Puissance – Let The State Collapse 3xCD Infinite Fog Productions 2018
In terms of historical context, Puissance (the Swedish duo of Fredrik Söderlund, Henry Möller) spearheaded and were a front runner of the martial industrial/neo-classical movement of the mid 1990’s. That sound was particularly big by the turn of the century and extended through to the mid 2000’s, but the style gradually fell out of favor due to the scene being flooded by lacklustre second tier acts and bland releases. But in parallel to that, Puissance gradually honed and evolved their own approach, and garnered strong praise and a loyal following with their apocalyptic and misanthropic worldview set to rousing neo-classical infused martial industrial movements.
Noting that Puissance been mostly inactive over the last decade (save for a single track Nox issued in 2014 on the Pylons Of The Adversary split album), Let The State Collapse functions to collect together various scattered threads issued outside of the main albums, including: the first two demos; a number of 7”EP’s; various compilation appearances; interlude tracks written for other bands; the Hail The Mushroom Cloud EP; the War On compilation collection; as well as a number of previously unreleased alternate versions. Although for reasons unexplained, it is noted that 1997’s Totalitarian Hearts 7”EP has been omitted from this set.
CD1 starts from the earliest Puissance works with the inclusion of the fledgling steps of the group as illustrated on their first two demos. The first demo Krieg from 1995 sits squarely within a rough post-industrial soundscape style, where the muted and ominous mechanical drones and stilted factory rhythms evoke abstracted orchestral undertones, but overall Krieg is a minimalist death-industrial affair than a neo-classical one. Releases the same year, the second demo Obey, Hate, Die then showcases a marked shift towards orchestral neo-classical sound and martial drumming sensibilities, which would become the main focus of the debut album Let Us Lead released a year later in 1996 (in fact, a number of songs from Obey, Hate, Die where included in upgraded and more powerful versions on the debut). Apart from archival completion, the importance of the inclusion of these demos here is that they illustrate how quickly Puissance evolved over an extremely short space of time, where the following collection of seven tracks from various 7”EP’s highlights the further honing of their sound. Of particular note is A Call to Arms from 2000, which is a rousing track framed around a melancholy infused piano line and strident martial rhythmic backing. Anthemic and apocalyptic is the best way possible.
Moving onto CD2, it functions to collect together five tracks from various compilations; eight interlude tracks contributed to the albums of underground black metal bands; and three previously unreleased alternate versions. In an overarching sense the majority of the tracks on this set are short instrumental neo-classical/ orchestral pieces, which reflects their role on the original releases. This however makes for slightly patchy listening and flow between tracks, and where some tracks suffer from a slightly over synthetic orchestral sound. But these are also minor issues, given the benefit of them having been complied on one CD for convenience, and for which many of these I have not heard before previously. Standouts of this CD include: Speak My Voice (instrumental); An Incarnations Dream (which features rousing sampled choral vocals and pounding militant rolling snare drums), and the beyond epic unreleased version of Biological Waste and A Call to Arms (instrumental).
CD3 rounds out the set and collates the Hail The Mushroom Cloud EP and the War On compilation. Hail The Mushroom Cloud was originally issued in 1999 shortly after the third album Mother Of Disease, where the four tracks are titled Act I through Act IV. With each track being instrumental, they are noteworthy for the first use of a purposefully synthetic programming sound for the underpinning militant beats and rhythms, which would become a mainstay of Puissance’s sound through the mid 2000’s. Sampled choral vocals also feature heavily to further amplify the neo-classical bombast of these tracks. Following the Hail The Mushroom Cloud EP is the War On which in its original form was a remix complication of sorts. Featuring eight tracks it effectively lifted two of the most militantly bombastic/neo-classical songs from each of the first three Puissance albums (Let Us Lead, Back In Control and Mother Of Disease), provided those tracks a sonic refurbishment and update, and combined them with a further two unreleased tracks. The inclusion War On tracks here is clearly welcomed addition, as it again illustrates the rousing Wagnerian heights Puissance reached with their martial industrial/neo-classical hymns.
For me personally, this collection strongly showcases the rapid evolution of the project and hits a particular sweet spot of Puissance’s martial industrial/neo-classical sound which extended to through to the early 2000’s. The period showcased on this set was somewhat superseded by the albums from the mid 2000’s forwards, which shifted to a more streamlined song based format, with a much heavier focus on programmed rhythmic beats which at times bordered on militant and misanthropic angst-pop structures. But to conclude on this release, the lavish digi-book cover and newly designed artwork does this set complete justice. Apart from being a beautiful physical archive piece, it has been a very rewarding and nostalgic experience to revisit the early and most productive period of the project. Recommended.