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Metalgaze of Our Lives
Blood, Sweat + Vinyl links post-pioneers and their labels
“Terminology is lame… I feel like it’s inaccurate 90 percent of the time,” sighs Hydra Head’s Aaron Turner towards the end of Blood, Sweat +Vinyl: DIY in the 21st Century, as he struggles to put Isis, Neurosis and Godspeed You! Black Emperor in proper context. Indeed, Kenneth Thomas’ thoughtful documentary eschews labels entirely as it explores the common link between these three massively influential bands and the artist-driven record labels that reflect their own eclectic tastes.
Featuring 30+ interviews with musicians, visual artists and record store owners, the film is remarkably even-handed and deferential to its subjects. The first third zeroes in on Hydra Head as Isis are recording In the Absence of Truth, while Jesu’s Justin Broadrick drops by for a sandwich and Decibel’s own J. Bennett rhapsodizes—true to form—about Cave In’s post-Jupiter output. The second segment follows Steve Von Till of Neurosis recording Harvestman tracks in his home studio and discussing the intersection of art and commerce, while members of Made Out of Babies and Oxbow testify to Neurot’s curated approach. And the final piece features seemingly recalcitrant (but genuinely sweet) musician Efrim Menuch and label owners Ian Ilavsky and Don Wilkie discussing Godspeed You! Black Emperor and the collective voice of Montreal’s Constellation Records.
It’s a pretty wide scope, but Thomas ties it all together well with exemplary live footage—shot over the course of five years—of Isis, Neurosis, Cave In, Oxbow and Silver Mt. Zion. And for a relatively short documentary, Blood, Sweat + Vinyl still manages to accommodate tangents, like a lengthy digression on the origin of the flattened penny included with GY!BE’s F♯A♯∞, a clip of Do Make Say Think pounding out the riff to “Raining Blood” and an entire coda devoted to the ultimate cult band, Old Man Gloom. It’s a perfect portrayal of the experience of listening to extreme music, collecting vinyl or, say, reading Decibel—authentic, compulsive and extremely geeky.