Terror Cell Unit ‎– God Took Everything Away From Us So Now We Will Take Everything From You

Terror Cell Unit God Took Everything Away From Us So Now We Will Take Everything From You LP In Solace Publishing 2019

Although issued in 2019, God Took Everything… is not a new recording from Terror Cell Unit; rather it is a reissue of a 30-minute cassette issued on Unseen Force in early 2018, where the four tracks swing from brooding mood to bristling tension.

With Isaiah 34 opening the album, it warrants consideration of the title’s biblical reference: in this context it can be surmised as Isaiah’s apocalyptic prophecy of God’s wrath against the nations of the earth. Unintelligible vocals introduce the track, before a plague of buzzing textures and maudlin synth lines bulk out the sonic frame. Things then ramp up mid-track with wailing alarms, pummeling bass, and noise-speared vocals for good measure. Perdition is next and uses simple oscillating bass heavy layers for direct impact, and again mid-track veers off in style and sound with stilted semi-rhythmic distorted noise. With this track acting as a bridge to Side B, the flip side opens with a completely storming track, God Chose Us, featuring grinding bass, muted synths, wavering drones, and urgent Morse code sonics. Here the first line of the brutal and unhinged vocals features a lyrical cry of “All things are possible through Jesus Christ. Love and Hate. Hate for you and the world you love”, and this seals the deal of this being blood-boiling material. But in balancing this aggressive and tensile mood, the heavier elements soon fall away to a lengthy brooding section of tensile heavy electronics, including wailing sirens, dialogue samples, and the return of an unhinged vocal barrage late in the track. On the final track God Will Forgive Us But God Will Never Forgive You is (again) split into two distinct parts, where the first is brooding and subdued, with controlled bass-driven loops and muted synths, gradually building with tensile intent before ramping up to squelching noise and a vocal barrage processed to the point of unrecognizability – again delivering the goods.

Noting that I became acquainted with this in quick succession to the Psalm 137:9 LP, this is another Terror Cell Unit release that absolutely delivers in spades. Strongly recommended.

 

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Geography of Hell – 19 September 1985 Mexico City / 19 September 2017 Central Mexico

Geography of Hell – 19 September 1985 Mexico City / 19 September 2017 Central Mexico MC Hospital Productions 2019

The mysterious collective Geography of Hell have built up quite a reputation since 2008 despite little promotion and difficulty in getting their releases. The six cassettes and one 2xLP have mostly been issued on Hospital Productions (except for one tape on Lust Vessel), all of which have quickly sold out and are extremely difficult to track down given few people seem interested in on-selling them. In fact this new cassette is the first physical release from the project I have managed to obtain.

With the concept revolving around focusing on particular global disaster events, this new two track, 30-minute tape focuses on two major earthquake events in Mexico that occurred on the same date but 32 years apart. The first track features thick and laborious industrial noise which borders on being muted instrumental heavy electronics. Heavy waves of shuddering bass are blended with sustained mid-toned atonal noise textures. The overall mood is one of barren, windswept soundscapes of ebbing and flowing textures, which gradually builds in intensity over the 15-minute duration. The second track mines similar sonic territory to the first, with a controlled slow crawling pace. The inclusion of a rolling looped beat provides added forward movement and pacing. Again the thick low-end bass and full breadth of sound in the balance of the mix makes for an engaging result.

Overall this tape is far more sedate than other material I have heard from the project, and certainly leaning towards the ambient side of things. But the attention to detail and layering of material is evident and makes for very engaging listening. Packaging-wise, the black shell cassette is housed in a poly-bag with fold-out poster sleeve providing further visuals around the tape’s theme.

Terror Cell Unit ‎– Psalm 137:9

Terror Cell Unit Psalm 137:9 LP Bacteria Field ‎2018

Terror Cell Unit have been rather active in recent years and of the 11 releases issued since 2014, six were issued in 2018 and 2019 alone. Psalm 137:9 has functioned as my introduction to the project, being a strongly themed, high-caliber power electronics release. With the project being an American duo of Mackenzie Chami and Samuel Torres, it is quite apparent they are inspired by the UK/European ‘cultural terrorist’ approach to power electronics, but equally have ample elements to put their own stamp on this sound.

This release, based on track titles, cover images, and dialogue samples, is concerned with Timothy James McVeigh and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, which killed 168 people (including 19 children – 14 of whom are pictured on the album cover). Further information on different elements of this incident, details of American white supremacist movements, and associated government responses such as Operation Cleansweep, are also provided via dialogue samples, additional sleeve images, and inserts. Given this thematic focus, it then specifically warrants consideration of the album’s title of Psalm 137:9 noting that this psalm states: “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” While some theological interpretations say it is intended to mean a desire for justice through the metaphorical death of one’s enemies (this explanation also expressly ignores the practice during biblical times of conquering forces killing infants to sever the bloodline of their adversaries), clearly this is not the context in which it has been employed here.

The album opens with Suicide Mission Part I (Planning) which is a throbbing, seething, mass of throbbing bass, dive-bombing textures, and raw vocals processed beyond recognition, with a similar mood following through to Suicide Mission Part II (Executing The Operation) which is fleshed out with a documentary sample regarding the ease of accessibility of firearms within America. Vocals are courtesy of Mackenzie Chami (also of Koufar) and are strong and distinct, but perhaps in the context of Terror Cell Unit a greater degree of echo and distortion treatment has been employed (which makes the vocals less overtly prominent than their presentation in Koufar). Fear God/Hate Man functions to elevate the mood with its framework of mid-paced swaying rhythmic loops, fiercely framed mid to higher pitched distortion, and heavily processed ragged vocals. Psalm 137:9 is even more unhinged, with rough structures, buzzing noise, and vocals repeating the psalm of the track’s title. In stepping down a touch on the ‘machine idling’ pulse of Swine Feasting On Their Merchants, the vocals are processed to the point of resembling a pig’s squeal, and later replaced with samples of squealing swine. Patriot’s Day further fleshes out the themes of the release through documentary dialogue samples, which are backed by elevating layered distortion that builds to a chaotic sonic mass. In closing the album, When The Chickens Come Home To Roost commences with the emphatically screamed lyric of “we only say what the bible says”, before launching into a blistering and shuddering track of barely contained revving loops and general sonic mayhem. Fantastic stuff.

Being sonically strong and thematically unflinching, this is an excellent modern power electronics release. Although clearly not reinventing the wheel, there are ample sonic hallmarks and compositional techniques that give Terror Cell Unit a sound of their own. Likewise, attitude and aggression play a big part in whether this sort of material works or not, but given that Terror Cell Unit have both of this in spades, the project are shaping up to be a favorite new discovery – albeit I am clearly late to the party. Recommended.

Die Sonne Satans ‎– Metaphora

Die Sonne Satans ‎– Metaphora LP AnnapurnA 2018

The Italian Dark Ambient project Die Sonne Satans is a name I have always been familiar with, but only ever heard their track on the Slaughter Productions Death Odours compilation of 1994, which was was a moody dark ambient piece, with a minimalist cinematic horror music flair. Although the project issued three formal releases from 1993 to 1995 (including two tapes on Slaughter Productions), they effectively passed me by.

In its original form, Metaphora was the first release from the project, and was issued in 1993 via Old Europa Cafe as a split tape with Runes Order, which I have obviously not heard until now. With mention of the minimalist cinematic horror slant above, this is in fact substantially elevated here, and particularly based on the slow tolling church bells, distant orchestral melodies, owl calls and crepuscular voices open the album on The Garden of Hydra. Other tracks feature muted melodious loops, sweeping tones and ritual percussive textures, and create a tensile atmosphere as a result (refer Body Snatcher, Spiritwood). Source stands apart with its darkly whimsical synthetic orchestral strings, blended with aquatic tones textures for sublime result. Side B brings continues the obscure and moody atmospherics, with Orbis mining tensile catacomb ambience, while The Venerable returns to sacral ambient spheres through the use of slow tolling church bells, loops and treated choir vocal textures, orchestral tinged synth lines and solo piano line. Advent constitutes a more driving and dominant sub-orchestral composition structured with a variety of fragmentary loops, while the final track Pleurotomaria (originally taken from a 1992 tape compilation) returns to a floating darkly cinematic terrain, with floating disembodied vocalisations.

With a dour mood and obscure melancholy which is characteristic of early 1990’s industrial / dark ambient scene, the music lives and breathes with subtle vibrancy, whereas modern computer versions of the same type of material usually come across sound flat and lifeless. Although clearly of the era in which it was created and recorded this is not some mere nostalgia trip, given Metaphora can stand above much of what is released in dark ambient spheres today. This is a fantastic release, and huge credit needs to be extended to AnnapurnA for reissuing this underground obscurity.

Puce Mary ‎– The Drought

Puce Mary The Drought LP Pan 2019

Already three years since the release of the excellent album The Spiral (reviewed here), Frederikke Hoffmeier’s new Puce Mary album has finally been released. Although technically speaking the digital version of the album was available in October 2018, the vinyl version was plagued by delays and not released until April 2019. While not being entirely clear as the to the reason for the delay, it has been absolutely worth the wait to have this on vinyl.

In building upon the template of the last album, The Drought is another standout and it is a joy to behold the meticulous way in which Frederikke approaches noise as a compositional element to build tension. Each track is distinct in stylistic character, where sound elements are constructed for maximum impact: sustained noise comes to resemble shrill orchestral strings, while grinding bass loops and abstracted monolithic thuds provide vague rhythmic structures. Compositions are carefully layered to ratchet up the tension, as is expertly displayed on A Feast Before The Drought which runs a knife’s edge through to an explosive crescendo. To Possess Is To Be In Control charts slightly new territory by commencing with an almost modern classical tone and confessional spoken vocals, but soon enough the sound veers off into a tensile high-calibre industrial track. A similar nod to an experimental modern classical tone extends throughout the second half of the album, covering tracks such as Red Desert, Coagulate, The Size of Our Desire and The Transformation, where synth elements give the impression of shrill orchestral strings. But even with these shrilly melodious semi-orchestral moments, the compositions do not forgo scattered micro-tonal noise and pummelling industrial elements. Likewise, the mid-paced throb and sweeping distortion of Fragments Of A Lily has an undeniable fist-pumping quality, and the album concludes with Slouching Uphill, another expertly executed track of elevating tension and subsequent emotive release.

As an artist Frederikke Hoffmeier displays absolute mastery of her craft, and in the process has developed a sound which is immediately recognizable and wholly her own. Building on what has come before, but also pushing her sound further into uncharted territory, makes for another stunning and absolutely mandatory album.

Proiekt Hat – XXIII

Proiekt Hat – XXIII 7” EP XN Recordings 2019

The rather illusive Proiekt Hat has returned to the Italian cult label XN Recordings and, based on the minimal presentation and title, this seems to be the third in a series on the label. When this release was announced the promo text indicated these two tracks were older recordings from the project, but the cover provides no further detail on this.

The first track Freeloader encapsulates a grey-hued sonic aesthetic with cavernous depth and thickly grinding machine oscillations and wavering bass tones. Laboured but also minimally animated it delivers a grim post-mortem atmosphere as an expectantly good track from the project. Iron Lung Cancer features on the flip side and without doubt is an extremely divergent track for the group. The first thought that went through my mind when hearing this was ‘This sounds like Proiekt Hat doing Kraftwerk’ and, as the saying goes, often first impressions are the correct one. Here archaic modular synth loops intertwine in very animated and uptempo form – albeit wonky and off kilter. Some more atonal elements sit underneath, but these very much take a back seat to the pulsing and driving forward momentum of the track. Being a sound I would have never expected from the project, it is a great track all the same.

To mention the cover, the minimal presentation mirrors the beautiful attention to detail which is characteristic of XN’s productions, while an inside image hints at strong anti-American imperialism sentiments. Although this 7” EP was far from cheap (in both cost and postage), there are no qualms about this based on the final product.