Monocube – The Rituals

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Monocube – The Rituals CD Malignant Records 2016

Monocube represents yet another new addition to the (ever) expanding Malignant roster, with this Ukrainian project being one I have not come across before. ‘The Rituals’ is their second album which demonstrates itself to be wildly diverse in terms of sound with a wealth of musical ideas on display, including clear attention to detailed sonic textures and fleeting moments of musicality (…the most obvious musical element being sparse guitar on one particular piece).

Although at its core this is a dark ambient album, it also interweaves elements of acrid drone and an undercurrent of post-industrial discontent.  Thus drawing from the recognized tropes of this type of music, including: twilight atmospherics, catacomal drones, sweeping sub-orchestral undercurrents, foggy disembodied invocations, tribal percussive thrum etc., individual creativity is demonstrated across the 9 tracks and 64 minutes. This is perhaps in part due to 3 tracks feature contributions from Apocryphos, Treha Sektori and Asmorod, although the tracks which are solely of Monocube’s creation are hardly of a singular sonic type.  There is also a high degree of forward momentum and tonal intensity which drive the sprawling widescreen compositions, meaning the results are well beyond a minimalistic or abstracted.  Equally there is an organic flair and resonance to numerous elements such as vocal textures and chants, dank field recordings and on occasion real instrumentation (i.e. ominous ritual percussion and sparse guitar), which functions to ground the principal atmosphere with an earthy tribal realism.

Although ‘The Rituals’ can be categorised under a broad ritual-dark ambient/ post-industrial drone banner, it pleasingly illustrates the creativity and diversity in approach which can still be achieved with the confines of such genres.

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Arbiter – Radiating Panic Source / H.C.O.D. – Instruments Of Destiny

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Arbiter – Radiating Panic Source MC Fieldwork 2016

H.C.O.D. – Instruments Of Destiny MC Fieldwork 2016

From its launch in 2013 this US tape label was quite active through to 2014 managing 11 releases in that time.  Although 2015 revealed no new releases a batch of 3 new tapes have emerged in 2016, with 2 being reviewed below (…the third tape is a split between Swedish projects Alfarmania and Treriksroset in support of their US shows in 2016).

Two years on from the 2 track ‘Negatively-Existent Cell’ (reviewed here), Arbiter have returned with a new tape ‘Radiating Panic Source’ which features 6 tracks (3 per side) and about 30 minutes of material.  Again drawing clear parallels with a northern european post-industrial ‘post-mortem’ sound, Arbiter excel with their strong focus on composition to create short ‘song-like’ tracks.  Analog grit and bass addled rumble forms the staple building blocks, with a further myriad of erupting sonic fissures and idling factory machinery for added complexity.   The opening title sets the scene perfectly with intertwining cyclic layers and a sense of cavernous depth, while the first track on the second side (‘Punitive Measures Guise’), is another standout with its distant oscillating resonances, forceful siren like alarm wails and distant industrial wasteland aesthetic. Fantastic.

With the next tape I am not at all familiar with H.C.O.D. (short for Hideous Colors Of Decay), but they do fit perfectly within the sonic and visual aesthetic of Fieldwork. After 3 tapes issues in 2013 and 2014, ‘Instruments Of Destiny’ appears to be formal full length album, with 7 tracks spanning around 60 minutes.  Although clearly within the same general sonic dimension as Arbiter, H.C.O.D’s approach is far more sprawling is scope and is a hotbed of caustic industrialized noise which bleeds out over greater length.  Caked in sonic soot, the tone is one of analog filth where the tracks work on a dual level involving sustained cavernous widescreen bass rumble over which mid-toned squall, higher pitched ‘whistling’ feedback and junk metal crunch is belched. ‘Will to Oppression’ provides some variance with its centrally featured echo tinged and half chanted vocals, as does ‘Mutilated Victory’ with its garbled and undecipherable dialogue sample.  Perhaps with its more singular overall approach, H.C.O.D.’s cassette is something akin to a marathon crawl through a post-industrial dystopian nightmare of wrack and ruin.

As with all other Fieldwork releases, the packaging is noteworthy based on their pro-printed and grimly designed J-cards, where the Arbiter tape it includes a mini-foldout poster and outer cardboard slipcase. Although both tapes are excellent examples of their chosen stylistic slant, Arbiter is my personal pick due to its focused and direct approach.

Gnawed – Pestilence Beholden / Steel Hook Prostheses – Calm Morbidity

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Gnawed – Pestilence Beholden CD Malignant Records 2016

Steel Hook Prostheses – Calm Morbidity CD Malignant Records 2016

From personal experience 2012’s ‘Terminal Epoch’ album was my introduction to Gnawed and with its excellent blend of US power electronics and death industrial musings it received high rotation over many months.  With that template following through to 2014’s ‘Feign and Cloak’, now 2 years on the new and third official album has arrived and seeing Gnawed rerouting their established approach into more brooding and ominous territory.

To describe the general order of proceedings, the album constitutes stark arrangements of drawling foghorn drones, layered synth derived sludge, slow echoed pounding beats and a greater emergence of metallic ‘clang and clatter’ which is roughly hewn into rhythmic structures.  With its overarching atmosphere oozing urban decay, this tone evident from the methods of recording the junk metal inputs, which according to the liner notes: “all scrap metal, performed percussion and natural sounds were recorded within sewers and rotting abandoned industrial complexes in Minneapolis, 2015”.  Although vocals do not feature on all compositions, when they are used they’re universally distortion drenched and agonized in delivery, and as is typical for this fare the lyrics are completely unintelligible, but the aggression and anguish in conveyance is tangible.

With its 9 tracks and 56 minutes, the sound and mood does not hugely deviate, but more plays out on variations on broader sonic themes, thus with the constant mood being grim and grey toned throughout, and with the greater reliance on looped junk metal being an noteworthy element.  With is greater display of structure, control and restraint, this is another excellent addition to Gnawed’s discography.

Moving on to ‘Calm Morbidity’, it represents the new album from US stalwart Steel Hook Prosthesis and would seem to be the 9th formal studio album (excluding splits and live albums), from this project since the early 2000’s, again demonstrating them to be in strong and consistent form.

Constituting a further excursion into their established clinical and medical obsessed death industrial approach, in some ways the album title is a clear synopsis of what can be expected from this album, noting that the overt aggression and sonic maelstrom has been pared back (to the bone?) to reveal greater brooding restraint (…that said, this a still far cry from potentially being tagged as ‘dark ambient’). The heavily processed vocals remain as a particular trademark, while the sonic base is cleaved into slow to mid paced rhythmic structures of throbbing distortion, erupting static, sustained caustic noise and dour synth drones to create varied offerings of brooding intensity and morbid intent.  Yet despite its broader restraint, there are specific instances where greater aggression erupts such as is displayed on both ‘Hand of Glory’ and ‘Stranguary’, which both feature variations on fast paced pulsing distortion, textured noise and garbled static infused vocals.  Also of note are the sonically processed medical based samples on ‘Deep in the Marrow’, which seem to be in complete homage to the same style of treated medical samples used by Carcass on their classic ‘Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious’ album.

With 10 tracks at just short of an hour play time, rather than being a particular step up in refinement this is perhaps a side step into slightly more restrained realms, but with the broader sonic palate remaining staunchly recognizable as Steel Hook Prosthesis.  Noting the ever so so slight shift in focus, I would not say this album is merely ‘more of the same’, nevertheless a key point to be made is if prior output is to your liking, this will again do the trick (…but equally this won’t alter your mind if you were not convinced by earlier output).  6 panel DVD sized digi-pack rounds out the visual presentation.

Anemone Tube / Post Scriptvm – Litaniæ Mortuorum Discordantes

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Anemone Tube / Post Scriptvm – Litaniæ Mortuorum Discordantes MCD The Epicurean 2016

With Anemone Tube and Post Scriptvm sharing this split, it is a logical pairing as they have quite individual and distinctive sounds within the post-industrial underground and both tend to frame their musical works around specific and interesting concepts.  For this release both have structured their works around a single title and conceptual theme of “Litaniæ Mortuorum Discordantes”, which to then quote from the promo blub: “originally applied to a particular style of ancient ritual music, in the Classical era the term Litaniae Mortuorum Discordantes attained a negative connotation and was used to criticize those compositions – which, instead of instilling listeners with the desired pious euphoria, incriminated them with a sense of dread, existential anxiety, feelings of death and decay. Finding this aesthetic choice to be most appropriate for the present era, the two post-industrial projects attempted to create their own “Discordant Death Litanies” for the XXI century”.  3 tracks are featured from each project and with a total run time of 38 minutes.

Anemone Tube lead off with ‘Myth and the Relation to the World’, works well to set the scene with a piece of elongated male choral chants and mid-toned sub-orchestral drones which is maudlin in feel rather than overly dark. This emotive edge continues with ‘Recueillement (Sa Propre Mort)’, where the sparse horns are particularly evocative and in line with the themes they on occasion twist and morph towards a discordant resonance (…and being something akin to a disharmonic/ harmonic effect).  Noting the sound on the first two Anemone Tube pieces differs quite drastically and where he mood, feel and sound is of almost a modern classical type, on the third Anemone Tube piece ‘Irruption of the Whore’, it charts more familiar territory of looped field recordings which are compositionally layered for vague rhythmic effect, and with its feel of mechanical churn it appropriately sets the scene for the Post Scriptvm tracks which follow.  ‘Buried In Fabula’ is the first of Post Scriptvm’s tracks and continues a feel of a slow descent through a soundscape of loose, downward spiraling drones, disembodied voices and general tones of tension and paranoia, and which is further amplified on ‘Dark and Nameless Gods’ with it greater focus on wonky rhythmic elements.  With its introductory male vocals chant third and final track is ‘Laterne D’Horreur’ reverts back to the vocal focus of Anemone Tube’s opening piece, before arcing off into an industrialized soundscape and fragmentary noise, sparse orchestral synth pads and other tonal elements representing fleeting glimpse of beauty but further underscored by an atmosphere of decay and rising dread.

When contemplating the conceptual framework which this material is structured around, I perhaps expected the material to be more discordant in feel and hellish in sonic execution. Yet this is in no way a criticism of the music itself, which is both evocative and sublime, which by should come as no surprise from both projects.  But as always, the benefit of having a strong conceptual underpinning, is the ability of a release such as this to be a multifaceted experience which engage on levels of both emotion (i.e. the music) and contemplation (i.e. the concept).  Clean graphic presentation rounds out this extremely enjoyable release, which is also issued on 2 versions of limited vinyl with alternative artwork via the Spanish label La Esencia, if wax is your preferred format.

Pterygium – The Revival of Unwritten Laws / Broken Fingers – Mer de Ruines / Grafted Soma – St. Quentin’s Enigma

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Pterygium – The Revival of Unwritten Laws MC Algebra of Need 2014
Broken Fingers – Mer de Ruines MC Algebra of Need 2014
Grafted Soma – St. Quentin’s Enigma MC Cabin Fever Networks 2016

Algebra of Need are a relatively new ‘micro-label’ focusing on vinyl and cassette releases, where issued material spans a wide arc capturing dark ambient, industrial, power-electronics, experimental techno etc. Being run by Henry Gillett & Thomas Barnes and having issued over a dozen releases since 2013, where the impression I get from perusing their catalogue is that the look, feel and artistic approach of Algebra of Need fits neatly alongside current labels like Posh Isolation, Hospital Productions and Northern Electronics.

Up first for review is ‘The Revival of Unwritten Laws’ 2014’s debut tape by Pterygium, which is the solo project of Henry Gillett. The material on the tape is a blend of experimental industrial noise and dark ambient, which has evidently been created from sampling history library audio and this source material being looped and treated with layered distortion etc. Opening track ‘Experience In Imperial Government’ is a grinding, droning mass which sonically forceful and blown out in tone, which is further infused with middle-eastern tribal samples (voice and percussion), which given an darkly exotic edge. With the first track abruptly cutting out, ‘Blood Tie’ quickly follows with a piece of cyclic, hollow toned and layered drones, again with samples of middle-eastern religious chants (…as the track progresses it gets progressively more overblown until it too abruptly cuts out). The flip side ‘Cause of Expansion’ follows a similar trajectory to the first, with layered droning noise and prominent middle-eastern tribal ritual samples but ramps up its tonal force to ‘jet engine’ effect. Final of 4 tracks ‘Never Once Did I Recover A Revelation’ opts to pull back on the distortion while duly increases the cyclic, rolling tribal rhythm to the point where it could easily be passed off as an outtake from the early classic era of Deutsch Nepal.  In an overall sense the material on this tape is definitely enjoyable, where its non-typical source material gives a distinct edge, however the way a number of the tracks abruptly cut out does fracture the mood and flow slightly.  With regard to packaging, there is high degree of attention to detail, given the tape is packaged in a small gloss printed slider ‘matchbox’ cover and with the tape wrapped in red satin cloth.

Up next is a short 2 track cassette from Broken Fingers, which is a project of Melbourne based Thomas Wojcicki. ’Barbed Wire Gag’ is the first Side A track, with a clean and clinical track of pulsing electronics, which are structured as part melodious drone and part rhythmic thrum, and where a comparison to the programmed works of Bad Sector is not too far off the mark. Side B brings the track ‘Kittens’, which is a rougher and more straight forward with its stilted rhythmic structure.  Given it slots within a clinical, programmed power electronics vein, the piece is further completed with smatterings of distortion and sporadic dialogue samples. With two tracks spanning two different styles, it delivers an agreeable sound on each, but then amounting to less than 10 minutes of material it also feels like it is an almost ‘blink and you miss it’ length. Colour J-card and printed outer casing ‘wrap’ rounds out the clean and simple packaging.

Moving on to to the final tape, Grafted Soma is a new collaboration between Henry Gillett, Thomas Wojcicki and this being their debut tape, on the new Cabin Fever Network ‘micro-label’, which is a further collaboration between the two. 4 mid-length tracks make up the tape and interestingly all titles are 1 word and starting with the letter ‘C’ (i.e. ‘Curfew’, ‘Coercion’, ‘Composure’ & ‘Consequence’). Drawing on elements of droning dark ambient and muted yet blown out industrial noise the material works on a split level of meditative melancholic to borderline abrasive (…depending on the track). In fact it just so happens that the first 2 tracks are the more abrasive ones, while the second 2 are more squarely of the meditative dark ambient type. Apart from thick drones and soundscape oriented layers, vocals/ dialogue snippets and choir like textures bleed in and out of the mix (…but as these are mostly undecipherable they are used for added sonic effect). The third track is the clear standout of the tape and the most forceful, where its strong and moody sub-orchestral textures reminds of the most active works of Yen Pox (…a similar yet slightly less forceful sound also features on the last track). Handmade J-cards rounds out an excellent debut tape for both project and label, and is the clear pick of this bunch.

Blood Ov Thee Christ – Filthy Criminals / Kristian Olsson – Att Vara Där Jag Var Innan Jag Var Jag

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Blood Ov Thee Christ – Filthy Criminals CD Old Captain 2016

Kristian Olsson – Att Vara Där Jag Var Innan Jag Var Jag CD Old Captain 2016

For a quick historic recap, Blood Ov Thee Christ was (is?) the project of Harri Honkaniemmi – one of the first Swedish power electronics/ industrial noise projects. A sole cassette ‘Master Control’ was issued way back in 1987 before the project disappeared into obscurity. To fast forward almost two decades, ‘Master Control’ was dug up and reissued on CD in 2005 (reviewed here), whilst around the same time Harri was coaxed out of hiding through the perseverance of Kristian Olsson (aka Survival Unit & Alfarmania) to reestablish the project, with Kristian joining as a second member.  ‘Filthy Criminals’ was then one of the first releases from the newly active project in 2006 and issued via cassette on Kristian’s own Styggelse imprint. Having been long sold out it has now been reissued on CD in a digipack edition of 250 copies with grim artwork also courtesy of Kristian.

‘Filthy Criminals’ features a mere two tracks, but each spanning 30 minutes which is reflective of the original cassette format.  From the opening segment of the title track, cascading waves of shuddering mechanized analog filth and distortion drenched vocals are metaphorically vomited into a rubbish strewn street and although no lyrics are discernible, the angst and aggression is palpable.  Loose and chaotic there remains degree of intent behind these crude compositions, thus the impression is not one of result of mere improvisation, particularly as variety of dialogue and vocal samples are strategically force-feed into the swampy tonal soup.  The pacing of the Side A track is not urgent or fast paced, rather the composition lurches forward in a general negative haze akin to that generated alcohol or drugs (or both?) – but given the length of the track in the later half the vocals and whipping static seek pushes towards greater frenzy.  The second track ‘Hatemaster’ gives some momentary respite through the use of an introductory sample which quite appropriately references religious devotion through heroin addiction.  Yet after a couple of minutes when the sample has run its course the track launches into a more direct mid ranged pulsing static attack.  Although a slow lurching undercurrent remains, the forefront elements of layered distortion, buzzing static and barked agonized vocals provide more chaotic force than the first track.  Mid track some hefty dual vocals and spitting metallic loops ramp things up further, although the piece concludes with a section of muted sonics and bizarrely half crooned vocals.

Being positioned at the rough end of crude industrial noise/ power electronics, this is sonically hard, grim and unrelenting.  It is the sort of album which preaches to the converted and as such will only appeal to connoisseur of such audial analog filth. Is that you? No doubt you will already know the answer to that.

Kristian Olsson in solo guise is not too far removed from the sonic world of Alfarmania, but there is a much greater degree of restraint, elevated experimentation and a mood of ritual atmospherics.  As for ‘Att Vara Där Jag Var Innan Jag Var Jag’, it is a CD reissue of a 2010 limited vinyl pressing of 275 copies.

Sonically speaking the album captures morbid ritualized soundscapes which feature a myriad of tonal elements including: murky atonal drones; metallic chimes; atmospheric scrap/ junk sounds; scraping metal on concrete textures, creaking metal hinges; and distant wailed voices which flesh out the sound. These collections of sounds are then combined into grim grey toned and soot infused soundscapes which articulate cavernous, muck and grime strewn abandoned spaces.  Of interest on its original vinyl pressing, the tracks effectively bled into longer single LP sided tracks, but here given the 10 individual tracks are individually indexed, it provides greater focus on the individual piece, which themselves range from around 2 to 9 minutes each. The title track appears late in the play order (track 8) stands out to a greater degree given it is sonically sharper and forceful, but still maintaining a comparable sonic palate to the rest.

To specifically compare these two albums, while they do certainly seek different listening moods and experiences, from my own perspective it is Kristian Olsson’s works which I find myself returning too on a more regular basis (…but could equally be the opposite on your own preferences).  But regardless of personal preferences they are both shining examples of Old Captain’s agenda to resurrect and given additional exposure to various underground obscurities.

Streicher – Global Gas Chamber / Totenrune – Bellum Internecinum

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Streicher – Global Gas Chamber / Totenrune – Bellum Internecinum MC Fall of Nature 2016

As a first observation this split function as evidence there is still movement in Streicher camp, given the formal status of the project has been somewhat unclear in recent years.*  But in keeping with the ‘political lighting rod’ role Streicher have played in the past, this modus operandi remains steadfast in 2016, but has been updated here with a concept to specifically address current socio-political events playing out on the world stage.

‘Global Has Chamber’ commences with a media sound-bite to inform the context and concept of the track, which is quickly followed by jagged scrap metal crunch and the terrified squealing of a pig.  This sample of ‘base animal terror’ is soon replaced with the screaming of a mass of humanity and further set to a sample of hissing gas – just to leave no shadow of doubt of meaning.  All this is further underscored by distant mid toned noise, crude analog filth and the gruff garbled vocals of Ulex Xane.  Once this initial sound is established, a foreboding monotony takes over which functions to hammer home the impact of the track, where the lone sobbing of a female late in the track being an additional grim touch. The mood and feel of the track is quintessentially that of Streicher’s established power electronics sound, although there feel here is that of a ‘soundscape’ style as opposed to overtly rhythmic approach.

On the flip side of the split, this is my first introduction to Totenrune, which is the solo project of Karl Rogers, who is also the label boss of Fall of Nature. Although primarily being billed as ‘noise’ upon listening to this single track ‘Bellum Internecinum’ (meaning: “a war of extermination”), it has a much greater rough ‘industrialised’ noise feel, given the source material is derived from scrap metal abuse. Rough layers of ripping static and crumbling distortion make up the bulk of the sound, where there is a mid-paced cyclic feel to how the piece plays out over its length. The cover states that this track was created in one take, which on the face of it appears to have been executed with intent rather than being merely improvised on the spot – but I am not sure of the truth of this either way. Regardless, this has more than adequate focus and rough industrial noise tonal aesthetic to make it a solid and enjoyable track that sonically and thematically suits the split format with Streicher.

The tape itself has a pro-printed doubled sided J card, with suitable rough b&w photocopy artwork (courtesy of Luke Holland of Trapdoor Tapes with 5 different covers produced), while the hand drawn runes on either side of the black shell cassette to indicate the artist is a nice touch. With its small limitation, it is likely this tape is already sold out. Too bad for those who have missed it.


* – Besides from a number of archival reissues, Ulex appears to have been mostly inactive on the Streicher front since 2003’s ‘War Without End’ album, and although there were Streicher contributions both the Death Pact International ‘Australian Units’ CD from 2014 and the ‘Fight Your Own War’ book compilation from 2016, it is not clear when those contributions were recorded. Likewise the split MC with :M: from 2013 featured an private archival Streicher recording.