I suppose it’s not all that surprising that most of the major Noise Music acts have hailed from Japan, since one of the genre’s earliest pioneers, Yoko Ono, was Japanese. And it certainly isn’t surprising that of all the Japanese Noise Music artists, this guy has always been the most prominent and the most known to the public. Unfortunately, his name is most often used as a punchline due to the public perception of ‘Noise Music’ in general as little more than a form of glorified auditory torture. If you really want to know what this sounds like, imagine a cross between Lou Reed’s Metal Machine Music and the Beatles’ “Revolution 9”. It’s not all that surprising that many people fail to appreciate Merzbow, given how misunderstood the two aforementioned works often are in their own right. But if you like heavily textured Noise collages and have a decent tolerance for abrasive sounds, this is one of the most fascinating examples of its kind, with a continually varied texture that resembles the Noise Music equivalent of Wagner’s ‘endless melody’ technique. Just make sure that you turn down the volume before listening to him, as Merzbow has a habit of mastering the volume on his albums several times higher than is standard with all other artists, and if you listen to him on top volume you’ll either go deaf or get arrested (depending on whether or not you’re wearing headphones at the time).
Verdict: An acquired taste, admittedly, but a fascinating one nonetheless.