Triangular Ascension – Leviathan Device CD Cyclic Law 2011
The Canadian label Cyclic Law has over the course of the last ten years slowly raised their profile to that of a leading light within the broad fields of dark ambient music. During this process they have released established acts, built the profile of younger ones and launched the careers of others. Triangular Ascension, a Venezuelan dark ambient project, is one such act that Cyclic Law have recently launched but I have only just picked up on. However from a cursory listen it is absolutely clear as to why Cyclic Law signed Triangular Ascension to release ‘Leviathan Device’ as their debut (which I understand was submitted to the label as a demo).
Having listened to a substantial number of dark ambient albums over the past 17 years, there are few albums which have an immediacy such as this, i.e: being able to launch themselves into your psyche from the first listen and also to reveal new sonic elements on subsequent listens. In general terms ‘Leviathan Device’ inhabits sweeping dark ambient territory, but rather than being murky and shadowed in scope, this is multileveled in its sonic clarity. The tonal qualities include deep and stormy bass drones, galactic fog horns, melodic wailing textures, subtle rhythmic/ percussive elements and detailed textural noise at the higher ends. In this regard the sound production is immaculate, achieving a crystalline sound where all elements are balanced and audible within the mix. Yet rather than being floating, abstract and passive like many dark ambient acts, ‘Leviathan Device’ is an active and engaging listening experience. Here a subtle rhythm undercurrent and cinematic quasi-orchestral melodies constitutes the engine which drives the overarching atmosphere of the album and provides a central focus throughout. There is also a significant degree of variation between the nine album tracks which interlink over an hour playtime. Some tracks are subdued, others forceful, but always the flow between pieces is impeccable, again raising the cinematic scope of the material. Also whilst being clearly within a dark ambient style, this is not all doom and gloom as the use of slow droning melodic elements evokes a contemplative tone than anything particularly depressive.
Even if dark ambient fare is only of passing interest to you, do not ignore this act. Triangular Ascension deliver meticulously detailed and animated dark ambience of the highest calibre, which highlights the pure folly on my part for not checking them out sooner.
Deathstench – Massed in Black Shadow CD Black Plagve 2012
Deathstench are a new signing to Black Plagve (Malignant Record’s ‘bastard child’ side label), and being my first introduction to the group it appears this Californian duo has been active since 2009 and already have a couple of extremely limited releases under their belt (a split, an EP and a full length). ‘Massed in Black Shadow’ is their sophomore album and their first more widely available release.
Before we get to the music, based on the artwork and visual presentation it very much screams underground black/ death metal, yet this initial perception belies the actual ‘music’ to be found herein. This in fact is not a death / black metal release, rather it aims at a black industrial sound which heavily borrows aesthetically and sonically from the black/ death metal spheres. From this perspective Deathstench can be viewed as a crossover act which straddles genres and merges aspects of death/ black metal and black industrial / ritual noise styles. This ‘crossover’ perception is further solidified by the fact that the group are listed on the Encyclopaedia Metallum: Metal Archives web resource (…typically only metal or metal related bands are listed).
The inky sonic blackness and distorted echoed roar of ‘Extract Ex Infernis’ introduces proceedings and sets the scene. Here bass heavy and cavernous death industrial loops provide a semblance of structure, whilst vocals evocations are recited amongst the backdrop of brooding menace – but rather than resembling anything remotely human, here the vocals are relegated to almost outbursts of distortion. ‘Corpse Upon a Throne of Worms’ opts for a more sinister death ambient vibe, which provides the backbone for slow strummed distorted guitars and course black metal vocals, thus demonstrating the knack of the project to merge the tonal elements of differing genres. The sound of Sunn O)))’s Black One album (aka black metal inspired doom drone) is a suitable reference point here, although the guitar playing is slightly more animated (…which is hardly a difficult task based on the catatonic pace of Sunn 0)))). On the gritty and windswept ‘Symbols In Warm Flesh’ an overloaded bass guitar appears to sit prominently within the mix, but rather than being riff based the playing is abstract and forms a nasty distortion/ feedback layer. Moving on to the pair of back to back tracks ‘Circle of Black Blood’ and ‘Shrine of Viscera’, a more structured ‘metal’ sound is present but each differing in style and presentation. The first delivers slow strummed distorted guitars and rasped vocals of doom cast over a rumbling death industrial base, whilst the later with its blast beats and murky black/ death metal riffs is reminiscent of the aura of underground legends Blasphemy or similar ilk. The final album track ‘Bastards of the Black Flame’ arrives as a multi-layered black ambient slab of dread evoking sonics and murky abstract hellish noise, all whilst grimly screeched vocals and riffed guitars (slow to tremolo style) complete the wretched sonic picture.
Whether or not you will find some to your liking on this album will depend greatly on your penchant for lo-fi underground death/ black metal, but at the same time this is clearly not a metal release. However to consider wider genre implications it is worthwhile highlighting that throughout the early 90‘s there was some significant dislike to the increased interest of ‘metal heads’ in the dark ambient/ industrial scenes. Yet with the rise in the total dominance of the internet, as a result genre boundaries and scene politics has been greatly diminished which has encouraged the cross pollination of musical genres. Within this context Deathstench are a flag-bearer for genre splicing which has achieved prosperous results.
Trepaneringsritualen – Judas Goat 7”ep Fang Bomb 2013
With reference to the recent T x R x P re-releases, ‘Judas Goat’ thankfully represents some bona fide new material. Here the two tracks are presented as a double A sided single, which both demonstrate a more streamlined ritual industrial and somewhat ‘song’ based approach.
‘Judas Goat’ leads of the first side of the vinyl and is a beast of a track, where its construction relies on cyclic intertwining rhythmic elements. Muffled drums and corrosive garbled vocals introduce the track, yet these elements remain fairly subdued and sit within the background. These base elements are then complimented by stilted and jittery rhythmic elements which burst forth at cyclic intervals throughout the track and are duly accompanied by seething vocals yelling the repeated lyrics of: “My Brother. Betrayer. Your blood on my hands. I claim your death. I claim your death. I claim your death in my name”. In a word: superb.
On the flip side ‘Didymus Christ’ is less complex, built on fast paced tribal percussion, various fractured sonic elements and again the use of prominent vocals. Due to its central driving beat ‘Didymus Christ’ evokes a trance-inducing aura and as a consequence is entirely different from the focused force of ‘Judas Goat’.
As with other T x R x P’s output the productions is murky and ash black, which suits the material perfectly. White vinyl and a black and white, double sided fold out cover rounds out this collectable release, issued in and edition of a mere 141 copies (141 = I-4-I = eye for eye?). Regardless of any symbolic context of its edition ‘Judas Goat’ delivers a powerful but all too short 7” worth of new material.
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Poena – Likboden MC Beläten 2012
Given that Poena is a new project, after reading the promo blurb I was admittedly sold before I had heard a second of this release – and I quote: “Poena – the spirit of punishment as channelled by Kristian Olsson (Survival Unit/ Alfarmania) and Christian Godin – perfectly blends the rank atmosphere of early Brighter Death Now with the obscure ritualistic rattles of Zero Karma and Ain Soph. ‘Likboden’ was recorded in the old morgue of the Sidsjön mental hospital in Sundsvall, a fact that permeates every death reeking, unsettling second of this 30 minute piece”.
With its single abstract composition ‘Likboden’ commence with assemblage of slow wavering bass drones, ritual chimes, loose percussion, rattling chains and distant groans emanating from the depths. Following on crude rhythmic beats are pounded out in the bowels of the asylum, whilst sustained vocal wails inject a tenseness to the dank atmosphere. At about the 10 minute mark the ritual percussive elements fall away into a cavernous death industrial territory, complete with bass loaded synth drones and the sporadic wailing of a horn that build to occasional tonal crescendos. For the final 10 minute stretch the track moves towards slightly noisier territory, with metallic scraping textures and animated vocal/ horn wails, whilst some forceful percussive ritualistic elements are resurrected late in the piece.
Noting there is a general looseness to the way to the track plays out, this possibly alludes to a semi improvised live context during which this material might have been recorded. With that said ‘Likboden’ is not without focus and structure, as clearly the duo of Poena know what they are doing given the degree of restraint displayed in the way abstract material such as this unfolds. Certainly the chosen recording location is also clearly reflected in the distant cavernous sound production which has been captured. With pro-printed tape and cover, everything from the sound to visual design, reeks of old school ritual industrial, done in the best way possible.