Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd

Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd CD Neuropa Records 2019

Originally issued in 2013 on cassette via Merzbild, and again in 2015 on vinyl by In Solace Publishing, this third press takes the original three tracks and appends them with two bonus tracks for good measure, bringing the total run time to over 50 minutes.

Thematically this release relates to the Norse legend of the Swedish King Domalde, whose ritual self-sacrifice prevented an impending famine. This conceptual content is addressed within the cover image, which is a black and white excerpt from Carl Larsson’s famous painting Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), whilst select Swedish song titles roughly translate to: For The Benefit of the Swedes, Blood Rain, and The Corpse of the Fallen Dómaldr. The original three tracks form sections which essentially bleed into a singular 30-minute ritual death ambient composition, music more characteristic of the earlier phase of the project before the sound mutated towards direct and song-focused compositions. But rather than the additional material simply being tacked on at the end, the two tracks are included as the first and last tracks respectively, to broadly fit and extend the mood of the original three compositions.

The first section (track one) is moody and minimal, with grey-hued drones, clanging sounds, and disembodied vocalizations; it feels like an extended introduction. The second section (track two) leads off with some gritty textural static; the main focus is squarely the procession of slow deathly drums, swirling winds, wavering synth textures and croaked/echo-distorted vocals, which combine to deliver an excellent track of slow brooding ritual menace. The third section (track three) is sparser in construction and encompasses an air of distant abstraction to its voluminous atmosphere. Here a lone cavernous bass thump provides focus in amongst various sweeping/cavernous tonal elements and the call/response of howling wolves. The fourth section (track four) continues the windswept sound in a slightly more forceful guise, building upon ominous drones, a slow percussive bass pulse and a melancholic synth line akin to the title track of Brighter Death Now’s Necrose Evangelicum album – an excellent and harrowing conclusion to the main collection. The final section (track five) spans out over a 14-minute stretch with freezing windswept plains, ominous bass drones, and slow semi-buried ritual thrum.

The expanded version of Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd is an excellent release within the project’s discography and a strong reminder of the earlier soundscape death industrial sound of the project.

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Terror Cell Unit ‎– The Data Industrial Complex

Terror Cell Unit The Data Industrial Complex MC Total Black 2019

On this new album length tape, seven tracks span an hour, which means tracks are generally on the lengthier side (six minutes at the shortest and 13 minutes at the longest), which provides time for the compositions to sprawl out and gradually evolve. Being less outwardly chaotic and blood-boiling than other material I have heard from the group, this means there is a greater emphasis on mood and control, which positions this towards the heavy electronics rather than power electronics end of the spectrum. Yet, that said, it is still quite tonally jagged in parts, and the ripping over-the-top vocal barrages of Mackenzie are employed, with a smattering of dialogue samples relating to the release’s theme.

With its experimental leanings, The Data Industrial Complex displays a willingness to try new sonic approaches and sounds, while tonally there appears to be greater clarity and an overt digital veneer which, to this ear, reflects the theme of the tape. Manufactured Identity (Delusions of Grandeur) employs a muted melodies element, offset against quivering higher pitched digital distortion, which is moody yet tensile, while the vocal barrage amps up the mood. A predominantly minimal atmosphere and mood characterizes Technological Iconoclast (A Stain On Your Soul), yet sharper tonal elements characterize the later sections. To mention a track which perhaps does not work so well in execution, the muted experimental style of the instrumental title track feels slightly aimless, compared to the balance of other tracks. Yet this misstep is rectified on final track In The Wood Of The Suicides (Perfection Eluded), with its oscillating loops, queasy wavering textures, and late-track vocal barrage.

Perhaps not as immediate and to the point as other material I have heard from the group, but there is a lot to explore here, particularly the wealth of ideas at play. Clearly a lot of thought has been done regarding compositional structure and the layering of sonics, and it shows in the resulting tone and atmosphere: this is far from being spat out quickly in improvisational recording sessions. But more to the point, it functions to highlight the current creative streak Terror Cell Unit are blazing.

Blitzkrieg Baby ‎– Homo Sapiens Parasitus

Blitzkrieg Baby Homo Sapiens Parasitus LP Neuropa Records 2019

Strictly speaking Kim Sølve’s Blitzkrieg Baby project is quite incongruent to the typical coverage of Noise Receptor Journal. Yet there is something quite special in the cynical black humor and heavily sarcastic lyrics wrapped up in a diverse song-based approach, spanning elements of cinematic/orchestral dark ambient, martial industrial, and more streamlined song-based industrial. In fact, the Looney Tunes inspired cover artwork ‎– which strongly speaks to my own childhood ‎– is an excellent visual presentation of this thematic and stylistic approach (the artwork is by Trine + Kim Design Studios, which is the graphic design firm Kim runs with his partner and showcases their talents as graphic designers). Likewise, the self-described tag of ‘Norwegian Dystopian Electronic Music’ further emphasizes the approach.

Album opener Hip Hip Hooray displays the cynical and darkly playful nature of the album, with a track of mid-paced bass guitar-driven swagger, while the spoken vocals break out into a chorus chant of the track’s title. After a short instrumental interlude with an industrial/orchestral dark ambient track (Apocalypse To Go), comes Boys Will be Boys, which is a perfect example fusing martial beats, orchestral synths, and dark pop-focused chorus line hooks, with the end result being swaggering rather than martially stilted. The pairing of tracks like The March of Human Progress I & II bring a more serious tone, which is mostly due to the instrumental format, thereby the cynical element brought about by the vocals is absent. On the musical front it strongly reminds me of the martial ambient industrial sound of Toroidh, given the slow dark ambient throb, sub-orchestral elements, and marching music samples. Perhaps for my own listening preferences Praise The Pig comes off as the only misstep due to the prominent chugging guitar riff (but that says more about my personal aversion to guitar-based industrial). Yet despite this criticism, the tolling church bells and chanted male vocals which appear late in the track effectively win me over. Moving towards the album’s end, the dour yet playful nature of the album is again in full flight on Pre-Cum Of The Apocalypse, with a slow brooding dark ambient/martial industrial track, where the lone piano line rings out with reverb, while the vocals are sung choir style which belies their cynical slant. The album closer, Homo Sapiens Parasitus & the Countdown to the Apocalypse is an industrial pop stormer of a composition, driving ever forwards with stoic rolling beats and vocals ranging from whispered to full rousing male choirs.

Despite its vein of cynical black humor on the thematic and lyrical front, the music itself is treated with utmost seriousness, and done exceedingly well, avoiding any notion of being ‘cheesy’ in the end result. This is no mean feat, given the use of any level of ‘humor’ in post-industrial music usually predicts my total uninterest. Wildly divergent – yet recommended at the same time.

 

Grunt – Kraniometria

Grunt – Kraniometria 3” MCD Freak Animal 2019

Over the past decade Grunt have issued a stellar run of composed power electronics releases, yet Grunt’s new offering has reverted to harsh noise territory, featuring three tracks and around 21 minutes of material. Although this mini CD is concerned with harsh noise, that tonal spectrum is no stranger given it has been a staple element in Grunt’s sound where it has been employed as a core compositional element.

But on Kraniometria harsh noise is used as a free-flowing element, and evidently the end result has been edited from hours of recordings. The opening four-minute track Eschatological Uterus features a raw and blown out/hollowed out sound which has the fierceness and energy of arching high voltage electricity, while the multitude of layers employed gives it a multi-textural sound. Flowing between clear sections, it builds to chaos and recedes to moments of relative calm, rather than employing a singular one-dimensional tone.

The second track is Sex-Paralys-Appeal and under two minutes in length, again with electricity tones arching over a deft raw and heavy junk metal rumble. The title track clocks in at 15 minutes, and while following the same tonal spectrum as the first two tracks, the flow is more fiercely freeform, cutting between distinct sections and segments, including choppy and whistling overblown feedback and a late-track section of almost orchestral intensity, maintaining a prevalent intensity throughout.

Brutally loud, but roughly echoed and hollowed in depth and tone, this is a good short and sharp release to hear Mikko letting loose with noise under the Grunt moniker.

Moral Order – Krypteia

Moral Order – Krypteia 2xMC Cloister Recordings 2019

Moral Order are a quite new heavy electronics/death industrial project, helmed by Spaniard Fernando O. Paíno. Having issued three releases since 2018, this is the third album, and while issued on limited double tape the less limited CD version has been issued on Malignant Records.

In a general sense there is a real old school tonal sensitivity to this album without it sounding purposefully or cynically ‘retro’. Likewise, the tone and mood is grey- to black-hued, which comes from what sounds like purely analogue sound sources, with an air of elevating menace. Across the 10 tracks there is a tonally raw simplicity at play, based around loosely rhythmic industrial loops, throbbing bass, fried mid-toned frequencies, and apathetic spoken vocals – as showcased on early track Murder Weapon. At times perhaps there is some parallel to be drawn here to the harsher end of the Galakthorrö roster, with This Is The Life You Must Live having a stilted swagger comparable to early Haus Arafna. Other tracks, such as the lengthy Day of the Dead, mine a death ambient mood of drawn-out drones and minimalist yet tensile atmospheres. Album closer Anonymous Carrion sees Moral Order make their best approximation of an early Brighter Death Now, death industrial sound – and it is certainly a convincing end result.

Perhaps not an album to convince or sway new listeners to a roughly hewn, loosely rhythmic industrial/heavy electronics sound, Krypteia is rather an underground gem to please long-term converts. Packaging wise, the double tape case is housed in an oversized cardboard box, which is evidently a homage to the packaging of the 1989 collaborative double tape Östenbräun by Death In June and Les Joyaux De La Princesse. Being limited to a mere 100 copies and already sold out, the CD version on Malignant Records would be the way to go.

 

raison d’être ‎– Anima Caelum

raison d’être Anima Caelum 2xCD Old Europa Cafe 2019

By way of background context, Anima Caelum was first issued in a limited edition of 99 copies on double cassette in 2018 (also on Old Europa Café). Now it has been reissued with slightly revised content on double CD in a less limited edition.

With the tagline on the cover stating ‘alive 2014-2017’ it is a not too subtle clue enough that it is a collection of live tracks and not new recordings. So for me, the pinnacle aspect is the full recording of the special set which was performed at the Cold Meat Industry 30th anniversary show in Stockholm November, 2017, which I was lucky enough to attend and witness in person. My review of that festival noted the following with regard to the raison d’être set featured on this set:

‘Having seen raison d’être three times before, I expected it to be decent show, but was completely blown away by the impact of this set, based on the sheer intensity of volume. Also with sole member Peter Andersson playing a special set consisting of one track from all of his CMI albums, it was a veritable hit parade of the tracks from each album with the greatest emotional impacts. Again, with the focus being on the projected visual backdrop, it functioned to further amplify the mood of the sacral and the damned, based around various moving images of religious decay and sorrowful mourning. For me personally raison d’être’s set was the most moving of the entire festival, where the pairing of tracks Inner Depths Of Sadness (from the Within The Depths Of Silence And Phormations album), and Reflecting In Shadows (from the In Sadness, Silence And Solitude album) hit home hard to show just how important the music of raison d’être has been to me over the years (as an example of this, I was so taken by In Sadness, Silence And Solitude when first hearing it in 1997 that it spurred me on to immediately write my first music review, which in turn led to me creating Spectrum Magazine shortly after). In being far beyond a ‘mere’ dark ambient set, the volume absolutely elevated the impact and presence of the set to the next level and was one of my personal standouts of the entire festival’.

The above impression pretty much sums up my thoughts on the entirety of the content featured across the two CD’s. Perhaps this is a release more the avid and obsessive fan than the casual listener, but even so, it is an excellent collection of the full and complete Stockholm set coupled with live tracks from various performances. Likewise the live version deviate enough from the original to provide both detailed and nuanced interest. Another very enjoyable album from this unfaltering dark ambient behemoth, and exquisitely presented in a deluxe 6 panel digipack.

Jaakko Vanhala – Cuts of Grace

Jaakko Vanhala – Cuts of Grace 3” MCD Freak Animal Records 2019

Evidently Jaakko had been working for many years on a full length follow up to 2012’s Here Be Lions. But instead the best fruits of that labour have been culled and issued as a five-track 21-minute mini CD, and literally not a second is wasted across its short span.

While I am not an avid noise listener, when I do so it warrants listening to the best and Jaakko is certainly widely recognized as a master of his craft. Yet Jaakko’s modus operandi is far from an improvisational ‘one take’ approach; rather the sonics are meticulously spliced together from a myriad of separate recording sessions, and this absolutely shines through in the end result. The scalpel-like precision of sonic editing generates an ever-changing and evolving chaotic sonic maelstrom which is simply a joy to listen to, particularly as the production tone is loud, crystalline, and detailed. Here the varying elements include rapid-fire screeching noise, shredding junk metal sonics, ripping distortion, sustained needling elements, and detailed micro-tonal textures that blend, overlap, and radiate off one another. Stereo panning between speakers functions to then further amplify the beautiful aural chaos, and on final track Sword of Death the use of a melodious synth undercurrent provides a vague orchestrally cinematic aura.

There is little point in completing a track by track review, although track titles do perhaps imply arcane and esoteric themes such as Iris Star and Blood Arcanum. Yet the above description functions to capture the essence of the mini CD and highlight the compositional approach of the recordings, which must be heard fully to appreciate this noise master at work. A mini cardboard-gatefold cover rounds out a slick presentation for a fantastic release.