The worst aspects of modern society are documented in Chat Pile’s debut album “God’s Country.” While this is the band’s first full-length release, the Oklahoma noise rockers have been making music since 2019. With twin EP’s “This Dungeon Earth” and “Remove Your Skin Please” under their belt, they signed to The Flenser in 2020. Following this achievement, they released a split EP with screamo band Portrayal of Guilt in 2021. This brings us to 2022 with “God’s Country.”
To sum up the experience of listening to “God’s Country,” in one word, it’s harrowing. Vocalist Raygun Busch’s style is angry and unhinged. However, his unrelenting rage is justified as the band recounts many of the preventable issues plaguing America, including but not limited to mass shootings, drug addiction and unrealistic expectations of success.
Opening track “Slaughterhouse” paints an incredibly pessimistic picture of modern life. Likening our inescapable struggles in an industrialized society to farm animals soon to be killed, Busch screams over a similarly oppressive instrumental. Meanwhile, the heavily distorted guitar and bass are heavy and sludgy, like wading through mud. This track functions almost as a warning for the rest of the album: If you don’t like how this sounds, you’re not going to enjoy the rest of your stay in “God’s Country.”
The second song “Why” stands out for its blunt lyrics. Busch angrily confronts the easily preventable problem of homelessness in America; “Why do people have to live outside / When there are buildings all around us / With heat on and no one inside.”
Chat Pile flexes their abstract storytelling chops on the third track, “Pamela.” Being slightly lighter instrumentally, it provides some room to breathe. Taking the perspective of fictional serial killer Pamela Voorhees from the film “Friday the 13th,” Busch imagines the difficult feelings of grief and fury she had after her son drowned at Camp Crystal Lake. This isn’t the only song written from the perspective of a murderer; “The Mask” serves as a conceptual callback to “Slaughterhouse” while also telling the story of real-life serial killer Roger Dale Stafford.
“Anywhere” is a song whose horrifying opening lines describe the experience of a typical mass shooting: “At first your hand was in mine / There, smiling and walking / Then, the world split open / I think there was brain on my shoes / Stop it.” Busch narrates the traumatic, but all too common event as if it were on a cosmic scale, striking a perfect balance of blunt realism and cataclysmic imagery.
“I Don’t Care If I Burn” first appears as a much-needed break from the noise of every other song, but it remains incredibly unsettling. Busch’s calmer delivery and minimal backing ambiance create an atmosphere thick with tension.
Drug addiction is addressed heavily on “God’s Country.” On “Wicked Puppet Dance,” Busch tells of the powerlessness a heroin addict experiences. This song acts as a precursor to the nine-minute closing track, “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg,” where Busch describes a drug-induced hallucination of Grimace, the McDonald’s character. Despite the humorous picture the song title and description conjure up, this is easily one of the most terrifying tracks on the album. Busch is completely animalistic, shouting disjointed and sporadic lyrics over a nauseating instrumental.
Sure, maybe “grimace_smoking_weed.jpeg” did not need to be nine minutes long, and maybe this album could benefit from a little more sonic variety. Yes, this album can sometimes be difficult to listen to due to its lyrical content and loud, raw instrumentation, but these elements are necessary for its impact. The stories that “God’s Country” tells are real. By addressing numerous issues in such a blunt way, Chat Pile has crafted a quality debut.