Von Einem – The Von Einem Tapes

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Von Einem – The Von Einem Tapes 2xCD Index Clean 2016

Von Einem is the solo experimental noise-industrial project of Australian Mark Groves, who is also associated with other underground projects Absoluten Calfeutrail, Dead Boomers and the label Sabbatical. For this double CD it collects together material released on 7 tapes issued between 2011 and 2014.

To firstly make mention of the project moniker, this would appear to be integral to a large part of the thematic content.  As such ‘Von Einem’ is in reference to Bevan Spencer Von Einem who was the only individual to be convicted in association with the ‘The Family’ murders: a notorious case in Adelaide Australia where a secretive group of men were involved in the kidnapping, drugging, sexual abuse and murder of five young men and teenage boys during the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. This theme is picked up within the descriptive (yet fragmentary) style of lyrics, which make reference to various details of ‘The Family’ case, as well to other infamous Australian crimes such as the ‘Snowtown Murders’.  Of note, where lyrics are used they are presented via means of processed spoken vocals which recite various crime incidence details, psychological profile analysis, or the general context in which the events took place, but are delivered in an clinical and unemotional way to give the feel of being a passive observer (…or that of an impartial documentary narrator).

Over 2 hours of music is presented across the 2 discs, where the rather diverse material charts predominantly subdued industrial-noise soundscapes, but also draws in elements of ominous drone, rhythmically stilted heavy electronics styled programming and moments of harsher static, piercing feedback and junk metal rumble. Track lengths vary from quite short vignettes (of a couple of minutes each), through to the longest track at 12 minutes: yet the greater majority sit between 4-6 minutes each.  As such the general order of proceedings involves a display of the wide range of ways in which pieces consisting of tensile industrial churn, clinical noise reverberations and processed apathetic spoken vocals can be approached.  Tracks ‘Dirties’ and ‘Black Moods’ feature a similar style and are particular standouts, consisting of low thudding programmed beats and cyclic synth drones.  Another two tracks on the second disc equally stand out via their divergence of approach: ‘Twice in the Head’ with its distant atonal piano tune and ‘Forged Cheques’ with it moody orchestral strings sample: where these elements are set against crumbling industrial drones, higher pitch squeals and dour vocals.  The instrumental ‘Scripted Phrases’ displays further variety through its distant windswept drone and fractured rhythmic framework; as does ‘Disturbed then Refilled’ with a thick heavy electronics styled throb, mid toned invasive sustained squeal and heavily treated voice.

Although tonally being very much of an underground experimental noise-industrial type, its approach is such that ‘The Von Einem Tapes’ does not typically sound like any obvious comparisons, which is a definite positive (…the Australian accent inflected vocals further assists in setting the material apart).  Thus with its mood being categorized by a general detachment and clinical analysis of crimes of a sadistic nature, this is reflected in the cold and bleak style of the music.  Likewise despite the material has been assembled from 7 different releases, it does not sound like a disjointed compilation of incongruent material.  6 panel foldout card cover (adorned with imagery associated with the album’s thematic preoccupations), rounds out a strong release in term of is visuals, sound and theme. If you have not paid attention to Von Einem before (myself included), this release would be the perfect place to start by providing an immediate overview of the entirety of their output to date.

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Fall of Nature tapes 2016

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The Temple of Algolagnia/ Funeral Mantra – Fremitus Ortus Cum Defuncti MC Fall of Nature 2016

Ectoplasm – From the Extrasensory Sphere MC Fall of Nature 2016

Issued under the new umbrella title of ‘Fremitus Ortus Cum Defuncti’, The Temple of Algolagnia/ Funeral Mantra split was originally issued as a digital only release on Kalpamantra in 2012.  Fall of Nature have now seen fit to give this release a repress on physical format, including remastered recordings and newly updated artwork.

The Temple of Algolagnia take up the first side with occult infused dark ambience and perhaps could be compared to the funeral doom project Nortt and their mostly ambient album ‘Galgenfrist’ (…but for clarity it is highlighted that no metal elements are featured here).  The opening cut ‘Translucent Ebony Statues’ sets the scene with sparely forlorn atmospheres and an understated lone piano melody haunting proceedings. The next piece ‘Catacombs Above Ground’ features field recordings elements of rain, dripping water and distant crow cries embeds a very strong cryptic tone (…low bass drones rumble ominously throughout).  ‘Cantibus Ad Messorem, Sanctus Mors’ then up the sound towards death industrial spheres with a thumping percussive framework, tolling church bells and more animated quasi-orchestral synths and whispered invocations (…comparable to being a subdued version of In Slaughter Natives’ satanic orchestral industrial). ‘Death Libations’ features as a short bonus track and rounds out Side A with sparse clanging discordant piano notes and scant wailing funeral strings.  A strong yet sullen conclusion to The Temple of Algolagnia’s offerings.

Funeral Mantra are to be found on Side B and take a further step down into the catacombs via dark ambient atmospheres of choking soot and ash, which contain a sense of dread and non-movement.  The lengthy 9.5 minute opening track ‘The Source of the Black Poison features a muffled tone and feel of suffocating inky blackness and with its distant, forlorn and muffled choir chants, is something akin to a more sparsely rendered raison d’etre.  Likewise ‘Necrolust Obsession’ works particularly well, with distant droll funeral procession percussion, windswept ambience and male chanted choral vocals, coupled with scrapping metallic textures in the foreground.  ‘Throne of Death’ is the final offering from Funeral Mantra, being a touch less echoed and dour in feel, given the sampled choral vocals make a return but this time are mixed prominently upfront, with the lurking synths providing an ominous edge.

Moving on to the Ectoplasm tape, it would seem this is side project of Funeral Mantra and the debut release at that.  Although not straying too far from the sound of Funeral Mantra, the sound Ectoplasm still differentiates itself by accommodating a more dynamic soft/ loud production which is coupled with a strong presence of unintelligible disembodied voices.  The opening piece ‘Cataleptic Transmissions’ is rather quasi-orchestral in approach by building to shrill crescendos, which is also undercut by ominous tones and general catacomb ambience (…sparse bells/ rattling chains/ opening of rusty hinges/ anguished cries).  ‘Ectenic Crytotrance’ is another focused and tensile dark ambient composition, where the sound of a record needle on an old 78rpm record is a nice touch.  ‘Spectral Autopsy’ then sets itself completely apart by breaking out into section of slow paced lo-fi black metal/ rasping funeral doom (complete with treble toned razor sharp guitars, slow booming drums and shrieked vocals), but as quickly as this section arrives it recedes into the background leaving twilight hours field recordings, rumbling bass and sparse gong tones.  ‘Transition’ is the final of 4 tracks from Ectoplasm and concludes the tape over a 14 minute expanse of echoed desolate soundscapes, floating spectral vocalisations and occasional doom laden thuds.

Given both tapes broadly exist within similar tonal sphere – namely obscure, occult infused dark ambient musings – both of these tapes deliver in spades for this style and despite their limitations (120 and 100 copies respectively), both are pro-pressed and exquisitely designed.

Shibalba – Samsara

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Shibalba – Samsara CD Malignant Records 2015

Shibalba are a new signing to the Malignant roster, yet themselves are not a new project. Following their demo tape ‘Memphitic Invocations’ (from 2010), and contributions on four split CD’s over subsequent years, ‘Samsara’ now constitutes their formal debut album – and an extremely strong one at that.

Specifically this Greek project lurks within ritual dark ambient spheres, and can be classified as a side project to the Greek black metal band Acherontas, noting such a scenario is not a unique one, having been replicated over the years by different black metal bands and musicians. Thus one of the most well-known and recognized comparisons for Shibalba would be the American group Equimanthorn – a ritual ambient project with links back to Absu (via past and present members).  In fact the sprawling ritual soundscapes of Shibalba certainly have parallels with later day Equimanthorn, which should highlight the quality and seriousness of the both the musical and ritual presentation (…although where Equimanthorn focuses on a Sumarian occult/ ritual spheres, Shibalba’s thematic preoccupations seem to draw inspiration from Greek/ Mayan/ Buddhist/ Hindu mythos).

With the word “Samsara” referring the cycle of death and rebirth to which life in the material world is bound, the musical framework is one which utilized both synthetic means (heavy synth driven atmospheres) and the real instrumentation (ritual percussion, chimes, vocal chants etc.).  5 tracks are featured, ranging from seven and a half minutes at the shortest and fourteen and a half minutes at the longest. On the opening piece ‘The Magick of Mirrors’ it features a hypnotic and swirling sonic miasma generated through sampled choral vocals and shrill synth derived orchestral tones, which later shifts to booming and driving ceremonial drumming.  This composition gives way to ‘Dharma and Alchemy’, sounding as if it is a recording of an arcane ritual being performed in abandoned catacombs, where wailing chants and invocation based vocal proclamations are uttered against a backdrop of ritual chimes and heavy dose of inky black echoed reverberations. Likewise the sparse echoed soundscapes of the album title track features a range of real instrumentation, rhythmic drumming and elongated chants, which solicits a comparison with Funerary Call or perhaps Halo Manash.  ‘Nekyia’ rounds out the album in sprawling guise – a spectral nightside evocation of chthonic drones and ritual percussive intent.

With its strong driving instrumentation and forceful sound production provides ‘Samsara’ with both dynamism and presence. Shibalba’s music is extremely focused and skillfully executed, without being at all derivative of its sound or influences, or (potentially worse) suffering a cheesy aesthetic which is sometimes inadvertently generated by metal musicians attempting ritual/ ambient/ industrial music.  However it would also not be overstating the point to highlight that Shibalba clearly has a certain ‘crossover’ appeal, meaning it has a particular sound that will attract open minded underground metal listeners, as well as post-industrial devotees who have a penchant for ritual oriented material.