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PAINKILLER

RIO/Avant-Prog • United States


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Painkiller biography
Painkiller was formed in 1991 when NYC Downtown giants John Zorn (Naked City, Masada) & Bill Laswell (Massacre, Material, Praxis) teamed up with death metal drummer Mick Harris (Napalm Death, Scorn). Their music explores territory previously charted by avant-garde group Last Exit (in which Laswell was also a member) with a decided soft spot for ambiance & dub.

In '91 & '92 Painkiller released their first brutal assault on the world in the form of two controvercial EP's 'Guts of a Virgin' & 'Buried Secrets'. Both EP's featured artwork of an extremely obsene nature, the former even having been banned by the UK for violating the Obscene Publications Act. In 1994 Painkiller released their first LP 'Execution Ground' which came with a bonus disc featuring dub versions of two tracks from the album. A series of compilations & live albums were released throughout 2005 with a continual rotation of guest musicians contributing.

-Danial 'Captain Capricorn'

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PAINKILLER discography


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PAINKILLER top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.12 | 15 ratings
Guts of a Virgin
1991
3.36 | 14 ratings
Buried Secrets
1992
4.00 | 10 ratings
Execution Ground
1994

PAINKILLER Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

2.67 | 3 ratings
Rituals - Live in Japan
1993
3.00 | 2 ratings
Talisman - Live in Nagoya
2002
3.50 | 4 ratings
50th Birthday Celebration Volume 12: Painkiller
2005

PAINKILLER Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

PAINKILLER Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

5.00 | 1 ratings
Collected Works (The Complete Studio Recordings 1991-1994)
1997
4.00 | 3 ratings
Guts of a Virgin & Buried Secrets
1998

PAINKILLER Official Singles, EPs, Fan Club & Promo (CD, EP/LP, MC, Digital Media Download)

PAINKILLER Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Guts of a Virgin by PAINKILLER album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.12 | 15 ratings

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Guts of a Virgin
Painkiller RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by DangHeck

3 stars Absolutely Brutal.

Super interesting viewing this band in the scope of RIO/Avant-Prog. I would simply refer to it as "[Horny] Avant-Grindcore" [lol]. To the former designation, I don't want to see it any other way now.

John ZORN and Bill LASWELL--two of the earliest evil scientists devoted to the task of mixing numerous disparate genres and styles (most significantly of the metal persuasion), and creating an impressive and very influential monster--are here. Here with their debut for the Painkiller project (with Mick HARRIS on drums), a 12-song mini-LP of cacophony and chaos and brutality. This same year, in August 1991, Zorn was responsible for producing an album of similar heaviness, oddity and girth: Mr. Bungle, the timely debut of the madmen of the band of the same name (MR. BUNGLE, for the record). [To me, a band of even greater weight and, perhaps, talent of this same legacy that Zorn and, I believe, Laswell laid out in the '80s and '90s is ESTRADASPHERE. This is, to me, Required Listening.]

Many of these tracks are just vignettes ("Deadly Obstacle Collage" at 18 seconds long, "HanDJob" at 10), and seldom longer than 3 (or 4) minutes. It is in these "longer" tracks where, I feel for the most part, the band really shines. More room to breathe, to feel out the nuances of specific compositions. See "Portent," for instance.

Some of this is incredibly noisy, with the shrill bleating of Zorn's sax, and the bombastic drumming from Harris. I would say the strongest material, which to my ears feels more substantial (and actualized), is at the front-end of the album. It's funny just how much of the same language I (ignorantly) used alongside fellow reviewer siLLy puPPy (been a longtime "viewer" lol; hello, if by some chance you see this).

Personal Tracks of Note: T1, T6, and, especially, T7

 Buried Secrets by PAINKILLER album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.36 | 14 ratings

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Buried Secrets
Painkiller RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by Gallifrey

2 stars Listening diary 10th August 2021: PainKiller - Buried Secrets (jazzcore, 1992)

I remember being really impressed by this one once, but I feel like I was more impressed by its existence than anything else. It's definitely something to behold - grindcore with a manic freewheeling John Zorn on top, blasting saxophone noises in all directions over a rapidfire set of tracks. But as much as I love sax noises, even some of Zorn's ones, these? He's basically overblowing for 20 minutes straight here, and once you get used to the insanity, it's not a particularly pleasant sound. But then again, when has grindcore ever been about being pleasant?

5.0 (4th listen)

Part of my listening diary from my facebook music blog - www.facebook.com/TheExoskeletalJunction

 Guts of a Virgin & Buried Secrets by PAINKILLER album cover Boxset/Compilation, 1998
4.00 | 3 ratings

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Guts of a Virgin & Buried Secrets
Painkiller RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars This compilation contains the first two EP releases of PAINKILLLER on one CD. It has both "Guts Of A Virgin" and "Buried Secrets" in their entirety. Yes! No tracks have been left out. I hate it when they do that nonsense.

Since both EPs were short little creations both clocking in under 30 minutes, it was very practical to release a combo-CD that had both of them and so it was.

There are no bonus tracks so this is simply EP 1 "Guts Of A Virgin" plus EP 2 "Buried Secrets."

Sometimes this is listed as "Buried Secrets / Guts Of A Virgin." Like what? Homie be trippin'. List the first album first for bleep's sake! Lame, lame, LAME!

Me likey both albums enuff 2 giv 4 starz?..

 Buried Secrets by PAINKILLER album cover Studio Album, 1992
3.36 | 14 ratings

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Buried Secrets
Painkiller RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

4 stars John Zorn continued his PAINKILLER band which was one of the earliest examples of mixing avant-garde jazz with grindcore metal and one of the first hardcore bands of the era to delivery all the intense and sinister feel of what extreme metal bands of the same time were conjuring up only mostly without guitar. The second EP release BURIED SECRETS not only continues what was unleashed on "Guts Of A Virgin" but adds on new layers of intensity. Once again John Zorn makes his alto sax sound like a tortured pig being sacrificed to Satan with Bill Laswell pounding out heavily distorted bass lines accompanied by Mitch Harris pounding out intense drumming sessions. There were also a couple of helpers on this one with Justin Broadick adding some guitar, drum machine and vocals on the title track and on "The Toll." G.C. Green also contributes on bass on the same two tracks.

While BURIED SECRETS carries on most of what the debut dished out, it expands upon its overall sounds. The first moment of true departure from the previous offering's limitations comes with "Blackhole Dub" which contains just as the title suggests with a dub beat on bass and a simple drum backing while Zorn wails on the alto sax in a very strange way. It no longer sounds like a tortured pig but more like a tortured canary! There is also some dark ambient effects that make it seem very eerie. The production in general seems more polished on this one. The title track is totally different than many other tracks. The addition of the guitar really puts this one in left field but don't expect any grungy metal power chords or anything. This one is chock full of strange echoey freaky riffs and note bends that reverberate into infinity. There is so much feedback and ambient embellishment that i'm not even sure which instrument is playing what. Zorn and company abuse their instruments so harshly that they simply emit otherworldly sounds and render it impossible for the listener to discern the differences of the sax and guitar. Then the bass and drums finally come in to add some sanity to a serious freak out session.

This album is much more playful as evidenced by the followup to the title track. The 21 second frenetic sax assault "The Ladder" shows the true spirit of punk via jazz and metal and then ushers in more violent and turbulent jazz-metalcore. Zorn astonishes as he makes his alto sax do things unthinkable and creates streams of consciousness that could lead to utter insanity. And add the bombastic drum and bass assaults, it's utterly maddening. "The Black Chamber" is probably the only snippet of "normal" sax playing as it starts like a recognizable jazz sax type of sound that one would expect in a NYC club of the 60s but of course, nothing stays that "normal" for long in the Zorn world. It becomes another avant-dub type of track with more tortured pig sax squeals that follow. Even the ambient vocal effects sound like possessed pigs seeking revenge as they embrace the powers of the dark side to do so. "The Toll" is another stand out as it begins as an ambient track with a slowly building drum and bass. It is the other track that has guitar and it is used in a conservative way to create an amplified atmospheric presence rather than playing a dominant part. It continues like an avant-doom / sludge metal track with stange guitar and sax craziness. This one actually has vocals.

BURIED SECRETS is a great improvement over the previous "Guts Of Virigns." There is so much more going on here. While everything from EP one is still in ample supply here, all the tracks don't sound like they hatched from the same mold. The variations that occur sporadically are a welcome contrast to the more usual suspects. If you're a fan of the first EP, fear not because all of those slaps in the face are still present and more but on this one, Zorn and company learned the art of ambient enhancement therapy and found new ways to strike terror into the inner ear canals of their fellow homo sapiens. I personally like this second release much better because it contains all of what came before and adds lots of new twists and turns and takes Zorn's sax torture and incorporates it into a more meaningful way of menacing humanity. This is a dark and tumultuous sonic experience. Once again probably too jazzy for extreme metal heads and too metal for jazz purists but for those who simply want a true tortuous experience that supplicates impeding doom, this is for you.

 Guts of a Virgin by PAINKILLER album cover Studio Album, 1991
3.12 | 15 ratings

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Guts of a Virgin
Painkiller RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by siLLy puPPy
Collaborator PSIKE, JR/F/Canterbury & Eclectic Teams

3 stars PAINKILLER was one of the many projects of the prolific avant-garde jazz performer John Zorn and perhaps one of his most metal adventures. This band was quite unique at the time and took the listener where no one wanted to go which would be by mixing the unlikely disparate musical forces of avant-garde jazz with grindcore metal. GUTS OF A VIRGIN was the first of three studio albums but four live albums would also be released. The band consisted of John Zorn on sax, Bill Laswell (countless acts including Praxis, The Golden Palominos, Massacre, Buckethead, Iggy Pop, Herbie Hancock, Public Image Ltd etc) on bass and Mick Harris on drums who was most notably in Napalm Death. Although this is considered just as metal as jazz, there is no guitar to be heard.

GUTS OF A VIRGIN is extreme music to the max. This is guaranteed to alienate most jazz lovers for being too extreme metal and vice versa too jazzy for most metalheads. What we basically get on this cacophonous raucous is a highly distorted bass and drum attack accompanied by Zorn's alto sax assault that really, i swear sounds like a tortured pig most of the time! It squeals like it's being slaughtered live and the driving high pitched notes sound like a knife is being driven deep into its heart and twisted while pliers are ripping its snout from the skull. It's truly tortuous stuff with dark resonating bass lines, pummeling drum abuse and saxophone nightmares. A soundtrack for horror films to be assured.

This is the same type of sax sound that appears on the first Mr Bungle album that was released the same year. It's no wonder Mike Patton was so enthralled with his playing because Zorn delivers the most metal sound of any sax player i've ever heard. GUTS OF A VIRGIN is as filthy and dirty as the title implies. The muddy bass mixed with pig squeal sax create a free jazz / metal cacophony that also shows a bit of humor with song titles such as "Purgatory Of Fiery Vulvas." The tracks are generally mid-tempo with some flair ups that add some intensity for contrast's sake. While most tracks are instrumental, a few have some grindcore type of vocals screamed by Mick Harris. While the music is described as free jazz, it generally is so in the frenetic saxophone solos while the bass and drums have a recognizable groove firmly planted in the metal universe. This is a true assault to the senses! The compositions aren't brilliant but it's not bad for such an experimental album. Obviously only one for the hardcores!

3.5 rounded down

 Execution Ground by PAINKILLER album cover Studio Album, 1994
4.00 | 10 ratings

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Execution Ground
Painkiller RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by snobb
Special Collaborator Honorary Collaborator

4 stars First full-size (even 2 x CD) Painkillers studio album. John Zorn's one of most hardcore project Painkiller existed in early 90-s as John excurse to dark world of radical free-form avant-jazz hardcore. You can imagine the atmosphere of Painkiller's music just from albums cover pictures.

Just a trio (with bassist Bill Laswell and metal drummer Mick Harris , plus samples), but it was more than enough of them for building of nervous soundscapes. Very ambient back-up sounds are filled with almost unmusical screams of sax, tribal drumming and strange sounds you will hardly believe of bass guitar origin. Cold, dark, in part industrial atmosphere filling all the space. Don't expect melodies or structures, it's all about sounds and nerves.

First CD contains three improvs, with Zorn's extreme sax screaming. Second CD contains ambient versions of two compositions from the first CD. Noise, doom, dark ambient and free jazz - what is all you fill find there. Great shamanism, danger in air. Far from beauty of all sorts, but monument to cold nervous world of strange voices.

Excellent work for those searching for shocking beauty of darkness. Hardly acceptable for all others.

Thanks to easy money for the artist addition.

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