Today Is the Day

  • Today Is the Day
  • Supernova (Amphetamine Reptile) 1993 
  • Willpower (Amphetamine Reptile) 1994 
  • Today Is the Day (Amphetamine Reptile) 1996 
  • Temple of the Morning Star (Relapse) 1997 
  • In the Eyes of God (Relapse) 1999 
  • Live Till You Die (Relapse) 2000 

Nashville is called Music City USA, but that appellation doesn’t seem to have made much of an impact on this trio, undoubtedly the most abrasive, amusical band to have ventured forth from that roots-conscious town. Today Is the Day is certainly not without precedent in terms of its basic tone. The group erects a Big Black-styled firewall in which all elements are given equal weight: jagged guitar corkscrews, sheets of cryptic, shimmering samples and heaving percussive effects. What sets the band apart is the vocals of Steve Austin, who screeches his way through life like he’s on a one-man crusade to test the limits of otolaryngology. For long stretches of Supernova, Austin’s otherworldly shriek will likely have you reflexively bringing your hand to your own throat. Songs like “6 Dementia Satyr” explode with cut-up tactics that don’t always hold together, but the medium doesn’t leave much doubt as to the message. When a breather is required, the band segues into ambient, forbidding instrumentals, like the viscous “Blind Man at Mystic Lake.”

Willpower is slightly less claustrophobic in timbre, thanks in part to the atmospheric infiltration of White Room studio, the Detroit neo-psych mecca employed for the trio’s second time around. Austin hasn’t changed his delivery much — except to punctuate tracks like “Nothing to Lose” with the most hair-raising cackle this side of Robert Englund — but his subject matter has grown more concrete. Too bad, since his interests lie primarily in hackneyed domains like necrophilia (“Sidewinder”) and suicide (“Golden Calf”). Extra points for subliminal use of motivational tapes — exactly what they’re supposed to motivate is, of course, open to debate.

While the sound is a bit more focused, Austin’s stream-of-subconsciousness ravings aren’t any less intense on the self-titled third album. Not-so-vague threats like “Marked” and excruciating scab-picks like “Bugs” pack even more punch when they’re leavened by acoustic instrumental interludes such as “A Man of Science.” Pure hate for now people.

[Deborah Sprague]