My first ever post for Illcon detailed the recorded output of Parabellum, without hyperbole, one of the most leftfield, fucked sounding death metal bands ever to exist. In that particular piece I was tempted to mention guitarist Carlos Perez's side project, with the the not-easily-Googleable-in-public moniker Herpes, but I decided against it. I don't want to tempt fate, and I fear that crossing two streams of such unrelenting force and brutality, parralel though they may have run, might cause some sort of rip in the fabric of the universe, some irreversable disruption that I don't want my fingerprints on. But here we are, several months hence. I feel the coast is clear and I hope I'm not wrong.
Herpes was the brainchild of the aformentioned Perez, who I believe played all the instruments on this release (information is fairly scant). The genre tag closest in proximity to this album would probably be grindcore, but that's only part of the picture. Grind, in 1989, was one of the most fringe forms of music, with its practictioners pushing the boundaries of conventional tonality. But compared to Herpes, the Napalm Deaths and Bolt Throwers of the world seem reserved, almost conservative, in comparison. I can't even say with any certainty that there are riffs or structure present in any of these songs. Growled vocals and blasting drums are audible (the former more clearly than the latter), but these are buried in sheets of dissonance, cascading waves of caustic, searing noise. Presumably this is provided by guitar and bass but it's difficult to tell. The album sounds like a recording of some sort of industrial metalworking facility pushed past peak production to the verge of collapse.
It ultimately sounds closer to Merzbow or early power electronics practictioners than it does any metal band. The tonality, if the term can be accurately applied here, is so thoroughly destroyed that even making a comparison is a tricky endeavor. Herpes (now as an actual band, I think – there are live videos that show more than one member) did release an album in 2004 that displays a comparable lack of regard for conventional structure, but lacks Medellin's cavernous, brittle anti-production. This constrast is interesting, because it almost seems like the recording studio itself was as much an instrument in the construction of Herpes' sound as the actual guitars, drums, and vocals were. Because while the band's most recent material is interesting, it lacks some of the vicious rawness of the debut, a point that underscores Perez's ability to utilize what might seem to be a setback (a shitty recording studio) as an advantage, an aesthetic signature that nobody in his time was able to really come close to. Plenty of bands consciously tried to come up with material this noisy and came off contrived, this shit is the real deal. It's brutal because it has to be, there were no other options available. Thoroughly noisy, thoroughly fucked sounding, but also an inimitable transmission from music's fringes.