Albums You Probably Haven't Heard Of: Audra - Life in Pieces

Album artwork by Stefan Lawrence Review by Brent Chittenden Have you ever heard an album that wasn’t exactly ahead of its time but more like that it would have been ahead of its time if they had changed just a few things? That, in a nutshell, sums up Audra’s one and only studio album, Life in Pieces. Formed in 1987 in Ann Arbour, Michigan, Audra was, at the time, kind of a weirdo metal band. They definitely weren’t hair metal. They weren’t hard rock like Guns n Roses. They weren’t quite like Pantera. They were just weird and heavy and just slightly off the mark. Life in Pieces was recorded at studio listed only as “The Workshed” (which as far as my research has found, was an actual shed somewhere in Ann Arbour) on Audra’s own record label, listed as Workshed Records. It is the one and only album from Workshed Records (as far as I can tell). If you put the record on, you might think that it sounds a fair amount like Helmet. And you’d be right, it does sound like Helmet, especially the Meantime record. With one notable exception. The accordion. For whatever reason, Audra opens the record with the sound of an accordion playing. Which isn’t bad per say. It’s kind of like when you hear Korn’s “Shoots and Ladders” for the first time, that blast of bagpipes just kind of sets itself apart. And honestly, that’s what the accordion would have done for Audra... if they had left it at one song. But they didn’t. Out of the fifteen tracks on Life in Pieces, fourteen use an accordion. This, in conjunction with really loud guitars and tight drums make for an... interesting (?) listen. The standout track is the first, “Pushcushion”, that starts off with an accordion solo and then launches into a barrage of down-tuned heavy guitar that brings up the best of Helmet (but pre-dating the band by a couple of years). It’s also before the accordion gimmick gets old. The other track to really take note of is the hidden track of Pink Floyd’s “Astronomy Domine” where, for whatever reason, the accordion actually works here.

Honestly, this album might have kicked off a new revolution in metal a little bit earlier then we got it if it had not been for the accordion. So, what happened to Audra? To be honest, I’m not really sure. After the release of Life in Pieces, the band seemed to exist for a couple of more years before dissolving somewhere around 1991. Guitarist Jeff Mingus seems to be still playing in a couple of Michigan metal bands. Bass player Chad Carpenter has gone into his namesake profession and works as a carpenter in upstate New York. I couldn’t find anything on drummer Rick Brogan at all. But then we have lead singer/accordion player Jerrod Gripson. While I can’t confirm anything, Jerrod falls off the map right after the band breaks up. BUT, I was able to find a Myspace page that accuses Jerrod of being a serial killer. Apparently, there were a couple of murders around 1991/1992 where the victims were killed by a blunt object that left a weird pattern on the victim’s faces. The Myspace page concludes that the patterns are actually the buttons from an accordion and theorizes that the now missing singer of Audra was the culprit. Now, it is a lot of circumstantial but Jerrod never came forward to dispute this. Weird.

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