Isolator – Culture & Principle of Anti-Human Exaltation CD Black Plagve 2014
Teeth Engraved With the Names of the Dead – Starving the Fires (Pt.1) – CD Malignant Records 2014
Malignant Records and the associated sub-label Black Plagve have recently added two new artists to their rather substantial roster and in the process issued the formal debut albums from each. Having been issued at the same time and noting the general degree of affinity both projects have with their chosen musical approach, this is a logical enough reason for these albums to be reviewed together.
Isolator are up first and slot within a rather bleak black industrial/ black noise/ black ambient framework. Noting the potential overuse of the ‘black’ descriptor this based on the impression this underground death industrial/ ambient/ noise which has links with and takes inspiration from black metal spheres (a cursory review of the album title and track names clearly attests to this). As such Isolator delivers grim black hole grinding ambience mixed with dissonant abstract guitar riffing, where the guitar elements are wielded as droning layers rather than a typical ‘band’ element. Likewise when vocalisations are present, they are semi-buried within the mix and range from chanted to a black metal rasp.
‘Cast Into Blood’ opens proceedings with potent molten atmospheres, where deep organ dirge drones, caustic reverb riff distortion and whispered vocalisations set the scene for the album. ‘Mankind Shall Reap The Mistakes God Hath Sown’ follows where a guitar tone rises more prominently with abstract riff distortion, coupled with the lamenting orchestral synths and choirs semi buried within heavily echoed mix. ‘Your Heaven Will Writhe Within The Chaos Of My Hell’ is lengthy in both name and run time, which descends into a discordant downward spiralling and bass heaving mass, complete with buried synths and deathly croaked vocalisations. Perhaps some vague similarity to Sunn 0)))’s ode to black metal on ‘Black One’ could be used as a passing reference due to the heavy, slow riffed guitars. For final of the five tracks ‘In the Blood of Our Kingdom’ pares back on the bass crushing heaviness to more subtle Angelo Badalamenti styled moody synth drone soundscape. Yet even with this respite it gradually evolves into a doom riddled riff-fest, with sporadic incursions of deathly drawled vocals and flailing kit drumming being played somewhere off in the catacomb depths.
Hellish in its black noise intensity and whilst loose and abstract to a point, Isolator display a clear degree of control sophistication to the construction of their overall sound and atmosphere. In a word – harrowing.
Up next are the project with the rather lengthy moniker of Teeth Engraved With the Names of the Dead (Teeth Engraved for short), where they adhere to a more strict death industrial sound. Whilst less dense in tonality and more murky and muffled in tone, Teeth Engraved’s sound encapsulates a widescreen soundscape format. Ultimately this is music of droning and grinding ambience, mixed with soot infused soundscapes, reverb drones and general inky sonic blackness. On occasion the material also steers towards a black noise/ ambient style as evidenced through the inclusion of dissonant riffed guitars.
‘Radians’ sets the scene with a muffled yet sweeping soundscape which is padded out with micro tonal elements of general metallic and industrial rubble. ‘Vital Remains’ then conforms to a well-worn death industrial markers of maudlin minor keyed synths, grinding noise and partially mangled medial based dialogue samples. ‘Shredded Sky, Hung in Tatters’ offers up a rather heady piece, sounding as if the product of field recordings made of an industrial incinerator (i.e. gusting heat waves and exhaust strewn ash), as oscillating grinding textures rise and fall, with atonal synths and croaked vocals relegated to another layer in the chaotic mass. ‘Lacerate’ then builds on a base of grinding waves of morbid distortion, which are further augmented by dissonant tremolo strummed guitar, echoed feedback, maudlin sub-orchestral synths. Alternately the glass gargling and croaked vocals of ‘Broken From Inside’ are elevated to the absolute foreground of a blasted atonal oscillating death industrial soundscape, where the vocals resemble another crushing echoed layer than anything remotely human. For the final track ‘When Storms Come’ this arrives as a monolithic 25 minute offering, where mid paced cyclical waves grind incessantly on and feeding back distortion rides the knife-edge of becoming a high pitch squall. Dour minor keyed synth undercurrent and general creaking metallic wreckage only adds the shuddering ambience.
Through a slow evolving, unhurried and controlled approach, Teeth Engraved achieve a strong ‘soundscape’ take on various classic elements of death industrial genre to create a very robust and refined debut album.
Whilst displaying their own individual flair, both albums from Isolator and Teeth Engraved are very strong in their grim blackened death industrial/ ambient approach and display exactly what so many current American projects are doing so well with variations on a central death industrial theme. Both albums also function to again demonstrate the knack of Malignant Records to maintain an extremely high quality level within their ever expanding discography.