Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Jester Beast - Destroy After Use (1988)

Anybody who's ever tried to start a band knows that one of the most difficult parts is finding a name that's halfway decent and hasn't been taken. It's a daunting proposition, and there are definitely some really great bands who have been marred with shitty names (coughcoughWeekendNachoscoughcough). It really is a shame when a great band is marred with a name that elicits the “no, but really they're actually good” defenses and one of the prime offenders that I've found is Turin, Italy's Jester Beast.

I'm not entirely sure what a “jester beast” would be exactly. Some sort of clown-painted bear? A juggling shark? A dragon that makes balloon animals? It kinda sounds like something that would adorn a black light poster in Spencer Gifts, but that doesn't really clear much up. Nor does the name really fall under the band-naming approach of juxtaposing two or three cool-sounding words regardless of their meaning - “beast” is pretty overused in metal, and clowns, while they may be scary, aren't scary in a particularly metal sort of way. Just because something's creepy or unsettling doesn't mean it needs to be a metal band's name. I fear growing old and dying unloved in some nursing home that smells of urine while an ex-felon nurse is stealing my medication but I don't think Geriatric Abandonment would be a very good band name.

Appellations aside, If you catch Jester Beast at the right point in their existence, they were fucking killer. Their first appearance, a song on 1983's Heavy Metal Made In Italy, sounded like a slightly punk-ish Motley Crue and their first full-length, 1991's Poetical Freakscream (which sounds like a fucking Spin Doctors album title) was pretty standard Anthrax worship, polished and competently performed but lacking any qualities that separated them from the six billion other bands trying to sound like Anthrax in 1991. However, in the years between those two releases, the band put out the Destroy After Use demo which remains one of the best crossover releases that has ever been committed to tape.

This, of course, isn't saying much. Most crossover lacked hardcore's acerbic brevity and metal's dark intensity, treading water in a middle ground of flip-brimmed baseball caps and puffy hi-top Nikes. Jester Beast's demo, however, sounds like some alternate musical universe where DRI and COC got more vicious and frantic with the incorporation of metal rather than turning into shitty thrash-lite or cornball Southern rock (respectively). If all the crossover bands took a page out of the Hellhammer book instead of trying to be the next Metallica, there would be a shitload more bands that managed the frantic brutality of Jester Beast in their prime.

Italy had a strong scene for heavier music during this period, whether metal (Death SS, Dark Quarterer) or punk (Raw Power, Cheetah Chrome Motherfuckers) and while Jester Beast may not have attained the notoriety garnered by many of their contemporaries - though apparently they did have members of hardcore bands like Declino and Negazione and had played shows with Morbid Angel and Cro-Mags amongst others – their demo holds up far better than pretty much any band from the era that attempted to bridge the divide between hardcore and metal.

Would a Jester Beast by any other name thrash as hard? Sometimes we must look past the obvious if we are to find something greater, more pure and terrifying. It may be easy to dismiss a band like this based on name alone (just like it may be easy to harp on them for their terrible-ass name), but their music claws from under the corpse-pile of forgotten metal bands, incapable of being forgotten by anybody who has devoted any effort or time to this means of expression.


Jester Beast - Destroy After Use


Helm said...


Bruno said...

I guess it's just me, but I think that 'Geriatric Abandonment' would be a great band name!

purplerainingblood said...

It'll be my grindcore band when I turn 80.

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