Shock Frontier – Mancuerda Confessions CD Malignant Records 2013
Shock Frontier are a relatively new US project which has arisen from the ashes of the defunct dark ambient project Psychomanteum, but has intentionally diverted direction towards the noisier and harsher sides of underground electronic music. To be more direct, Shock Frontier seeks to elicit through torturous means a corrosive blend of murky death industrial and atmospheric droning noise.
From the outset it is immediately apparent that ‘Mancuerda Confessions’ facilities a sounds which edges towards the noisy and chaotic, but also imbeds enough structure to provide direction and focus. With its ragged frequencies, fried electrical drones and loose rhythmic structure, the opening track ‘Paroxysm’ reveals a deep cut of corrosive ambience against which a dialogue sample implants a heavily misanthropic reality. ‘Angels Upon Iron Horses’ then follows which amplifies its jagged industrialized textures, alarm siren pulse, grinding mechanised clatter and general tone of abstract industrial debris. Thus within the snapshot description of first two cuts, their collective approach is representative of a sound dragged along a knifes edge of structure and chaos, which plays out in variation across the album’s whopping 72 minutes.
Over the course of the 9 album cuts the densely layered compositions align scathing noise with swirling distortion, which are further augmented by jagged rhythmic segments and metallic mechanised pulsations. Yet to counterbalance these harsher aspects the compositions are underscored by corroded metallic drones and an overtly oppressive style of caustic ambience. Complimenting the album’s general harrowing atmosphere, dialogue samples are scattered throughout which collectively function to hammer home a themes of societal decline and the debasement of humanity. As far as comparisons go the promo blurb nominates Megaptera as a suitable one, however this is slightly off the mark as Shock Frontier have far more in common with the harsh and scourging death industrial sound of the Swedish project Stratvm Terror.
Where this ultimately album excels is with its sonic representation of humanity at its absolute worst – akin to the peeling back of the layers of polite societal servitude. ‘Mancuerda Confessions’ is very much rooted in a horrific reality of humanities potential for cruelty and domination – be it derived from political or religious extremism, or via societal isolation, narcissism and emotional detachment. Shock Frontier have expertly set such themes to sound in an extremely bleak and incisive way, which is certainly saying something as these ears are well attuned to similar material. Ultimately there is a narcissistic realism to this album which manages to claw its way under your skin and for this alone this album manages to push the envelope of unsettling underground electronic music.