Theologian & The Vomit Arsonist – Nature Is Satan’s Church

Theologian & The Vomit Arsonist – Nature Is Satan’s Church DLP Cipher Productions 2016

Originally released as limited CDR in 2013 on Oppressive Resistance Recordings, Cipher Productions have seen fit to reissue this on vinyl with all new artwork and 3 lengthy remixes appended for good measure.  Thematically the album functions as a direct homage to to Lars Von Trier’s film ‘Antichrist’ (….or perhaps can be considered an alternate soundtrack of sorts?), and certainly manages to capture the mood of mental anguish and emotional desolation of the film.  Sonically speaking this music found herein is far removed from what might be typically expected from either project, where ‘Nature Is Satan’s Church’ features industrial orientated drones and minimalist dark ambient soundscapes (…which then verges on the isolationist ambient side of things at times). In then tying back to its inspiration source, this minimalism has replicated and expanded upon the the harrowing and starkly minimalist sound design (…which is only fleetingly employed within ‘Antichrist’), while each of the 6 album track titles specifically replicate each of the chapter titles of the film.

‘Prologue’ commences the 6 main album tracks and sets the scene with a moody series of orchestral type loops and a lone female choir vocal sample, which is clearly a nod to the music of film’s opening chapter.  This track then turns out to be the most ‘musical’ on offer (…which again is reflective of the film’s sound score) and functions as the gateway into a slow descent of creeping anxiety and rising dread. This is particularly demonstrated on the second track ‘Grief’ with is foggy enveloping ambience and sonically wintery landscapes, but later in the piece it ramps up with added windswept force (…including a section of echoed knocking tones which creates a haunted basement vibe for exceptional effect).  ‘Pain (Chaos Reigns)’ on Side B is structured around a series of minimalist but quite forcefully driving loops with gradually elevating momentum which culminate in foghorn styled intensity.  ‘Depair (Gynocide)’ continues the album’s established dank and oppressive minimalism mixing layered bass rumble, and a heavy dose of echo and reverb, while ‘The Three Beggars’ continues a comparable droning blast furnace styled approach. ‘Epilogue’ rounds out the final of the main album tracks with an general sense of stasis, where its gradual sonic fadeout drags the sound down into ultimate oblivion.

With the 3 re-mix tracks, these broadly maintain an underlying feel and mood of the source material, but also provides individualistic sonic flair on each.  Four Pi Movement features first with ‘Despair Remix’, where the mood of this piece features some prominent and driving ‘cosmic’ type synth elements.  Worms of the Earth follows with ‘Chaos Reigns Remix’, which is sonically more consistent with the source material, but here with the main augmented/ additional elements consisting of driving synth melody, sparse percussion and sampled Gregorian chants for excellent ritualistic result. Iszoloscope then rounds out the remixes (…and album overall) with ‘Pain Remix’, being a quite minimalist drone affair and generally closest to the sound of the main album tracks.

Having heard this previously this via its original CDR edition, I did observe that due to its sprawling scope, minimalist construction and continuous soundscape format, that if full and attentive listening was not facilitated you could get lost along the way as to exactly which track was playing.  While this is not in any way a criticism of the music, I do perhaps feel the vinyl format is a much better fit for this album as there is ongoing engagement with the material due to having to change sides as the album progresses.  As for the cover, the photography courtesy of Gretchen Heinel functions as a stunning visual counterpoint the featured sonics, which also appears to pay homage to the style, colour palate and visual mood of ‘Antichrist’. Overall this is an excellently realised release: from concept, to visual representation and ultimately its sonic execution and should not be passed over despite its limited pressing of 150 copies.

Concrete Mascara – Caustic Realities

Concrete Mascara – Caustic Realities MC Angst 2016

In reflecting on the comments made about the sound production of the last full length ‘Perennial Disappointment’ (reviewed here), at the time I did wonder whether my initial assessment was slightly off, but found I came to the same conclusion after multiple revisits of the album over as many months.  Fast forward to this new 4 track cassette it provided further opportunity to test those perceptions, and upon hearing it to my mind vindicates my impressions of the last album’s production.  Again it is not to say the production on ‘Perennial Disappointment’ is in any way bad, rather the equalization of all layers meant it lost the depth and space which made Concrete Mascara’s sound really stand out in the past. To then refer back to the trademark sound it is on full display here, being harsh and hard industrial/ power electronics (…but equally with that characteristic separation of those elements).

‘Caustic Realities’ features 4 tracks spanning around 30 minutes (2 tracks each side), and contains everything I love about the project: moments of unbridled aggression; ripping mid to high pitched noise squall; harrowing and agonised vocals etc., which all framed around a bedrock of dour synth lines. Sitting well within such parameters, an elongated ominous synth line draws you in on ‘State Disappointment’ and from there gradually introduces a variety of wailing noise textures and vocals which span the spoken to a gruff roar (…although is perhaps a more controlled atmosphere overall than normal). ‘Blacker Than Pitch’ follows and amps things up a notch with a driving synth pulse and shredded vocals (…mixed well up front in the mix), while the loose mid toned noise become increasingly chaotic as the track surges onward.  On Side B ‘Relentless Affirmation of Futility’ opens with a feel of idling stasis, before layered ‘needling’ high pitch noise and manic and unhinged vocal screams push the mood of the piece over the top. ‘Drowning in Tar’ then rounds out the 4 track release, with a loose and only minimally structured affair of sprawling mid toned layers which weave and intertwine, as the barked vocals barely rise out of the sonic muck.

Although ‘Caustic Realities’ does not necessarily bringing anything new to the table of what Concrete Mascara have done before, this is still a varied and standout example of their characteristic sound. A release worthy of your investigation.

Ke/Hil – Syndrome / Antidrome

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Ke/Hil – Syndrome / Antidrome LP Tesco Organisation 2017

Following on from the excellent second album ‘Zone 0’ (reviewed here), the third Ke/Hil album ‘Syndrome / Antidrome’ has recently been issued (…recorded through 2016 and issued in the first month of 2017).  In then referencing the broad commentary of the first two albums regarding the failings of contemporary social engineering, there were also a variety of ‘clues’ presented in the artwork (…i.e. images, text and maps), which referenced the German city of Mannheim (…the original home town of at least one project member). On ‘Syndrome / Antidrome’ this established concept has been further expanded to focus on global urban trends – and to quote from the promo-blurb: “All indicators point in one direction. Starting at “Hellstation” towards “Zone 0”, passing buildings whose true purpose is less based on functionality than on degeneration. To degenerate the population, painting them pictures of would could but never will be. Concrete ravines, which are not made to live in, much more to delineate. The cries of the “Prekariat” drowned with the play and song of the theatres. A city as you find it everywhere, marked by the pleasures of the people, covered by wishful thinking, yet full of Babylonian arrogance”.  As for the musical content ‘Syndrome/ Antidrome’ is a colder and more clinical beast and more of an industrial soundscape style, thus perhaps slightly less immediate in impact when compared to heavy electronics focused ‘Zone O’. Yet equally the general sense of alienated despair remains steadfast, if not here being entirely amplified.

‘When Comes Such Another’ opens proceedings with a static hum and burrowing invasive drones, while a slow rhythmic thrum throbs beneath and sporadic mechanized voices swirl off in the distance. The following ‘Farmed Flesh’ then constitutes a disorientating assemblage of static fissures, wailing alarms, layered radio chatter and detached observational styled vocals, while ‘The Trite of Life’ follows a similar style but is slightly more subdued fashion. On  ‘My Soul Is Dead’ the excellent musical base features dynamic structures of buzzing static and stuttering mechanized loops, while W.Herich’s deadpan spoken and echo treated vocals are of note, given they broadly mirror those used on Genocide Organ’s ‘Conditio Humana’ from ‘In-Konflkts’. ‘Designed Poverty’ then features a tightly wound coil of slow grinding rhythmic throb and heavy bass reverb, while ‘Men to Drone’ with its treated ‘TV sports commentator’ samples, dour minor keyed synth layers, wonky rhythm and sermon like spoken vocals very much achieves a dystopian “big brother is watching” tone.

Given the noted shift away from a focused track orientated ‘heavy electronics’ sound (as was captured on ‘Zone 0’), ‘Syndrome / Antidrome’ sees Ke/Hil further diversifying their approach, without loosing the core essence of what can now be recognized from the project. Yet then seemingly in defiance of the muted material which precedes it, the final album track ‘Clear Sight On No Land’ explodes from the speakers with the most direct track of the album with wavering invasive tones, pounding atonal beats and driving/ grinding distortion to concludes the album on a hard and heavy note.  Despite this deviation, ‘Syndrome / Antidrome’ is an album focused on industrial soundscapes as a backdrop to deadpan lyrical observations of the greater ills, isolation and alienation of modern urban living.  In noting the general roughness in tone, the cold and clinical soundscapes are also meticulous constructed for sonic complexity, where a sporadic and off kilter chaotic edge is used for maximum unsettling effect. The overarching result is that ‘Syndrome / Antidrome’ is one of few albums that really nails that particular atmosphere of darkly hallucinogenic industrial which SPK first evoked on ‘Information Overload Unit’ some 36 years ago now (..and is clearly not a comparison to made flippantly). Released in an addition of 500 vinyl copies (…2 marginally different covers of 250 each) and cassette edition, this is another mandatory release from the project.

Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light

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Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light CD Malignant Records 2016

For those who missed the original LP version released by Freak Animal also in 2006 (…perhaps due to the limitation of 300 copies, or maybe vinyl is not the preferred format?), Malignant Records have been kind enough to quickly reissue this on CD.

Not to repeat the original review (which can be located here), this is an excellent album and one of the best of last year. To then quote the conclusion of the full review: “Without being in any way derivative, ‘Behind Blinding Light’ is a strong, focused and sonically diverse industrial/ power electronics release which demonstrates full control over its sonic elements, both in the recording and their construction”.

All elements of the original artwork are included here, but reformatted in the guise of a 8 panel fold over digi-pack. In a word: recommended.

Altarmang – Void / The Solar Zine – No.2

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Altarmang – Void MC / The Solar Zine – No.2 Hypnagoga Press 2016

Although I have not previously come across Hypnagoga Press, they are a small independent Swedish record label and publishing house, being run by siblings Pär and Åsa Boström as an outlet for their own creative works (…and close affiliates).  This particular release combines a cassette by Altarmang, which is only available with issue No.2 of The Solar Zine.

To speak of The Solar Zone No.2, this constitutes a small 20 page A5 ‘booklet’ printed on textured card stock and features: a number of brief interviews; details of future publishing plan/ music releases; obscure artworks; images of winter landscapes etc.  An interview with Kenneth Hansson and Pär Boström of Altarmang then functions to highlight the recording process employed on the ‘Void’ tape; while the short interview with Primeval Vision (…aka the design / packaging side business of Aural Hypnox), also ties in with ‘Void’ release (…given they designed and screen printed the tape’s cardboard cover/ outer casing). Although not overly long, The Solar Zine is artistically refined and archaic in aesthetic, which brings to mind that special ‘obscure and esoteric’ feel of the newsletters issued by the likes of Cold Meat Industry and Dark Age Productions back in the mid to late 1990’s (…a visual feast if you will).

To then turn attention to the audio context of the ‘Void’ tape, this features a single lengthy track on each side of the tape, which is self-described as: “intuitive reel-to-reel tape storytelling, herbal alchemy and ceremonial surrendering”. More specifically the sound featured is not too far away from the atmosphere of many Aural Hypnox releases albeit ‘Void’ is certainly more drone and dark ambient focused overall (…and lacks any overt ritual/ percussive elements that a comparison to Aural Hypnox might suggest).  ‘Sulpher’ leads off side A, with a slow pace and layers drone elements which slowly rise out of the murky background. Cyclic and oscillating in form, the sound gradually elevates to a more tonally forceful frame of reference.  With a brooding and meditative tone spanning the 19 minute span, there is however one ‘mid-toned’ wavering sound element which is perhaps slightly too prominent and distracting (…but equally is perhaps explained by the improvised nature of the initial recordings).  ‘Aether’ then features on side B as a 15 minute track which is more ghostly and darkly ethereal in scope.  Containing lighter ‘distant’ elements (…female voices? …male chants? …not quite sure…), which are grounded with lower ranged bass toned drones. As with the first, the piece gradually elevates in tonal force, where the piece allows full sonic immersion and ultimately meditative result. Although both tracks have their own character and particular strengths, ‘Aether’ is clearly the pick of the two.

Of specific note is the special level of care and attention to detail applied to be both tape and zine, which makes them worth tracking down for their physical manifestation, but with the limitation to a mere 50 copies this is potentially already out of print.  Yet with respect of the ‘Void’ recording, this can still be obtained digitally and evidently is going to be repressed on vinyl in 2017 via Autarkeia.

Young Hustlers ‎– Encaged

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Young Hustlers – Encaged MC Skuggsidan 2016

Young Hustlers are a new Swedish power electronics project who have just issued their debut cassette ‘Encaged’ – a single sided release, limited to a mere 100 units.  With the image on the cover then revealing two balaclava clad individuals (…one wielding a spiked baseball bat and the other wielding a cigarette with serious attitude), there should be no illusions of what to expect.  But if you do need a hint, Young Hustlers have effectively armed themselves with an approach which is a ‘direct channeling’ of traditional power electronics comparable to the likes of the Grey Wolves, Survival Unit, early Genocide Organ etc.

Prior to this cassette, the group immediately caught my attention with their debut track ‘On The Bloody Fields’, which was released online in August, 2105 (…although it did come to my attention until around March, 2016).  That track is also featured here as the opening cut, being a simple but oh so effective piece of shuddering synth loops, buzzing static and distant but heavily ‘wet’ processed vocals.  The second piece ‘Police Bastard’ is equally powerful (…if not more forceful), with its central ‘wailing alarm’ rhythmic element and elevated upfront vocals (…and with good reason these first two tracks would have constituted a pretty much perfect double a sided power electronics 7’ep). With its sound firmly established via the first 2 tracks, the remaining 4 tracks do not deviate hugely from the chosen path, relying on combinations of simple but direct, analog derived, shuddering machine rhythms, layered crumbling distortion and the obligatory flange processed and antagonistically delivered vocals (…one selected track includes a classical music sample for slight variation). To then reference the final track ‘Scene Cleaners’, it manages to reach the same peaks as the opening two and involves a ferocious attack of dive-bombing oscillations, heady distortion and yet another turgid vocal barrage.

With 3 top notch tracks and 3 other decent (…if perhaps more typical) tracks, all in all ‘Encaged’ proves to be a strong debut and will be of clear interest to see how the project evolves from here.