Time Out Ratings :

<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5

The front covers of Gore’s first two albums—a sword impaling a pig’s ventricle, a butcher knife resting on a worn steel slab—couldn’t be more fitting. Although it might seem laughably macho in the hands of lesser performers, the stern imagery is actually a brilliant metaphor for the eccentric Dutch power trio’s cold and rigid M.O. Underappreciated during the band’s 1985–97 lifespan, the music inside those intimidating jackets would deeply scar future generations of math-rockers, doom-metalers and loud, genre-bending lugs—e.g., Don Caballero, Sunn O))), Pelican and the like.

In light of this posthumous notoriety, Southern Lord has released an expanded double-CD package (plus deluxe vinyl) of Gore’s maiden LPs, 1986’s Hart Gore and 1987’s Mean Man’s Dream. From the opening throb of “Extirpation” to the final lunge of “Out for Sex,” the group slows down repetitive, instrumental hardcore to a staggered, oppressive pummel, while heightening the intensity with meaty riffs and spurts of arty abrasiveness.

Pieter De Sury’s shearing, punk-Sabbath guitar and Danny Arnold Lommen’s concussive drums erase the need for distracting niceties such as vocals, solos, emotional range and breathing room. Bassist and torchbearer Rob Frey (a.k.a. Marij Hel) has ingeniously sliced away the garish excess that often weakens similarly heavy endeavors, leaving behind only a minimalist lockstep of pure rhythm. Sure, the unrelenting bludgeoning is cruelly monotonous, but that’s precisely the point; every lean, unsmiling thrust coalesces into a holistic masterpiece of single-minded aggression.

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Hart Gore / Mean Man’s Dream (Southern Lord)