Kontinent – Death Technologies LP Unrest Productions 2016
With Unrest Productions providing a platform for new and upcoming industrial/ power electronics projects, Kontinent is one such UK based act who have made a very strong impression with this. Originally issued as a super limited cassette boxset (55 copies in early 2016), this has thankfully seen a quick repressing on heavy black wax in an edition of 150 copies.
The opening track ‘Angry Fix’ comes charging out the speakers with a cascading wall of layered distortion, queasy oscillating synth line and antagonistic vocals which is an excellent statement of intent. From here as the album progresses it articulates a single mindedness to its sonic approach, where many tracks play out as variations of fierce burrowing distortion (…which are layered and looped into loose repeating structures), and further coupled with wavering synth lines and slow militant pounding beats. Vocals also add to the blood boiling intensity with their gruff and agonized delivery and further processed with the perhaps obligatory distortion/ flange treatment (…but there are no qualms with this as they perfectly suit the music). But to speak specifically of the deviating ‘Rainbow Family’, it is more subdued and soundscape oriented than anything else featured on the album, which in turn allows a prominent Jim Jones/ Jonestown sample to feature prominently (…although the Jonestown ‘mass suicide speech’ has been sampled previously by numerous others, it never fails to create a psychological impact when contemplating the capacity of an individual’s megalomania and the unyielding willingness of others to follow such an individual to their own demise).
Across the album there are moments which draw on classic hallmarks power electronics approach which positively reminds of the antagonism of the Grey Wolves, and perhaps also of the bulldozing ‘wall of distortion’ qualities of Wertham. Yet even in making those comparisons, the sound here is perhaps louder and upfront (…as opposed to being murky and muffled like the others). As such the sound production is sharp and fiercely loud, with an amped up and overblown sonic aesthetic to achieving bulk, force and presence. Given ‘Death Technologies’ is unashamedly rooted in classic elements of industrial and power electronics, it has in the process delivered a focused and weighty debut album.
Alfarmania / Proiekt Hat – Mardrömd Dödsström LP Tesco Organisation 2016
Following on from 2014’s excellent ‘Astral Slaktmask’ cassette (reviewed here), the premier paring of Swedish underground post-industrial and ‘post-mortem’ focused minds return with a new collaborative album (…recorded in 2015). To then quickly reference the album’s presentation (…single LP sleeve with A5 double sided insert), it highlights the fallacy of the opinion of some that packaging and presentation means nothing given it is evidently “just about the music”. But with those with such a view, clearly they are missing the point when confronted with artwork such as this, given it absolutely sets the mood and tone before an single sound has bled from the speakers.
The first track ‘We Came To Kill’ leads off in high calibre fashion with a multifaceted assemblage of shuddering noise, atonal percussive thumps, wavering analogue filth and oscillating textures to paranoia inducing effect over its lurching 11 minute expanse. Without doubt an excellent start. The following piece ‘For All Those Who Died: Endguldigkeit Des Dunkels’ is then not at all typical of the usual sound of either project given takes a ritual/ death industrial route of drawling chants, slow oil barrel beat, bass guitar throb and scattered metallic resonances. With a general stasis of overt momentum or variation, it evokes a sparse/ cavernous soundscape which is wholly unlike what you would usually expect from either project (…other than retaining a sense of rising dread which permeates proceedings).
Side B reveals more typical sounds from the project (…meaning ‘excellent’), featuring amorphous post industrial soundscapes of creaking metal, drawling noise and general dirge driven post-industrial soundscapes (…3 short tracks of 3 to 5 minutes each). ‘Intern-Nationalist’ is a more direct and fierce sonic approach of forcefully drilling synth lines, crackling static and agonized wailing vocals, whereas ‘Friends In High Places’ is another album highlight of queasy oscillating/ droning textures and cascading junk metal tones. The final album cut is ‘Eldförgängelsens Apostater: In I Intigheten’ which grinds onwards within a bass toned rut of filthy (subdued) noise and sporadic metallic crunch, which builds to weighty impact before the plug is pulled.
With only 5 tracks and a total of around 30 minutes of material this is a short and sharp album and clearly leaves me pining for more, but also makes every moment count with simply no weak of substandard material within its short play time. With only 300 copies this will no remain available for long.
Nordvargr – The Secret Barbarous Names CD Malignant Records 2017
The longstanding and highly renowned Henrik ‘Nordvargr’ Björkk should need no introduction given his near 3 decade involvement in the post-industrial underground. Yet to make specific reference to his most active solo guise he has issued upwards of 50 releases under the Nordvargr banner since the early 2000’s, where each have explored a wide range of sounds and stylistic approaches. Although I have not personally heard all of the solo Nordvargr releases, of the 15 or so I have they demonstrate a high level of creative flair and with more than a select few rising to laudable greatness.
For this new release ‘The Secret Barbarous Names’, it sees Henrik exploring a vocal focused stylistic approach and also is notable as the first time the Nordvargr project has appeared on Malignant. Bracketed under an amalgam of droning ritual dark ambient/ post-industrial drone, the album utilizes vocals as a central element of the compositional structure, noting this focus on the vocal elements sets this album apart from other Nordvargr albums (…evidently based on Draconian and Typhonian traditions, the thematic context relates to the inherent and hidden power of scripture text which can be manifested through their correct utterance, as opposed to their specific meaning). As such the vocal delivery ranges from whispered invocations, meditative hums and low drawling to croaked chants, which the latter drawing parallels with Tibetan throat singing. With the vocals themselves being multi-layered and treated with a fair dose of reverb and echo they forum the bulk of the tonal soundscapes, where underpinning widescreen drones rise and fall in force and prominence depending on the track. Although predominantly sitting within a certain tonal spectrum overs its 49 minute span, on occasion swelling orchestral strings and slow ritual percussive drums appear to given further sonic variation.
As should be expected from a Nordvargr album, its rendered sonic world is darkly hewn, but the slow pacing here manages to maintain an omnipresent meditative and ritualistic quality. Nothing also that Henrik has used the Nordvargr project to explore varied approaches, including abstract glitch (i.e. ‘I End Forever’ album) and ambient techno (i.e. ‘Resignation 2’ album) , modular synth drone (i.e. ‘Murkhr’ album) and all manner of dark ambient in-between, ‘The Secret Barbarous Names’ represents yet further variation in stylistic approach. But most importantly these new recordings sound both inspired and invigorated and certainly stands out as a pinnacle album within Nordvargr’s rather imposing back-catalogue. Regardless of whether you need a place to start, or a reason to reengage with Nordvargr’s current creative arc, this is a praiseworthy album.
Institution D.O.L. – Exzess CD Klanggalerie 2016
Prior to the release of this album it was preceded by a short promo video of main member Barbie B Dot sitting at a large professional studio console while listening to the new album, before turning to the camera and yelling “This Is Power Electronics!”. While I am assuming this promo video was intended with a degree of ‘tongue in cheek’ humour, equally did not resonate with me in a positive way as a promotional tool, as is not at all representative of what I have come to appreciate artistically from this type of music. Yet even in making such a criticism, it is exactly this video which highlights the professional means of recording, production and studio mastering which has resulted in an amazing sounding album. Being far from crude or lo-fi, there is a clinical and clean punch to the sound, with a crystalline production and balancing and separation of sonic elements (….perhaps the clean and focused sound of modern day Control is a relevant point of reference). Thus with its mix of clean power electronics with slightly more subdued brooding post-industrial soundscapes, musically speaking this is a very strong, focused and expertly executed album.
‘Where Darkness Is The Brightest Place’ opens the album with multiple buzzing frequencies and looped mechanical machine samples which compete and intertwine. This sonic base sets the scene and provides the backing for a nihilistic interview monologue from Werner Herzog referencing the violence, pain and indifference of the primordial jungle (…incidentally recorded in South America during the filming of ‘Fitzcarraldo’ in the late 1970’s). The track itself exceeds 10 minutes and is split into two parts, with the second part following the conclusion of the Herzog sample and achieving a massive impact with a crushing machine rhythm. Vocals throughout this section amount to gruff yells and are immediately recognizable as those of Marco Deplano of Wertham infamy (…which are further mixed with elongated vocal chants). ‘Burning Paradise’ displays another excellent example of looped filed recording elements and buzzsaw noise which are wielded with loose statico rhythmic form and further coupled with sharp static and low end distortion. The title track ‘Exzess’ is another piece exceeding 10 minutes, choosing a post-industrial soundscape route with a slow and gradually building tensile atmosphere. Mid track the sonics falls away into minimalism before ramping up again with sharper metallic tonal elements to chaotic squall in the final minutes. Along with the album opener, ‘Exodus’ is another contender for the album standout, being a perhaps slightly more subdued soundscape piece featuring mournful minor keyed ‘power-drone’ melodies, coupled with a hard and emotive vocals which are again courtesy of Marco Deplano. The final of 7 tracks is ‘The Last Rearing Up In Fire’ and is a churning and blood boiling mass of distortion and an appropriate way to conclude the album on a high (…and also features the album’s notable phrase / manifesto: “Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World”).
With the meticulousness of the album’s sonic construction this a joy to listen to, and despite its heavyweight sonic impact it retains a mournful undercurrent and brooding quality across the album, where only on selected moments it break out into overt aggression. Graphically a full colour 6 panel digi-pack rounds out the packaging on this recommend release.