Heather Gabel isn’t hiding from anyone. Not anymore. She and percussionist Seth Sher are quite blunt throughout Castration Anxiety (Dais Records), the duo’s debut album. This is throbbing protest music, empowering the visual artist against all who oppressed her while still remaining suited for darkened dancefloors.
“I want to cut you open,” Gabel moans on “Wear Your Skin,” and she does it almost completely void of emotion. She’ll make a mask of your flesh with the same apathetic despondency as she might if she was informed that the restaurant was out of whatever dish she wanted. Just give her what you were having before she dressed for dinner. And more wine, please.
Minimalistic and ritualistic, the beats are sparse and the synths are hazy, emulating smoke blowing through a goth bar. Although the album takes its cues from the classic dark industrial of In Slaughter Natives, as well as more modern stuff like Youth Code, Castration Anxiety feels refreshingly unique. Maybe it’s how, despite nary a guitar in site, Hide are bold enough to be played alongside more metallic groups. (They even opened up for Marilyn Manson.)
It all comes back to Gabel’s quest for revenge. “Bound/Severed” is self-explanatory and self-revelatory; when Gabel moans, “Tell me where it hurts,” you are pretty sure the only acceptable answer is “everywhere.” “Wildfire” is slow and sultry, with Sher’s synths acting like extra percussion. “Fucked (I Found Heaven)” is the most repetitive track, one where Gabel actually raises her voice; it’s the best fit for a dancefloor, albeit one covered in blood.
Castration Anxiety is a brutal, intense and completely immersive release. It is regimented and stoic, with an implied passive aggressiveness, virtual vivisection that requests you do more than just dance. You can limit yourself to that, of course, but you’d be missing what makes Hide so great.