The Grey Wolves / Genocide Organ – Absolute Truth

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The Grey Wolves / Genocide Organ – Absolute Truth 12”LP Tesco Organisation 2014

Whist the impatient wait for new full length albums from both The Grey Wolves and Genocide Organ continues, ‘Absolute Truth’ comes as a welcomed stop-gap release.  This mini LP presents the classic Grey Wolves cut ‘Beyond Hypocrisy’ in its original form (lifted from their 1996 album ‘Catholic Priests Fuck Children’), along with a further three different versions.

On the first side of the vinyl it has been cut at 45rpm for maximum sonic impact, where the original version of The Grey Wolves classic is presented first in all its powerful and chaotic glory. With a base of churning noise and throbbing industrialised rhythms, the heavily treated vocals contain a particularly distinctive tone of English antagonism in their delivery. What also elevates the impact of this track is when the throbbing bass sporadically drops out, to then absolutely hit hard when dropped back into the mix. Being weighty and with an enveloping urgency ‘Beyond Hypocrisy’ is English power electronics at its finest, being entirely worthy of its classic status. The second version presented is taken from Genocide Organ’s 2012 live performance in their hometown of Mannheim, where during this performance Dave Padbury joined the group on stage to deliver this punishing version of The Grey Wolves classic. Essentially this is a faithful live presentation of the studio version, where the flanged vocals sit slightly higher in the mix.  Whilst the live recording clearly hints at the heaviness of the live performance, it however cannot match the sonic weight of the studio mix which immediately precedes it.

On the flip side two further versions of ‘Beyond Hypocrisy’ are presented, effectively being lengthier soundscape mixes of the original (with this side of the vinyl cut at 33rpm as a result). ‘Absolute Hypocrisy’ is up first and has a subdued yet tense atmosphere and without any detail of who contributed to this track, this very much comes across as modern day Genocide Organ cover version, given the tone and sonic approach is quite similar to the sound of ‘Under Kontrakt’.  The lengthly introduction section is constructed with layered burrowing noise, media samples and maudlin antagonistic vocals, before the recognisable throbbing industrialised rhythms of original version kick in. From here it includes the addition of what sounds like new layers of crumbling noise, radio chatter and vocals which sound very much like they are courtesy of Wilhelm Herrich of Genocide Organ. The final version is ‘Absolute Hypocrisy (Nietzche Mix’), which is a remix of source material take from the original version. Here the sound is more ‘soundscape’ in presentation, where then original vocals are elevated to the forefront of the mix, the heavier chaotic noise and throbbing rhythmic elements set to the background, and droning sub-orchestral layers added to provide a dark cinematic quality.

Given that The Grey Wolves and Genocide Organ are often lauded as definitive groups of the power electronics genre, this release is testament to exactly why this has been and continues to be the case. Each version of ‘Absolute Hypocrisy’ which is presented on ‘Absolute Truth’ contains elements faithful to the original, yet also containing defined and distinct qualities to allow them to each stand on their own.  Clearly ‘Absolute Truth’ is destined to become another sought after vinyl from The Grey Wolves and Genocide Organ. Recommended.

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Aural Hypnox – Underworld Transmissions I / Underworld Transmissions II

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Aural Hypnox – Underworld Transmissions I MC Aural Hypnox 2014

Aural Hypnox – Underworld Transmissions II MC Aural Hypnox 2014

Through the newly launched ‘Underworld Transmissions’ series the Aural Hypnox label has been turned into an ‘artist/ project’ of sorts through the use of an intriguingly conceptual device. Thus in words of the label: “Underworld Transmissions is Aural Hypnox label series, filmed and captured on tape in the private séances held in our subterranean lodge located in Oulu, Northern Ostrobothnia. The concept is to invite artists from the Helixes collective, in different combinations, to join a séance and through sound and movement to establish an elemental communication. In greater sense, apart from personal goals, the séances aim to bring forth the seasonal currents of the lodge; the undertone of the Aural Hypnox label and the artists involved”. Due to its apparent improvisational nature, the musical output of both cassette’s sits more at the abstract end of label’s discography and in sonic terms this is possibly most comparable to the minimalist style of Aural Holograms (a lone album was released by Aural Hypnox back in 2007).

On ‘Underworld Transmission I’, the first side of the tape features ‘Séance I/2013 (November 2013)’ and is a composition of deep subterranean atmospheres, slow sustained drones generated by sparse bowed and blown instruments. Additionally some distant chants appear to mark the path, and assist in evoking a minimalist meditative aura. ‘Séance I/2014 (January 2014)’ takes up the second side, and although still minimalist in style is slightly more animated, with a mid-pointed tonal range and wavering notes looping in a non-melodious patterns. Of these two séance offerings (and specifically when considered as an audio document) this is somewhat less engaging.

Moving onto ‘Underworld Transmission II’, ‘Séance II/2014 (March 2014)’ is captured on the first side of the tape. The track takes a short moment to get going but quickly elevates into a heavily cinematic, ritual ambient soundscape. Although drones form the compositional backbone, tense and urgent abstract sounds sweep and pan through the speakers, coupled with sustained atonal horn and string notes which rise to elevated crescendos of almost modern classical proportions (Penderecki certainly comes to mind in the later more animated sections of the piece). ‘Séance III/2014 (April, 2014)’ is then found on the second side, evoking a dank catacomb atmosphere with slow pounding ritualised thump, buried chants and abstract scraping/ creaking textural sounds, which at its sonic peak is not too far from a death industrial style. Great in other words.

With each release being limited to a mere 50 copies, the professional duplicated tapes are packaged is in a small fold out cardboard box, with a 10 panel booklet of sigils and séance associated images. Whilst musically these are at the slightly more abstract end for the Aural Hypnox Collective, nevertheless these releases clearly constitute special collectible obscurities which are destined to be highly sought after by label fanatics.  However for those not interested in the physical aspect of these releases, each séance has been published with an accompanying ritualised video which can be viewed via on Aural Hypnox’s website.

Various Artists – Slutstationen MC

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Various Artists – Slutstationen MC Styggelse 2014

This mammoth 90 minute compilation tape has been curated by the relatively obscure, staunchly underground and analogue focused Swedish label Styggelse which is helmed by Kristian Olsson of Survival Unit/ Alfarmania infamy. ‘Slutstationen’ functions as a varied and comprehensive collection of Nordic based sonic experimenters, who can broadly be filled under industrial noise and power electronics styles as general unifying descriptors. Featuring a total of 16 artists, this includes known artists, rising acts and other more obscure projects (to these ears at least).  Likewise noting that ‘Slutstationen’ translates to ‘The Endstation’, this is evidently the third and final compilation in a series and based on the quality and focus displayed here it is unfortunate that the first and second tapes in the series passed me by.

Side A features the largest number of contributions from recognised/ established projects (which can tends to increase the expectation somewhat), so on with the brief rundown of each.

  • Vit Fana – ‘Antoniuseld’: opens the tape where a mellow maudlin synth line (horror soundtrack style) give way to slightly metallic radio signal styled loops, where later on a pounding beat and sustained drone ratchets up the tension. A solid introduction to both the project and the compilation.
  • Puce Mary – ‘The Course’: delivers high pitched sustained tones which mix with an ominous mid-paced death industrial type beat, where added layers gradually build intensity (mostly loose loops and field type recordings). Late track vocals are presented in a heavy, commanding/ distorted yelled style, to complete a strong and solid offering (which also fosters Puce Mary’s rising profile).
  • Brighter Death Now – ‘Enough’: represents the long awaited return of Roger Karmanik who delivers a track which interestingly is neither of the all-encompassing darkness type or all out aggression style of what the project is known. This is something altogether different, with a fast paced pulsing rhythmic structure, mirroring plodding bass and squelching industrial noise. Probably it is only the subdued spoken vocals are a partially recognisable element. Good but certainly different to what might be expected.
  • Alfarmania – ‘Nåldyna’: is a hallucinogenic and caustic post-mortem offering, where sparse noise, dialogue samples and piano loops give way to muddied wall or of layered industrial noise filth. Solid stuff and on par with Alfarmania’s prior output.
  • Shift – ‘Wipe Them Out’: demonstrates the sheer excellence of Shift’s approach. Here the crushing wall of multi-layered industrial noise/ power electronics squall mirrors and matches the weight, heaviness, density and aggression of Shift’s latest full length album ‘Altamont Rising’. In other words this is simply crushing.
  • Händer Som Vårdar – ‘Jag Blev Stolt’: seeks a sonic route based on (what sounds like) abstract tape loop manipulations and scattered dialogue snippets, which gradually evolves within a loose structure (yet remaining minimalist and abstract throughout).
  • Theta – ‘Scopaesthesia’: features a cavernous industrial ‘wind tunnel’ aesthetic, where some shaper distortion manages to rise to the surface of the churning sonic mass. Overall the piece manages to stay on the industrial noise rather than HNW side.
  • Arv & Miljö – ‘Johnny’: rounds out the first side of the tape through micro-tonal exploration of metallic tones which gradually coalesce into a loosely composed structure and is completed with Swedish dialogue samples.

Flipping over to Side B it is noted to collect together a more obscure range of acts and whilst some are familiar by name, all are unknown within a sonic capacity.

  • Ochu – ‘Sopa’: opens the second side with slowly evolving ambient ritual drones, which are built up in layering to become far more forceful and animated, verging on death industrial towards the end.
  • Negative Climax – ‘Kaa Anta Ilahama’: opts for more post-industrial spheres, utilised layered heavily distorted drones, where chanted vocals and wooden flute providing a slight ritual edge.
  • Treriksröset – ‘Tillägnad Gubb (Vila I Frid)’: function in a capacity of a squalling, loose and chaotic noise approach. Here a rumbling undercurrent drives the lower end with high pitched noise sitting within the foreground.
  • Maniac Cop – ‘Fires Blanks’: delivers a relatively basic rugged industrial noise aesthetic, combining filth infused rumbling bass and shuddering mid ranged textures.
  • Teufelsdröckh – ‘Namnlös Och Odödlig’: with lethargic drones, factory styled field recordings and windswept ambience, creates a solid example of an experimental/ industrial ‘post-mortem’ type sound exploration.
  • Vårtgård – ‘Slåss’: delivers a more forceful industrial noise track, featuring a jagged, crumbling wall of distortion, offset with an scattered chaotic noise and aggressive vocals rendered indecipherable in distortion treatment.
  • Arkhe – ‘Vrakloge’: move back into subdued territory by presenting an excellent post-industrial soundscape, where a low distant rumble and oscillating textures – akin to the rotors of an approach helicopter – generate a slow building atmosphere. In effect the muffled and distant ambience and low toned rumble creates an engaging meditative aura.
  • A Feast For Vultures – ‘The Prodigal Returns’: constitutes the final compilation contribution, which is a loosely constructed and 80’s ‘old-school’ sounding industrial track. Contained a plodding rhythmic thump, scattered crackling noise and mid-toned atonal drones, it spans a partly composed and partly improvised style. However the track abruptly ends mid-way and seemingly not by choice but due to the limit of the tape’s length. A bit of a shame really.

My own personal barometer for assessing how well conceived a compilation is comes down to whether you get ‘lost’ along the way between various tracks, and clearly this can be more prone to happen with tapes due to the lack of track numbers to follow. Therefore to its credit ‘Slutstationen’ mostly avoids this pitfall, where I only became ‘lost’ at one point during this tape, which then had more to do with the lack of adequate space between the end of one song and the start of the next (between Treriksröset and Maniac Cop if it must be known). Overall I would say the first side is stronger than the second, but this is not to say that any of the contributions on Side B are sub-par. With a limitation of 250 copies and even a more limited distribution, this tape justifies the effort in tracking down a copy.

Concrete Mascara – Relic Of Vanity / Sick Seed – Helsingin Synagogat / Graustich – Werwolf Integrity

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Concrete Mascara – Relic Of Vanity 7”ep Filth & Violence / Untergeschoss 2012

Sick Seed – Helsingin Synagogat 7”ep Filth & Violence / Untergeschoss 2013

Graustich – Werwolf Integrity 7”ep Filth & Violence / Untergeschoss 2014

Here is a handful of 7”ep’s which have been co-released via the two underground Finnish labels Filth & Violence and Untergeschross. Although each release can be broadly slotted under the power electronics/ industrial genres, they also differ drastically in sound and approach, thus demonstrating the diversity which can be achieved under such genre classifications. Diverse vehement malice if you will.

Up first is Concrete Mascara (with this being my first introduction to the project), who incidentally hail from the US.  From this release they clearly operate at the brutal and nasty end of power electronics and industrial noise. ‘Vapour Slave’ opens the 7”ep and works on almost on two separate levels, where this forms an amalgam of mid to high range squalling and punishing noise, which floats over a crushing bass rumble and anguished vocal attack. Weighty to say the least. ‘Pylons of Skin’ is found on the flip side, and here maintains a similar dual layered approach, balancing ear shredding high-pitched noise and a wall of crushing bass and chaotic oscillating textures.

Up next is Sick Seed with their ‘Helsingin Synagogat’ 7”ep, where they embody a rather different approach for what the project might be recognized for. The opening title track is pretty much a direct industrial ‘song’, being built around crude cave man styled bass playing, squelching feedback loop and screeched/ yelled vocals, with a later segment getting even more loose with a chaotically riffed electric slide guitar (?!?). Strange, strange indeed. Side B brings a more ‘standard’ Sick Seed approach on the blink and you will miss it ‘Teeth Pt.2’ (only 1.22 minutes in length), which brings junk metal rumble, random power tool generated sounds and yelled vocals (…for interest’s sake part 1 of ‘Teeth’ was of similar style/ length and issues on the split release with Shift). The final of three tracks ‘Angel Smith’ then reverts back to the weird. Here sparse and distant junk metal clatter are accompanied by loose twangy acoustic guitar and spoken vocals to create an ‘industrial folk’ version of Finnish noise (?!?). Noting that this track is dedicated to the ‘outsider’ folk/ blues musician Jandek, this is at least an explanation for the deviation of sound.

Up last are Graustich, who are yet another previously unknown project, but based on this 7”ep are a very promising act. On the first track ‘Es Geht Wieter’ it is introduced with a WWII radio sample, which bleeds into an undercurrent of oscillating textures, complimented with a pounding militant industrial beat, swooping aircraft bomber samples, and flanged partially buried vocals to create a simplistic yet entirely effective industrial/ power electronics sound. ‘The Roots of Evil’ follows with a heavier oscillating bass rumble and thundering catatonic beat, before a crushing wall of distortion seeps into the mix. On side B ‘Werwolf’ is more animated with thick mid-range burrowing pulse and squelching noise, German language samples, queasy descending atonal notes, and loose militant styled percussion. Although Graustich embody a relatively straight forward (semi-subdued) power electronics approach, all sonic elements are handled with skill with maximum effect.

In a general sense none of these 7″ep’s would qualify as ‘gateway’ releases for those uninitiated to the power electronics genre, but that is far from the point. Obviously both Filth & Violence and Untergeschoss are both intent on releasing the nastiest examples of power electronics/ industrial noise for the educated underground connoisseur, with each of these 7”ep’s being clear examples of this modus operandi.

Femeheim – Grenzniederkunft / Stadingers – Deadly Silent Impuse

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Femeheim – Grenzniederkunft CD Death Continues Records 2013

Stadingers – Deadly Silent Impuse CD Death Continues Records 2013

Death Continues Records are a relatively new Belgian label and despite having issued a mere five releases since 2012, they have established a clearly defined aesthetic and sonic approach.  As such the initial impression is that Death Continues Records are seeking to draw a direct lineage to the aesthetic and sound of Slaughter Productions, which can be further translated to mean lo-fi, old school, death industrial of a late 1980’s early 1990’s vein. To date album packaging has been rather rudimentary (utilising standard jewel cases), and with the graphic presentation being straight forward in style it again reflects the general Slaughter Productions approach.

Femeheim is up first and delivers a sonic expression which encompasses lo-fi analogue death industrial musings. Tracks are mostly between 2 and 4 minutes in length, meaning they quickly set down a mood rather than stretching out over an extended length. Containing a mix of elements, here buzzing/ burrowing lo-fi analogue frequencies, stilted percussive thumps and grinding frequencies form slow loose rhythmic patterns, while partially mangled samples (choir vocals, marching tunes etc.) add to the sordid death industrial tone. Vocals are also an occassional feature, which range from spoken to screeched, but usually flanged or distortion drenched. Although sporadic tracks use mid paced pulsing structures to increase atmospheric urgency (almost power electronics in tone on late album track), a sullen tonality remains a constant. So without necessarily being ground-breaking, all in all Femeheim deliver a solid example of morbidly minimalistic death industrial music, which sits somewhere between the minimalist psychological tension of Atrax Morgue and the heaving/ pounding tone of Brighter Death Now’s ‘Great Death’ era.

Stadingers is up next and differs slightly due to its dank droning sound, which sits between a dark ambient and death industrial tone (but leaning more towards the later). The title track opens the album with atonal droning textures which are possibly generated via a guitar, but any real resemblance to a guitar riff has been abstracted to the point of unrecognizability. As the album progresses, the crude analogue sound provides a soot and grime infused atmosphere, which also articulates a sonic aesthetic of a cavernous industrial space (…far off tarnished vocalisations make an occasional appearance, but always garbled and unintelligible). ‘Putiphar’ stands out with its use of a prominent dialogue sample over a throbbing/ thumping mechanised industrial base (…yet the looped sample actually looses a bit of potential impact through overuse). A dank, oppressive and muffled analogue feel is present throughout, which when coupled  with the crude looseness to the compositional approach (evidenced by the occasional atonal warbling synths), all tends to amplify a lo-fi late 80’s early 90’s vibe of dark experimental / ambient music.

As suggested by the label name Death Continues Records appear intent on raising a recognisable banner under which death industrial obscurities can be issued to a wider audience. In more specific terms this is about fostering a ‘classic’ death industrial sound independent of genre fads or trends. Both album’s from Femeheim and Stadingers achieve this aim, where each will suit those whose listening habits yearn for the early era of the death industrial genre. As a final comment, if these two albums were to be ranked, for these ears at least Femeheim wins out for its slightly more focused (yet subdued) morbidly morose atmospheres.