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Chat Pile startle and stun through the void of America on God's Country

"God's Country"

Release date: 29 July 2022
Chat pile gods country art
12 August 2022, 00:00 Written by Kyle Kohner

A rising noise rock band is telling stories. Ones about what happens when a caustic and perpetually depleting environment has rendered living a task of dying.

America is the root of this rot. However, rarely is anguish and recognition toward this notion projected from places of modesty and relative obscurity – like Oklahoma.

When photographer Robert Frank immigrated to the United States, he arrived with romanticised eyes. He soon realised the seedy truth of this country's faux opulence, a realisation that permeates his famed photograph series, The Americans. This book captured the gradual deflowering of hopeful eyes, seeing into the unsightly underbelly hidden beneath all the glitz and glamor. Eventually, a grim energy would consume Frank's entire body of work – a muddy cynicism onset by mere exposure to the truth.

Since time immemorial, this American horror story has been retold countless times via various mediums, variations, and effectiveness. But few capture the gritty core of this story like Oklahoma's Chat Pile, who, on their debut record, the ironically-titled God's Country, are here to pry open eyes to an ungodly sight to unsee.

From its initial pillaging seconds, God's Country takes you out of the comfort of your home, into a nihilistic and decaying world loaded with political commentary and themes related to capitalism, poverty, and overwhelming hopelessness. Lead single "Slaughterhouse" sets this scene of entropy with terrifying articulation, likening the Sooner State and every hopeless bastion within this not-so-great country, to a gear-turning factory, where its inhabitants and workers are trapped animals on the eternal verge of being butchered. As the band's frontman Raygun Busch forebodes, "Everyone's head rings here / And there is no escape / There's no motherfucking exit," the stage is set for plundering dread and the unbearable truth of our systems and surroundings.

The entrapping brutality of "Slaughterhouse" is an exclamatory and absurdly abrasive way to kick off a record. But its boldness accentuates a deeper-seated volatility that weighs heavier and heavier with every passing track. As God's Country progresses, feelings of entrapment beget acts of violence and subsequent regret. Further pushed to the brink by systemic circumstances that tend to drive people to the edge, "Pamela" sees a futile man who has drowned his son to get back at his wife. He immediately regrets it but bides his time as he prepares to kill himself. The track is far more sludgy and brooding than the album's abrasive kickstarter, but "Pamela" is a more explicit depiction of disparity amidst a place that exists merely in the American dream.

This charade of a white picket fence and life on the prairie, notoriously fabricated and associated with a romanticised Oklahoma, is startlingly tinted with a jaundiced yellow on "Why". A vile shot to the central vein, "Why" hears a delirious Bush emerge from the cracks with feigned desperation, questioning a country that kicks the marginalised to the curb, literally, only to ignore them as they're ravaged by the heat, "scabies" and "ringworm." It's one thing to describe the degenerative living conditions of the homeless, but positioning listeners in their tattered shoes makes "Why" all the more upsetting yet still striking.

The power of God's Country doesn't rely solely on the socio-political commentary that bubbles up from the fissures cracked open by their hometown's pervasive plagues. Its power is found in the band’s ability to trap and pin you down to experience a place unholy – to transport you into their gnarled world that struggles to give way to its inevitable ruins. Along the way, Chat Pile offer vignettes told through the cataract eyes of characters, either on the brink of destruction or completely shrouded in it.

Try listening to the pulverizing "Wicked Puppet Dance", without feeling thrust into a scene from Harmony Korine's Gummo or some other disenchanted portrait of mid-America rank where those who have, deliberately forget about the have-nots. Opening up with "His skin is all fucked up but he cooked a nice batch / Everywhere in the walls new roach babies hatch..." is quite a scenic turn of poetry (not at all, actually) to keep listeners engaged by the record's degenerate ways. It's grimy and discomforting – just as intended. And yet, the sinister language and bludgeoning noise rock of "Wicked Puppet Dance" can't hold a light to the haunting "I Don't Care If I Burn".

Proceeding "The Mask", which unravels a real-life robbery through the perspective of the unhinged robber himself, "I Don't Care If I Burn" presents another individual with violent intentions. There's no gruesome setting here; neither is there the thunderous grinding of the band's chaotic sound. But there is the presence of a foreboding atmosphere, inflated with silence then punctured by a simultaneous sense of impending danger. One can easily imagine a man, once again, pushed to the edge by something existential yet relatable to the rest of society, pacing the corridors of his home, ready to commit an appalling act that he'll regret. Listen closely; you can hear coins dropping, feet dragging, and even the sudden shriek of our character scratching to escape this dark headspace.

This brief yet ingraining shriek is aroused by the ghosts of bodies slain and tormented by industrialism, environmental catastrophe because of industrialism, an ongoing opioid epidemic, hypocritic evangelical bigotry, and of course, a fairytale story twisted into horror – American horror. What follows this shriek is evident and inevitable, and it's all because we're in the shoes of an embattled character, one of many, standing in God's Country.

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