Kommando RJF – untitled

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Kommando RJF – untitled MC Styggelse / Chefsideologens Bolag 2014

Originally released as part of super limited edition boxset of the ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’ album (reviewed here), a few copies have now been issues as a separate and standalone release.

Featuring material from the same album recording session, this tape contains a couple of unreleased tracks as well as alternative versions of main tracks, so it can very much be considered an an addendum ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’. So what this means in a sonic capacity, is it delivers crude analogue power electronics that wavers between the aggressive and the morbid.  Spitting static, dank analogue vibrations, sustained synth textures, agonized/ roared vocals and a heavy doses of reverb are the main elements of approach.  ‘Fuck Rehab’ leads off and is as strong as anything on ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’ where the wailing vocals given it a perfect unhinged edge, whilst on ‘Those About to Die’ draws its agonized tone out over a 9 minute stretch.

Given that ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’ should be an easier release to track down and is the main album, that should obviously be the first point of reference, but if that amounts to an obsessively positive listen (which it should), look no further than making the effort to locate a copy of this – a 6 track, 32 minute excursion into the depths of morbid Swedish underground power electronics.

Vhril – Vortex Psysynthesis

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Vhril – Vortex Psysynthesis CD Old Captain 2016

For this release Old Captain have seen fit to resurrect an obscure recording from Ulex Xane and John Murphy under the ‘Vhril’ banner, which was originally issued in 1993 via Ulex’s Zero Cabel tape label, and noting the timing of this release in mid-2016, it then fittingly coincides with the feature interviews with both in noise receptor journal issue no.4.  To firstly provide a short synopsis of the album’s thematic focus, an excerpt from Ulex’s liner notes states: “Vhril explored the esoteric concept of the Vril topos, the Black Sun and Thulean paths in an improvisational ritual setting”. Musically speaking, ‘Vortex Psysynthesis’ can then be bracketed under a ritual ambient / ritual industrial frame of reference.

On the opening track ‘Transcosmic Mutations (The Vile Vortices), it is a loose and long-form piece, featuring tensile analogue drones, and rhythmic clatter/ muffled rumble and wailing ‘air raid’ styled sirens, which in part bring to mind the most subdued instrumental elements of Streicher (…and particularly on the first half of the track).  However what completely sets the atmosphere apart is the array of gongs, Tibetan singing bowls, sparse percussive elements and oil barrel thuds etc. which all coalesce with ritualised intent.  Two shorter 5-8 minute pieces form the album’s centre (‘Sedona 1’ and ‘Sedona 2’), are tonally similar in that they are both calm and understated atmospheric works of shimmering ‘cosmic’ textures, and scattered ritual percussion, which could also perhaps be more flamboyantly described as ‘psychic emanations from the void’. On the fourth and final piece ‘Ipsissimum’, although skirts perilously close to a ‘new age’ sound (given its use of water samples, chimes, accordion and woodwind tune, distant wailing/ chanted female vocals etc.), it sidesteps being overtly twee by maintaining a darker and sparsely abstract sound.

Noting the four album pieces span the subtle and abstract through to track segments which are more driving and forceful, the overall sound and atmosphere maintain a meditative quality throughout, yet equally the first track is the clear standout in terms of focus and complexity of execution.  Given that Old Captain have been doing an exceptional job at digging up and re-releasing some exceptional underground obscurities of the past decades, this Vhril CD is no exception.

Inanna – Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI

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Inanna – Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI DCD Old Captain 2016

To start with a quick history lesson: Archon Satani were a Swedish duo of Mikael Stavöstrand, and Tomas Pettersson who operated in the early 1990’s, before Tomas Pettersson departed to start Ordo Equilibrio and Mikael Stavöstrand continued solo as Archon Satani, whilst also recording as Inanna (…before folding both projects by the late 1990’s).  After personally picking up on Archon Satani in the mid 1990’s I have always been a particularly a big fan of their haunting satanic hymns (aka dark ritual/ industrial soundscapes).  Conversely from what I heard of Inanna at the time, it just did not capture the same essence as what attracted me to Archon Satani.  With that background context out of the way, admittedly I had never heard ‘Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI’ until now, given it had passed me by at the time by being released prior to picking up on Archon Satani (…for its original edition it was issued in 1992 on Sound Source – a short lived side tape label of Cold Meat Industry – in 200 copies on 2xMC).  So whilst I was aware ‘Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI’ to be considered as a ritual death ambient classic, I had not previously paid much mind to this, based on my earlier impressions of Inanna.  This view has been completely revaluated now I have heard ‘Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI’ in its re-released DCD edition.

Essentially (to this ear), ‘Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI’ draws from the best elements ritual ambient linage of earliest Archon Satani (…but perhaps even more mysterious and obscure).  Obviously on later releases Mikal would push Inanna into slightly differing sonic realms, but on ‘Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI’ it amounts to classic obscure toned ritual ambient/ death industrial of the highest order. Evidently the original analogue recordings were un-mastered, and have been reproduced here without any further updating/ remastering, which is means its densely muffled and obscure aura remains for full effect.

Instilled with equal measures of obscurity and dread, this release hits its mark perfectly.  The soundscapes presented across the 16 tracks and total play time of around 2 hours effectively play out as variations of the sound akin to arcane ritual in progress, but heard from afar given the distant muffled tone. Broadly speaking the sound features a desolate and cavernous aesthetic which draws in clanging metallic rhythms, sporadic ritual percussive drumming, plodding atonal piano, sub-orchestral resonances, classical music looped samples, unintelligible dialogue/ sermon/ choir samples etc., which are all mixed into eerie haunted soundscapes instilled with strong ritual intent and atmosphere (…even the looped ritualized re-working of John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ which closes out Disc 1 works – which by description alone should not work at all).

Without putting too much of a point on it: this is a grand and welcomed reissue of a classic release, where even I have been surprised by the obsessive listening I have given this since obtaining a copy. Packaging is slick and understated DCD fold out digi-pack, in an edition of 200 to mirror that of the original pressing.  Don’t make this mistake and miss this new edition, as it is unlikely to stick around for long.

Alfarmania – Vid Sömnens Sista Tråd

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Alfarmania – Vid Sömnens Sista Tråd MC Styggelse 2016

This is a less limited tape edition of the impossible to find 7”ep released by 8EMINIS in a ridiculous edition of 20 lathe cut copies (…I hear a second edition of 20 copies was issued, but I could not validate the truth of that). At least now the music is more widely available given Kristian of Alfarmania has issued another version on tape (with bonus material), via his own Styggelse imprint.

The first track ‘Vid Sömnens Sista Tråd’ features crumbling atonal modulated synth layers, an underbelly of cavernous junk metal chaos and rough vocals barks from the depths of the asylum.  Fantastic stuff.  ‘Kvick I Jord’ is the next track, and features a broadly metallic creaking resonance and interweaving mid to high range wailing/ droning tones, as stilted bass thumbs bed down the loose structure. ‘Lomsk’ is the last of the tracks featured on the 7”ep, consisting of radio channel scanning noise, sustained burrowing textures and spoken samples again pushing atmospheres of dread and unease to the fore.  The bonus material then consists of ‘En Otrampad Stig’, which was originally featured on compilation tape associated with the United Forces of Industrial II festival from 2015.  This track is more stalking in atmosphere, where it take its time in elevating the tone.  Atonal synth loop provides the backing for controlled yet squalling noise and the barked vocals of the mentally deranged, all wrapped up in deep mineshaft tone.  There is also an unlisted 5th tracks, which is evidently an outtake from an earlier ‘Slutstationen’ compilation tape recording session and brings more Alfarmania induced anxiety.

By now you should appreciate what might be expected from an Alfarmania release and this tape delivers as strong material from the project as you should by now expect, which ultimately amounts to classic Alfarmania ‘post-mortem’ paranoia.  Double sided fold out J card with suitable imagery rounds out the tape nicely, and the slogan of “No To New Support” is a nice attitude and sentiment.

Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism III

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Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism III CD/ DVD The Epicurean 2016

This has been announced as the final compilation in the series, which specifically commemorated the 2016 edition of the Epicurean Escapism Festival held in Berlin on 27 & 28 May, 2016 (…an event I had hoped to attend but unfortunately did not eventuate). As with earlier editions in the compilation series, the contents seek to draw together elements of music, video and artwork presented during the festival event.  On the musical front, it features an easily digestible number of tracks, consisting if single tracks from seven performing artists.  A quick run-down on each includes:

  • Noting the ‘infamy’ surrounding early Sutcliffe Jugend output, rather than continuing with over the top harshness and aggression, the project has instead pushed into more diverse experimental realms. ‘Amuse Boche’ is an example of this approach being an industrial soundscape of tribal-esque rhythmic structures, layered noise and vocals ranging from spoken to shrieked. As I have not really kept up with current output I am not sure if this track is representative of current era Sutcliffe Jugend, but regardless of this it is a pleasing track.
  • Alfarmania are up next and deliver a track of slow stalking paranoia, containing their trademark elements of distant cavernous clatter, wavering atonal synths, buzzing static, plodding bass and ragged agonized vocals, but also featuring a prominent Swedish dialogue sample. With a 12 minute span, the track takes its time to unfurl whilst upping the tension as it proceeds, but is also quite a bit more atmospheric than other more oppressive material from the project. Excellent.
  • Last Dominion Lost offer up the piece ‘To the Master a Long Good Night’, which evokes a twilight ritual industrial soundscape based on stilted percussion, sporadic gongs, scattered electronics debris and garbled spoken voices, (…and with its titled I believe is paying homage to the late John Murphy).
  • Although I am well aware that Nikolas Schreck has a long standing legacy associated with his band Radio Werewolf, they are not to my liking as I have personally never been a fan of material with a goth / rock slant. In solo guise Nikolas Schreck retains quite a flamboyant gothic undertone, where on this track ‘Lord Sutekh’s Dream’, he delivers an earnest song of prominent crooning male vocals and minimalist synth, atmospheric tabla and martial percussive backing. However like Radio Werewolf, the gothic frame of reference means this is simply not a style I am fond of, so there is not much more to say other than this a track for skipping during my repeated listens of this comp (…different styles for different tastes really).
  • Budras follow and shifts the sound back to more pleasing sonic territories. Noting the quite unique sound of the group (which is largely down to the agonized gruff vocals), here the track features a blend of rather unusual, droning atmospheres, industrial soundscapes and their now trademark vocal presentation.
  • Gerechtigkeits Liga follow and after a short rather throw-away ‘casio keyboard intro’, the track leaps headlong into an excellent ‘post mortem’ style composition. With a murky, lo-fi and blown out sound, there is a sense of a basic looped structure, but heavily layers to achieve complexity.  An excellent offering.
  • Skin Area then have the distinction of rounding out the CD, with a strong 10 minute track, here featuring a long form muted industrial noise soundscape. With a muffled and distant tone, the piece builds with rising static and forceful drones, as Martin Bladh’s strained vocals echo forth from the far background.  Building to a mid-track crescendo, the pieces then falls back to calmer and sonically open territory for the remainder of the track.

As with earlier editions, the cover is beautifully presented as a colour multi-page page booklet, including a selection of lyrics, text and art from contributing projects and which complements the musical content perfectly.  A notable inclusion is an essay by Uwe Schneider on the conceptual underpinnings of Dave Phillip’s work, which ties in with his performance and screening of video works at the 20016 Epicurean Escapism Festival.  Although Dave Phillips is not featured on the musical compilation, he is dedicated his own stand-alone DVD with the banner title of ‘Proceed With Inquiry’, which features specific video works, footage of prior live performances and another series of video art collaborations.  While there is a huge wealth of material to go through, a single video stands out as the critical centerpiece, while the rest can be considered as additional complimentary material.  This main work in (entitled simply ‘Video Action’) is a 20 minute video work which ties seamlessly with the accompanying experimental industrial soundwork. Musically the piece is framed around sharp sonic editing of micro-tonal textures, overblown distortion, atonal piano chords, multiple higher pitched sounds pushed to disharmonic orchestral intensity and treated ‘voices’ (both human and animal).  The piece has a strong and focused concept, where text and images which are edited with razor sharpness to outline a grim analysis of man’s development and technological advancement and the impact it has had on our humanity and our treatment of animals and the environment, and the broader sentiment of mankind being out of balance with a sustainable use of the earth’s resources.

A large part of the visual material focuses on the industrial nature of our society, coupled with the mistreatment of animals in the mechanized meat production industry and a consequence of such technological development.  To highlight just a few of the statements which personally resonated with me, these included: “The despair of our culture and civilization should be defeated by acts of total honesty”; “Cynicism is a popular defense mechanism”; and “Our technology has exceeded our humanity” (which of interest clearly implicates everyone with the use of the word ‘our’).  But for its unflinching gaze and the brutality of aspects of the subject matter, this seems to be used with clear intent to shock the viewer out of complacency and to highlight a central message of respect for ALL animal life.  The video also functions as a broader call to arms, but also does not offering any simple or easy solutions, other than to take personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s own choices and the wider implications those choices have.  To then make sure the message of ‘Video Action’ is not lost, the DVD is armed with subtitles in 9 different languages.  With a general observation that there is a lot of thematically derivative material circulating within the underground, Dave Phillips’ work is refreshing in its directness, solid conceptual framing and and immediacy of its impact.

As with earlier editions in the Epicurean Escapism series, this is another fantastically realized musical and visual set that can either constitute an excellent ‘stand-alone’ document, or a memento the 2016 Epicurean Escapism Festival event.

Zyklon SS – Iron Division

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Zyklon SS – Iron Division MC Der Bunker 2016

‘Iron Division’ has been recently released on the artist’s own newly launched label ‘Der Bunker’ and sees Zyklon SS operating in very direct and powerful style, which builds upon and steps up from the material which has preceded it.

By pulling back slightly on the junk metal sound of earlier releases, whilst also replicating the hallmarks of a mid-90’s German power electronics/ heavy electronics vein, this tape is without doubt an extremely powerful one.  Drenched in analogue atmospheres, the end result is suitably punishing, whereas the sound production contains a clear tonal separation of its layers.  Generally speaking the tracks are constructed with a straightforward but very effective approach, which include: slow thumbing ‘oil barrel’ type beats, crude loops, shuddering bass and interweaving/ wavering/ synth lines to create a broad battlefield ambience. Vocals also take a central role as proclamations with a slight flanged treatment and being mixed upfront, whilst samples scattered throughout also flesh out its themes of racial disharmony, conflict and oppression.  Admittedly some tracks skirt quite close to an early sound of Genocide Organ, but when executed with such flair as is demonstrated here, this is no qualm at all.  As for particular standouts, the queasy and drilling intensity of ‘Bring Back the Camps’ is one, as are ‘Urteil’ and ‘Devil’s Guard’, which feature variations on a militant attitude, with strong and focused tracks of wavering synths and percussive industrial thuds.

Given that ‘Iron Division’ features 8 tracks it amounts to a full length ‘cassette only’ album, but when of this calibre it is highly unlikely to remain on cassette only, as before too long surely someone will opt to press this on vinyl. (…here’s hoping).

Shocktilt Magazine – Issue 2#

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Shocktilt Magazine – Issue 2# Styggelse 2016

Back in 2006 the first issue of Shocktilt was published (spanning 2 separate volumes in A5 at 80 pages each), with a tagline of: “a publication devoted to the more extreme aspects of the 80s cassette-culture”.  For whatever reason at the time I initially snoozed on tracking down a copy, and then when I did, it had already sold-out and is now impossible to find (attention: if anyone has a copy lying around they want to get rid of, please drop me a line).  Having regretted this lapse of judgement ever since, I at least now have a copy of issue 2# – published a decade on from the first, which this time is published in A4 format and 64 pages in length.

To compare visual style, whereas noise receptor journal seeks for clean layout and design, Shocktilt skews this with its all-out underground ‘zine visual assault.  With its rough layout and cut and paste ‘artwar’ aesthetic, it harks back to the look and feel of the 80’s industrial underground (…and carries it design aesthetic as a badge of honor).  The design is of course ‘no-frills’ and the binding is no more than two staples along the spine, which again is in line with a ‘back to basics’ ‘zine feel.  Thus with rough layout and crude artwork aesthetic, the attitude of the writing and context is suitably course (…which is meant as a direct compliment).  Also containing of a scrap book mentality of sorts, issue 2# features multiple interviews along with a wealth of ‘archival’ content in the form of reproduced flyers/ artwork (dating through the years to the 80’s) and inserts taken from various releases, along with various previously published and unpublished live photos.

With the small scale of font and the reduced size of archival material, Shocktilt 2# is absolutely jammed packed with artwork, photos and articles from both known underground projects and entities, as well as providing a wealth of information on a range of far more obscure acts, which might otherwise be assigned to the dustbin of history. A selected list of content includes: Deviation Social (interview), Proiekt Hat/ Hatband (interview), Korpes Katatonik/ Zero Kama/ Nekrophile Rekords (archival material), Ulex Xane (interview), John Murphy tribute, Con-Dom (archival material), Genocide Organ (archival material), Grey Wolves (archival material), Thurneman (interview), Blood Ov Thee Christ/ Club Moral (live photos) (…noting there is still FAR more content than listed here).

As for the version I have, it the one released directly by Styggelse, but another version is to published as a part of split issue the French ‘Neons’ ‘zine (where I understand Shocktilt will be printed as a folded A3 to avoid the A4 spine staples).  But as a ‘bonus’ to the Styggelse edition, my copy came with an additional  A5 ‘addendum’ booklet, containing a further selection of flyers, artworks and related content.  Regardless of whichever edition you track down, don’t make the mistake I did with missing Shocktilt 1#. A mandatory printed underground industrial publication.