Vril Jäger – Celestial Bliss

Vril Jäger – Celestial Bliss MLP Heiðrunar Myrkrunar 2019

This new two track MLP from Vril Jäger delivers two lengthy compositions covering an animated ritual drone/heavy electronics tinged sound. The title track leads off, where immediately the lyrics are noted to have been previously used on the debut album (i.e. on the track Sanctified By Constellations). Yet where the original use of the lyrics was presented as a poetic reading against a sparse yet achingly morose sub-orchestral melody, here they spoken vocals are presented through seething distortion treatment. As for the backing sonics, they is equally distorted, constituting a rumbling mass of blown out yet muted drones. With a total run time of 14-minute spans, though the layering various elements elevate in sonic heft over the duration, while the semi-melodious elements remaining obscured within the dense production. Under The Emblem takes up Side B, and immediately has a greater ritualized edge to its slow thrummed rhythmic pulse, and interestingly its main melodious progression is noted to replicate a musical fragment of the debut album (i.e. refer to the track The Road Back To Agartha). The drawling vocals, weird wailing tones, processed militant percussion and what sounds to be dive-bombing aircraft rounds out sonic variety and is the clear standout of the two tracks.

With recognisable musical and lyrical elements, Celestial Bliss has the feeling of being an addendum to the debut, or at the very least a stop gap released until the next full length is completed. Despite this, it is an enjoyable two track MLP where the overall impression is one of wanting more from the project.

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Schloss Tegal – Psychometry

Schloss Tegal – Psychometry DLP La Esencia Records 2019

Thirteen long years have transpired since the last Schloss Tegal album, so you could have been forgiven for thinking a new album was an impossibility – yet here it is. Granted there was a two track 7” ep Procession Of The Dead (Undead) released in 2017, but that release did not include new music, rather featured a remix of an old track and another live recording from 2008.

Based on first impressions of Psychometry, the stunning sleeve design of the gatefold vinyl with spot varnished geometric patterns needs to be acknowledged. In my estimation this visual presentation does absolute justice the album’s conceptual themes, which themselves hark back to 1999 Black Static Transmission. Although the artwork of that earlier album let it down somewhat in term of feeling slightly amateurish in early computer-based design. Sonically speaking, Psychometry also feels to have clear linage to Black Static Transmission rather than the direct sound employed on 2006’s album The Myth Of Meat (which is explained by its source material having been drawn from sounds recorded in a working abattoir). But apart from focusing on sonic differences, Psychometry still embodies a particular sound established and easily recognized as that of Schloss Tegal. This means it is too sonically forceful to be described as dark ambient, but equally is not abrasive enough to become noise/industrial.

From the outset the album delivers grim maelstrom drones blend with dour muted melodies, while other erupting fissure of sounds seem to articulate the tearing at the hidden fabric of one sub-conscious (refer to Pyschpompus and Incorporeal Being as prime examples). The Invalid Earth is an early standout with its throbbing ritual pulse, swirling drones and disembodied radio chatter. Krononaut (Time Zero) articulates further churning emanations from the void, complete with prominent EVP voices, and based on their scratchy semi-unintelligible it gives off an unnerving and eerie effect (EVP recordings appear on a number of tracks throughout). Black Vessel then delivers a foreboding tumult of layered electronics and is one of the more direct and heavy tracks on display. Moving towards the end of the album Body Farm delivers a tensile, and shrilly cinematic composition, but which is far too short in run time. As for the concluding track We All Become Gods blends deep cinematic tinged textures with widescreen drones and (again) with an unnerving disembodied voice.

Over their discography Schloss Tegal have excelled at sonically articulating a psychic space which blends the real and perceivable with an ‘unknowable otherness’ of inter-dimensional states. Without question Psychometry is another excellent example of this approach. In a general sense this feel of being a collection of individual and separate tracks rather than the sprawling and interlinking movements on Black Static Transmission. But this is only a compositional observation and not in any way a criticism. Not to call Psychometry a ‘return to form’, as that would allude to some sort of prior drop in quality of output, rather Psychometry is a welcomed and long-awaited continuation of unique sound and approach that Schloss Tegal have always displayed. Recommended and absolutely worthy of investment in its stunning physical edition.

Himukalt – Sex Worker

Himukalt – Sex Worker MC Total Black 2019

The meteoric rise of Ester Kärkkäinen’s project Himukalt in underground circles continues, with this new tape the eighth release in three years. While that might seem like a lot of output in a short space of time, far from being shoddy or rushed, all releases to date have been careful composed and honed to razor sharpness.

In many ways this new release is a continuation of what has come before, and the opening cut is particularly impactful with its sharp and cutting noise hewn into rhythmic blasts, as the vocals are apathetically delivered from the background. But as the album progresses, a greater harrowing tension is revealed and becomes the characteristic element. Essentially this restraint has been employed to allow the multitude of female sex worker interview samples to take central prominence. The use of such first-person narrative of the interview subjects gives a strongly personal edge to the tracks and is particularly affecting on the later track Cold and Empty, where the subtle backing sound embodies a low humming drone of creeping dread. Likewise, the low industrial throb and distortion-smeared vocals of Transactional are the effective embodiment of building tension, which also ruptures in moments of ecstatic release. The final of the eight tracks, No Safe Distance, rounds out the tape on an absolute high, based on a basic drum loop and another moody loop which are interrupted by jarring distortion slashes and cutting vocal barrages. Excellent stuff.

If you have not bothered checking out Himukalt to date, that situation should clearly be rectified. Sex Worker is as good a place as any to become better acquainted, but you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the other releases either. Recommended.

Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd

Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd CD Neuropa Records 2019

Originally issued in 2013 on cassette via Merzbild, and again in 2015 on vinyl by In Solace Publishing, this third press takes the original three tracks and appends them with two bonus tracks for good measure, bringing the total run time to over 50 minutes.

Thematically this release relates to the Norse legend of the Swedish King Domalde, whose ritual self-sacrifice prevented an impending famine. This conceptual content is addressed within the cover image, which is a black and white excerpt from Carl Larsson’s famous painting Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), whilst select Swedish song titles roughly translate to: For The Benefit of the Swedes, Blood Rain, and The Corpse of the Fallen Dómaldr. The original three tracks form sections which essentially bleed into a singular 30-minute ritual death ambient composition, music more characteristic of the earlier phase of the project before the sound mutated towards direct and song-focused compositions. But rather than the additional material simply being tacked on at the end, the two tracks are included as the first and last tracks respectively, to broadly fit and extend the mood of the original three compositions.

The first section (track one) is moody and minimal, with grey-hued drones, clanging sounds, and disembodied vocalizations; it feels like an extended introduction. The second section (track two) leads off with some gritty textural static; the main focus is squarely the procession of slow deathly drums, swirling winds, wavering synth textures and croaked/echo-distorted vocals, which combine to deliver an excellent track of slow brooding ritual menace. The third section (track three) is sparser in construction and encompasses an air of distant abstraction to its voluminous atmosphere. Here a lone cavernous bass thump provides focus in amongst various sweeping/cavernous tonal elements and the call/response of howling wolves. The fourth section (track four) continues the windswept sound in a slightly more forceful guise, building upon ominous drones, a slow percussive bass pulse and a melancholic synth line akin to the title track of Brighter Death Now’s Necrose Evangelicum album – an excellent and harrowing conclusion to the main collection. The final section (track five) spans out over a 14-minute stretch with freezing windswept plains, ominous bass drones, and slow semi-buried ritual thrum.

The expanded version of Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd is an excellent release within the project’s discography and a strong reminder of the earlier soundscape death industrial sound of the project.

Terror Cell Unit ‎– The Data Industrial Complex

Terror Cell Unit The Data Industrial Complex MC Total Black 2019

On this new album length tape, seven tracks span an hour, which means tracks are generally on the lengthier side (six minutes at the shortest and 13 minutes at the longest), which provides time for the compositions to sprawl out and gradually evolve. Being less outwardly chaotic and blood-boiling than other material I have heard from the group, this means there is a greater emphasis on mood and control, which positions this towards the heavy electronics rather than power electronics end of the spectrum. Yet, that said, it is still quite tonally jagged in parts, and the ripping over-the-top vocal barrages of Mackenzie are employed, with a smattering of dialogue samples relating to the release’s theme.

With its experimental leanings, The Data Industrial Complex displays a willingness to try new sonic approaches and sounds, while tonally there appears to be greater clarity and an overt digital veneer which, to this ear, reflects the theme of the tape. Manufactured Identity (Delusions of Grandeur) employs a muted melodies element, offset against quivering higher pitched digital distortion, which is moody yet tensile, while the vocal barrage amps up the mood. A predominantly minimal atmosphere and mood characterizes Technological Iconoclast (A Stain On Your Soul), yet sharper tonal elements characterize the later sections. To mention a track which perhaps does not work so well in execution, the muted experimental style of the instrumental title track feels slightly aimless, compared to the balance of other tracks. Yet this misstep is rectified on final track In The Wood Of The Suicides (Perfection Eluded), with its oscillating loops, queasy wavering textures, and late-track vocal barrage.

Perhaps not as immediate and to the point as other material I have heard from the group, but there is a lot to explore here, particularly the wealth of ideas at play. Clearly a lot of thought has been done regarding compositional structure and the layering of sonics, and it shows in the resulting tone and atmosphere: this is far from being spat out quickly in improvisational recording sessions. But more to the point, it functions to highlight the current creative streak Terror Cell Unit are blazing.

Blitzkrieg Baby ‎– Homo Sapiens Parasitus

Blitzkrieg Baby Homo Sapiens Parasitus LP Neuropa Records 2019

Strictly speaking Kim Sølve’s Blitzkrieg Baby project is quite incongruent to the typical coverage of Noise Receptor Journal. Yet there is something quite special in the cynical black humor and heavily sarcastic lyrics wrapped up in a diverse song-based approach, spanning elements of cinematic/orchestral dark ambient, martial industrial, and more streamlined song-based industrial. In fact, the Looney Tunes inspired cover artwork ‎– which strongly speaks to my own childhood ‎– is an excellent visual presentation of this thematic and stylistic approach (the artwork is by Trine + Kim Design Studios, which is the graphic design firm Kim runs with his partner and showcases their talents as graphic designers). Likewise, the self-described tag of ‘Norwegian Dystopian Electronic Music’ further emphasizes the approach.

Album opener Hip Hip Hooray displays the cynical and darkly playful nature of the album, with a track of mid-paced bass guitar-driven swagger, while the spoken vocals break out into a chorus chant of the track’s title. After a short instrumental interlude with an industrial/orchestral dark ambient track (Apocalypse To Go), comes Boys Will be Boys, which is a perfect example fusing martial beats, orchestral synths, and dark pop-focused chorus line hooks, with the end result being swaggering rather than martially stilted. The pairing of tracks like The March of Human Progress I & II bring a more serious tone, which is mostly due to the instrumental format, thereby the cynical element brought about by the vocals is absent. On the musical front it strongly reminds me of the martial ambient industrial sound of Toroidh, given the slow dark ambient throb, sub-orchestral elements, and marching music samples. Perhaps for my own listening preferences Praise The Pig comes off as the only misstep due to the prominent chugging guitar riff (but that says more about my personal aversion to guitar-based industrial). Yet despite this criticism, the tolling church bells and chanted male vocals which appear late in the track effectively win me over. Moving towards the album’s end, the dour yet playful nature of the album is again in full flight on Pre-Cum Of The Apocalypse, with a slow brooding dark ambient/martial industrial track, where the lone piano line rings out with reverb, while the vocals are sung choir style which belies their cynical slant. The album closer, Homo Sapiens Parasitus & the Countdown to the Apocalypse is an industrial pop stormer of a composition, driving ever forwards with stoic rolling beats and vocals ranging from whispered to full rousing male choirs.

Despite its vein of cynical black humor on the thematic and lyrical front, the music itself is treated with utmost seriousness, and done exceedingly well, avoiding any notion of being ‘cheesy’ in the end result. This is no mean feat, given the use of any level of ‘humor’ in post-industrial music usually predicts my total uninterest. Wildly divergent – yet recommended at the same time.

 

Grunt – Kraniometria

Grunt – Kraniometria 3” MCD Freak Animal 2019

Over the past decade Grunt have issued a stellar run of composed power electronics releases, yet Grunt’s new offering has reverted to harsh noise territory, featuring three tracks and around 21 minutes of material. Although this mini CD is concerned with harsh noise, that tonal spectrum is no stranger given it has been a staple element in Grunt’s sound where it has been employed as a core compositional element.

But on Kraniometria harsh noise is used as a free-flowing element, and evidently the end result has been edited from hours of recordings. The opening four-minute track Eschatological Uterus features a raw and blown out/hollowed out sound which has the fierceness and energy of arching high voltage electricity, while the multitude of layers employed gives it a multi-textural sound. Flowing between clear sections, it builds to chaos and recedes to moments of relative calm, rather than employing a singular one-dimensional tone.

The second track is Sex-Paralys-Appeal and under two minutes in length, again with electricity tones arching over a deft raw and heavy junk metal rumble. The title track clocks in at 15 minutes, and while following the same tonal spectrum as the first two tracks, the flow is more fiercely freeform, cutting between distinct sections and segments, including choppy and whistling overblown feedback and a late-track section of almost orchestral intensity, maintaining a prevalent intensity throughout.

Brutally loud, but roughly echoed and hollowed in depth and tone, this is a good short and sharp release to hear Mikko letting loose with noise under the Grunt moniker.