"Rudimentary Peni are a band so fucking good that no one will ever understand them; I doubt they understand themselves." - Steve Albini, 1993
Cold hard facts first: this is the fourth Rudimentary Peni re-release on Southern (after Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric, Cacophony and Archaic), remastered and repackaged. And while it's about fucking time that these classics are being made available again (if you don't count the, yes, agreed, very well done - to put it nicely - "fan club releases“ on the notorious Noise Not Music label)... well, to quote George R.R. Martin: “There is strong shadow where there is much light."
Death Church was originally released in 1983 on Corpus Christi, the sister label of Crass Records, home to UK Decay, Conflict, Icons Of Filth and even Crucifix, and quickly became a heralded underground classic and influence to artists as diverse as Chelsea Wolfe and US Black Metal legends Krieg (who will soon release an EP of Rudimentary Peni covers). Primarily the brainchild of Nick Blinko, Rudimentary Peni did not only push the barriers of punk itself, but created a world of their own through sound and vision. It's hard to imagine their morbid and haunting sounds without the stark black and white nightmarish art of Blinko - all part of the package, a Gesamtkunstwerk. It really comes as no surprise that Rudimentary Peni and Death Church in particular sound the way they do: at the time of the recording, Nick Blinko was diagnosed with Schizoaffective disorder and guitarist Grant Matthews was struck with cancer.
"No longer want to listen to your insane lies, or call for the blood of those who've died, or lust for the tears of another to be cried, no longer want to suffer this pain inside. No longer feel the need to crush all in sight, or play any part in a cruel and bitter fight to maintain a blood stained curse of pride, no longer want to suffer this pain inside. No longer want to suffer this pain inside."
Nick Blinko creates his art when he is not on medication, letting his inner demons run free, creating visual nightmares that would scare the living shit out of Goya and Bosch, a macabre world of disfigured spectres and skeletons. The music of Rudimentary Peni sounds just like that: it's punk, yes, but it's so much more. The songs explode with sheer energy and lunacy, part early 80s UK anarcho punk with angry diatribes against religion in general and the plague of Catholicism in particular, part spaced out "art rock" for lack of a better term, not in a Cream or King Crimson kind of way, but more like the more experimental moments of (of course) Crass.
Death Church does not serve as a vehicle to exorcise inner demons, it proudly wears on them on the sleeve, quite literally. The Socialist Patients' Collective proudly demanded "Turn illness into a weapon" in Germany of the 1970s, and along with the homonymous Australian industrial pioneers, Rudimentary Peni might just be the soundtrack for it.
Now speaking of the reissue here, at least the CD version that I have here is fucking terrible. I am not a friend of remastered classics to begin with. If a record sounded good in the first place, leave it the fuck alone. If ain't broke, don't fix it. A good song is a good song is a good song, and it will remain a good song, no matter if you play it on an expensive audiophile high fidelity stereo system or an fucking wax cylinder. Yes, I have to agree, there are a few nice touches to the "new" sound, everything sounds a bit cleaned up, but please... if you re-release a classic album, stay true to what it was. And while the "improved" sound is just a minor complaint here, it's the packaging that is pure garbage. The once amazing full fold out cover artwork has been reduced to a meager 5 x 5" piece of toilet paper. However, that does take away from the genius behind the madness.
To this day, 31 years after it was first released, Death Church remains one of the greatest albums ever written.