Disc zero : 1/ Scud Attack (PainKiller) 3.07 2/ Deadly Obstacle Collage (PainKiller) 0.21 3/ Damage To The Mask (PainKiller) 2.43 4/ Guts of A Virgin (PainKiller) 1.19 5/ Handjob (PainKiller) 0.10 6/ Portent (PainKiller) 4.00 7/ Hostage (PainKiller) 2.24 8/ Lathe of God (PainKiller) 0.56 9/ Dr. Phibes (PainKiller) 3.00 10/ Purgatory of Fiery Vulvas (PainKiller) 0.26 11/ Warhead (PainKiller) 1.12 12/ Devil's Eye (PainKiller) 4.37 13/ Tortured Souls (PainKiller) 1.52 14/ One-Eyed Pessary (PainKiller) 1.50 15/ Trailmarker (PainKiller) 0.03 16/ Blackhole Dub (PainKiller) 3.29 17/ Buried Secrets (PainKiller,Broadrick,Green) 6.13 18/ The Ladder (PainKiller) 0.22 19/ Executioner (PainKiller) 2.48 20/ Black Chamber (PainKiller) 2.28 21/ Skinned (PainKiller) 0.54 22/ The Toll (PainKiller,Broadrick,Green) 6.25 23/ Marianne (Jacks) 7.50 Disc one : 1/ Parish of Tama (Ossuary Dub) (PainKiller) 16.05 2/ Morning of Balachaturdasi (PainKiller) 14.45 3/ Pashupatinath (PainKiller) 13.47 Disc two : 4/ Pashupatinath - Ambient (PainKiller) 20.00 5/ Parish of Tama - Ambient (PainKiller) 19.19 Disc three : Live in Osaka 1/ Gandhamadana (PainKiller) 13.00 2/ Vaidurya (PainKiller) 9.00 3/ Satapitaka (PainKiller) 11.00 4/ Bodkyithangga (PainKiller,Eye) 13.00 5/ Zorn/Eye duo encore (Zorn,Eye) 9.05 a/ Black Bile b/ Yellow Bile c/ Crimson Bile d/ Ivory Bile Recorded at Greenpoint Studio, Brooklyn, New York Disc three recorded live in Osaka, Japan Produced by PainKillerJohn Zorn: alto; Bill Laswell: bass; Mick Harris: drums, vocals; Justin Broadrick (disc zero,tracks 17,22): guitar, drum machine, vocals; G.C. Green (disc zero, tracks 17,22): bass; Makigami Koichi (disc zero, track 23): vocals; Haino Keiji (disc zero, track 23): guitar; Yamatsuka Eye (disc three, tracks 4,5): vocals.
1998 - Tzadik (USA), TZ7317 (4CD)
The Tzadik disclaimer that comes wrapped with the box calls this the "ultimate Painkiller document", and it's hard to argue with them. Mick Harris' drumming displays a rare versatility - unequal parts grindcore blast-beat and nimble improvisational skill. Bill Laswell's bass playing is also versatile on these recordings: overdriven, speed-crazed, dubby, groove-conscious - these recordings are almost a Laswell Expo of sorts, giving him a rare freedom to unload his stylistic arsenal. John Zorn, is, well, John Zorn - his piercing shards of sax are evocative of everything from S+M routines (a major focus of Naked City's work) to inspired mischief. At points the alto sax intermingles with Zorn and Harris' grindcore-inspired vocalisms to the point that you can't honestly tell which sound source is which. This technique is best utilized on the Live in Osaka disc, where Zorn and the Boredoms' dada man Yamatsuka Eye pair up for an alternately hilarious and violent encore.
The box comprises three different shades of Painkiller: the first disc, Disc Zero, collects the furious, gleefully obtuse and noisy shorts that made up the Painkiller ep's. Anyone whose list of favorite records includes slabs of confrontational big city mayhem like the No New York compilation will be immediately gratified by this disc. However it's not merely a piece of No Wave nostalgia, as a number of other spirits are invoked herein. Dub flirtations, short retreats into more traditionally tonal jazz, and cruel industrial stomp (thanks to contributions from Godflesh) make for interesting, if not equally extreme, interludes from the frenzy.
The second wave of Painkiller, namely the reissue of the Execution Ground opus, showcases the band's music in a much more studied light. Exit the Naked City-esque titles like "Lathe of God" and "Purgatory of Fiery Vulvas" and their hyperspeed excesses, enter more lengthy pieces glued together by incidental ambient effects and hints of eastern influence.
Make no mistake, the band still spills out a caustic noise like on Disc Zero, although on Execution Ground it has more of an ebb and flow; much more of a sense of dynamics spread over it's three movements: 'Parish of Tama,' 'Morning of Balachaturdasi', and 'Pashupatina', two of which get lenghty ambient treatments on Disc three. The originals feature brilliant, serpentine saxwork in addition to Zorn's usual high-register divebombing runs, and the drums are treated in parts with just the right amount of delay to make them more omnipresent. the ambient re-workings are the real surprise, though: samples of Tibetan monks and echoed ghost howls mix with a cavernous, huge tapestry of sound that captivates without fail for some 35 minutes. It holds up against some of the best 'isolationist ambient' music on the market.
The fourth disc, Live in Osaka, is the highlight of the set and assuredly the buying point for anyone who owns the above material seperately. For a live show to be captured with this kind of clarity is rare: every instrument's individual voice cuts through the mix with a minimum of blurring together. No easy task considering the sonic extremes to which the band goes. For a set including a great deal of improvisational material (only some of it as recognizable as being re-worked from Execution Ground), it also shows off a mindboggling synergy between the Painkiller players. Musical telepathy like this is difficult to find. The soloing on the respective instruments is intricate and done in a way that defies the normal self-congratulatory nonsense.The effects come in at the right time and don't stick around long enough to become annoying or detract from the authenticity of the sound, and the closing duet between Zorn and Eye (a goofy, inspired tribute to different kinds of bile) nails shut the proceedings in a way that shows the band can be both diabolical and fun.
That said, this is a 4CD box for the brave; a treat for anyone who can decode such music as being more than "just a bunch of noise". Indeed, it's the ultimate Painkiller document and hopefully a blueprint for other 'ultimate documents' to come.
Tom K. Bailey
During it's existence, Painkiller hasn't released many albums, the two mini albums Guts of a Virgin and Buried Secrets, the double disc Execution Ground (with a live disc added in the Japanese version only), and the Japan only Rituals live disc. This 4CD set contains all but Rituals, and adds a rare track, "Marianne". The first disc consists of GoaV and BS. Both of these are short, furious blasts of drums (courtesy of Mick Harris), tight bass work (from super bassist Bill Laswell), and alto sax that is frequently smooth and flowing, to horrific and terrifying (from John Zorn). Of the first two EPs, songs range from around 6 minutes ("Buried Secrets" and "The Toll", both with Godflesh's J.K. Broadrick on guitar and vocals, and G.C. Green on bass), to a matter of seconds ("Trailmarker", "Handjob"). All of the songs are similar and excellent, fluctuating from violent, horrifying blasts, to calmer, more conventional, dubby passages (like "Blackhole Dub") that take on an eerier quality considering the rest of the music. The bonus track on this disc, "Marianne" (which may or may not be on Earache's single disc issue of these two) features Koichi Makigami on vocals and guitar legend Keiji Haino on guitar, and is a longer, dark, dense piece akin to Painkiller's usual work. The addition of guitar and vocals creates a chilling effect. Execution Ground and it's companion ambient remix disc are not quite as in-your-face violent, but still create tension. Consisting of three tracks ranging between 13 and 16 minutes, these songs are prone more to experimentation. "Parish of Tama (Ossuary Dub)" begins with a violent blast of all three artists playing at full force, but later dropping all in favor of a dark ambient soundscape, which later becomes a eerily calm dub rhythm track, with Zorn's sax sounding like the shreaks of the dead. This style continues into "Morning of Balachaturdasi", with the bass more prevalent in the mix. "Pashupatinath" begins with a really tense, horror like rhythm section, with horrific screams from either Zorn or Harris and Zorn's sax weaving in and out of the mix. Both "Parish of Tama" and "Pashupatinath" appear on the ambient disc, which are extended remixes of both, centering more on evil ambient soundscapes, with the drums coming in and out at random intervals. While much of the other work is violent and horrific, the remixes are more subtle, but nonetheless horrifying. The live disc, previously only available in the Japanese pressings of Execution Ground is a recording of an Execution Ground era performance in Osaka (which is not the same as the performance on Rituals) that follows the albums style of longer pieces that alternate between the more mellow, jazzy dub passages, and the loud, violent blasts. Yamataka Eye guests on the last two tracks, "Bodkyithangga" and the encore between him and Zorn, which is Eye's vocal seizures accompanied by Zorn's multidimentional sax. Each track on this disc is unique, with the opener "Gandhamadana" resembling "Morning of Balachaturdasi", "Vaidurya"'s opening drum solo, and reggae like rhythm section, the violent "Satapitaka", and the downright evil sounding "Bodkyithangga", with Eye's vocals sounding horrific in contrast to his usual silly sound with the Boredoms. While owners of Execution Ground may think that paying $40+ for two discs seems outrageous, it is well worth it. It is not too often that a four disc set of music as horrifying and great as this is available, and it should be purchased. And it gets a few bonus points from me for thanking comedic genius Rudy Ray Moore in the liner notes to Buried Secrets. As with most Tzadik archival discs, Complete Studio Works comes with all of the art (which, like the music, is contrastingly beautiful and disturbing), and all of the original covers/liner notes (even the back covers for GoaV and BS are preserved as the tray liners). Although I would have liked to have seen a boxed set type packaging, I am not complaining too much. I can only wonder why Rituals has not been reissued or made part of this set...I don't care a whole lot, since I was lucky enough to find the Japanese version, but I know many others who would like to have their own copy. I'm currently physically and mentally preparing myself for a back to back playing of all four discs plus Rituals in my changer. May God be with me...
Overall - 10/10
Creaig Dunton (courtesy of the False Prophet Campaign website)
This is a monster, monstrous album, the collected works of an unlikely trio - JOHN ZORN, BILL LASWELL and MICK HARRIS. It marks the anno and domini of their recorded work and contains some unbelievably extreme moments of Noise and Jazz, Dub and Rhythm. Inspired originally (so legend has it) by Thrash Metal, this album goes way beyond it's limits.
The first and second albums, which make up most of the first disc we reviewed elsewhere - "Guts Of A Virgin" and "Buried Secrets", so I don't see why we should go into details there again. The final track on this disc - "Marianne" sounds as if it comes from a later period, and is curious as it is formed into a proper song, showing just how powerful they really could be when they approached a more 'normal' structure. It could come from the late 70's post-Hippy pre-New Age Traveller pocket of GONGesque Indie music, but is so faaaaarrr removed in it's magnificence. What's probably the finest element here is the twanginess to LASWELL's guitar - which sniffs at Rock 'n' Roll. Sheer delightful madness! It's wonderful to hear the first two studio collections on one disc, but this makes it incandescent. Excellent.
The second and third disc are "Execution Ground" with nothing additional, so, again I'll say nothing about these - jump to the reviews which exist elsewhere in hyperspace.
Which leaves the fourth and final "Osaka Live" disc. A more muted, slightly less crisp sound, but all the elements are there - fire and ice, boiling away in their almost instinctive improv journey. From mountains of mangled metal and bone to smooth, sleek passages through calming warmth, these madmen fed off one another, or rather reacted a little like a flock of birds - once one is startled into panicked life, the others follow suit. You feel that, for all the aggression and bone-crushing might, there's some inner urge to portray the beauty of pure, undiluted passion. There seems to be a lot more space on the live interpretation - I know ZORN used to recline and watch his partners in cacophony play solo and together, verbally encouraging them into new realms. The fourth track definitely sounds like a live reproduction of an album track (hey! don't ask me which one!). And for them to have played this mad music po-faced is almost impossible to contemplate - insane vocals and flatulent noises make for a performance so brilliantly crazy it could only have come from performance art genius or the Warner Bros cartoon soundtrack studios. And perhaps it has a little of each.
So, the journey is done. MICK HARRIS, when I spoke to him, said it was doubtful whether there'd even be live work on the project again, let alone a studio album. And as sad as it is to see such a powerful triumvirate part company, yes, you do feel that this final seal on their collective sarcophagus shouldn't be broken. If you missed out on their existence, then get this and experience just how much you missed.
Antony Burnham (courtesy of the Metamorphic Journeyman website)
Because he came to Hardcore late, JOHN ZORN went at it four times as hard just to catch up. Like every overzealous new believer, he asserted certainty over doubt, denounced dialogue as weakness, and proposed confrontation as the sole legitimate means of communication. PAINKILLER was his Hardcore trio with bassist BILL LASWELL and psychoambient drummer MICK HARRIS, with himself in shrieksax mode. This four CD reissue compiles their TZADIK works, completed between 1991-94. The first disc couples "Buried Secrets" and "Guts Of A Virgin" (which are also available as a recently reissued double CD package on EARACHE); the second and third are given over to "Execution Ground" and its Ambient variant; and the fourth features "Live In Osaka", from November 1994. Over the duration, the PAINKILLER attack ranges wider than ZORN's furious speed-fixated legend would suggest, but the pitch of intensity they sustain over four sides is eventually wearing. "Buried Secrets" and "Guts" take their cue from the title "Skud Attack" - loud, blustering threat, spitsprayed far and wide, warheads exploding offtarget. The lengthier tracks of the two "Execution Ground" discs permit some development, most noticeably on the Ambient version, where Dub erases enough of LASWELL's blockbass to let in some light. The Osaka live set exposes the shortcomings of the format, with ZORN's sax gamely wailing, flailing and ultimately failing to whip LASWELL and HARRIS up to speed or intensity.
Biba Kopf from THE WIRE 174