Once upon a time there were three Detroit youths by the names of Sean H. (vocals/guitar), Brian Repa (drums/destruction), and Nathan Miller (bass) that took a primal hardcore aesthetic and twisted it into forms unrecognizable by the human ear, reeking havoc on conventional forms of entertainment and causing a further decaying of Motor City streets. The band was THOUGHTS OF IONESCO. Named for Eugène Ionesco, the infamous Theater of the Absurd playwright, the music is rooted in the Detroit terror punk ethos of Iggy and the STOOGES, translated through Coltrane-inspired freak-outs and rhythmic angularity. It is an impossibly heavy and nontraditionally structured amalgam of BLACK FLAG, THE SWANS, free jazz, and damage for art's sake. One label head even referred to the band as "the BLACK FLAG of the 1990s," and the sentiment certainly rings true.
The ensuing uproar would manifest itself in four primal recordings from 1996-1999: "For Detroit, From Addiction", "On a Skin Historic", "…And Then There Was Motion", and "The Triptych Session". A representative sample of tracks from all four albums, as well as five previously unreleased tracks and a documentary style DVD, are included on "The Scar is our Watermark". Remastered by Alan Douches for maximum aural impact, this 15-track collection is nothing short of staggering in its soul-purged rage and defiant stance toward commercialism and societal mores. Over creative and iron-clad riffs, Repa's Neanderthal power drumming (ALKALNINE TRIO's Derek Grant also performs), and Miller's fat and snaking bass licks, Sean H. erupts into fits of artery rupturing barks, screams, and lunatic melt downs. "Reach", "Bury Me in my Silhouette", the infinitely more abrasive version of BAD BRAINS' "I", the impact of each and every song leaves giant bomb craters and sucks the bone marrow out of anyone in ear shot. It is hardly a traditional hardcore fan's idea of circle pits and breakdowns, yet the primal ferociousness of the best the early pioneers' had to offer is present; it just combines it with heady trips into musical terrain that is felt more than it is heard. When snippets of something approaching a clean, even melodic (albeit psychotic), vocal occurs on "Learning an Enemy". it is one of several moments of neurotic bliss that demands repeat listens. It is also one of many moments when an indefinable desperation surges through the body, pushing one to forget everything ever learned about life and music.
And the DVD is a trip. The disc is not polished and glossy in a modern sense, but is very well put together. It is also very "Detroit," as those of us that spent time in the rust belt will recognize immediately. Touring BLACK FLAG style, ingesting copious amounts of drugs and booze, mired in filth and not giving two shits about pleasing the audience, the members antagonize everyone around them, and do so in a way that will shock many and a handful will recognize as pure primitive genius. Bringing along a live saxophone player (Scott Bridges) toward the end is but one example of the band's refusal to bow to convention. And Repa is a complete sociopath (in the, uh, most flattering use of the term). Just watch it and see.
In the final analysis, some will "get it," and many will not, but there is one certainty. Anyone that was exposed to THOUGHTS OF IONESCO will forever bear the scars.