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At the Movies 

In which I take "The World's Most Hated Band" to see The Passion of the Christ

Wednesday, Mar 17 2004
Certain pairings feel so right that they require neither justification nor explanation. Peanut butter and chocolate, for example. Who can explain why such a coupling tastes so delicious? Who would want to? It's yummy, let's leave it at that. Or how about Jay-Z and the Beatles? Barry Bonds and steroids? David Lee Roth and rehab? These are combinations of a cosmic order, two ideas coming together to join eternally until death (or EMI, or the U.S. government, or, well, death) do them part. Such unions are, in some sense of the word, divine.

And speaking of divinity, here's another match made in this not-so-heavenly culture of ours: Oakland's gore-obsessed death metal act Impaled, the self-proclaimed "World's Most Hated Band," and the multimedia experience that is Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, quite possibly the "World's Most Talked-About Movie." Isn't it time someone brought these two things together?

By now you've encountered your fair share of hubbub over this particular piece of celluloid. You've heard the informed critics' cries of anti-Semitism, read their missives lambasting Gibson for his hubris, his obsession with gore, his unapologetic misrepresentations of key events and historical figures. And you've also encountered hundreds of man-on-the-street interviews with average Joes, who, for the most part, are celebrating the film for its glorious portrayal of the last 12 hours of Jesus' life. These are both perfectly valid sets of opinions. We, the discerning, need to hear them to make up our minds about this flick (because Lord knows we don't want to actually go see it).

But there's a voice missing from the clamor. What about that often-ignored contingency of long-haired hessians who play in bands like Exhumed and Murder Corporation and Circle of Dead Children? These bands devote their careers to singing about butchery and death and Satan and are all but ignored. Certainly a band like Impaled, a band with lyrics such as, "Gutted entrails brewing ... choice cuts/ Ruptured pustules spewing/ Immature giblet pudding ... choice cuts/ Infanticidal cooking," knows a thing or two about the mechanics of gore. Certainly its members have something to contribute to our nation's discourse over this seminal film, right?

Because after all, not only do the guys in Impaled use art to get their message across -- like our boy Mel -- but they're also good, hardworking Americans just like you. Take bassist Ross Sewage, for example. Hey Ross, what do you do for a living?

"I watch porn. That's what I do for a living," Sewage explains. "For an online porn site. We stream films. I have to check them. That's it. Now, my hand down my pants, that's not part of the job."

OK, so maybe these guys -- Sean McGrath (guitar, vocals), Raul Varela (drums), and Jason Kocol (guitar), along with Sewage -- aren't exactly like you. And maybe this fact is starting to settle in as we sit around drinking pre-movie happy hour beers across the street from the Metreon complex, in a bar where throngs of oxford-shirt-wearing dorks backslap each other and giggle. Maybe it's Varela's sleeveless black "Bulldozer" T-shirt that makes us stand out. Or perhaps it's the giant scars above Sewage's right eye, or the fact that Kocol looks like Cousin Itt. Yeah, maybe in terms of appearance, these boys don't fit in. But here's a shocking revelation: When it comes to making their art, they're not all that different from Gibson.

"I would like to see an accurate retelling of the story as gory and as bloody as possible," Sewage says when asked to share his expectations of the film. "Because that's what the Bible is: It's really gory and bloody and a goddamn good read on a Saturday night."

And what if Impaled were a film instead of a band? Would it be more or less gory than The Passion of the Christ? "I haven't seen this movie," answers McGrath, "but from the stuff I've read, I think our movie would probably be less gory."

And with that, we head inside.

We take our seats near the front of the nearly half-full theater. Not long after the movie starts, Sewage removes a flask full of Jack Daniel's ("My personal Jesus") and from that point on it's all Beavis and Butt-head. We make jokes, we laugh. We ruin the movie for the adults around us (not to mention their kids, of which there are at least two dozen). When Jesus gets flayed, Sewage is quick to add that, "My girlfriend does worse to me at home." During the crowd sequences, McGrath points out, "It's hard to keep track of who everyone is because they all look like the drummer from Lynyrd Skynyrd." Finally, during the part when Jesus gets nailed to the cross, Sewage echoes every slam of hammer to nail with little shouts of self-promotion. So it's:

SLAM. "Impaaaaled!"

SLAM. "Impaaaaled!"

And so on. As we leave the theater and head across the street for a post-game wrap-up, my sides hurt.

"When I walked outside, I felt like everything was in fast motion," says Sewage, sipping a beer. "There was so much slow motion [in the movie] that I felt like I was drunk. Wait, I was."

"They spent a lot of money just making his eyes light brown," observes McGrath.

"Yeah, he was the son of a carpenter, not the son of the colored-contact-lens guy," adds Sewage.

The banter is amusing, but the burning question on my mind is: How would these guys compare an Impaled show to this experience we've just had?

"Well, we fall down a little less," says Sewage, referring to the close to 100 times that Jesus stumbles throughout the movie. "And THX or not, we're still louder," he adds.

"And we want people to bring their kids to see us," says McGrath. I personally do not recommend this, but then again, I don't see how any parent with half a brain could bring his kids to see a movie that features graphic close-up shots of hooks digging into a man's flank, peeling his skin back and exposing his sinewy muscles and bloody ribs. But maybe I'm being too sensitive. After all, The Passion of the Christ can't be more shocking than a band that features a hacksawed fetus on the cover of its album Choice Cuts, right?

"We do written-down gore better," say McGrath. "But that movie was pretty fucked up."

Note to Mel Gibson and his fans: A man who sings, "Your rib cage is avulsed/ Mangled, chopped, and hewn/ Organ meats have been sundered/ And about your coffin strewn," just gave this gorefest the thumbs-up. Y'all are in good company.

About The Author

Garrett Kamps


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