Why Micheal Keene Rules

September 22, 2011

Adolf Hitler, Justin Bieber and Michael Keene are all sent to hell.  They meet the devil sitting on his throne, who asks each of them the reason why they think they have ended up in the fiery pits of Hades.
Hitler says: “I spearheaded an attempt to exterminte the Jewish popluation from the entire world”.
The Devil replied: “Good, good! Sit to my right”.
Bieber says: “I inflicted the world with some of the worst music ever made”.
The Devil says: “You are such an asshole. Well done. Sit to my left”.
Turning to Keene, he asks: “And why are you here?”.
Keene replies: “Get off my throne, bitch”.

Michael Keene

I'm always Keene to hear a bit of Faceless. Hurr, hurr.

Michael “Machine” Keene is a 24 year old unholy freak of nature, born with approximately two hundred thousand fingers and a hand-span of twelve feet.  One can only speculate that he was raised on a cocktail of illicit amphetamines and syncopated death metal, and that he was schooled in the dark arts of instrumental engineering voodoo.  As a result, he evolved into a guitar playing freak-of-nature capable of causing mass hypnosis by way of the deftest of evil licks (not to be confused in any way with the 1989 thrash metal classic Mass Hippy Noses).

I was fortunate enough to watch The Faceless play in Auckland alongside the Death Grind stalworts Dying Fetus, and of course the unforgettable headlining act of Muhammed Suiçmez with Necrophagist[1].  We might need an infographic here to explain where these guys rank in terms of utmost awesomeness.  Since I’m lazy and crap at producing anything artistic, you’ll just have to visual a giant scale that includes Gandhi and Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw (the best person living in the entirety of Australia), with the Necrophagist, Obscura and Faceless band members towering above them like some blessed trinity of unmitigated awesomeness.  We’ll get to Obscura in a bit, but in the meantime let me just say that the only reason this article isn’t entitled “Why Muhammed Suiçmez rules” is because a) he genuinely comes across as a bonafide psychopath and b) his perfectionism and inability to work well with others has meant only two full album releases in the last 12 years.  Suiçmez’s eyes are permanently glassy, deadened and hollow.  I don’t really believe in evil, but this guy comes close to making me turn the corner.  His face is typically expressionless, save for the slight furrowing of the brow during the more furious and demonic of solos.  There is no question that the Tech-Death he writes is sublime and near-perfect, but he needs to stop kicking people out of his band for 5 seconds and just get on with cranking-the-next-thing-out.

Muhammed Suicmez

Suiçmez looking particularly expressive, having just eaten several children.

Fortunately, the last round of expulsions from Suiçmez’s ensemble resulted in the beefing up of what was an already impressive project – the German/Dutch collaboration of tech metal ninjas in Obscura.  The arrival of the departing Necrophagist members gave birth to the two masterpieces Cosmogenesis and Omnivium.  I don’t want to get too gushy here because I have to save up my once-a-decade tear excretions for the really important things, but the truth is I pretty much shit my pants every time I hear Obscura – even after the thousandth listen.  And in a good way.  The depth and complexity of the musicianship is beyond description; and while my faithful fan-base readership of my Dad and two work colleagues might be quick to point out that my credentials for being able to claim what does and doesn’t constitute high quality musical performance art are less than the average grog-swilling homeless person groaning out God Defend New Zealand on Courtenay Place, I can counter this with a simple but pertitent point: you are fucking wrong.

Obscura are impressive enough just based on the individual band members resumes (okay Jeroen has left now, but we can still count Pestilence along with Necrophagist and Blotted Science as associated acts), however they are just as impressive on paper when it comes to the tertiary and post-graduate musical training that each has pursued.  They continue to make increasing use of Euclidian Rythms, i.e. time signatures produced as a result of applying Euclid’s algorithm during the songwriting process.  The six-string fretless bass playing of Jeroen Paul Thesseling was so impressive to me (and largely reminiscent of the fantastic Steve DiGiorgio’s playing on the seminal act Death’s Individual Thought Patterns – which, if you happen to give a fuck about has just been remastered and re-released), that when the announcement was made that he was leaving the band, I honestly thought that Obscura was destined for literal obscurity.  Then, out of nowhere, appears Linus Klausenitzer; and this dude is armed with a six-string, 4-fretted, 2-unfretted (and independently volume controlled) bass guitar and ripping things up like he owns the place.  Thank fuck for that.

Right, back to the Keene Machine.  This guy was voted one of the top 5 metal guitarists under the age of 30 by LA Weekly, and placed in the top 25 modern metal guitarists list by metalsucks.net, where they quite rightly point out that it is not just his playing, but his songwriting and musical production prowess that makes him such an impressive complete package.  I will reserve judgement on the clitoral stimulation comment, save to say that I would totally let him do me.  The thing is, when you are sitting down and cranking tracks like Planetary Duality II: (A Prophecies Fruition), it’s easy to forget that this dude came up with all of this shit before his 25th birthday, and that he can just blast the stuff out at-will without looking like he’ll ever break a sweat.  It’s also easy to forget that this guy is a softly spoken, quirky and arguably geeky kid when you’re rocking back and forth in your chair in the throes of auditory dopamine induced ecstasy.  In the end, the video of Keene jamming at NAMM 2009 was what finally solidified it for me – this guy rules (actually he cocks it up a bit, but your face).  And he has his own production studio. And a shiny fuck-off green guitar.  Which I’ve seen him play.  So there.

[1] I pinballed my way around the mosh-pit in some grotty underground bar in Auckland after flying up specifically for Summer Slaughter.  My hand was still in a cast, having broken my thumb in the pit only a month or so earlier during some particulary violent slam-moshing in the middle of Propagandhi blasting out Today’s Empires, Tomorrow’s Ashes.  I grinned and bounced around like a demented cheshire cat, trying my best to pace myself so that I could actually survive staying in the thick of the action for the entire set, but inevatibly going that little bit too ape-shit whenever one of my many favourite songs rang out.  I distinctly recall John Gallagher from Dying Fetus falling off the side of the stage at one point.  I had my 1 minute and 57 seconds of infamy as the true “cunt at the front” of the pit when DF announced they were going to play Pissing In The Mainstream.  I went beserk just prior to the epic breakdown at 1:18, resulting in even some of the more drunken, shirtless and toothless brutes having moments of lucidity and directing concerned looks in my direction.  The truth is, if you are smiling, you can get away with pretty much anything in the pit.  You can slam the biggest dude, get punched in the face, initiate the circle-pit or wall-of-death, bite someone on the neck, rip someones shoes off, and generally make an absolute fucking nuisance of yourself – and as long as you are showing off as many of the intact pearly whites as you still have left; your death metal brethren will love it.