Forgotten Classics - Scissorfight

Coming from the least likely of all heavy metal havens, Scissorfight hails from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, home of....well, I don't really know. Wikipedia suggests that Portsmouth was once the home of naval hero John Paul Jones, lawyer Daniel Webster, and Betty Hill of the Hill UFO Abduction. It is also the birthplace of metal's own Ronnie James Dio.

With that as a backdrop, Scissorfight has gone largely under mainstream metal's radar, but released a slew of ear-splitting, de-tuned heavy metal greatness. The crown jewel of those albums was 2001's "Mantrapping for Sport and Profit," a window into the band's mentality and to the career that could have been. Existing at the intersection of stoner metal and blunt-force punk metal, “Mantrapping” is a visceral, pulse-pounding exercise in angry backwoods metal. It is the soundtrack to the Double Deuce on Saturday night, or the exact type of blues-infused metal that you would expect to come down out of the White Mountains. It’s Tad meets Clutch meets Rage Against the Machine.

Listening to "Mantrapping" is like listening to what Clutch should have become. It is an alternate reality where everything after "Blast Tyrant" never happens, and Clutch continues to release pounding, muddy, nasty heavy metal.

"Mantrapping" lacks the consensus themes of "evil" metal, instead steering toward songs about living in the woods, being destructive, and being ready to fight at a moment's notice (apparently, being ready to fight is a prerequisite of being a resident in New Hampshire. I've had this confirmed by outside sources.) It is the perfect album to listen to when you are absolutely sick and tired of everyone around you. Scissorfight captures that feeling, whether it be the thudding "Blizzards Buzzards Bastards," or the signature track "The Most Dangerous Animal is Me."

The music is relentless and messy, with the reverb turned way up and the high-treble crunch of guitars completely absent. The album thrashes around in its near-perfect concoction of dirty, distorted and ugly rhythms. Each instrument is beaten mercilessly by the musician behind it, as though the instrument owed the musician money for a backwoods alcohol-fueled poker game gone bad. It is unrelenting and merciless, from "Acid for Blood" to "Cram It Clown."

There's little variation here, and there really doesn't need to be. Ironlung and his band mates know one trick, and they blast it into their amps and out of your speakers at full volume and throttle, from beginning to end. The songs, though dirty and unrefined, are hook-laden and catchy in their simple execution. The band makes up in effort and power what it lacks in finesse or style. There is no such thing as “too loud” for this album.

"Mantrapping for Sport and Profit" is the embodiment of a take-no-prisoners hard-edged metal band, who puts meaning into their home state's motto of "live free or die." This is not "spectator metal" if you will. To listen to "Mantrapping," you have to feel it, move to it, become part of it. It is both sinister in sound and infectious in groove. I dare you to get through “Rats USA” without tapping your foot or nodding your head.

The album isn’t perfect. Some of the songs “Hazard to Navigation,” “Hammerdown,” and “Candy Clark” get too repetitive, refusing to even show any variety, or pick a direction to drive in. Other than that though, there are too many quality songs to list here, like “Death in the Wilderness,” or “Go Cave!” All of it is brutal and impossibly heavy.

If most of metal is represented by dragons or demons or warfare, “Mantrapping for Sport and Profit” is a snarling, angry grizzly bear in the midst of it all. Ironlung may have summed up his album best in the track “New Hampshire’s All Right if You Like Fighting,” when in the middle of the song he simply states: “Do you like to fight?.....They’ll smash your f*cking face in!”

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