If you didn’t know that Dead Zone was Merzbow’s aural response to the natural and man made disasters which devastated parts of Japan earlier this year, you won’t be enlightened upon listening to it. Even despite the haunting cover art from Chernobyl Dead Zone doesn’t wear its heart on its sleeve, but the devil is in the detail.
Merzbow has always been about the detail. The joy of listening to him comes from drawing out the sound sources, finding snippets that you are able to identify with and latch on to. Making sense of the madness. And for listeners who go into Dead Zone with some background knowledge there is plenty that you can read into. Like the ten minute marks in both The Blade of Oblivion and The Spirit Indulges in the Sadness (Merzbow’s most sombre title ever?) where that theremin sound he’s been into lately comes off like a Geiger Counter lost in the fall out.
Throughout Dead Zone Akita’s favourite sounds take on new meanings – crunchy metallic noise stands in for crumbling buildings, whooshing static becomes the roar of a twenty foot wave, buzzes and whirs sound like melting nuclear reactors. Of course, this is all just me projecting my own pre-conceived notions of what Dead Zone should and does sound like. It’s just me trying to make sense of what is essentially non sensical. The beauty of Merzbow is that another listener won’t hear any of this in Dead Zone’s dense and evolving palette.
And this is definitely a dense listen. I’d place it in the harsher, and less penetrable realms of his work. But it’s also kind of beautiful in its own ugly way. And that might just say more about me than Dead Zone.