Æva ‎– ∞

AEVA1  AEVA

Æva ‎– ∞ LP Daudings Gjenklang ‎2013

In many ways the early ‘Era 1’ synthesiser works of Mortiis are a bit of a guilty pleasure for me, given I came across his self-described ‘dark dungeon music’ at a pivotal time during my burgeoning interest in underground music.   So with Mortiis being an effective ‘gateway’ project at the time, this then quickly led my interest to Cold Meat Industry/ Malignant Records/ Loki Foundation/ Tesco Organisation/ Cold Spring etc. thus resulting in my total emersion in underground dark ambient, industrial and power electronic music.  But I digress….

Noting that Mortiis is considered by many as a bit of a joke project, nevertheless Mortiis effectively spawned his own dark ambient sub-genre of synthesiser derived ‘dungeon synth’ music, which has included numerous imitators over the years.  Likewise with clear similarities to Mortiis, many of these ‘dungeon synth’ projects also have their roots and origins in the underground black metal scene rather than the industrial (and related) underground.  Æva follow this same template by virtue of being an obscure side project of the excellent Norwegian black metal solo project Skuggeheim.  If you are then familiar with any of Skuggeheim’s releases, clearly having atmosphere derived from a distant, muffled and lo-fi sound takes precedence over ‘clean’ or ‘professional’ sounding recordings.  With its inherent lo-fi atmosphere this is one of the key reasons why Skuggeheim hits the mark so flawlessly for me, and with the same sonic approach filtering through to Æva it perfectly fits the ‘dungeon synth’ genre parameters  – i.e. the evocation of gloomy synth soundscapes.

Although Mortiis has been used as a contextual comparison, musically the sound of Æva is not typically medieval and even overtly orchestral in delivery.  Here the music is more subdued and understated and has much more in common with the depressive sound of another of Mortiis’ keyboard projects Vond, and the ‘Selvmord’ album in particular – however Æva is even more abstract and lo-fi than this particular comparison. Thus of the three lengthy album tracks, each are centred around sparse synth textures, catatonic melodies (which occasionally resembles a synthesised piano or organ tone) and some deeper abstract droning elements, which each ebb and flow across intertwining musical segments. Given the sound is staunchly analogue and lo-fi in quality it could be said to be ‘poorly’ recorded, however the muffled and distant tone actually provides additional aura and atmosphere.  Likewise rather than feeling like typical ‘songs’ the compositions are presented more as ‘soundscapes’ or ‘movements’.

Whilst ‘dungeon synth’ music is certainly not a refined style of music, a typical trademark is that in the most part is it not expertly played or executed. Yet of much greater importance is the existence of certain ‘attitude’ and ‘atmosphere’, which incidentally Æva effortlessly achieves this special aura and elevates this album above being merely abstract synthesizer dirges.

Regarding its presentation the LP, it displays a number of interesting quirks, where the music has been pressed on a black label vinyl so as to play from the inside to outside edge, whilst Side B contains 2 separate pieces tracked in parallel/ side by side, which finishes with a locked groove.  Lastly the packaging provides a feeling that this release is a special obscurity, and whilst there is no actual cover a couple of fire singed insets are included within a plastic sleeve sealed with special sticker.  Limited to 200 hand numbered copies, from the review you will clearly know if this particular ‘dungeon synth’ obscurity is for you.

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Seirom – Sparkle Night

Seirom

Seirom – Sparkle Night MC Sulphurous Productions 2013

If you were to take Mories De Jong’s main projects on face value (Gnaw Their Tongues, Aderlating etc), you would potentially have a skewed perception of an extremely disturbed mind at work.  However given the capacity for individuals to hold differing and conflicting perspectives within their psyche (aka the duality and balance of darkness and light), Seirom is representative of beauty and fragility to counterbalance the harrowing chaos and seething darkness of Gnaw Their Tongues and Aderlating.  In fact Seirom delivers such a blissful tonal quality that it was entirely unexpected from the same person behind Gnaw Their Tongues.  Noting this alternate sonic perspective, interestingly Seirom was created to focus on lighter material espousing beauty and love, as apparently the unbridled negativity of Gnaw Their Tongues was causing negative psychological impact for Mories.

Although not Seirom’s first release, ‘Sparkle Night’s is a new two track 20 minute tape, featuring some beautiful cinematic quality, droning instrumental post-rock/ shoegaze styled soundscapes.  Noting that the compositions are structured using some typical band elements (guitar, bass, sparse drums etc) these are treated as washes of sound within the sonic palate, meaning this feels more like more likely a studio project than band.  As such the title track displays droning synths, fireside field recordings, fuzzed out widescreen tremolo strummed guitars, sparse tinkling piano, warm enveloping electronics and a heavy dose of echo and reverb to provide a hazy and peaceful aura.  Here the composition instead of building to a peaked crescendo, gradually elevates to an all-encompassing wall of warm enveloping sound, thus resulting in music of total emersion.  The second of the two tracks ‘Only Miss You When It Snows’ is slightly more animated, if only by virtue of the more focused percussive element, yet with its disappearance in the later third of the track it is back to blissed out territory, complete with quasi choir textures.

From the above it is clear that Seirom output is vastly different to that which might normally be expected from Mories.  Essentially it a sound which has very much been turned on its head, akin to the same way his name has been inverted for this project’s moniker.  By way of a passing comparison, Seirom sits somewhere in-between the lighter ambient soundscape oriented tracks Justin Broderick has produced under the JESU moniker and the selected drone works of Aidan Baker/ Nadja.  Being the first release on the new Sulphurous Productions and with a limitation is to a mere 50 copies which seems all too few for what is both an entirely surprising and rewarding listen.

Aderlating – Gospel of the Burning Idols

Aderlating

Aderlating – Gospel of the Burning Idols CD Black Plagve 2013

The rather prolific Aderlating return with their fourth official album since 2009, which forms part of an already extensive discography spanning 14 releases (including full lengths, splits, cassettes and digital only releases).  Whilst Aderlating tend to inhabit a general black ambient/ black industrial type sphere, for ‘The Gospel of Burning Idols’ it includes some more overt musically aspects which align with the black metal scene – albeit obliquely.  Thus on this basis alone Aderlating are a project which should have quite a bit of crossover appeal for both underground metal and underground industrial types.

The crumbling walls of muted noise of ‘opening of the tomb’ introduce the album and straight away brings to mind the classic ‘Great Death’ era of Bighter Death Now.  Yet from this leaping off point the sound quickly descend into a ritualised maelstrom of demonic drawled voices, sampled choir vocals, grinding mechanised noise, a bass heavy percussive thump and general cacophony of metallic percussive elements which collectively generate a rising sense of dread and unease.  In simpler terms – a fantastic album opener.  The ritualistic aura is also retained on the following piece ‘a vulture’s tongue disease’ with its muted rumbling soundscape and droning choir vocals, yet it remains entirely chaotic due to the use of free-form black metal style drumming. Noting this track’s merging of abstract ritual atmospheres and flailing black metal drumming, it sets the template for a number of the other album tracks which fall into a similar stylistic pattern – aka a maelstrom of industrial debris, sweeping echoed noise and a variety of vocal textures (muttered evocations / screeched curses / sampled choirs), as the kit drum percussion furiously flails somewhere off in the distance of a deep cavernous space. Late album track ‘spewed on by slaves of inhumanity’ displays a slightly more focused death industrial sound, with its heavy bass thump and a rousing orchestral elements (heavy strings/ brass), yet as always there is still a sense that the track is on the verge of descending into a chaos at any moment.

A heavy ritualistic aura permeates the entire album which also imbues the dank and suffocating atmosphere of a cavernous tomb.  But rather than being merely ‘ambient’ in texture, the overall feel is such that it has a prominently tense, chaotic and unhinged sound throughout.  Likewise the driving free-form kit percussion edges the sound of Aderlating towards a live rehearsal/ lo-fi black metal band type sound, rather than a mere studio project, which also gives this album a certain tonal edge. Although the demonic and quasi satanic sounding aspects are in no way subtle, they are handled with such nightmarish intensity as to ensure it never enters ‘cheesy’ territory, which such material has been known to suffer from.

On the visual side of things the death and daemonic themed medieval paintings used as part of the cover provide a suitable visual counterpart to these unhinged black industrial musings.  Although containing its own distinctive sound, ‘The Gospel of Burning Idols’ will no doubt please fans of like minded groups such as MZ.412, some aspects early Brighter Death Now and Gnaw Their Tongues (which if not known is the main solo project of one of Aderlating’s members), with its chaotic ritual cacophony.

The Vomit Arsonist – An Occasion For Death

TVA-AAFD

The Vomit Arsonist – An Occasion For Death CD Malignant Records 2013

If not counting the numerous cassettes and CDr’s issued by The Vomit Arsonist since 2004, ‘An Occasion For Death’ represents the third official album and the first issued by the leading underground label Malignant Records (which is certainly a welcomed pairing). As the last album ‘Go Without’ was well received around here it also goes without saying that this new album was awaited with anticipation.  Yet for those still not familiar with The Vomit Arsonist, this is the solo project of American artist Andrew Grant who typically excels at the blurring of death industrial and power electronics sounds.  However from cursory listens to ‘An Occasion For Death’, it is immediately evident that this time around Andrew has focused less on a brutal power electronics edge and opted for a slightly more brooding death industrial tone.  Thus being more harrowing than brutally heavy, this album is both bleak and nihilistic to its core.

The album opens with ‘Think God Out Of Existence’ which has the feel of an extended introductory piece, being a desolately ominous death industrial soundscape of ebbing and flowing layered synth drones, which also contains a lengthy dialogue sample of atheism taken to a logical and heretical extreme.  Yet it is the second track ‘At The Edge of Life, Everything Is An Occasion for Death’ where there album really steps up a notch, with slow looped bass pounding beat, sustained melancholic piano notes/ synth lines, a dose of unobtrusive static undercutting the composition and the distinctive distortion wracked vocals.  In simpler terms this is The Vomit Arsonist’s own sound done to absolute perfection.  ‘Black Bile’ represents another stand out composition, structured with an almost militant tinged mid paced percussive thump, grinding static, bleakly ominous synth lines, and the trademark distortion eviscerated vocals.  Alternately ‘Torn Between Will and Desire’ opts for a more forceful sound with a heavy combination of grinding static loops and mechanised idling factory noise, where the emotion wracked vocals again take a central focus (being distorted to the point of indecipherability).  For the final of the seven album tracks, ‘Means To An End’ mixes cavernous warehouse type ambience and rising synth drones to ratchet up the tension, before the introduction of a French dialogue sample and one final segment of grinding static and furnace blasted vocals.

Although less blunt force than earlier albums, here the reduced brutality has been replaced with an atmosphere of harrow bleakness elevated to central prominence.  While only 43 minutes this is not an overly lengthy album, yet ‘An Occasion For Death’ pack a heavy emotional punch within the available run time and in the process sees the The Vomit Arsonist really coming into his own.