Michael Stack | North Chelmsford, MA USA | 11/17/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"In the late '80s, John Zorn developed a fascination with hardcore death metal and grindcore. Adding bands like Napalm Death to his endless list of influences. Zorn at some point met Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris, and the two discussed collaborating. The net result of this was Painkiller, with the addition of bassist Bill Laswell.
Describing Painkiller is a bit difficult-- Zorn and Harris' overt grindcore sound blends remarkably well with dub bass courtesy of Laswell-- the band recorded three albums-- "Guts of a Virgin" and "Buried Secrets" and "Execution Ground". All of these along with an ambient remix of "Execution Ground" and a live show are gathered into this boxed set, "Collected Works".
"Guts of a Virgin" and "Buried Secrets" (making up the first disc) follow pretty much the same formula-- the band rails away, loud, heavy, and propolsive-- Laswell finds oddball grooves, Harris pounds relentlessly, and Zorn screeches over the top. The music is exciting, powerful and engaging, but you really have to be in the right frame of mind to hear it because it is relentless in its approach. Sometimes it excels enormously (opener "Scud Attack", frantic "Guts of a Virgin" and "Skinned" or Zorn explosion "Hostage"), sometimes it gets a bit more experimental which is intriguing, particularly on "Buried Secrets"-- tracks like "Blackhole Dub" and "Black Chamber" find Laswell pushing the grooves in somewhat different directions. Guest performances by Justin Broadrick and G.G. Green (both of Godflesh) on a pair of tracks help provide some more intrigue to those pieces-- "Buried Secrets" is a guitar effects workout and "The Toll" is morbid and bleak (and fantastic). The final cut on the disc, "Marianne", is from an album by vocalist Makigami Koichi. The band with Koichi on vocal and Haino Keiji on guitar, follows much the same formula, also in Keiji, Zorn has a guitarist willing to match his screeches and it makes for an intriguing pairing. Add to this Koichi's much more patient and relaxed vocal delivery, and certainly the cut is one of the most unique on the record.
"Execution Ground" paints a drastically different picture-- the same fierce improvs and explosive performances are present, but rather than brief tracks, it sounds as if Laswell mixed several pieces together with some ambient tape to form more coherent and extended statements. The results-- the music is a bit more laid back (a bit mind you, it's not exactly calm and patient), a more overt dub sound comes out, and it's much more produced and arranged-- effects processing, instruments fading in and out, volume swells, and so on. While it makes for a more coherent statement, it does lack that frantic energy that the earlier records had. The music is really quite unlike anything else and needs to be heard to make sense, "Pashupatinath" is the standout, encompassing an almost Naked City-like variance in sounds and themes, with Zorn adding a West coast jazz sensibility to the dub and grindcore sounds. If production made "Execution Ground" unique, then it stands to follow that ambient remixes would only continue that trend. What results is something totally unexpected-- "Execution Ground" is reduced virtually to samples for Laswell, who by and large creates a music that is bleak and haunting, using ambient sound, noise, and staggered instrumental presence to build a sense of foreboding. It's highly enjoyable, albeit not what you'll be looking for if you were expecting a grindcore workout.
The final disc, "Live in Osaka", is to my mind the gem of the set-- like many Zorn projects, Painkiller shines live. The music loses some of its heaviness but does not tame a bit-- four pieces are performed by the band, each is far more extended than the album cuts an has a weird jam-band/grindcore feel to it that, while I'm incapable of explaining it, benefits the material. On the last track with the band, Yamatsuka Eye of the Boredoms joins in to add some madness, and Eye and Zorn duet for an encore.
All in all, it's a pretty impressive set, there's a lot of material, I suspect not all of it is going to be to everyone's liking, but it's a good value for the money. Recommended."
DON"T BUY ANY OTHER PAINKILLER CD!!!
sweetback | Adelaide, Australia | 01/06/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I bought all the Painkiller CDs (Guts of a Virgin, Buried Secrets, Execution Ground) ON RELEASE. Being a fan of Napalm Death, Scorn, and Naked City, I had to get them! I still marvel at Laswell's bass on 'Guts', it's very unlike what one associates with Laswell. Mick Harris is instantly recognisable but yet different on every recording. And if you like Naked City's 'Torture Garden' as much as I do (i.e., if you are a sick little puppy) you need this! But then Live at Osaka came out, with Execution Ground included I waited, not able to justify all that money for a 3 disc import which I already had 2 discs of. THen this 4 disc set came out, way back when. Late last year I decided I needed those 7 tracks and payed $120 (Australian currency) for this set. I haven't regretted it even though I had all but one track on disc 0, and all of discs 2 & 3. If you love Naked City and Scorn and are thinking about buying some Painkiller, don't do it the hard (expensive) way that old fans like me did, jump in at the deep end and buy this box!
Oh, and I have the original Earache release of 'Guts' with the censored artwork. I guess that must be something of a collector's item these days but it just makes you appreciate all the more that the original gross-out artwork is included here. Packaging is similar to the Naked City 'Black Box' but better."
Oh mama i bought painkilla
pio | Warsaw, Poland | 05/11/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"oooh my GOD I GOT IT ... i bought it last week and ... it's amazing . one of the most powerfull band i ever heard . paranoid zorn's sounds & laswell on bass had to give that extraordinary kind of art . i'm shocked maybe because i spend so much money for it ??? ;-)"
Bernd Nixdorf | Germany | 09/29/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This compilation is a rather confusing, as it announces the "Complete Studio Recordings" and adding at the same time one live recording, which presents Painkiller Live after "Execution Ground", with the same change of mood.
But their still is one other live-record of Painkiller, recorded in Tokyo (entitled "Rituals") in Sept. 1991 (is it already TEN YEARS!?), which presents Painkiller live in their "Guts&secrets"-Phase. Very hard stuff, running over 70 minutes.
By the way is that the one, to which Allan MacInnis refers in his review.
The "Live in Osaka"-Record was published some years ago for a short time in a 3-CD-Set together with "Execution Ground".
If you like this kind of music I recommend "Grand Guignol" by "Naked City" (with feat. Zorn, Frisell & Fred Frith) - if you dare to take the CD out of the box."
Dark and compelling
Allan MacInnis | Vancouver | 07/08/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is a four CD set documenting the complete studio recordings of Painkiller, a trio that featured John Zorn, Bill Laswell, and Mick Harris (of, I believe, the group Napalm Death). It's dark stuff. The material I'd heard from Painkiller initially was the GUTS OF A VIRGIN/ BURIED SECRETS disc, which is quite noisy, with metal-style drumming (reminds me a bit of Black Sabbath in their "oh-god-please-help-me" heyday), noisy, squealing saxes, and a brutal, meaty bass from Laswell. No real hooks, not what one would call "catchy," but not quite chaos, either; it moved forward with a dark purpose unto itself, something unstoppable and ugly that understood itself perfectly. I kinda liked it, but it kinda scared me at the same time... This set includes the EXECUTION GROUND recordings (a bit harder to find); they seem to have more of Bill Laswell's input, judging from the more ambient textures and the Indian song titles... It's still dark, but moodier and somewhat less assaultive. I can clean my apartment to this music joyously. Final disc, LIVE IN OSAKA -- it seems to me that the promise Tzadik makes, that the set comes "with all the original artwork," is misleading, cos there's no picture for this disc, and I HAVE seen a live Painkiller disc out there -- I assume this one -- that DID have cover art -- a naked woman spitting in a bound man's mouth, in some sort of S and M transaction. As for the music, though, Eye of the Boredoms makes a guest appearance, and that's enough for me. It's a great set. Not for the squeamish, note -- the cover art that IS included runs in the direction of atrocity photographs, is VERY disturbing. Be warned."