Thursday, March 31, 2011

Akimbo And The Great White Bull


There will be no salvation or respite from your aquatic nightmare, as you find yourself still treading water in the same chummy, shark infested seas as my last post. Below your anxiously beating legs the ocean yawns into seemingly infinite depths. Down... down through the Epipelagic and Mesopelagic zones, now deeper still, leaving the shadowy twilight behind for the crushing, frozen darkness of the midnight zone. No shapes can be discerned here, but one lurks nonetheless... an unseen giant, gracefully steering it's streamlined bulk into a steep ascent.

Carcharodon carcharias does not usually enjoy the taste of human flesh, but this one has already had a taste of this exotic meat... and liked it. There are no senses that you possess that could possibly alert you to the two ton horror hurtling towards you at 40 km/h, driven upwards by your pheromone trail of urine and terror...


Just as the great white shark lives to kill, Seattle's punk/metal wrecking crew Akimbo lives to crush, and if the abyssal depths don't pulverise your mutilated remains first, this epic album definitely will.

Certain genres of metal have just the right feeling of epic grandeur to make them perfectly suited to adapting the romance, mystery and violence of great seafaring mythology... and we've seen a lot of it in recent years (another album I often revisit is Ahab's Call Of The Wretched Sea). I've always assumed this trend came about because of a bad case of Norse/Anglo-Saxon/Christian/Middle-Earth/Conan/Elric myth-fatigue and the need to find fresh folklore and fiction to pillage. Well, the oceans have provided a great deal of rich material to play with, and I can't think of a better place to dive into those murky depths than from the muddy banks of this fetid little swamp. Oh, and with all the attention given to whales, sharks, giant squid and Dagon... don't forget THE CRABS!

Plenty of great music there landlubbers, but for my tarnished doubloons, Akimbo's Jersey Shores is the best of the bunch. Shores is a lovingly crafted ode to the infamous spate of fatal shark attacks that plagued the New Jersey coastline from July 1st to 12th, 1916. Five attacks in this brief period resulted in four fatalities, two of which occurred 26 km inland in an estuarine creek (including an 11 year old boy, Lester Stillwell). It's a fascinating story that I gather is pretty widely known in the States, but not so much elsewhere. Get all the gruesome facts HERE.

"the head, the tail, the whole damn thing"

As you've probably already guessed (or knew), just as Melville's inspiration for Moby Dick was the real-life sinking of the Essex; the 1916 NJ shark attacks were Peter Benchley's jumping-off point for Jaws. Spielberg's adaptation even makes a direct reference to the attacks - to quote the late, great Roy Scheider's Chief Martin Brody:

"And there's no limit to what he's gonna do! I mean we've already had three incidents, two people killed inside of a week. And it's gonna happen again, it happened before! The Jersey beach! 1916! Five people chewed up in the surf!"

There's been much speculation about the species and number of sharks involved in the Jersey Shore attacks, and from my limited knowledge I'd say that Benchley's unofficial summation of events is pretty unlikely. Given the ferocity of all the attacks, and the estuarine location of two, it sounds more like the behaviour of one or more bull sharks to me, as they're partial to hunting in brackish waters and are able to tolerate fresh. Just recently in the Queensland floods, two bulls were spotted cruising through suburban streets in Goodna (just 20 km from Brisbane). Also, bulls - along with tiger sharks - are generally regarded to have a more aggressive nature than white pointers.

I've often wondered, if Benchley and Spielberg had opted for a bull or tiger instead of a white... would the white still be saddled with it's erroneous reputation in popular culture as the most dangerous of sharks? Perhaps, simply due to it's more majestic appearance... but who knows?

It's interesting to note that the city I call home was blighted by a similar (but not fatal) spate of attacks a couple of years ago. To quote my own post on Illogical Contraption last year:

Here in Sydney we're home to (or regularly visited by) a number of potentially dangerous shark species such as Bulls, Tigers, Hammerheads, Makos, Bronze Whalers and Great Whites. In the last couple of years we've seen a spike of attacks in the harbour and on surrounding beaches, with three attacks over a three week period in February and March last year (the worst of which involved a naval diver in the harbour losing a hand and a leg to a Bull). The increase in attacks is generally attributed to over-fishing of oceanic waters and the cleaning up of Sydney's marine habitats (by pumping our effluent further out to sea for the last couple of decades). I'd like to point out that despite our local media's best attempts to demonise these beautiful creatures, I'm rabidly opposed to the culling of sharks.

All of this provides plenty of food for thought while your ears are being pummeled by Jersey Shores. And pummeled they will be. Although this album finds Akimbo dabbling in some gentler, more meandering passages in between their regular crushing attack, there's still plenty of satisfyingly raw, destructive power here. Standout track for me is "Great White Bull", which kept threatening to snap my neck when I first bought this. Fucking amazing song.

I should add that San Francisco's Giant Squid also released a concept album based on the same events entitled Monster In The Creek, but - in my humble opinion - it sucks shark cock. Both albums have tracks titled "Lester Stillwell".

Contact and buy stuff from Akimbo HERE & HERE

Dive into Jersey Shores HERE


Finally, does anyone know if a live recording exists for either of the Black Flag cover sets they played last year in Seattle and Portland (with the singer of Black Elk)? I want.



3 comments:

abdul alhazred said...

Excellent one, my friend. This has been a conspicuous gap in my shark-related metal collection. Many thanks.

Anthony1138 said...

Thanks to your post, I've been digging me some Akimbo. Jersey Shores is a great album. Finding new exciting music is sometimes a daunting task, but this is by far one of the best finds in a long time.

If you ever come across those Black Flag cover shows, be sure to post them. I'd love to hear their take on one of my favorite bands.

Aylmer said...

Dude, stoked to have turned you on to these guys. Check out their LP Navigating The Bronze, it shreds.