Photos by Sarah Cass
Oozing Wound are killing it right now. Or at least they’re compelling it to seek urgent medical attention for a painful and itchy swelling with a dark-yellowish pus. Just 12 months after their debut LP Retrash comes the follow-up, Earth Suck, on which the virulent Chicago trio further their mission to either reinvigorate thrash metal—or perhaps kill it off for good by infecting it from the inside. So refreshingly anti-bullshit are Oozing Wound that they could conceivably turn out to be the Nirvana of thrash.
Oozing Wound stand out because they avoid all those ludicrous, histrionic solos that thrash guitarists like to unleash every half a minute. Instead, vocalist and guitarist Zack Weil and bassist Kevin Cribbin pile riff upon riff upon riff like Earth’s Dylan Carlson on an endless espresso binge.
Zack’s song subjects are also considerably more imaginative and idiosyncratic than the genre's standard obsessions with Nazi doctors, serial killers, and adolescent crabbiness. He takes inspiration from Randy Newman and pens songs about mercury-poison-addicted milliners, the biblical Joseph freaking out at Mary’s immaculate conception, and “what I figured Rambo is thinking in Rambo 4.” Earth Suck, which is out October 21 on Thrill Jockey, includes a sludgy seven-minute epic titled “When The Walls Fell.” It’s a reference to the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation in which Captain Picard and his crew make contact with the Tamarians, a large-nostriled and bumpy-headed race who speak exclusively through impenetrable allegories. You don’t get that from Kerry King.
Additionally, Zack doesn’t do that whole testosterone-fuelled guttural macho roaring nonsense that most metal vocalists employ. There’s a softer, more palatable femininity to the way Weil screams his bloody head off. I tracked down the sardonic, shrieking riff-mason to talk Earth Suck, solos, and Lou Reed—and I ended up making him even more depressed than before.
Noisey: Where does the title Earth Suck come from?
Zack Weil: I can’t say for certain what bonged-out moment led to the creation of the Earth Suck concept. It’s about the feeling of being pushed down by life’s ceaseless bullshit, the literal tugging of the Earth pulling us deeper. I mean, when we die [we] bury ourselves even further down into this shit. Well, some do. Dying in space seems pretty rebellious now.
Did you approach the making of this album differently from last time round?
Writing-wise, no. But instead of recording an album in one day like we did for Retrash, we actually had a budget on this one. So we got three days. Which meant we had time to get the sound we wanted, or closer I guess. It gave us some breathing room and also allowed us to do some weirder shit, which is arguably the cooler jazz on the record.
In previous interviews you’ve mentioned the influence of Randy Newman, with your songs being written with different characters in mind. When did you first hear Newman and what attracted you to his work?
I like his lyric writing approach. Writing from the heart is too sickly sincere for me. I like having a character to express myself in. I got into Newman through Nilsson, specifically the album Nilsson Sings Newman. Shocking, I know. In many ways I feel like they were made for each other though. That’s my favorite album for both those dudes.
If I remember correctly, John Peel once said something about how he found it a shame that Napalm Death’s politically astute lyrics were lost in all the band’s grunting and grinding. Do you worry that listeners might overlook your own lyrical content because you scream rather than sing?
If I wrote my lyrics to be heard with such clarity I would sing ‘em that way. The vocals and words are secondary to the music. In that sense, I try not to fuck up songs with what I do vocally. It gives the riffs more life, you know? If someone is into us enough to care, they can read the insert. That’s kinda why it’s there. Or they can download it and complain they don’t know what I’m singing. Whatever.
Thrash metal songs are often crammed with tedious, showboating guitar solos. There are very few solos in your output to date. Why don’t you play solos? Is it that you can’t or won’t?
Uh, a little column A, a little column B? I riff pretty well. Never been much of a lead guy. It’s like a different language. I can play some stuff, classic rock solos or whatnot. But I have almost no desire to do it. Never liked ‘em growing up. Also, fuck that shit.
You’re signed to Thrill Jockey, which tends to specialize in leftfield indie and alt-rock rather than metal. Are Oozing Wound thrash for people who don’t like thrash?
I guess? I think there’s a population of music listeners that like metal, especially 80s shit, but aren’t into the culture. We don’t have a lot of bravado or bullshit, so maybe people are into that. Metal, even when women do it, feels so stuck in this masculinity thing. We want to have fun. I hear a lot of metal dudes scream about how much they hate themselves. Might be it right there.
You’ve said that Oozing Wound is everything that modern-day Metallica is not. What did you make of Lulu, their collaboration with Lou Reed?
What can you really say about that album that does it justice? People talk about Big Star’s Third/Sister Lovers being the sound of a band falling apart, but this... This piece of shit. I can’t even believe it. “I AM THE TABLE!”, “Sing it, James!” How did Lou Reed die with this as his last piece? Life is a giant fart is what that says. Even beyond that, did you hear that “Lords of Summer” song? Holy fucking shit. Awful, awful, awful. Even when they think they’re rocking, it’s like the worst shit.
If Oozing Wound could collaborate on an indulgent, double-album rock opera with any musical legend, past or present, who would it be and why? What would the concept be?
Nirvana, duh! But here’s another thing, like, why would we do it? I mean, of course, we couldn’t turn it down, but I can’t imagine a worse way to ruin something for me that I find so inspiring and mystical than by inserting myself into it. Even Matt Pike (Sleep, High on Fire), who is the only contemporary metal dude I care about, it’s like what am I even gonna do? Try not to suck that bad? If Bowie’s down though, I would do it. It could be about the secret of the ooze.
Have you ever done a Google Image search for the words ‘Oozing Wound’? The results aren’t pretty.
Yeah, there’s a shocker.
J.R. Moores is deleting his search history as you read this. He's on Twitter - @spinal_bap