It has come time to clear some space in the shelves – sale or trade offers welcome.
Brighter Death Now – With Promises of Death CD Familjegraven 2014
Brighter Death Now (BDN) aka Roger Karmanik has finally returned to reclaim his position in the death industrial/ power electronic underground. Whilst Roger’s general absence in the past few years was widely noted it was not a case that he had officially quit, rather was on self-imposed hiatus based on some major personal upheavals (…what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger as the saying goes). Likewise with the paralleled demise of the Cold Meat Industry label, ‘With Promises of Death’ also marks the launch of Roger’s new label Familjegraven which is dedicated to releasing all things related to BDN (…like a phoenix from the ashes as the saying goes).
To place ‘With Promises of Death’ within BDN’s back catalogue it needs to be considered in context of the overall arc of the project, where BDN’s legacy is built upon a clearly unequalled run of classic albums which includes: ‘Great Death’ (I, II & III), ‘Necrose Evangelicum’, ‘Innerwar’ and ‘May All Be Dead’. However on the following albums ‘Obsessis’ and ‘Kamikaze Kabaret’ (issued during the early to mid 2000’s period) there was a definite feeling of diminishing returns and perhaps a lack of conviction or Roger merely going through the motions. Likewise despite having numerous releases since 2005’s ‘Kamikaze Kabaret’, these are mostly live albums or compilations1, which means that ‘With Promises of Death’ is the first proper full length in 9 long years.
Noting that the BDN’s sound and visual aesthetic has been long established, you should by now have at least a cursory appreciation of what to expect. So although this new album picks up within what will be a recognised vein, at the same time Roger has not sounded this vital and invigorated in years. Thus rather than reinventing the BDN sound, this album ‘cherry picks’ elements and approaches from early albums which in turn makes for a varied sounding release. The title track leads off the album and includes an excellent introductory ranting religious speech sample (which can also be re-contextualised to have parallel meaning to Roger’s own circumstances), and when the track itself kicks in it is a barely restrained wall of sweeping industrial noise, crushing bass tones, semi-buried rhythmic pulses and yelled distortion echoed vocals which mirrors the most aggressive moments of ‘Innerwar’. The following piece ‘Hate is for Beginners’ then takes up mantle of the throbbing mid paced rhythmic approach of ‘May All Be Dead’, whist the production of ‘Tempting Murder’ has a certain tone and aggressiveness again lifted from ‘Innerwar’. Alternatively the squelching tone and idling rhythms ‘The Cover Up’ is not particularly typical of any former album, whereas ‘Incomprehensible Evil’ marks the album’s gradual descent into the murky death industrial depths found on ‘Necrose Evangelicum’. The following ‘To Die Lullabye’ forms is another piece lifted entirely from the ‘Necrose Evangelicum’ mold and with is grim industrial drones, and meat grinding ambience perhaps even arcs back further to the track focused sound of ‘The Slaughterhouse’. Excellent in other words. ‘In the Shadow of Death’ in some ways is the most divergent piece of the album with its rolling/ pounding rhythmic drive and clearly audible half sung/ half chanted vocals placed prominently in the mix is absolutely superb and perhaps marks a future direction for Roger within the established BDN template. The final track ‘End of the 80’s’ is an almost throwaway ditty, consisting of a sampled cabaret/ jazz song overlaid with sparse and sporadic clanging metallic industrial textures and sampled vocal passage, but the meaning is lost on me as it is not in English2.
Having been a long term devotee of BDN (the personal impact which the ‘Great Death’ box set had on my appreciation of ‘music’ 20 years ago now cannot be underestimated), I was obviously intrigued but equally apprehensive of what Roger would deliver on this new album. Having let this album settle into my psyche over the course of a couple of months, it is an album which will demand an equal position well up the ranks of BDN’s discography and although it may not topple the recognised classics, it instead delivers a strong, faithful and most importantly a vital sounding edition to the BDN canon. Certainly a welcomed return.
1 – The two issued LP’s in the ‘1890’ series are part of a separate and specific concept, thus stand apart within BDN’s discography.
2 – This track could also been seen as in keeping with the bleak/ black humour which has often characterised Roger’s work, but which is often undetected or unacknowledged.
Sigma Octantis – Dissipations CD Malignant Antibody / OPN 2014
In collaboration with the French label OPN, Malignant Records have used their sub-label ‘Malignant Antibody’ to issue the fourth album and apparently the final release from Sigma Octantis. Although having not heard of Sigma Octantis before, from the introduction provided by ‘Dissipations’ they deliver an interesting amalgam of stylistic elements cherry picked from a number of genres (including: animated dark ambient, 1990’s era tribal-industrial and post-rock), where these disparate elements are blended in such a way as to not sound derivative of any of the genres in particular. Noting also that the defunct cult Swedish project Morthound is used a reference point within the promo blurb, this is actually quite a spot on reference point, given a similar musicality, diversity and playfulness is demonstrated here (and particularly reference Morthound’s albums ‘Spindrift’ and ‘The Goddess Who Could Make the Ugly World Beautiful’).
Album opener ‘Vieil ocean, aux vagues de cristal’ starts proceedings with a typical dark ambient drone melody but it is not long before rousing tribal rhythms kick in over which a solo piano melody provides a dour, down tuned mood, yet the tone morphs again with the later introduction of a twanging guitar line providing a post-rock sensibility. On ‘Errance Definitive’ the tribal-industrial rhythms sound as if almost an outtake of Deutsch Nepal’s classic album ‘Deflagration of Hell’, but the later section soars off into territory all its own through the use of shimmering synths and quasi-orchestral textures (late track again morphing towards a post-rock tone). Likewise with its slightly middle eastern tinged melodies, ‘Des astres tranquilles’ encompasses a sonic atmosphere somewhat reminiscent of the most mellow and musical passages found on ISIS’s final album ‘Wavering Radiant’ (which is a complimentary comparison to make). The final track ‘Farewell’ is also an absolute album standout, being a moody melancholic track of swelling cinematic orchestral melodies and driving tribal industrial hand percussion. Throughout its course it drops away into quiet segments of post-rock tremolo guitars and rock kit drums before building to the final crescendo to rival the build ups of Mono or Explosions in the Sky and generating an absolutely stunning and sublime song in the process.
Eight tracks in all cover just short of an hours play time and although my personal listening habits extend to a wide range of music outside the main focus of noise receptor journal, Sigma Octantis are not a project which have ever cropped up on my radar before. Therefore recognition should be afforded to Malignant Records for issuing this album which is slightly off tangent the main bulk of their musical output, particularly as it is a great album which may have otherwise passed by unnoticed.
Genocide Organ – Archive IV 10”ep Tesco Organisation 2014
Genocide Organ return with a welcomed forth release in the 10”ep achieve series. As with the other prior archive releases the group continue to demonstrate they have been sitting on a wealth of unreleased material which far from being second rate actually equals the output of their most recognised and lauded releases. For this 10”ep it features approximately 24 minutes of previously unreleased material from 1992 and 1996. 5 of the 6 of the track here were recorded in 1992 evidently shortly after ‘Save our Slaves’ and are unified under the title of ‘The Lesson’. Evidently these mostly instrumental tracks were intended to be released on a 10”ep which obviously never eventuated. For the sixth track this is derived from 1996, being recorded soon after the ‘Mind Control’ album. So potentially classic era stuff then? Well yes – absolutely in fact.
Noting the early to mid-1990’s era of these tracks they accordingly align more closely with the prototype unpolished and aggressive power electronics sound of the group, before a more refined and controlled sound was to take prominence on later output. Thus here the main approach is the presentation of an amalgam of grinding and burrowing loops, sustained noise, and static fried tones which are structured in a myriad of mid paced semi-rhythmic structures, whilst smatterings of dialogue samples to flesh out thematic content – here relating to various aspects American imperialism and societal oppression. Likewise the fifth and final track from ‘The Lesson’ series differs from the rest of the instrumental tracks in that it contains aggressive yet drawling and lamenting vocals. ‘Nix-on’ the sixth and final track on the 10”ep features as a slightly more subdued soundscape track of semi-rhythmic pulses and layered swirling battlefield textures, which includes dialogue samples of (you guessed it) US President Nixon.
Without putting too much of a point on it Genocide Organ has long been recognised purveyors of scathing power electronics and this is clearly with good reason. Any ‘new’ material from the group – including previously unreleased material in the archive series – is clearly welcomed, with this release yet again demonstrating their early dominance of such a style and approach. Noting the collectability and fetishisation of Genocide Organ’s output the physical edition was sold out on pre-order, however for those who missed it the tracks can be obtained digitally.
Lingua Fungi – Melankhton CD Aural Hypnox 2014
Via this release Aural Hypnox has expanded their label roster to include the Finnish comrade Lingua Fungi, whom incidentally this reviewer has not come across before. However for contextual sake this addition makes complete sense as the individual behind the project (Jaakko Padatsu aka OAK) is an integral part of the Aural Hypnox label. With a bit of background research it is noted that Lingua Fungi has issued some 7 releases since 2006 (including tapes and collaborations), and although ‘Melankhton’ was issued in 2014 the album was recorded, mixed and mastered in 2006. Noting this is the first album heard by Lingua Fungi and that this material dates from the earliest days of the project, it is unclear of how this fits within the scope of other albums.
On face value this album fits within the broader ritual ambient oeuvre of the Aural Hypnox label, however what sets it apart is that it is also most musical, evidenced through the use of prominent use of acoustic guitars. Thus the sound of Lingua Fungi is one where a backing of field recordings and abstract drones are coupled with focused melodic musical passages. Also with the project self-describe themselves as “acoustic drone and ambient”, this is quite on the mark. As such compositions are structured around a bed of nature based field recordings (crackling fire, babbling brook etc.), over which the droning textures and more prominent musical elements are laid. The use of clean/ acoustic guitars is also subject to studio treatments where on the opening track ‘Wavy Guests’ the acoustic guitar and percussion has been sampled and played backwards for twisted effect. The later section then ramps up into full musical guise with mid paced prominent bass guitar and driving percussion and again coupled with looped backwards musical elements to achieve a wonky disorientating tone. Of the melodic musical passages some segments prominent acoustic guitars and hand percussion of middle-eastern melody structures are utilised, with the second track ‘Departures’ being a particularly strong example. The title track also builds on this general format but includes woodwind instruments for added musical effect. Yet that said not all musical passages are middle-eastern tinged, give the track ‘Detached’ has a floating, forlorn and melancholic tone to the melodic acoustic guitar.
Of the 5 album compositions all are between 10 to 12 minutes each, thus allowing a general sparseness for the overarching atmosphere to slowly evolve, noting also that each piece moves through a number of distinct drone focused and musical structured segments. Although squarely of the tribal and ritual ambient sound of Aural Hypnox, Lingua Fungi elevate it into far greater musical realms with excellent result. A recommended surprise.