1/  Prelude                                    (PainKiller)                  2.12
  2/  The Prophecy                               (PainKiller)                  64.54
  3/  Postlude                                   (PainKiller)                  2.50

          Recorded 2004-2005 in Warsaw and Berlin
          Recorded by Oz Fritz
          Produced by PainKiller
          Design by Chippy (Heung-Heung Chin)
          Mastered by Scott Hull at Classic Sound, New York City
John Zorn: alto sax; Bill Laswell: bass; Tatsuya Yoshida: drums.

          2013 - Tzadik (USA), TZ 8311 (CD)


On their previous releases, John Zorn's trio Pain Killer veered back and forth between grindcore-inspired mayhem (Mick Harris of Napalm Death was part of the original lineup), dub-wise explorations of musical space, and Zorn's trademark take on free jazz. The Prophecy: Live in Europe, an album compiled from live Pain Killer performances recorded in Europe during 2004 and 2005, sounds like an effort to bridge the gaps between the group's various obsessions; with Bill Laswell on electric bass and Tatsuya Yoshida on drums joining Zorn on sax, this edition of Pain Killer can generate massive sheets of noise at will, but amidst the chaos there's plenty of room for quiet passages and post-bebop detours as the musicians search for coherence in their improvisational explorations. The Prophecy begins and ends with two short pieces that suggest the Stooges' "L.A. Blues" on steroids, but the centerpiece is the 65-minute title track, an aural journey that offers an epic-scale guided tour through Pain Killer's musical world view. As one might expect, Laswell is rarely content to hold down the root, instead bounding up and down the scale in tandem with Zorn or standing in for electric guitar with furious blasts of distortion and wah. Yoshida isn't as heavy a hitter as Harris, but he's far more precise and every bit as inventive as his bandmates, laying out a barrage of beats and rhythmic patterns that shift with the constantly changing musical landscape. And though Zorn shares generously with Laswell and Yoshida, as in most of his projects, The Prophecy is ultimately his show, and his sprints through the peaks and valleys of this music are a fascinating and telling reflection of his restless musical imagination. Appearing seven years after it was recorded and over ten years after the last proper Pain Killer album, it's not difficult to read The Prophecy as a summing up of Zorn and Laswell's experiment in fusing free jazz and extreme metal, and it ultimately turns out to be more than the sum of its parts, making it compelling listening


Mark Deming (courtesy of the All Music website)


When Painkiller arrived on the scene in the early 1990s with their debut "Guts of a Virgin", their aesthetics and their line-up seemed to be a calculated provocation for jazz purists bringing together New York's downtown scene icon John Zorn with jack-of-all-trades bass player and producer Bill Laswell and Napalm Death drummer Mick Harris. How could this work? Free jazz goes dub reggae goes grindcore metal? We all know it did.

The Prophecy (Live in Europe) is their first regular album in years compiled from live performances recorded on a Europe tour between 2004 and 2005 where Zorn and Laswell were joined by Tatsuya Yoshida (of The Ruins and Korekyojin fame) on drums.

Bookended by two very short pieces called "Prelude" and "Postlude" the central composition is the 65-minute title track, an acoustic sculpture displaying Painkiller's musical philosophy in a compact form. As usual there is John Zorn's nervous, hyperventilating, shrieking alto saxophone and Bill Laswell's bubbling electric bass, deeply rooted in dub reggae and rock.

It has always been his appearance that has made Painkiller so special, his bass is much more a second solo instrument than a simple provider of pulse. The interplay between the two alpha dogs Zorn and Laswell is the thing that keeps the listeners focused for more than an hour. Yoshida's approach isn't as brutal as Harris's, but very physical, though, displaying the necessary rhythmic barrage for his bandmates with absolute tightness.

"The Prophecy" is only one track but it is actually a postmodern medley of hardbop lines, a rolling e-bass, whirlwind noise, a "A Love Supreme" quotation on bass in between fuzzbox and wah-wah madness, Black Sabbath hints, sax staccato chopping, hectic circular breathing, bumpy avant-garde funk, speed metal, and high intensity machine gun drums.

John Zorn is known for the fact that he includes all kinds of philosophies in his music. Painkiller, however, is "just" a soundtrack for the life in a megacity with all its facets breathlessness and rest, alienation, multiculturalism, monotony, glamor, isolation, beauty and desperation. It is a conglomeration what life (and music) has to offer it is a fascinating tour de force.

Martin Schray (courtesy of the Free Jazz Collective website)