The Grey Wolves / Wertham / Survival Instinct – Ramraiding Thee Abyss LP Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2013
Here is a new three-way split/ collaboration album which in many ways reflects the past, present and future of the contributing acts, whilst also remaining devoted to the underground scene from which they have been collectively spawned. Obviously the Grey Wolves and Wertham should already be well-known, however this LP also functions to introduce Survival Instinct who are noted to be: “a splinter cell and an exit strategy, of and from, the Grey Wolves”. Noting the potential ambiguity of this statement that seems to allude to a potential end to the Grey Wolves, this may or may not in fact be the case. Or perhaps it is just a solo project of either of the Grey Wolves members David Padbury or Trevor Ward? Not too sure on this point, so on with the review.
Noting the aggressive atmospheric noise meets power electronics tone of both the Grey Wolves and Wertham, in an overall sense this LP delivers exactly what is expected. Thus ‘Ramraiding Thee Abyss’ opens with ‘No Good Deeds Will Be Left Unpunished’, which is appropriately a three-way collaboration, where the layered, mid-range fluctuating distortion and partially buried vocalisations combine into a heavy and urgent statement of intent. ‘Latin Day (Flashback – Ipswich Agro)’ quickly follows and sees the Grey Wolves operating in the vein of their classic sound. That is to say it includes vague shuddering industrial rhythms which are caked in layers of noise filth, as antagonistic echoed vocals deliver an unintelligible sermon. ‘Shankill Butchers’ sees Wertham functioning on their own, delivering intense cyclic, mid to low range rumbling distortion, with a heavily treated vocal attack. Straight forward and to the point with it scathing layered noise approach, TV reporter dialogue samples are also used to flesh out thematic context. ‘Rise Above the Flames’ then follows and is the first solo offering of Survival Instinct and based on this track they are a very promising act. This piece takes a subdued and brooding approach which leans towards a death industrial sound. Here the production is less based on overloaded distortion, rather opting for composed and echoed treated tribal/ mechanical rhythms mixed with atmospheric noise. Certainly an excellent introduction to the project.
For the flip side of the vinyl Wertham in collusion with Survival Instinct deliver an instrumental track ‘Towards a Dark Horizon’ which charts a course of composed industrial factory rhythms and an undercurrent of generally subdued sweeping and crumbling clamour. The Grey Wolves then appear again in solo guise on ‘Edging Ever Closer’, which is more atmospheric than typically grating, again with layered droning noise, scattered electronics and unhinged vocalisations. ‘Friday Night Boot Party’ is another solo offering courtesy of Wertham, here looped conveyor belt sonics combine with atmospheric burrowing noise, which underscore the distortion infused vocals which are barked in delivery. The album is then concluded by another solo track from Survival Instinct, where moody synth textures of ‘New Phase Dawns’ counterbalance mid paced jagged industrial loops and sporadic heavy bass tone blasts. Another great moment from this new project.
Without sounding like a patchwork of various projects, the three contributing acts manage to find common and complimentary ground on ‘Ramraiding Thee Abyss’, be it on solo standalone tracks or in otherwise collaborative guise. Likewise given the sheer number of years the Grey Wolves have been in existence as an active scene contributor (…28 years and counting), it is great to see that they have lost none of their urgency, antagonism and attitude. Pressed in pristine black vinyl (THE perfect format for this type of release), and with a slick gatefold sleeve adorned with suitable ‘cultural terrorist manifesto’ type statements and imagery, this album is everything it was hoped it could be, and in fact delivers more, given the strength and distinctive sounds of the Survival Instinct solo cuts.