Image by Aurora Berget
Every so often the tango between the worlds of rock and electronic music finds itself at an intersection, with artists embracing the similarities between the seemingly disparate genres and placing synthesisers over electric guitars. Who could forget KORN’s left of centre choice to have Skrillex produce The Path of Totality in 2011, or more recently Bring Me The Horizon’s amo which came equipped with a Grimes feature? The Bloody Beetroots has always existed, in many ways, as an essential point of departure for this intersection. There’s always been something distinctly metal about the project from Italian producer Bob Rifo, who channeled his love for punk rock into the The Bloody Beetroots’ obnoxious electro-house style. From synthesiser melodies which echo the guitar riffs of classic Van Halen to the graphic and often kitsch album art, it is an attitude which permeates throughout the identity of the Beetroots persona and has produced what is essentially rock music created by way of electronica. It makes sense then that Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave fame, should enlist The Bloody Beetroots on his latest collaborative EP The Catastrophists, released via Comandante LLC.
With Morello himself being an incredibly diverse artist whose work consistently pushes innovation in guitar playing, it is a fitting collaboration. Together with Rifo, they create a collection of tracks which use the sound of Morello’s guitar as an aesthetic template for the direction of the music. The result is a record which allows The Bloody Beetroots to fully embrace its rock and roll roots and Morello to continue his exploration of electronica first proposed on 2019’s The Atlas Underground. There is an angst to the music here that distinguishes it from The Bloody Beetroots’ earlier party-starters. The Devil’s Infantry opens the EP with a warning; “there will be no dancing tonight.” What ensues is a seemingly bonkers pastiche of genre motifs and aesthetics which bend the conventions of dance music and rock and roll to create something both familiar and entirely distinct. Morello’s background in metal, blues and hard rock and Rifo’s punk and euro-house influences all inform the direction of the music, somehow working by finding a throughline in the sound of Morello’s guitar.
The guitar takes the lead across the EP with every track being particularly riff-heavy. Rifo’s synth work follows suit, and at times blends so completely with Morello’s distorted strings that they become almost indiscernible. On Lightning Over Mexico, both instruments take on a dark, growling quality and at times, bind so tightly together that they become emphatic of two genres driven by the sound of distortion. In fact, The Catastrophists is largely an ode to distortion; that distinct, grimy rumble that has equally informed the practice of Rifo and Morello and their respective styles. Many of Rifo’s textures and sonic bits appear to be formulated from experimentations with the noise of Morello’s guitar. The Devil’s Infantry provides an example, with Rifo’s warping dubstep synths directly referencing Morello’s riff on the track.
The features on The Catastrophists are also both unexpected and apposite. Russian feminsit punk outfit Pussy Riot appear on both lead single Radium Girls and Weather Strike (The Bloody Beetroots Remix). The latter is perhaps most telling of the EP as a whole, a bizarre melding of metal and filter house that underscore Nadya Tolokonnikova’s punk rock screams. Radium Girls brings together Tolokonnikova, The Interrupters’ Aimee Interrupter, White Lung’s Mish Way and The Last Internationale’s Delila Paz to form a riot girl supergroup who lend their vocals on the electro-punk track about radiation poisoning.
On paper, The Catastrophists may appear completely chaotic. But it is here that the project succeeds in finding the commonality in the spirit of rock and electronic music. Both are born from a sense of chaos, reckless abstractions that distort the sound of reality to match the complexities of emotion and the human experience. That makes The Catastrophists a wildly exciting listen, and a necessary dose of edge during a time in our lives when things easily lapse into mundanity.
Listen to Lightning Over Mexico below and download The Catastrophists here.
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