Archers of Loaf – Icky Mettle

What I Think of When I Think of This Artist

I loved this band because they were noisy and strange and anonymous and full of destructive dark energy. Four regular dudes from North Carolina unleashing jagged fragments of junkyard guitar with raspy shouts about who knows what, and I wasn’t sure if they were angry (probably), mocking (also probably), or completely unhinged (doubtful but not impossible). Their first two albums were barbed wire-wrapped declarations of purpose. Not to dismiss the contributions of the rhythm section, but the two Erics – Bachman and Johnson – are the true heroes of this band.

What I Think of This Album

Right from the get-go, Archers of Loaf warn you that “there’s a chance that things will get weird” and then guilelessly start chanting about wanting to “be your spine.” Things definitely get stranger, and you’re never quite sure what this band’s intention is. What you do know is it sounds amazing. How four guys can create this much chaos and still retain a sense of melody is astonishing.

Bachman’s voice is far from a thing of beauty but when he is yelling 90% of the time, it doesn’t really matter and as a shouter, he has just the right level of oxidation on his vocal cords. “Web in Front” is an indie-rock classic, with its off-kilter lyrics, sardonic asides, and lo-fi sonics. “Last Word” hews closer to a classic Archers of Loaf sound, with opening tom rolls generating the sense of being lost at sea, before you drown in the waves of guitar noise. “Wrong” is another standout, a breakup song full of bile and self-loathing. “You and Me” is deceptively mellow until some stunning guitar abuse appears at the one minute mark. “Might” is a jumpy meta-song of self-doubt, with more stellar fretwork from Johnson, and “Hate Paste” is a sludgy, ominous anthem. Really, the first half of this album is fantastic. Things get considerably darker thereafter. “Learo, You’re a Hole” is a disturbed, piercing rant that would make Trent Reznor swallow nervously. “Toast” is an art-rock exploration of existential dread (“there’s something wrong with my toast”) that explodes into a frenzy of strumming. I would be remiss if I did not point out that “Plumb Line” is a tuneful if possibly misogynistic rant (and that it comes on the heels of the definitely misogynistic throwaway “Fat” doesn’t help).

This was recorded at the wonderfully-named Kraptone Studios.

The Best Thing About This Album

“Wrong” is the song that gets each of the Archers of Loaf into heaven.

Release Date

September, 1993

The Cover Art

This is a fairly hideous cover. There is no element that I approve of. Not even a little. What’s more, it also feels very much of its time. I could possibly be talked into believing that it sort of hints at the mess of guitar noise that awaits inside, but I’d have to be drunk.

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