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.