meth.: Intentionally uncomfortable extremity that will leave you with an odd feeling of euphoria

Don’t be fooled by their appearance, Chicago extreme experimental heavyists meth. are as claustrophobic and uncomfortable as music gets. As they explain what’s gone into their album, SHAME, it’s easy to see why...

meth.: Intentionally uncomfortable extremity that will leave you with an odd feeling of euphoria
Nick Ruskell
Vanessa Valadez

As befits their name, meth. make itchy, stressful, unpleasant music that will leave you feeling really weird and off-balance. Part extreme doom, part dark hardcore and part exorcism, their new album SHAME is heavy in a way that only comes from a truly raw place. It's almost disorienting at times, in a similar manner to Primitive Man or Full Of Hell, a curiously compelling migraine of a record. But this, they say, is part of the point.

On SHAME, frontman Seb Alvarez uses the music to explore feelings around addiction issues and mental health. Describing it as one of the few arenas in which he could properly express himself, how this comes out in the music is both uncomfortable and intriguing, with a curious sense of euphoria as it reaches an end. Just as importantly, they draw from a varied palette to create this effect, with some genuinely original expectation to be found.

With the record out now, and the band hitting these shores in June with Chat Pile, here's everything you need to introduce yourself to meth....

1Their new album, SHAME, is intense enough to provoke a physical reaction

As we say, it'll make you feel itchy and twitchy, give you goosebumps. When we say to Seb that it's stressful to listen to, he replies that this is “100 per cent an effect we wanted to portray”.

“As a band, we’ve always wanted to write music that felt alienating or uncomfortable to listen to," he explains. "There’s always been this itch of irritating people with the art you make that I’ve always really loved, and hearing you say that is weirdly gratifying.

“As a whole, this record was never meant to be accessible or something that is supposed to be on constant rotation or whatever. SHAME as a record was meant to be honest, and it’s meant to hurt. It’s meant to be irritating, it’s meant to be intense and it’s meant to alienate. While we appreciate everyone who gives even the slightest care about this band, its main purpose is to exist as a vessel for all of us to let shit out and try things we don’t normally get to. To be honest, experiment, and do whatever feels correct to us first and foremost. Everything else is secondary.”

2It’s a record that takes a deep dive into mental health and addiction

These are central pillars in what makes SHAME the album it is. Even without picking through the lyrics, Seb's description of the songs and their meanings comes through in the music alone.

"The first three songs deal with the intense highs of spiraling out. Whether it be mentally, through addictions, stress, the theme of those three songs are meant to encapsulate euphoria," he explains. "Give In is the 'come to God' moment of the record – the self-reflection of your self and acknowledgement of the help you need, while also still completely caving into your impulses and failing yourself and knowing you are.

"The last three songs more or less deal with the want to recover, the want to feel okay and just wanting to be normal and happy but not ever feeling that way," he continues. "Knowing you are human and will fuck up, over and over. Blackmail being the internal battle of knowing yourself and knowing your flaws. Holding yourself accountable but also completely fearing the reality of any situation and analysing yourself to the point you can either face your problems head on or continue to drink away. When the album repeats at the end, the cycle repeats."

3They’re incredibly honest in their expression

Unsurprisingly, the themes on SHAME aren't for everyday conversation. Seb also says that sharing like this isn't a natural thing for him. The album provided a vessel in which to put these thoughts and feelings that would otherwise have stayed negatively bottled up...

"To be completely honest, it was one of the few places I felt comfortable actually talking about any of it," he says. "SHAME wasn’t something I was excited for or wanting to deal with head on, but it was a theme that continuously popped up while writing this record, and a theme that has existed across much of the music I have been a part of.

"I’ve never been good at discussing or opening up about personal issues of my own and always just bottled shit up or tried to get over anything that bothered me. I couldn’t allow my self to feel bothered, mad, or anything remotely 'negative' because I had taught myself that anything of that calibre that is happening to me is my fault and my fault only. That mentality slowly eats at you and makes you feel like anything you’re doing that isn’t productive or in a positive light isn’t worth anything.

"I was tired of living like I was hiding from shit all the time. I just wanted to feel like I had a voice on issues I was struggling with daily."

4They don’t know how to make music that doesn’t sound broken

Making music like this isn't really something you can learn. It's an instinct. Just as some strive for perfection, here there's a quest for imperfection, seeing how far things can be pushed. Oddly, it yields some genius results...

"It’s weird, ’cause in a way most of the bands I’ve been in in my career have been rather alienating in a lot of ways, so I don’t really know what it’s like to not, I guess," says Seb. "I’ve never been someone who felt satisfaction or interest in writing something to get a bunch of people to listen to it, or being a genre purist in any way. Music has always been about taking something and fucking it up beyond repair.

"The most satisfaction I ever get is when you can take a piece and continuously gut it and it feels like it’s barely held together. There’s something that’s so beautifully human about that."

5You wouldn’t know they sound like this from looking at them

The pictures of meth. accompanying SHAME are thoroughly wholesome: here's the band in sweaters, look, they're all smiling, everyone looks like they've done their homework on time. A cunning bluff?

"In a way, yes, we loved the idea of having this hideous sounding record but having these extremely wholesome pictures of us just kind of enjoying each other's company," says Seb. "They were definitely meant to oppose each other in that way.

"There’s an obvious nod to Throbbing Gristle’s 20 Jazz Funk Greats, but it was also the easiest way to signal that we were going into a new phase of this project. Also I really didn’t want to do a standard photoshoot of five guys in a dark room emotionless wearing all black who play weird heavy music. It’s tired and stupid. This felt more on brand for us."

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