Nordvargr – Metempsychosis

Nordvargr – Metempsychosis CD Cyclic Law 2018

For any long term reader of my writings on the post-industrial underground, it should be blatantly obvious by now that projects affiliated with the Cold Meat Industry label have constituted a constant thread of my listening choices since the mid 1990’s. This then obviously extends to the numerous musical offerings of Nordvargr which have been issued via his MANY projects over the same period. In then noting his hyper-productivity over his career to date, even in that context the last couple of years appear to have been particularly busy for Nordvargr.  Likewise perhaps another relevant observation to be made, is that over the years Nordvargr has demonstrated continual creative reinventions of his working methods, where old approaches have been discarded in favour of new sounds and approaches within the broader post-industrial underground (and therefore thankfully avoids his output potentially diminishing in impact via a gradual watering down of ideas). Now with reference to Nordvargr’s current creative arc, the focus has been squarely on a ritual death industrial tangent, where Metempsychosis feels to be a culmination of this sound. To this ear, the linage of this new album can be traced in part to the album length EP The Secret Barbarous Names (reviewed here), and elements of the recent collaborations with Margaux Renaudin under the Anima Nostra moniker (reviewed here and here), in addition to drawing in external influences from the vocal led and rhythmic death industrial song based approach of Trepanseringritualen (aka TxRxP). And speaking of the later, Thomas of TxRxP is a vocal contributor on one of the album tracks.

In essence the musical approach encapsulated on Metempsychosis involves somber ritual soundscapes which function as short bridging pieces between the heavily driving and rhythmic/ tribal/ industrial beat driven songs.  In also utilising a perhaps non-typical elements for this sort of material, a bass guitar is prominently featured to provide a throbbing rhythmic undercurrent to match the real drums, ritual percussion and verse/ chorus/ verse gruff vocals. A particularly good example of this mix is on First East, where the bass line is coupled with stoic martial tinged percussion for strongly rousing result. While the bass playing on Salve Teragmon borders on being overtly groovy, it fits neatly with the clanging pounding percussion to create a driving mid-paced furrow, and consequently stands out as one the album’s most recognizable offerings. Sweet Death Triumphant also features as another album standout based on the slow pounding percussion, blaring foghorns, and guttural anthemic repeated chorus, which combine for an absolute immediacy of impact. But rather than that last statement being mere hyperbole, it was literally proven at the Cold Meat Industry 30th Anniversary pre-show, as when Nordvargr played Sweet Death Triumphant live for the first time, the crowd responded with an unscripted sing along (despite no-one having heard the track before that moment it was being played).

Featuring ten tracks in all, and with the use of real instrumentation mixed alongside the synthetic produced elements, it results in the material sounding to be more of a band than solo studio project, and provides a tangible human essence which is sorely missed when music is crated by computer means alone. The sonic quality provided by its real instrumentation and song focused tracks functions to added to the overall listening experience, where this album has proven itself to be engaging album by virtue of being regular rotation over recent months – such is the benefits of being provided with early versions and the final mix well in advance of its formal release date. While it then remains to be seen whether Nordvargr will continue on this creative path, or perhaps again forges off in new directions, it certainly feels as if there is far more creative territory to be covered within this current stylistic approach. But before that question is answered by the next release, Metempsychosis stands as another pinnacle album in the ever-expanding creative cannon of Nordvargr. Vinyl, CD, cassette and digital rounds out the options for format, evidently with slight variations in track listing on each.


Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies CD Death Continues 2017

Australian Mark Groves (he of Von Einem, Dead Boomers, Red Wine and Sugar Absoluten Calfeutrail etc.), has recently launched this new solo project and with Dismal Fantasies being the debut album. Taking some sonic cues from Red Wine and Sugar, the minimalist construction and creepy whispered style of the vocals of that project are both replicated here. Yet sonically Arum Lilies see Mark approaching industrial noise and subdued power electronics from an experimental and almost musique concrete angle. Also, while the project moniker may seem slightly abstract at first, it starts to make more sense when it is discovered that the Arum Lily is also referred to as a funeral flower.

On album opener The Maniac ,minimalist panning static and a morbid bass drone feature prior to the whispered vocals articulating lyrics of psychoanalytical type. The later introduction of maudlin piano melody shifts the mood of the track substantially, which then extends through into the following instrumental cut Erasing the Line. The layered, piecing and invasive whistling noise of Venal Dogs generates far more tensile mood, which in turn matches the lyrical dialogue which addresses a series of internalized thoughts and observations in the first perspective.* Musically speaking I find this piece one of the less successful ones on the album due to its needling and invasive textures, but this impression has far more to do with me avoiding music with tones that mirror my own long suffered tinnitus. Yet despite this personal negative, the sound shifts again on Prostituting Their Ambitions, where scrabbling field recordings and low humming drones provide the basis for fragmented one-line descriptors which gradually builds a picture of a lonely suicide. This general mood then arcs through later third of the album, with the tracks furrowing a sound frames around dour drones, minimalist sustained textures, and wonky piano elements for eerie atmospheric result.

With only seven album tracks, it amounts to a relatively short album (only 38 minutes), yet stylistic diversity is displayed within that run-time. Rather than being aggressive in tone, the overarching mood is unnerving and at times harrowing, and which lyrically function to thematically articulate the malaise and underlying violence of contemporary society from a number of angles. It is also worth noting that through Arum Lilies as well as his other projects, Mark is building quite a strong body of work which is forging a divergent take on the more typical tropes of the post-industrial genre.

* – During the review process I asked Mark whether the image on the back cover was associated with the January, 2017 incident, where Dimitrious Gargasoulas used a car to run down pedestrians in Melbourne Australia, killing six and injuring thirty others.  That impression was confirmed to be correct and it was then highlighted that the lyrics of Venal Dogs were based prior social media posts from Dimitrious, which are very revealing as to his state of mind before the attack. Mark also revealed further conceptual inspiration taken from another notorious Melbourne crime, so for those interested, good luck in potentially working it out from cover images and lyrics.

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist LP Freak Animal 2018

Grunt return three years after Myth Of Blood (reviewed here), and continues the approach of delivering albums containing a collection of distinct and individual tracks. This follows the pattern already set down by World Draped In A Camouflage from 2012 (reviewed here) and continued on Myth Of Blood. As such Castrate The Illusionist can be considered as effectively rounding out a trilogy of releases, featuring unhinged, noise infused power electronics of the highest caliber.

Of the eleven album tracks are on the shorter side (two to five minutes each), which allows a wide variety of sounds, textures and sonic approaches to be explored. Likewise some quite unexpected sound-sources make an appearance, including a wonky treated accordion sample on The Iron Curtain Of Discreet Silence, which is placed within an instrumental soundscape of clattering junk metal, maudlin choir-esque sustained synths and squelching up front noise. Varied vocals feature across the album, ranging from the rock hard spoken passages to those of the trademark gruff yells and occasional unhinged shrieks.  Of note, the album contains two effective ‘hit songs’, including Hunting Within Civilization and Purge of Violence, both of which rely on heady pulsing textures to generate anthemic fist pumping effect, coupled with raw junk metal smatterings of noise and gruff agonised vocals (…and for the eagled eyed (eared?) both tracks previously featured in live versions on the Swarm of Parasites tape from 2016). Yet to speak of a slight negative, Human Storage seems somewhat out of place among the rest, as it is sonically less resolved overall and feels to be a more of a short, improvised piece.

Beyond describing individual tracks, the general mood and atmosphere oscillates between controlled anger to barely restrained violence, and while there is a clear display of meticulous construction of its varied sound elements, the tone never forges a shredding and raw tonal aesthetic. In an overarching sense Castrate The Illusionist can be considered to be of equal standing to the last couple of albums (as well as the Sacrosanct Imperium EP reviewed here), meaning this is more extremely high calibre material and again demonstrates without question Mikko Aspa’s sonic mastery of his chosen craft.

Abscheu ‎– Pretense

Abscheu Pretense LP Unrest Productions 2017

Although knowing virtually nothing about this project (including even the country of origin), it is again a case of Unrest Productions showcasing young projects who are effectively the new guard of the post-industrial underground. Pretense is the second release from the group, following 2016’ Breviary Of Chaos tape, and while having missed out on the debut, this functions as my introduction to Abscheu and can be quickly heralded as a stellar release.

Although billed as power electronics, the sound of Pretense sits in the militant tinged and industrial infused end of the genre’s sonic spectrum. Six tracks feature on the LP, where the material is framed around a clean and defined mix of scrabbling and unsettled loops, sustained noise, heaving bass thumps and spoken, sonic treated vocal proclamations.  Broadly the sound is stalking and controlled rather than pushing towards unbridled aggression, although the material does build up toward the final title track, which also includes some strong dialogue samples to flesh out the album’s concept *. Given its thematic focus and militant/ tactical sound, an oblique comparison could be made to Genocide Organ’s Under Kontrakt album, albeit here in a more streamlined and direct style. Either way this is a clear indication of the strength of Abscheu’s sound.

Visually speaking, the clean design of the cover illustrates cultural conflict and societal unrest from differing angles, but without lyrics of further detail being presented the listener must engage in detail with the release to better appreciate the themes on display. Without question this is another outstanding release from the Unrest Productions stables and again highlights the label as the current leading underground outlet for uncompromising and expertly executed material.

* – the promo blurb further expands on the concept: “From Europe to Middle East via Sub-Saharan Africa, Abscheu have been watching some of the most determined acts of violence. Studying how bloodthirsty groups wash their hands by adorning their motivation with divine command. Seeing zealots justify murderous wrath by invoking their favorite sacred book whenever necessary. A self-proclaimed court where justice is selectively rendered. A confusing purgatory where hatred is given a legitimacy. A sneaky trickery designed to mislead one’s enemies in the maze of one’s lies. «Pretense» is the exploration of that system from various perspectives. «Pretense» is an unquestionable judgment before men – definitely not before that thing they call god”.

Trapdoor Tapes final batch 2017

Browning Mummery – World of Shells MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Browning Mummery are a long standing and somewhat obscure Australian experimental/ industrial project whose activities dates back to 1983 (including a couple of early tapes issued on the cult Extreme and Zero Cabal labels). Being primarily the creative vehicle of Andrew Lonsdale, the lineup has also sporadically featured the late John Murphy, in addition to the contributions of many others over the years. While not having been necessarily the most active project (and there seeming to be a gap of activity between 1996 and 2008), World of Shells arrives five years after the last full length, and was recorded in 2014 as a collaboration between Andrew Lonsdale and Yvan Volochine The tape features four lengthy compositions to span around an hour of material, where the sound covers some diverse sonic scope within a broad experimental industrial style.

Predominantly the sound of the tape features deep cavernous tones framed around layered washes of muted industrial distortion. Being mid-paced and slightly muted, the tracks surges forwards with idling/ misfiring machines, squiggly sonics and a decent amount of ‘creak, crunch and clang’. By being meticulously layered, there are a multitude of sounds and textures to focus on throughout, and while loosely structured there is still clear composition as play (including some disorientating left/ right channel panning and wonky mid to high toned whistling sonic treatments). Of note, the third track Fibroscan 1 deviates from the rest given it is more meditative drone in execution, where some playful disorienting sonics build to a muted rhythmic thrum and the material coalesces into headier territory.

While not being overtly dark or morbid in tone and quite playful on occasion, World of Shells wears an ‘experimental industrial’ tag like a badge of honour in delivering a worthy release.

Halthan – Live at Obscurex Kontti MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

As per the title of the tape, this is a live set which consists of five distinct tracks spanning around 30 minutes. Crude and back to basics power electronics is the name of the game from this Finnish project who I have not checked out before, despite them being active from around 2004.

In general terms loose rumbling looped structures act as sonic bedrock, while the vocals are spat in an agonised roar and heavily echo/ flange treated to create a result quite reminiscent of those vocals of Survival Unit. Likewise with its thick grinding industrial debris, hollow tonality and repeated semi-buried samples also reminds (positively) of The Grey Wolves approach to lofi industrial noise infused power electronics. As for the recording the sound is raw and slightly distant in feel, which I am not sure if this is down to the recording or is perhaps representative of the live venue sound (as I understand it the venue it was performed in is in fact a metal shipping container, which would no doubt impact on any live sound created and any recording made thereof). Regardless, the sound is still hefty and thick, with the mood being one of subdued anger with occasional aggressive outbursts (i.e. vocals).

Overall this live tape is no frills and lofi, but definitely to the point, and very effective for it.

Kultur Operating P:N:S – Repeat Offense MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Knowing virtually nothing about this project, it seems they are more commonly known as K.O.P., where the three letters are variously used to stand for different interchangeable phases (as per the protocols established by early industrial pioneer SPK). From what information there is available, K.O.P. is a Japanese project active back in 1988 when the first tape was issued, and with a further six tapes, a 7”ep and CD issued through to 1993 before the project disappeared. Now some 25 years later the project has returned with new recordings dating from 2015-2017.

Having not heard earlier material from the project, I can comment on how this sits as a ‘comeback’ recording, but from listening to this the sound is rough, chaotic and crude in a general noise/industrial style, but also leaning more towards a nosier aesthetic.  Twelve tracks spanning around 45 minutes of material features on Repeat Offence, where Some tracks are based around fiercely raw and chaotically overblown distortion which is staunchly analogue (perhaps derived from junk metal sources?). Conversely other tracks are of an apparent digitized source and rapid-fire style, with a clean and sharp sonic tone. Yet to speak of unifying elements, the mood and feel is chaotic and choppy throughout, and where there is limited overtly rigid structure, rather being freeform and amorphous and where tracks abruptly cut out before lurching into the next piece.

With myself personally not being an avid noise listener, it is those compositions which slightly dial down on the higher pitched and harsher overblown textures which (for me) work best (such as the ambient noise mixed with radio chatter which closes out the tape). But equally that description alone will give a clear idea of whether Repeat Offense is right up your ally.

Neurasthenia Psychological Reincarnation MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Neurasthenia ‎is a new Japanese/ Australia collaboration born out of a recording session when Luke Holland (of Armour Group, Mshing, Word Of Life Church SS, Trapdoor Tapes etc.) and Tom Miller (of Word Of Life Church SS, Psychward etc.) toured Japan in September, 2016 and met up with Hiroshi Hasegawa (of C.C.C.C., Astro, Mortal Vision, Nord). According to the notes on the cover, the two tracks on this 60-minute tape (one lengthy track per side) were recording live in a single take and delivers a solid dose of archaic industrial noise.

The title track features on the first side of the tape and steps through a number of distinct passages. Commencing with detailed dynamic noise and spitting/crumbling static, the mood gradually moves towards a passage of hollowed out industrial rumble and the inclusion quasi ritual elements provided by junk metal clatter. Later segments feature crude loops and sparse crumbling textures which resemble the distant thunder of heavy waves. Cardiac Neurosis follows on the flip side and is a more subdued and controlled offering. Initial segments are sparse and cavernous in tone and complimented with ritual chimes, before a rough base of sustained and modulated ‘catacomb’ distortion is set down and gradually tweaked and twisted.  Late sections are further augmented with radio frequency type scanning noise and garbled semi-buried vocals, before ramping up to more chaotic and forceful intent in the final segment.

Given the ‘live in a single take’ method of recording, based on the end results it appears there would have been some clear discussion and pre-planning, as this sounds to be much more than a basic improvised session and particularly given its careful balancing of chaos and restraint (and being able to strategically pull back on the harsher elements throughout the tape for added sonic impact). So, all in all Psychological Reincarnation is a convincing and enjoyable tape in a style which radiates a sound of decades past than anything remotely modern.


Phurpa ‎– Chöd Ritual / Grotta Santarcangelo

Phurpa Chöd Ritual / Grotta Santarcangelo CD Old Europa Café 2017

Phurpa has been a rising name in the underground in recent years, which is somewhat expected given their distinct sound and approach which effectively sees this Russian group performing Bon ritual music in a Tibetan Buddhist tradition. Primarily based around chanted vocals of a Tibetan throat singing style, this is mixed with an array of abstracted and minimal traditional ritual instrumentation including horns, cymbals and various percussive implements. Having previously heard a couple of albums from the group, I was then surprised to discover that they now have 26 releases to their name which have been issued over the past decade. Although I have not been able to confirm it, I have an impression that the majority (if not all) of these releases are straight recordings of live performances, rather than studio albums.

On Chöd Ritual / Grotta Santarcangelo the album features a single track spanning close to 80 minutes, and which displays the sonic hallmarks of being a direct recording of one of Phurpa’s live rituals. Sparse percussive sounds provide a droning introduction to the album, before the low guttural throat singing chants arrive full force at around the two-minute mark, and by this stage the catatonic pacing of the vocal driven soundscapes has been firmly set. On occasion the mood elevates to crashing crescendos of cymbals, deep drawling horns, higher pitched atonal wailing thighbone trumpets and a general subterranean percussive thrum, where structurally these instrumentation driven passages are used to bridge and interlink the sections of the cavernous throat chanted vocals.

Having heard this album, in comparison to the others I have also heard, they are noted to be broadly in the same sonic palate and style, where it raises the question of whether you need to hear more than a couple of albums to gain a decent appreciation of what the collective is about. Personally I have enjoyed the experience of becoming acquainted with Phurpha’s atypical musical style and approach, but equally I perhaps don’t anticipate myself regularly revisiting these albums either. I also suspect that there is a far greater inherent power in being able to hear and experience Phurpa’s music in a live ritual setting, where an element of its sonic impact is likely to be lost in the recorded album format. Whether or not I get the opportunity to see the group perform live remains to be seen, but albums such these album’s do at least provide an opportunity to experience the ritual works of Phurpa.

Linekraft ‎– Apocalypse Factory + Liberated Treatment Area Of Bedlamite

Linekraft Apocalypse Factory + Liberated Treatment Area Of Bedlamite CD/ MC Aussaat 2017

Linekraft is the solo project of Japanese artist Masahiko Okubo but rather than being of a ‘Japanoise’ type, this is raw noise from the industrial end of sonic expression. Appearing to be predominantly derived from rough and ripping junk metal sources, it is assumed the material has been further edited and mixed in a studio setting. Apocalypse Factory is the latest album and is the eleventh release since 2008.

The only material I have previously heard from the project is the Bouryoku Kikai CD from 2012 (reviewed here), with Apocalypse Factory being an effective continuation of a partly composed and partly improvised approach. Each of the seven albums tracks is between four and eight minutes in length, and providing ample variation within an experimental industrial noise style. Apocalypse Factory-1 is an early album standout with multitude of elements including pulsing loops, squelching noise and chaotic sonics which are highly detailed and engaging in its tonal layering (and elevates to nastier intent through the middle and late sections). For variation Polluted Body includes slightly off kilter programming and jumbled dialogue samples, while Public Bondage is another noteworthy piece which flits between wonky loops, burrowing noise and pounding industrial structures.

Liberated Treatment Area Of Bedlamite is 10 minute bonus cassette, limited to 50 copies and only available directly via the record label. Featuring a single track (repeated both sides of the tape), sonically it slightly deviates from the sound found on the parent album. With reference to the title, the word ‘Bedlamite’ is an archaic English word for a lunatic or insane person, and fits nicely with the sonics on offer. Musically speaking it is a sprawling, murky yet overblown mass of sound with semi-buried junk metal clatter, while a deep rhythmic pulse provides depth and cavernous/ windswept atmosphere.

Although Apocalypse Factory leans towards a rough and raw approach rather than a clean and composed sound, it is still not harsh noise by any stretch given it effectively sits at the mid-point between industrial and noise. Displaying a high degree of experimentation in its delivery of raw and energetic industrialized noise, from this description alone it is assumed you will already know if this is likely to be to your liking. But certainly Linekraft embody a sound and approach where you can literally hear both the obsession and commitment of the artist.