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Blast Beat Improv: Metallic Free Jazz

Weasel Walter (center) had one goal in mind for The Flying Luttenbachers: pure sonic terror. (Courtesy of the artist)

According to legend, saxophonist John Zorn once looked out over a mosh pit at a Painkiller concert in Tokyo, excitedly leaned over to bassist Bill Laswell and exclaimed, "This is it! We've been waiting 10 years for this — slam dancing to free improvisation!"

It was a joke, kind of. Throughout the '80s and early '90s, Zorn and Laswell were at the epicenter of the shrillest form of jazz yet devised: metal-influenced free jazz. It's like peanut butter and chocolate: The two great tastes combined wonderfully, except the peanut butter is getting pummeled by 120 decibels of raw power. Early bands like Painkiller, Last Exit and Massacre took the ferocity of '60s free-jazz improvisation and matched the intensity — particularly the blast beats — of death metal.

There are plenty more metallic-inclined swingers out there (Mothguts and Ettrick come to mind), so feel free to sing their praises in the comments section below. Besides, it's almost Halloween, so what better way to gear up for a week of bad horror movies and haunted houses than with the shrieks of a saxophone as it seems to spew blood?

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