Theologian – The Chasms Of My Heart CD Crucial Blast 2012
The ever productive Lee M. Bartow (formerly of the defunct Navicon Torture Technologies aka NTT and now of Theologian), returns with his formal sophomore album – although numerous cassettes, CDr’s and digital only releases have been issued in-between this and the 2010 debut ‘The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face’ (also released on Crucial Blast).
Anyone familiar with Lee’s work to date will be aware of a particular hallmark sound: one which has linage extending back to NTT and now further refined in a less harsh but more bleak and expansive guise as Theologian. That recognisable sound is obviously on display here, consisting of heavily layered distortion, cyclic drones and orchestral synth textures which are produced as a singular echoed mass of sound, further punctuated by heavy programmed percussion and smatterings of vocals (both choir sampled and semi sung/ semi aggressive power electronics type). Armed with these elements Theologian ultimately delivers grim, pitch black, sweeping soundscapes which blur the boundaries between dark ambient, death industrial and heavy / power electronics genres.
With slow pounding beat, wavering drone and maudlin synth melody, ‘Abandon All Hope’ sets the scene, yet still managed to surprise with the introduction of vocals and clean sung vocals at that. The slightly echoed treated multi-tracked vocals are certainly unexpected, but also work amazingly well to provide a new aspect to Theologian’s sound. However after the relative calm of the first two tracks ‘My Body Is Made Of Ash…I Live As Ash’ steps up in intensity – here evoking a seething mass death industrial emanations, including slightly Asiatic toned percussion and scorching/ distorted vocals. ‘We Can’t All Be Victims’ is similarly intense, with its forceful and urgent tribal industrial percussion, sweeping layered drones and quasi choral vocals.
Apart from the prominent droning and sweeping noise / ambient framework, a number of the tracks contain the faint ghosts of a more rhythmic electronica/ IDM sound*, evidenced by subtle programmed elements and/ or rhythmic beat sequencing. But don’t let this throw you – the sound is still staunchly within the death industrial / heavily electronics genres.
In the most part the eight tracks bleed out over an extend length (spanning 8-14 minutes each), generating a total album play time of a whopping 79 minutes. Although all tracks have slight variations on the core aspects of Theologian’s sound, ‘The Chasms Of My Heart’ is best taken as a singular harrowing listening experience, rather than ‘enjoyed’ as single tracks. Visually the six panel oversized digi-pack cover is splendidly designed, displaying the trademark graphic style of Lee, being is suitable visual counterpart to the sonic bleakness within.
* – Referencing such rhythmic electronica/ IDM elements found here, these play a more centrally dominant role on another just issued Theologian album, ‘Finding Comfort In Overwhelming Negativity’, also released in 2012 by Handmade Birds.