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fucc the i.n.s.
Kultur Shock
Fucc the I.N.S.
Kool Arrow

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Given their moniker, I should have expected something jarring from Kultur Shock, but nothing could have prepared me for the insanity that poured forth from my speakers. These eleven tracks are a schizophrenic bum rush of hardcore punk and Balkan folk music that is both exhilarating and terrifying in its intensity. If you can't imagine what this mix is like, envision a horde of gypsies running rampant while listening to Iron Maiden, and you'll be close. Kultur Shock's cadre of musical insurrectionists (I believe there are eight of them) does to central European folk traditions what the Pogues did to Irish music: they beat the hell out of it until it screams for more. The music is by equal turns harsh and lyrical; a huge, distorted guitar riff strutting over pounding drums can unexpectedly give way to a horn line or lilting vocal. Throughout the album, the members combine traditional instruments and melodies with metal power. This mix and match recalls the musical precision of similar genre-twisters, like Mr. Bungle and System of a Down. In part, this may be due to the production work of Billy Gould (Faith No More), although Kultur Shock betrays a much stronger sense of humor than Faith No More ever did. In this, the group comes much closer to the smart-ass wit of Frank Zappa.

Much like Zappa, the band combines its humor with political statement. Here, they offer a tirade against the US Immigration and Naturalization Service -- or at least that's what the title and explanatory manifesto suggests. Were the lyrics in a language I could identify (and this is assuming that it is indeed an actual language), I might be able to solidify this analysis, but as the only lyrics I could identify claimed "I am a gigolo in America," the proceeded to mock Right Said Fred, I'll leave this to the linguists. Despite this language gap, it's impossible not to catch the comedy in the juxtaposition of ululating gypsy voices and Helmet-style guitar work. In fact, the band freely admits that it began with tongues planted firmly in cheek. However, they soon discovered that despite any playful intentions, their approach works on a deeper level. This yields an engaging, thoughtful type of tomfoolery that deserves recognition as true art.

Key to the music's success is the sense that the band is never mocking the traditional elements of their music. If anything, the results sound more like traditional musicians co-opting modern methods than the reverse. This saves Kultur Shock from becoming mere parody, and avoids the clichés perpetrated by hard-rock bands who simply ape orthodox tunes. As such, this is an album for thinking metal-heads rather than those seeking paltry novelty. For that reason, Fucc the I.N.S. is, despite its self-informed humor, a serious and captivating record.

-- Ron Davies
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