Gnawed – Feign and Cloak CD Malignant Records 2014
2012 was the year the formal debut Gnawed album ‘Terminal Epoch’ was issued, which incidentally was a highly lauded release around these parts (reviewed here). So with a bit of background investigation it seems that a further 5-6 tapes (including splits releases) have been issued since then, where ‘Feign and Cloak’s forms the second album and first for Malignant Records. Noting that ‘Terminal Epoch’ was described by this reviewer as: “a heavy, no frills, and straight to the point power electronics/ death industrial album”, much the same descriptor could be employed here. Yet in doing so this would ignore some of its subtle difference. More specifically what sets this new album apart is the fact that it is slightly more subdued, where a restrained brooding intensity has been elevated to the fore, meaning this album perhaps leans more towards death industrial than typically aggressive power electronics.
8 tracks spanning 44 minutes forms the context of ‘Feign and Cloak, where a rough and guttural tone is instilled at the core the album – a tone which gradually seeps out of the speakers as rust stained filth. Whilst the opener ‘Time Undone’ includes some background metallic clatter, it is as if the scrap metal abuse is occurring somewhere far off in a subterranean basement rather than being front and centre in the mix. Yet as the metallic rumble cyclically builds to increased prominence, it is as if you the listener is slowly creeping forward to catch a glimpse of what is creating the metallic cacophony. So in this context if the opening could be considered as somewhat subdued, the second track ‘Burning the Hive’ is a direct kick to the chest with its heavy rumbling industrial loop and sustained organ dirge blast. Likewise when the static infused ripping vocals arrive, this is an example of where Gnawed absolutely excel in their chosen sound and one of the album’s tracks which verges on a power electronics tone. The title track (located towards the middle of the album), is another excellent offering, featuring mangled militant rolling snare, waves of rolling inky black distortion, as the sparse spoken to hoarse yelled vocals bleed out of the speakers as an unintelligible sonic mass. ‘Pestilence Beholden’ follows based on a backbone of heavy rhythmic death industrial, formed by a pulsing analogue tone and metallic infused loop, again with the searing distorted vocal attack. The late album track ‘The Drowning Fire’ articulates a shuddering, creaking metallic avalanche of sound which is both crushing and brooding in its atmosphere, while the final album track ‘Torch to Ceder’ round out the album with a blend of sustained drones and crumbling static which coalesces into semi-structure via its multi-layered approach.
Clearly with ‘Feign and Cloak’ Gnawed are not deviating from their chosen direction, rather are seeking the further refinement of their sound to absolute honed intensity. Noting that only Gnawed’s 2 main albums have been heard around these parts – and both being excellent albums from the US death industrial/ power electronics scene – maybe it is time to track down some of the more obscure cassette releases.