“Soggy bass lines drip from frozen fingers as notes find refuge against the drum machine's plodding kick and snare. Feet stamp through puddles in time with the beat, canines gnashing into lips through the awkward strangling of the guitar. Breath twists into a gasping scream as air is pushed thin of sound.” – Pitchfork Media
“Bulky machine beats, screaming guitars and partly hysteric screaming that freezes the marrow in your bones. You could roughly put the brew of the two Americans somewhere into the corner of Godflesh, Dillinger Escape Plan and Eyehategod.” – Metal-Observer.com
“I have never heard anything like this before” – DeadTide.com
“A simple, severe style that is both minimalist yet strangely full-sounding.” – Wonka Vision Magazine
Win Austerity Program albums, t-shirts, demos, analog reel-reel recordings, and the grand prize - have a song written and recorded by Austerity Program for winning fan! Winner has complete control over song's theme! See full contest details by clicking HERE!
In discussing the great musical duos of the past half-century — Jerry Leiber & Mike Stoller, Ike & Tina Turner, Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock — you hardly ever hear anyone mention the Austerity Program. That is, until now. Not only are the Program’s Thad Calabrese (bass) and Justin Foley (guitar/vocals) personally responsible for freeing ODB from counterfactual incarceration; they also recorded a pretty awesome EP for Hydra Head back in 2003 entitled Terra Nova. No one bought it. But that’s their loss (the people who didn’t buy it, that is). And yet Calabrese and Foley have soldiered on, undaunted in the face of commercial adversity, to bring us their unstoppable debut full-length, Black Madonna.
Here are a few things you should know about it, other than the fact that it rules:
1) The title Black Madonna is not necessarily a reference to an imaginary African-American version of the famous pop star/exhibitionist, nor is it necessarily a reference to the Virgin Mary’s decidedly impure twin sister, Betty. It’s also not a code name. Then again, it just might be. (We actually have no idea.)
2) Like those on Terra Nova, the songs on Black Madonna are untitled. The Austerity Program would prefer it if you filed this detail under “your problem” as opposed to “their problem.” The Austerity Program actually have very few problems that they’re willing to discuss with you.
3) These guys are DIY like a motherfucker: They play all of the songs on the record. They wrote the record. They recorded the record. They bought the shit to do the recording. They bought and read the books to tell them how to use that stuff. THEY BUILT THE STUDIO IT WAS RECORDED IN — concrete to drywall, all the way up through shades of paint and lighting design. It’s like, “Enough already, dudes — aren’t you supposed to be playing shows or something?”
4) Terms like “industrial-strength power dirge” and “mechanized punk fugue” don’t really suffice where Black Madonna is concerned. So please come up with some other shit when you write about it. We’d give you a really enticing description here, but you’d probably just steal it—and then you’d probably add something about Godflesh.
5) Once you go Black, you’ll never go back.
1997 First practice. Justin, the guitarist and singer in the band, moves back into New York City after a two-year community organizing stint in Hartford, CT. Thad, the bassist, has agreed to come up to the giant-black-roach-infested loft where Justin lives. Justin picked the spot – 7500 square uninsulated feet in the South Bronx – sacrificing comfort, cleanliness and windows for “a place I can live and play music”. After tuning up, it’s agreed that the previous band (named Polonium, after the heaviest metal on the periodic table) is over. The new stuff will also be like Bolt Thrower. But much less melodic. And louder – got to be louder. Less fun, more serious. And “turn the drum machine up, I can barely hear it over your fucking loud guitar.”
1998 First show. Coney Island High on St. Marks place in the sorta-East Villiage. The band before them has some fella wearing a billowy flamenco shirt. Justin and Thad watch them thinking “this isn’t how I pictured our first show would get started.” The twelve non-metal liking friends they could drag out on a cold Wednesday are equivocal. In what would almost become a band tradition, the most energetic praise comes from the pimpled sound guy. Also – they buy 200 lb subwoofer for the drum machine because “it’s the only way I can hear the damn drums over all that guitar”.
1999-2000 8 song demo recorded. 4 best songs are selected and sent to labels. The letter sent with it is as smart-ass as this is, so you can believe that barely any labels respond. Hydra Head says – ‘we might be interested’. There’s some fake posturing about “we’re considering other offers, but tell us a little more about you”. In reality, the band is busy buying the label’s back catalog to get a better sense of what HH is about. After hearing Keelhaul II, both band members are like – “holy shit, these guys are interested in US? Good news.”
2001 Drive to Boston and handshake agreement with the label. The whole thing is finalized with a ridiculously macho gesture – peeing in one of the label guy’s back yard. Brunch with the other label guy the next morning wraps it up. “We’ve got jobs and wives, so we won’t tour too much.” Well, ok. “We’ve got very particular ideas about the way we do things.” Fine. “There’s absolutely no sort of New York scene that we’re even aware we could erroneously claim to be a part of.” All right. “We’ve got a vision for packaging the first release that almost guarantees you won’t make any money off it.” If that’s how it’s gotta be. (And so on.) “Kensington’s analysis suggests a raw inability to distinguish Duchamp from Dali. How this fraud landed an Art History chair is a mystery on par with Roanoke.”
2002 Recording 4 song EP. This is done over four evenings at the Fordham Evangelical Lutheran Church in the Bronx. The amplifiers and recording equipment are set up around the altar at the front of the large, neo-gothic church. The pastor is been promised “we’ll have all this stuff out of here by your Saturday afternoon service”. Although Windows Me crashes about six times during the process, the deadline is met. Later in the year there’s a week long tour in the sort of nearby states. The highlight is when unexpected kids (and expected soundguys) go nuts at shows, despite the fact that they’d never heard of us before. The low point is the jackass in Baltimore who never told us the show was canceled. Typical band-on-tour stuff.
2003 EP is released. Reviews are either very complimentary or compare the band unfavorably to a Converse All Star footprint in the shit of a Great Dane – really nothing in between. Hydra Head calls – they’re almost astounded at how few copies are sold. “Well, maybe with the next one, we won’t send out fake press releases from lawyers who don’t exist claiming that we’re going to sue the shit out of our label for a bogus ‘patent infringement’”. Hydra Head says – well, don’t stop on our account; we thought it was pretty funny. Shoulders are shrugged and more songs are written. Justin buys a house in Queens, just like Archie Bunker.
2003 - 2006 Construction on the studio in Justin’s back yard. The regular two or three practices a month devolve into hanging drywall, laying a hardwood floor, wiring conduit, studying acoustics textbooks, constructing a false wall, taping and sanding the walls, painting – this could go on for a while. Occasionally, the band takes a break and practices in the shoeboxsounding basement where 3500 combined amplifier wattage runs at about 2% capacity. More often, though, the band is pounding nails or over at the Brazillian coffee shop to load up on some stuff that brags – El Cafeinezho Bom. I think that means “Caffeine Bomb”. It sure felt like it about way through a cup – 12 oz. of jittery liquid paranoia. Fuck.
2006 Construction is finished. The studio is filled up with two analog tape decks, a medium sized rack of outboard gear and a few good microphones. Justin pores over a couple of books on stereo theory (boring the hell out of his pregnant wife with his conversation about that). Practices begin anew as the final pieces of the full length are written. A local film maker is fascinated with the “parents and gainfully-employed advanced-degree-holders by day, minimalist metal screamers by night” shtick and begins filming a documentary of the band. Halfway through the five-evening plan for recording the full length, Justin’s son is born. Thad suggests that they adopt a new schedule for finishing the album. Five months later, the record is done (and Thad has a second son of his own).
"Black Madonna" Tracklisting:
Song 12 - 5:27
Song 17B - 7:59
Song 19 - 7:05
Song 18 - 1:15
Song 17A - 6:31
Song 16 - 14:16
The Austerity Program Live!
August 23rd @ Rocky's in Brooklyn (Record Release Show)
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