The most striking aspect of John Zorn's recent music is the vein of mystic bipolarity it may be said to exhibit. Thus Ipsissimus navigates between heavy-metal demonic invocation and redemption music. Two of the four cohorts who join the saxophonist for the exploits required to pull off this demanding form of high mysticism are vocalist Mike Patton and guitarist Marc Ribot; their tag-team of screeching and belching, hollering and ecstatic explosions reminiscent of Sabbath, Deep Purple and Speed and Death metal help the session to vibrate with seismic power drones and rise with ethereal lyricism.
The illustrations by mystic poet-engraver William Blake that grace the CD's packaging highlight the links between the worlds of damnation and salvation and how experiences in each can be interrelated and complimentary. Zorn's own words quoted in the adjoining promo slip are apt at putting the required fine point on it: "Powerful secrets are revealed through intensity and extremes of experience."
This concept's sonic correlative is the music in this disc, which is electric with hypertension in "Seven Sigils," and several other tracks, and the prog-rock contortions on rhythmic overdrive of "Tabula Smaragdina." Hard-edged invocations are leavened by meditative moments, as in the first half of the contemplative "The Book of Los," but mostly things are overcharged with compelling emotions. Especially extreme are the chaotic deconstructions of musique contemporaine in "Apparitions I, II, and III," music electrified by the voltage of Ribot's guitar, Joey Baron's unusually heavy-fisted drumming, the deep bellowing from Hades in the sound of bassist Trevor Dunn, and the throaty, guttural manifestations, and generally over-the-top vocals of Mike Patton, which lay down material for the spare and judiciously sprinkled icing-on-the-cake of the leader's own effusive alto sax.
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