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Viking's Choice: The Man, The Machine, The 'Melee'

Author & Punisher styles some serious headgear.
Marilia Maschion
Courtesy of the artist
Author & Punisher styles some serious headgear.

Remember the slow-moving, ridiculously armed ED-209 in the first RoboCop movie? The poor thing couldn't walk down a stairwell, but boy, could that machine leave a bloody mess. Author & Punisher does much the same, for both the ears and whatever's left of the body.

Mechanical engineer and sculptor Tristan Shone is a master of machines. He's built a robotic entourage — throttles, knobs, rails and all — that responds to MIDI/USB controllers and makes for-real industrial doom metal. It's a thrill to watch this musical cyborg at work, as he literally fires on all cylinders and pulls levers like an executioner. But listening through headphones, the experience is just as physical and grinding. Author & Punisher's fifth album, Women & Children, adds a few traditional instruments, but you won't hear any of that in the crushing "Melee."

More than any other track thus far, "Melee" makes the case that Author & Punisher is overdue for a sidelong remix. Shone has never been shy with dub, but the traces of dark, grimy dubstep here remind me of a syrupy Milanese. Bloated, muddled beats hang in the air like zeppelins until Shone's steel-toed boot of a chorus comes crashing down. The structure is something like Nine Inch Nails' strongest songs: the build, the climax, then the chaos. The last minute of "Melee" sounds like a death march led by a million-strong war cry. The machines have taken over. You have 20 seconds to comply.

Women & Children comes out June 11 on Seventh Rule. Author & Punisher will go on tour with Down's Phil Anselmo in August.

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