Concrete Mascara – Blossoms of Shame CD Corrosive Art Records 2014
Concrete Mascara – History of Ruin MC Trapdoor Tapes MC 2015
Concrete Mascara are an American power electronics trio who have been around since 2011 and in that time have issued a handful of tapes, a split CD (with Umpio), 7”ep and some digital only recordings. In a general sense given the group approaches their style of power electronics with a rougher noise and junk metal infused sound, it sets the group apart from the sound and feel of many other current American death industrial/ power electronics projects.
The full length CD ‘Blossoms of Shame‘ from 2014 contains 9 tracks over 43 minutes and is rather diverse in approach. Featuring a general loose semblance of structure, its sonic construction includes: buzzing drones, saturated noise, erupting distortion, metallic clatter and aggressive unhinged vocals partially buried within the mix (refer to opening track ‘The Duality of Sin’ as a prime example). ‘Attrition’ then features some sporadic squalling noise which evidences a more harsh noise tonal aesthetic, although there is a degree of control to its execution. Moving toward a more subdued sound, the pairing of early album tracks ‘True Beauty Never Dies’ and ‘Monochrome’ both feature a similar a low death industrial throb; the first containing treated spoken vocals which articulate a drugged out haze, whilst the later infuses some field recording elements for tonal diversity. ‘When Only Pieces Remain’ then delivers a powerful track based on its saturated overblown junk metal distortion where the aggressive vocals barely managed to break through, while further variation is found on the slow stalking feel and tensile atmosphere of the lengthy ‘Labyrinth of Doubt’ (distant pulse, ‘upfront’ micro-tonal metallic textures and morbid spoken vocals). Late album track ‘Scalpel’ is an excellently tensile piece featuring a heavy focus on a junk metal aesthetic, where loud and detailed sounds of solid metal scraping on concrete features prominently over a low analogue drone. Further sound elements include twisted piercing noise and a saturated overblown metallic production, again with the vocals being spewed forth from the background to create a very strong track indeed. ‘A Vision Of Love’ constitutes the final composition to rounds out the album in quite divergent form. Differing in sonic guise the track features a driving/ pulsing programmed rhythmic element (a quasi-techno bass throb over which washes of noise and sweeping static are laid), although in overall execution feels relatively undeveloped compared to the balance of the album.
Moving on to their latest release, this is an 8 track 46 minute tape where their sound seemed to have evolved a touch, despite only being a year on since ‘Blossoms of Shame‘. On ‘History of Ruin’ the generated atmospheres are highly tensile, but more subdued in execution, whilst at the same time the vocals have been pushed forward and up within the mix to greater prominence. Although sharper tonal elements are use these are again presented in a controlled way; where the wailing agonized vocal style then feature as the most unhinged element to counterpoint the subdued distortion undercurrent. Opener ‘Aftertaste of Shame’ features crumbling static base with pained and agonized (slightly processed) lead vocals, which is the mirrored by a second partially burred and static infused vocal line. ‘Narcotic Vixen’ with its low buzzing static and distortion squalls moves towards noise territory, but then pulls back again on ‘History of Ruin’, being a tense stalking atmosphere (‘heart beat’ bass thumb, buried distant vocals and sparse upfront metallic textures). ‘Unending Muck’ rounds out the first side with two separate howling/ wailing vocals spat over minimalist buzzing base, being an excellent tensile atmosphere of angst and pain and highlighting the vocals as being a standout rabid element of Concrete Mascara’s sound.
‘Under Black Waves’ commences Side B with rabid static abuse and unhinged vocals, before falling away into a section of muffled distortion and ash cloaked ambience (which does burst forth into more caustic sounds late in the piece). ‘Funeral Shroud’ is another great example of the more subdued tensile sound, where noise frequencies sit in the background, as two separate vocals lines are mixed prominently upfront and being the main central focus of the piece. ‘Nothing Left To Burn’ is the most rhythmic track on offer with its mid-paced pulsing bass throb and completed with fizzing static and semi-buried gruff vocals, and although simplistic in approach makes a very strong impression. ‘Juggernaut of Truth’ is the final track to round out the tape relying on layers of caustic noise, throbbing static and unhinged vocals, but with its rudimentary approach forgoes a tensile atmosphere and consequently is not as engaging as earlier material.
Although having not heard all of Concrete Mascara’s recording output to date, from the few releases I have heard, personally I would favor their most recent material, where the tensile sound and prominent dual vocal barrage is extremely effective. Although ‘Blossoms of Shame’ is a strong and varied album, the newer ‘History of Ruin’ tape is also step up and standout, particularly on the vocal front.