready to defend it or maybe siege it. There are certain things you should have going on on an album depending on what you want it to be like. If you wanna make a baws-out, in-your-face metal album, it's a good idea to start the record with an all-out assault and that is exactly what the opener is: super hi-charged sludgey riffed fury. It sounded this way in 2000 when it was released on Mans Ruin records. Now, remastered by Brad Boatright and released on Southern Lord it sounds even better. The entire album does.
Imagine the first version was all brown around the edges...foggy. Well, this release finds us with an album that’s sharp around the edges. Its still sludgey and brown, but the fog's gone. You will get people moaning that the spirit of original version was better; fuck those cunts. Guitars, bass, drums and vocals are all now crystal clear. Tell you what, I reckon the biggest improvement are the drums. Des Kensel, on tracks such as 'Last', sounds like a complete demon. Up there with Bonzo in my opinion in the 'I'm going to hit these drums as hard as I can' stakes. George Rice's bass now sounds more foreboding (check out 'Fireface') than before. Pike's guitars just sound like they always did, like those of a man that has been held back for a long long time and is bursting to unleash hell. The shredding on this album is like the equivalent of 'Eyjafjallajökull' going off across fucking Europe. His history in SLEEP is incredible but you cannot escape the feeling that he is loving every minute of spreading his wings.
The remastered version comes with a new cover. So, since the first release this will be the third cover to grace 'Art of Self Defense'. I liked the first one, even though it sorta looked like it was thrown together on an early version of Photoshop in five minutes. Saying that, I digged the metal elements; the writing and the Knight on the cover. Then Arik Roper did one of an eagle, which was your classic hand-drawn affair. Now, this release has a cover that’s almost a play on the first one. It's the same cover without the bad Photoshop vibe. It's been utterly metallised.
As well as a new cover we are treated to three demos. 'Blood from Zion', '10000 Years' and 'Master of Fists'. Highlighting to us the early development of the songs, Pike's vocals are even more vicious and as distorted at times than his guitar, without the aid of a pedal! There are times when visiting demos can be merely a geek's desire, but quality of these tracks matches those on the album and if anything, are heavier.
I wasn't sure what to expect from this remaster. Sure, the 'Dopesmoker' reissue was something that always needed to be done. Three seconds in, upon hearing the first riff I thought “YAAAASSS!!!!” Get your weapon sharpened and join Pike on the wall. Or, buy fuck out this album!
Posted: Mon 16 July 2012