Theologian & STROM.ec – Hubrizine CD Malignant Records 2014
On ‘Hubrizine ‘ Theologian have teamed up STROM.ec however rather than a typical 50/50 collaboration it seems that Strom.ec provided the base source material which Theologian has then shaped and sculpting it into its final form. Evidently this release also functions to celebrate the two project’s shared appreciation of Philip K. Dick, which is partially reflected and evidenced though what could be described as ‘sci-fi’ slant to the album’s general tone and atmosphere.
With regard to potential expectations this was always going to be clearly coloured by the fact that Theologian inhabit death industrial to power drone territory, whilst Strom.ec deliver sharp and clinical power electronics. But rather unexpectedly ‘Hubrizine’ does not sound at all like as a collaboration of these two might suggest. Whilst tonal influence from death industrial and power electronics is evident (and sporadically make their presence felt on selected tracks), these in the most part are sidelined rather than forming core album elements. Thus the sound here is focused towards an experimental industrial and dark ambient slant, which combines celestial synth drones, twisted studio elements and generally subdued (yet sporadically abrasive) industrial rhythms.
Up first ‘Involuntary Dilation’ forms a rather lengthy ambiental introduction, which is essentially a wavering experimental soundscape, featuring a low clinical drone/ hum and skittish maudlin piano tune which is fractured and twisted through skilful studio trickery. This piece is most certainly is a subdued surprise and sets the album off a fantastic start. The next piece ‘EM19’ encapsulates schizophrenic tendencies, where on the one level it is ambient and serene, yet on another it contains a clanging metallic industrial approach, complete with aggressive vocalisations. A similar duality to compositional approach is also prevalent on ‘Ubik’ although the industrial/ power electronics elements are slightly more muted, refined and less chaotic. With the title track located at the core of the album, it is a monster at 18 minutes long and encompassing sprawling dark ambient drone and subdued industrial noise which in the final minutes ramp up into a proper aggressive power electronics mode. Alternately ‘World War Terminus’ is a cinematically scoped dark ambient piece, with unfurls with subdued emotional intent. This is a sublime composition and certainly not the type of maudlin emotive track I would have ever expected from either act.
Noting that ‘Hubrizine’ originally formed a 2013 digital release (which was also given a physical release on cassette in a mere limitation of a mere 12 copies), this material is far too strong to fall into obscurity, hence clearly the reason for Malignant Records giving it a proper rerelease treatment. The album particularly demonstrates the skilful approach Theologian has employed with using Strom.ec’s source material, where compositionally countering and divergent elements are blended and interwoven, to perfectly balance elements of aggression and serenity. Although ‘Hubrizine’ is a surprising album given its sound and direction is vastly divergent from initial expectations, but more importantly and to the point is a superb and mature release.