Alfarmania – Skräcken

Alfarmania – Skräcken CD Autarkeia 2012

With Alfarmania’s staunchly analogue focus (evidenced by 4 vinyls and 21 cassettes released since 2004), ‘Skräcken’ breaks the mould as Alfarmania’s first digital CD release.  Noting also that Alfarmania have been described as ‘post-mortem / power electronic depravity’, this release is comparatively subdued, leaning toward the post-mortem (aka death industrial) aspects of their sound, yet still maintaining their characteristic oppressive elements.

With regard to conceptual themes at play on ‘Skräcken’, the opening segment includes spoken vocals (Swedish?), which I assume relates to the source inspiration.  From what can be established from the promo blurb (coupled with some additional investigations), ‘Skräcken’ explores a fictional future apocalyptic scenario, based on the current and factual global initiatives of George Soros’ Open Society Institute – such global initiatives which seek to implement drug harm minimisation programs, including specific campaigns to encourage drug addicts to use Methadone and Buprenorphine to combat heroin and other opioid drug withdrawals (…whilst still on the factual side, quite bizarrely the Open Society Institute partly promoted these initiatives were via a ludicrously titled comic book ‘Methadone Man and Buprenorphine Babe’).  Noting that drug themes have played a central focus for Alfarmaina in the past, ‘Skräcken’ represents yet another interesting angle on this theme.

But what of the audio aspects?  Apart from the cover indicating four tracks, in actuality these have been consolidated into a singular and continuous 30 minute composition.  Again noting this is relatively subdued compared to other Alfarmania works, the agenda here seems to be to evoke a tense and slowly building atmospheres, in order to achieve an increasing sense of suffocation, claustrophobia and paranoia as the album progresses.  With a general lack of the chaotic, and noisy junk metal clatter which Alfarmania are known, here multilayered queasy ascending / descending wavering analogue sounds and catatonic pounding pulse provide the platform for Alfarmania’s trademark vocals – distant, slightly distorted and barking in delivery, akin to the ravings and ranting of a lone lunatic from the depths of a cavernous warehouse.   Whilst there are certainly ‘phases’ which this album moves through, it could be said to replicate some sort of drug haze, where the segments shift so slowly that you don’t actually notice the change has occurred.  Yet the concluding album fragment is individually notable, more so due to its differing sparse experimental sound, which offers momentary respite from the claustrophobia which has preceded it.

As with all Autarkeia releases, the package is top notch – pressed on heavy weight cardboard stock for the six panel digi-pack, completed with excellent full colour scrap collage artwork courtesy of Kristian Olsson aka Alfarmania.

Nyodene D / Sektor 304 – split CD

Nyodene D / Sektor 304 – split CD Malignant Records 2012

Two of the heavy hitters of the current Malignant Records roster have teamed up on this release, which comes packaged in the limited box set of Nyodene D’s monster of an album ‘Edenfall’ (read the review of ‘Edenfall’ here).  So what we have on this collaborative release is a total of five tracks spanning 34 minutes (three tracks from Sektor 304 and two from Nyodene D), where each artist has constructed their submitted tracks from source material provided by the other.  In fact to thematically tie in with the parent release, Sektor 304’s tracks have been constructed from sound sources specifically derived from ‘Edenfall’.  So although containing the inputs of two projects, pleasingly the final result is a cohesive collection of tracks which sits somewhere in the middle of their respective sounds.  Yet at the same time the tone does sit closer to Nyodene D’s power electronics/ death industrial sound due to the reduced focus of the trademark heavy industrial and driving percussive aspects of Sektor 304 (…although there are scant smatterings of such elements throughout).

‘The Human Fractal’* commences the CD, which has the feel of a slowly building intro track, consisting of sustained doomy synth layers, slabs of junk metal feedback and scattered percussive elements (both distorted and organic in tone).  ‘All Over All’** steps in next, where Nyodene D puts the brakes on the driving forward motion of Sektor 304’s rhythmic oil barrel percussive sound, morphing it into a mass of distorted noise, looped vocal samples and squalled power electronics vocal attack.  Here the heavy, noise bloated atmosphere is unrelenting over an extended 10 minute duration (…great might I add!).  Although ‘The Shaft’* includes some metallic percussive elements, these tend to not function as a rhythmic driving force, rather are relegated to being one of the many sound layers utilised.  Consequently the track achieves an ominous, staking atmosphere, created via synth drones (which resemble sustained orchestral horns), and spoken vocals partially buried in the mix (…again an excellent track).  ‘Vulture – For Gill Scott-Heron’** is somewhat reminiscent of Ex.Order, built around looped noise elements and flanged vocals, but also achieves a death industrial aura through the militant and heavily echoed, bass pounding beat.  Final track ‘Furnace’* edges towards the percussive sound associated with Sektor 304, where a rhythmic percussive loop sits atop a bed of metallic scrapping textures, pensive drones, and vocals (courtesy of Sektor 304), which build in distortion and intensity over its short length.

Based on the general respect garnered by the contributing artists, in combination with the sheer strength of collaborative material presented here, it seems an absolute shame for this to be limited to a mere 200 copies.  To avoid seething disappointment, grab a copy of the ‘Edenfall’ box set while you can…

* Sektor 304 track

** Nyodene D track

Gnawed – Terminal Epoch

Gnawed – Terminal Epoch CD Phage Tapes 2012

Following a myriad of cassettes, split releases and CDr’s over the last three years, ‘Terminal Epoch’ arrives as the debut album proper from Gnawed (featuring 12 tracks over 51 minutes).  So for those not familiar with Gnawed, they are amongst the current crop of US power electronics/ death industrial artists who have been receiving a fair amount of positive interest in recent years, which includes the likes of Nyodene D, The Vomit Arsonist, Steel Hook Prosthesis etc.  Thus taken from this perspective ‘Terminal Epoch’ presents yet another solid and pulverising release from the US power electronics/ death industrial scene.

Generally speaking I would say that Gnawed are slightly less polished and refined when considered alongside the aforementioned acts, but nevertheless they represent a project which appreciates the means to deliver a forceful album.  Each of the tracks follow a fairly straight forward structure and tend to quickly establish their core elements – distortion, feedback, synth drones, vocals etc – and then loop the formed structures for the length of the track (which range from the shortest at 1.36 minutes to the longest at 7.07 minutes).  Yet as the average length of tracks is in the order of 4 minutes, it seems the modus operandi of Gnawed is to quickly establish the tone of each piece, but not extend it to a length which becomes tedious or otherwise loses impact.  In effect this is somewhat similar to the short, sharp and to the point approach of Ex.Order.

Overall one of the clearest impressions I get from this album is that it achieves an atmosphere which welds the aggressive with the ominous, which is certainly a positive combination.  The multi-layered aspect of sound helps achieve this via an array of elements including: sustained/ fluctuating noise; tense and atmospheric synth layers; scrap metal abuse; drilling distortion etc.  The vocals are also an absolute highlight, presented with a raw, harsh and searing treatment of the power electronics variety.  Ultimately ‘Terminal Epoch’ is a heavy, no frills, and straight to the point power electronics/ death industrial album – and a commendable one at that. Recommended.

Body Cargo / Pogrom – Resistance

Body Cargo / Pogrom – Resistance CD Terror / Cipher Productions 2012

As a split / collaborative release, this thematically focuses on the album’s title, albeit in markedly different contexts as indicated within the promo blub: “This album has united two Lithuanian projects under a theme of resistance. Papua New Guinea cannibals’ resistance against outsider effects is different from resistance of interwar period Lithuanian guerrillas, but you can find these associations on a musical plane, and Body Cargo and Pogrom each present their own interpretations”.  Regarding the format, both acts are well suited to this pairing as they travel very similar sonic terrains.   Here each act provides four tracks in addition to two collaborative tracks for good measure (each provides vocals for a track of the other).

Body Cargo is up first and although billed as ‘post-mortem’, they effectively deliver death industrial at its most lo-fi and dirty, where echoed, muddied and morbid analogue sonics are the order of the day.  ‘Black Smoke Obelisks’ provides an extended nightmare of muffled factory drones and croaked deathly vocals over what may or may not be sonically buried orchestral / radio samples.  ‘Gutpath’ presents a more forceful framework, consisting of a malfunctioning conveyor belt type rhythmic element, various distortions layers and a sampled / looped tribal chanted vocal for good measure. Alternately ‘Sacred is all Red’ presents a more meditative, muffled and windswept industrial / drone piece.  For Body Cargo’s final track (and the first collaborative track with Pogrom on vocals), is ‘Resistance (Survival Method)’, which delivers a great multi-textured death industrial piece of swelling / driving layers, vague pounding rhythms and waiving distorted vocal lurking within the sonic mass.

Moving on to Pogrom’s half, they approach their sound with a little more vigour, pushing their tracks towards a power electronics tone, but still sheathed in a heavy dose of muffled lo fi production. ‘Resistance (Guerrilla Method)’ is Pogrom’s first track (and last of the collaborative tracks), featuring muffled, idling factory machine sounds and morbid, catatonically spoken vocals of Body Cargo, which functions as a great introduction for Pogrom.  Next track ‘Dar negimes (Igarka)’ amps things up along the power electronics line/ sound with crude, nasty, scuzzy, no frills squalls of distortion and distorted vocal abuse. Likewise ‘Toks melsvas vakaras…’ balances the line between death industrial and power electronics sounds, with morbid spoken vocals, grinding industrial undercurrent and forceful squalls of distortion.  Final track ‘Girioj gules’ takes a slightly different tangent, where it commences with a maudlin solo folk type vocal sample, before succumbing to a muffled mass of grinding death industrial sounds, which also includes a sampled piano accompaniment to play the track though to its conclusion.

Taken in totality this is certainly a grim and harrowing release from these two aligned projects (which is a compliment for this style of music), rounded out with cover artwork which is also suitably old school and lo-fi with its black and white, cut and paste aesthetic.

Linekraft – Bouryoku Kikai

Linekraft – Bouryoku Kikai CD Black Plagve 2012

Not having come across Linekraft before, my inquiries revealed this Japanese project has been active since 2008, with three albums issued prior to this.  It was also noted that Linekraft have been billed as ‘japnoise’, which based on this album does not really tell the complete story.  Yes, there is a fair dose of chaotic noise, but also a large proportion of the sound is built around an old school industrial aesthetic of sheet / scrap metal and oil barrel percussion and / or abuse.

Delivering a commotion of junk metal noise punctured with static squalls and distortion drenched vocals, the title track opens the album, whilst static radio snippets (voices, vocals and music), bleed in and out of the mix.  Next track up is ‘Jinkaku Syougai’ which the longest of the five pieces (pushing nearly 20 minutes), and across its sprawling expanse shifts through a number of segments from doomy grinding industrial to passages of clanging metallic intensity.  ‘Yugou’ again provides an old school percussive industrial type vibe, with its stilted, clanking mechanical pulse and wavering analogue noise.  Alternately ‘Kenjyu Jisatsu’ moves towards a more caustic and loosely composed power electronics / harsh noise piece, complete with segments of yelled / distorted vocals.  Demonstrating yet further diversity to the sound, the final track ‘Kigurui’ flirts more with a death industrial vibe, with an ominous undercurrent and pounding metallic elements.

With its chaotic distortion based aesthetic ‘Bouryoko Kikai’ has a partly composed, partly improvisation quality to its sound and production, which definitely sits within an old school industrial / experimental noise style.  Noting that this Malignant Records side label seems to cater for less refined and noisier fare, Linekraft have certainly found a suitable home.

Sphare Sechs – Tiefschlaf

Sphare Seches – Tiefschlaf CD Malignant Records 2012

Sphare Seches are a drone ambient duo, consisting of Martin Sturtzer of another Malignant Records project Phelios, who has teamed up with another individual Christian Stritzel.  From the outset the back story of this particular album provides a pretty significant indication of what to expect herein, as ‘Tiefschlaf’ is a live recording from a ‘sleep-concert’ held in Germany in September, 2011.  So when taking such a concert format in mind, it is quite reasonably to expect calm uninterrupted ambient drones which seek to lull the listener into meditative or dreamlike states.

Although containing six untitled ‘phases’, these interlink into a singular 55 minute musical piece which reveals calm, slowly evolving abstract ambience, which skirts the edges of darker soundscapes and sonic terrains.  Noting the sparseness of the compositions the overarching aesthetic is one which ebbs towards isolationist ambient spheres and maybe a reasonable comparison would be a slightly more animated and less cold and bleak version of Thomas Koner.  Also whilst a lot dark ambient material seems to evoke a perception of vertical depth, here ‘Tiefschlaf’ contains a similar tonal depth but instead sonically articulates a wide screen and infinite horizon type of ambience.

By now it should be pretty clear of whether this is material to your interest and if so this will provide a suitably engaging listen.  Great stuff.

Trepaneringsritualen – Roi Perdu

Trepaneringsritualen – Roi Perdu MC Black Horizons 2012

Not a new release from T x R x P, rather a repress of an earlier 2010 tape, with this new edition limited to 150.  Here the packaging is beautifully presented, including gold print on iron black card stock for the inner J card and jet black casing with metallic printed stickers for the cassette.

Less harsh than the recent 10”ep (reviewed here), this MC focuses on more ritualised ambient fields for its atmospheric and archaic analogue sounds.  This alternate sound approach is immediately evident on the first track ‘De La Mer’ with its slow ritual percussion, wavering wood wind instrument and great croaked and slightly distortion treated vocals.  Moving onto the second track ‘Le Seul Vrai Roi’ seeks a more ominous path of sustained drones and vocals distorted to the point that they become yet another sound element within the soundscape. On side two ‘Champ Sacre’, toys with the similar sound elements of synth layers and ritualised chimes, but the percussive pounding elements engender a more classic death industrial tone, again with the screech / distorted vocals which are very much a trademark of T x R x P’s sound. This track bleeds into the final of the four tracks ‘Decoupage De L’Orme’ which strips away the percussive elements to reveal a sparse windswept soundscape with field recordings of a burning fire, distant agonised screams (…heretics being burnt at the stake perhaps?) and vocals of the deep ‘demonic growling’ variety.

Although a short tape, a very strong occult vibe permeates all facets of this release and demonstrates a very strong a focused approach of the artist, where clearly T x R x P deserves all the accolades coming their way of late.

Funerary Call‎ – Fragments From The Aethyr

Funerary Call‎ – Fragments From The Aethyr CD Crucial Blast 2012

‘Fragments From The Aethyr’ is the third album I have heard from Funerary Call, and while this is a relatively recent recording (recorded 2010 and mixed in 2012), is quite stylistically different to the ritual dark ambience of ‘Nightside Emanations’, both in terms of sound and length of tracks.  Here the album consists of three lengthy tracks, the shortest nearly 10 minutes and the longest pushing 18 minutes.

‘Libation’ commences proceedings with a tense semi-orchestral tone of echoed drums and heavy echoed ambience, with the track propelled forwards but a prominent violin.   The sound however quickly amasses to a forceful sphere of grinding noise, sparse guitars and multi-tracked shrill violin strings, before falling away to the calmer concluding section of the track.  At this point I feel it necessary to highlight that the violin presented on ‘Fragments From The Aethyr’ has not been sampled nor synthesised, rather has been specifically recorded for this album, which certainly gives a unique edge.  Second piece ‘Fragments’ again utilises a wavering solo violin, yet overall has a contemporary composition / modern classical edge to its sound, albeit of a pretty dark and bleak variety.  As the track progresses and builds the instrumentation is accentuated by droning orchestral horns, backing electric guitar and booming kettle drums.  Third and final track ‘Transference from the Void’ pushes more towards the ritualised tone of ‘Nightside Emanations’: a sparse catacomb ambient soundscape with semi-chanted / semi-whispered disembodied and echoed voices which fill out a large part of the sound spectrum, with further scattered ritual percussive elements for good measure. Excellent to say the least.

Noting the more ritualised tone of the final track, I feel it is reasonable to view this album as sort of a logical precursor to what would follow on the subsequent ‘Nightside Emanations’ album.  Suitably aesthetic artwork from Australian artists Orryelle Defenestrate-Bascule rounds out another interesting and worthy release from Funerary Call.

Maculatum – The Nameless City

Maculatum – The Nameless City CD Malignant Records 2012

HP Lovecraft and his trademark unspeakable and unknowable horror styled writings have long struck a chord with travellers on dark paths of inspiration, and interestingly it seems that his writings, and particularly his Cthulhu Mythos, has been obtaining wider appreciation in recent years.  Likewise for this new project Maculatum – a collaboration between two existing Malignant Records artists Collapsar and Rasalhauge – they have taken inspiration from a short story of Lovecraft’s, and used the name for their album’s title.

Whilst archaic sweeping dark ambience is certainly the overarching tone, ‘The Nameless City’ is far more than just being cavernous droning fodder, particularly as the album contains considerable motion and dynamics throughout.  Ranging from tense and brooding to calmer passages, there are various tonal aspects which liven up the sound palate, including: segments tribal percussive rhythms, garbled disembodied voices and chanted vocals (sampled?) which sporadically appear.  Actually being quite heavily percussive in parts, such sections hold a deft tribal / otherworldly aura which very much suits the source material which inspired it.  The production and mastering also adds a great deal to the atmosphere, as sound wise the whole album is impeccably produced, with both its sonic clarity and tonal depth.

People familiar with the artist’s main projects, or more broadly the dark ambient aspects of Malignant Records roster, will find much to be pleased with on ‘the Nameless City’.

The Vomit Arsonist – Go Without

The Vomit Arsonist – Go Without CD Assembly of Hatred CD 2012

Noting that The Vomit Arsonist labels their own sound with the descriptive tags of death industrial and power electronics, I must admit this is pretty much spot on the money.  However, rather than having separate tracks in these two styles, their sound seeks to blur the line, constituting a careful blending of the two – i.e. merging the ominous factory rhythms, echoed warehouse atmospheres and bass pounding tone of death industrial, mixed with the harsher, distorted vocals and junk metal sound of power electronics.  Likewise across the seven tracks and 45 minutes, a broad consistency to the sound is evident.  Thus depending on the piece, the various tonal aspects include: stalking synth lines, metallic percussive / scraping sounds, mechanised factory conveyer belt type rhythms, which are further complimented by harsh distorted vocals.  Finally these various sound elements have then been treated with a cavernous, rumbling, echoed and bass driven production. For sake of comparisons, The Vomit Arsonist shares a certain linage to the sound of other US based projects, with elements of Steel Hook Prothesis, Navicon Torture Technologies and Nyodene D all coming to mind.

Thematically the cover art alludes to disturbed mental states and a dependency on prescription medication, and whilst the vocals are rendered indecipherable through the yelled / distortion treatment, the song titles only serve to emphasise themes of self loathing and negativity (i.e. titles like ‘where there is none one else to blame, I must blame myself’).  These predominant themes of ‘Go Without’ are further embedded through the use of vocals samples, where ‘Anhedonia’ includes a vocal sample which seems to reference drug addiction / dependency, whilst ‘The Futility of Life’ contains another great vocal sample focusing specifically on nihilism.

So whilst ‘Go Without’ does not break the mould, The Vomit Arsonist instead has focused on clearly understanding the core elements of the death industrial / power electronics to deliver a strong, focused and forceful album.  With this agenda in mind, ‘Go Without’ absolutely delivers the goods.