Deathstench / Trepaneringsritualen – Split

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Deathstench / Trepaneringsritualen – Split picture LP Malignant Records 2013

In the dying days of 2013 we have been blessed (cursed?) with a late coming highlight of the year, being released by the ever commendable Malignant Records.  Pressed as a beautiful picture disc vinyl, this split pairs two of the current blackened and ritual infused, death ambient / industrial projects on Malignant Records / Black Plagve, namely: Deathstench and Trepaneringsritualen.

Starting with Deathstench, they present two tracks on their side.  The caustic atmospheric noise of the first offering ‘Damnum Minatum’ comes blasting from the speakers, containing a mine shaft depth styled echoed production, as screeched and distortion treated vocals shred the eardrums, along with layers of harsh industrial textures.  Buried somewhere within the overblown production are cymbal crashes, blackened tremolo riffed guitars and moody synth lines, which provide a depressive and semi composed edge to the industrial noise chaos.  For their second track ‘Temples of Dust’ this features guest vocals of Alan Dubin, most notably recognised as the vocals of the excellent but defunct doom drone band Khanate.  Displaying a greater degree of restraint by commencing with ringing ritual bowl hits and various other cavernous echoed textures, when Alan’s vocals arrive they are agonised and delivered in his trademark screeched psychotic style, made all the more incisive by his proper enunciation of the lyrics.  Over its 9 minute span ‘Temples of Dust’ would broadly slot under a death industrial / atmospheric noise tag thanks to the overblown wind-tunnel style of the production, which also includes a range of metallic thuds, clangs and general metallic cacophony.

Flipping the picture disc over a 17 minute monster of a track is presented by Trepaneringsritualen and by featuring clearly defined segments this is akin to a number of tracks within larger framework.  For the first 7 minutes or so this is ritual ambient at its most gloomy, with catatonic tribal percussive thuds which cut through the inky muffled blackness of the production, along with distant echo treated slow chanted invocations which are almost Tibetan throat singing in style.  Yet at around the 7 minute mark, things really step into their own, with the rise of slow drawling demonic horns and mid paced percussive thumps.  With a gradual upward trajectory further tribal / ritual percussion, militant rolling snare drums and grinding synths textures flesh out the rhythmic framework as a solid platform for the trademark garbled / croaked vocals, lastly complimented by a lachrymose synth line.  Within this singular track this displays all the elements of what makes Trepaneringsritualen so great and contains their now trademark dank, oozing, ritual infused, death ambience / industrial sound.

From music to presentation, this is an absolutely excellent pairing of acts which has hit all the right sonic and visual markers.  With a limitation of a mere 250 copies and pressed on heavy vinyl with postcard, surely this won’t be available for too long.

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T.O.M.B. – Third Wave Holocaust

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T.O.M.B. – Third Wave Holocaust CD Black Plagve 2013

Via this release T.O.M.B. (aka Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy) has been welcomed to the roster of Malignant Record’s sub-label Black Plagve.  Noting that the Black Plagve imprint caters for the harsher and less refined side of underground industrial related sounds, this should give a cursory indication of what to expect herein.

From the crude, filthy and overblown industrial noise aesthetic of the opening track ‘Antagonizing the Unknown’, this bleeds into the following piece ‘Electric Exorcism’ and in the process establishes the tone for much of the album.  Accordingly this wind tunnel style of echo blasted clamour is exemplified on these sweeping black industrial noise compositions (which span the album’s 55 minutes).  Yet by the time the third track ‘The Great Venerat Insult’ arrives, the heavy intensity slackens off slightly to embody an expansive catacombal ambience, driven by slow ritualistic drums, rumbling bass and distant sweeping tones.  ‘Na La Gore Na’ then elevates the tone again where the morbid chanting and dank, echo treated atmosphere builds to overblown caustic proportions.  Although the term “respite” is entirely relative to an album such as this, ‘Disrupting Admin’ is slightly less intense, where the catatonic bass guitar is distorted to the point of abstraction and combined with waves of crumbling static. ‘Vom Voodoo’ mixes things up ever so slightly with the inclusion of (you guessed it) tribal hand percussion, yet the predominant overblown noise production remains as a constant.  Interestingly the final of the ten tracks ‘Tribute to Hanhua’, sees the album concluded in subtle rather than seething guise, containing a cavernous aesthetic with far off choral chanting and what sound to be distorted gong tones.

With its freeform structure and noisy, echoed infused production, unfortunately ‘Third Wave Holocaust’ suffers somewhat from a lack of variation between tracks which tend to blur into a singular and larger sonic mass.  It is also a shame that on the visual side of things the album is let down in presentation given the rather ugly digital artwork, which is more akin to a bad B grade horror flick.  To this ear this is the type of album that is amply adequate for a number of spins, but is unlikely to be elevated to an album that will warrant repeat visitations.

I.Corax – Cella Phantasma

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I.Corax – Cella Phantasma CD Aural Hypnox 2013

Here is yet another new release on the reactivated Aural Hynox label and a further addition to the Underworld Editions sub-label series.  This release also sees I.Corax being formally welcomed to the Aural Hypnox roster with ‘Cella Phantasma’ constituting the very first recording session from the group (dating back to 1999), which has until now remained unreleased.

Without any elaboration the use of the terms ‘dark ambient’ and ‘drone’ can be rather vague descriptors, particularly given the wide reaching sounds and styles which are captured under this banner. Therefore to be a bit more creative the sound of I.Corax resides within a spectral netherworld, located on a plain somewhere between the real and spiritual realms.  This description can be further put into context with a cross reference to label mate Halo Manash, whose use of real instrumentation is rooted in humanistic expression and attempted communion with the dream and spirit world.  Alternately as I.Corax has fewer inherent sonic markers to indicate being the product of human hands, consequently their sound is more akin to emanations from a spectral realm.

‘Hunt’ is the first of four compositions being a track built on abstract sweeping tones, shimmering textures, a prominent (vaguely metallic) rhythmic pulse and a range of shadowy chanted vocals to provide a mysterious and ghostly atmosphere.  Spanning an expansive 13 minutes it is a solid and engaging opening.  Second offering ‘Kneeler’ then opts for a slightly denser droning framework, complimented with metallic scrapping textures and echoed otherworldly insectoid rhythms which provides a highly distinctive sound quality.  This chthonian atmosphere bleeds into ‘Naos’, again driven by eerie tribalesque rhythms and disembodied vocalisations, which all feel as if focused towards a direct ritualised intent.  For the final of the four tracks ‘Nexion’ it concludes the album on a slightly more subdued note.  Here the composition constitutes a floating miasma of sound, evoked through layered field recordings, minimalist droning synth notes, ritual percussive implements and abstract metallic scraping textures.

Simmilar to the other releases in the Underworld Editions series, this has been issued in a limited run of 350 CDs and 50 cassettes, packaged in a screen printed raw cardboard box, with hand printed and photographic inserts. Although (again) on the shorter side at 36 minutes, the four presented tracks are absolutely worthy of detailed investigation.  The release of this early recording of I.Corax is a welcomed one, noting also that all other earlier albums are due to be re-released on Aural Hypnox in the not too distant future.

Halo Manash – Wesieni Wainajat

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Halo Manash – Wesieni Wainajat CD Aural Hypnox 2013

The return of Halo Manash with a new release on the recently reactivated Aural Hypnox label is welcomed news, particularly given the high rotation the last three albums received around these parts.  Being the first release following the Forest Music ‘treelogy’ (trilogy) of ‘Language of Red Goats’, ‘Am Kha Astrie’ and ‘Taiwaskivi’, ‘Wesieni Wainajat’ is a 2012-2013 recording from the group.  Interestingly this has also been issued on the new Aural Hypnox side label ‘Underworld Editions’, which includes a mission statement of: “Underworld Editions presents rough and unusual glimpses to the hidden past and special manifestations of the present”.

Consisting of three lengthy tracks the overarching feel ‘Wesieni Wainajat’ is one of a generally more composed sound, particularly when compared to the ritual ambient intent of the preceding trilogy.  Yet this is not to say that this album is a huge departure from what precedes it, rather the overall feel of ‘composition’ seems to be mostly derived from the use of a droning pump organ as the key central instrument on each of the pieces.

‘Kwlwsta’ opens the album, with a focused harmonic droning organ melody, where the soundscape is bolstered by sparse symbol percussion, distant disharmonic wailing horns and abstract sonic textures.  There is a gradual upward trajectory to the track’s building intensity, but this is done without jarring the droning ritual atmosphere. ‘Varjoista’ is up next and sees Halo Manash deliver a track which may be the most composed and direct track they have released thus far in their career.  Here the brooding organ again takes central prominence, being further underscored by sparse dulcimer hammered notes and a range of field recording textures (elements including: rustling leaves, splintering branches, or fracturing ice perhaps?).  Yet this track elevates itself to an entirely higher level of consciousness through the introduction of mid-paced rhythmic percussion, courtesy of a bodhran drum (or similar).  With its swaying ritualised atmosphere, ‘Varjoista’ is both the highlight and standout track of the album.  For the final of the three compositions ‘Tulelle’ delivers a lengthy somewhat abstract 18 minute composition, which aligns more consistently with the sparse ritual ambient music of earlier material.  Although partly focused on a slow droning organ hum, this element is relegated to the background to allow a range of field recordings to take greater prominence, which seem to have captured diverse elements of: winds within the forest tree tops; a low cracking fire; distant bird calls; a babbling brook; mirco-tonal aquatic sounds and some unidentifiable sparse scratching type textures.  With its extended length and low key vibe, this track is  trance inducing and mediative in the best way possible.

It almost goes without saying that Aural Hypnox clearly understands that the physical manifestation of an album is just as important as the musical component.  Being issued in a limited run of 350 CDs and 50 cassettes, the packaging is perfectly suited to the album’s aura, consisting of screen printed raw cardboard box, with a range of hand printed and photographic inserts. With only three tracks and a play time of 39 minutes this may slightly feel more like an extended mini-album and by being released on the new sub-label (where it seems to qualify as a “special manifestations of the present”), it is unclear whether this is considered the main new album from the group or is more of an intermediate diversion. Either way, there are absolutely no complaints over its discographic status and short length, given this constitutes superb material from the group.