Trapdoor Tapes batch 2019

Hal Hutchinson – Steelwork Fabricators MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Modelbau – The Whole Truth MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Luke Holland – Virtues Of Torture MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Being well aware of Hal’s activities in his other projects, I am then not as well versed with his solo output – other than understanding it is of a raw scrap metal noise type. Steelwork Fabricators features two untitled tracks, which are both excellent examples of what can be achieved with slow control noise, opposed to an overtly chaotic noise attack. Thus a laborious and roughly hewn scrap metal approach is the order of the day. Clearly not being from a singular improvised recording session, Hal has taken a multi-layered approach, where the tracks are carefully constructed layered for maximum impact. With a slow, jagged, hefty and ripping bass tone, the production is also thickly hollow, and in select moments contains a thunderous but abstracted oil barrel beat. In essence the sound is amazing and could be creatively described as an the rusting hulk of an abandoned steel cargo ship being slowly crushed and swallowed by expanding sheets of ice. With only 20 minutes run time, this is far too short and leaves me wanting much more.

Regarding Modelbau I I had not heard of the project before before, but then immediately recognised the name behind the project – Frans de Waard – formerly of Kapotte Muziek and the Staalplaat shop/ label, and currently of the Vital Weekly online publication. But to talk specifically of Modelbau, the project is concerned with densely detailed tape experimentation, where two length tracks feature on each side of the tape. The title track leads off with highly animated lo-fi noise, which is blended with treated bells or gongs and a plethora of detailed natural field recordings elements (wind, water, birds, voices etc). Extremely dense in sound, the atmosphere is one of an elevating maelstrom of sound than anything remotely ambient or relaxing. Back There features on Side B, and steps the sound up a notch with a more direct sound which verges on industrial-noise. Here scrambling and scattered distortion sit in the foreground, while abstracted metallic tones and distant echoed field recording elements site far back within the mix. With around 50 releases issued since 2012, this is an intriguing introduction to Modelbau and their forcefully detailed, yet engaging low-fi approach.

On Virtues of Torture, Luke Holland delivers a single lengthy 28 minute track of his particular brand of muted industrial noise. But from the lead off, it is immediately apparent that the the track displays more of an affinity with a loosely rhythmic death industrial sound. As such the slow ‘two note’ rhythmic pulse and windswept oscillating layers generates an excellent dank minimalism, which sits at a mid-point somewhere between Atrax Morgue and early Brighter Death Now. Being an instrumental track and with its elongated length, the track takes its time to gradually morph and shift, but generally not straying too far from the core framework, until a quite dramatic shift late in the track to a section of crumbling distortion, forceful bass tones and wailing horns of death. All in all another solid offering from the Trapdoor Tapes label head.

Megaptera – A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art

Megaptera – A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art  LP/CD Cloister Recordings 2019

In the early to mid-1990’s Mepaptera were a leader and mainstay of the early Swedish death industrial sound. In noting that the last proper album The Curse of the Scarecrow dates from 1998, focus on the project has been maintained over the following years based on sporadic live performances, as well as a slew of releases including: live albums, reissues, compilation collections and remixes. But A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art is a welcomed release as it features new music from project mainstay Peter Nyström, indicated to have been recorded between 2012-2018.

Lobotomy leads off in classic Megaptera fashion with pulsing bass tones, shuddering factory ambiences, scrapping metallics, rupturing fissures of sound and medical lecture samples which all laboriously unfurl over a ten-minute span. Bipolar (Type 1&2) follows and displays another side to the Megaptera oeuvre, with a semi-stilted ritual drums, wavering horns and dank echoed factory ambience, again slowly unravelling over ten minutes, where additional beat programming, grinding distortion and junk metal crunch are added for good measure. Side B leads off with a remix of Second Recovery by Stephen Petrus, being a slow maelstrom of mid to lower ranged swirling/grinding layers. Further blended with various rolling programmed beats, treated vocals/samples it generates an overall grim result. Final of the four tracks is Walking Death, and spans a 14 minute run-time. Scrabbling conveyor belt metallic textures and rumbling windswept ambience features heavily, while fractured voices can also be detected but are semi-buried in the mix. From the midpoint of the track stilted metal clanging elements provides further structure and forward movement, with a gradual elevation of urgency through to its conclusion.

For good measure a bonus CD is included along with the vinyl LP, and features a live recording from The Epicurean Escapism Festival 2014. Previously issued as a digital only release, it spans a play-time of 41 minutes and features classic cuts such as The Final Day, Don’t Desecrate The Dead and The Curse Of The Scarecrow. With a foggy and distant depth to the recording and detectable crowd chatter, this is definitely not a direct soundboard recording. But equally this only adds to the murkiness and general dank death industrial atmosphere.

From what I understand, this may be the final swansong album from Megaptera. While this is a shame, equally this album was not perhaps not even expected given the length of time since the release of the last proper album. If it is indeed the final album, is at least a fitting epitaph for the project, where the industrial decay illustrated on the cover is a suitable visual representation.

Striations – Keepsakes

Striations – Keepsakes LP Fusty Cunt 2019

Off the back of my introduction to this US industrial/noise/power electronics project (via the Vietnamization DCD – reviewed here), Keepsakes comes as the latest album from Striations. The first thing is note is the packing, which has all the hallmarks of classic over the top DIY approach to presentation. Here a think and weighty vinyl floor tile has been stencilled with the project name and attached to a spray pained LP cover. Further housed in a yellow dust cover, the whole packaging is sealed with an obi-strip made from police tape.

On the musical front, album opener Unseen (Body Dump), wastes no time and leaps straight in with deep, distant loops blended with mid-to higher toned noise. With an elevating trajectory it charts crudely constructed, loose shuddering noise and rabid flanged vocals, and when bleeding directly into Transgression I, the swirling and shuddering noise takes a step up in intensity. Keepsakes comes next and mines a sound of metallic bass rumble, programmed rhythmic pulse and jumbled noise, which squares off against a deep metallic production and hollowed out and howled vocal barrage. Rounding out the first side is Odontology, which is a short instrumental noise drone, where a short serial killer related news report sample plays out as the Side A outro. The same news report sample then continues on Side B, prior to Manifestation kicking in with queasy dive-bombing atonal synth lines, muted and modulated distortion, searing high-pitch noise and flanged semi-buried vocals. Modern Predator differs by making great use of rhythmic revving distortion and loosely looped scrap metal recordings, and again with the intense vocals which are flange treated beyond recognition. Fantastic stuff. The quite short piece Transgression II features greater tonal breath by dialling down on the higher pitched elements, and features a deeply echoed metallic soundscape. For the final track Definition of Abuse it is introduced with a TV talk show interview, and when the track gets going it is perhaps the album standout, with slow laboured bass pulse, fluttering mid-toned noise and treated vocals floating above. In a word, excellent.

Clearly Keepsakes is both a shorter and more fiercely direct album than Vietnamization. While there may less immediately obvious thematic fodder than Vietnamization (i.e. extensive documentary samples), the short vocals snippets and track titles provide clear indicators of thematic preoccupations.  Limited to a mere 100 copies, this is perhaps more a byproduct of the work required to construct the packaging, but musically speaking Keepsakes certainly warrants a bigger edition.

Militia – The Face of God / Ambiorix

Militia – The Face of God CD Old Europa Café 2019

Militia – Ambiorix CD Old Europa Café 2018

To provide a brief history lesson, Militia have been operating since the late 1980’s, where their general approach could be characterised as a logical extension of the early oil barrel percussion of industrial pioneers Test Department. Militia then managed to hit an outstandingly high peak of output early on, with particular reference to: New European Order 3xLP (1996); their contribution to the cult compilation War Against Society 3xLP (1997); and The Black Flag Hoisted 2xCD (2000). Each of these and now broadly considered landmark classics of the post-industrial underground, which then tends to cast a very long shadow over everything which has followed and to which against every new release is compared. Inevitably this is the context in which the two new Militia albums are considered.

The Face of God although issued in 2019, was first issued in 2015 as a self-released box-set, but with poor distribution it was quite difficult to obtain. This 2019 version appears it may in fact be from the original CD pressing but re-issued within a newly designed 6 panel digi-pack. In context of Militia’s discography The Face of God followed on from 2005’s Everything Is One CD and 2011’s Power! Propaganda! Production! CD. Both of those albums where characterized by being more streamlined, cleanly produced, and song focused, and for me were both highly enjoyable releases which demonstrated a gradually refinement of Militia’s earlier approach. Interestingly The Face of God differs from those albums given it has a rougher and distorted edge which more closely aligns with the earlier era. Male choral vocals and tolling bells of Psalm 1: An Atheist Statement opens the album, before an echoed proclamation of project mainstay Frank Gorissen makes the theme of the album exceedingly clear. Following this the track launches into a section of trademark looped synth lines, wailing horns and heady thrummed percussion. Without doubt a brilliant start. Psalm 5: Sermon is also a clear standout with its fast-paced metallic percussive drive and maudlin underpinning synth line. Psalm 7: God’s Face is another track displaying all the pinnacle trademarks of Militia’s approach aka the rhythmic loops, pounding metallic percussion and wailing horns. Late album track Psalm 10: Call All Atheists is another particular highlight with its atonal droning synth-line, blended with forceful incessantly rolling/ clanging percussion and strained proclamation styled vocals. Yet alongside the highlights sporadic missteps don’t go unnoticed, where on occasion the execution of percussion feel overly stilted and out of time, such as on Psalm 2: The immaculate Conception Of Lies. A minor gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.

In moving on to the consideration of the latest Militia opus Ambiorix issued in late 2018, from the outset the album draws a clear parallel to the recent 2017 re-recording of the classic New European Order (reviewed here). By this it is meant the earlier percussive driven windswept battlefield atmospheres are clearly present, but the recording is crystalline and without a grey hued murkiness. Likewise of note, on the thematic side of things instead of political framed social commentary, the album differs as it focuses on a historic period instead, and quoting from the cover: ‘Militia plans King Ambiorix’ struggle again the Roman occupation of Gaul in 54 BC’. In an overarching sense while Ambiorix follows Militia’s established sonic template, the album as a whole is quite atmospherically filmic in tone, particularly where rousing synth based neo-classical elements such as choirs, horns and strings are utilised. This cinematic impression is further reinforced through the clear narrative outlined by the album’s 11 tracks, and with the production being relatively clean and spacious, means that although being percussive based, it does not feel as heavy as other Militia material. To talk specifics, early Negotiation perfectly blends rhythmic loops, driving militant drumming and stirring synth melodies. Equally the introductory neo-classical strains of Ambush are particularly rousing, which sets the scene for a ‘battle march’ percussive driven track. Calling All Gauls again follows the classic Militia format of rolling metallic percussion and looped melody and further elevated with neo-classical backing elements. Late album track War is equally rousing with its battlefield samples, choir synths and ever-present driving percussion. Rounding out the hour length album is the 11.5 minute The Lost King which is an ambient soundscape which evolves into a mid-paced militant percussive track though the mid-section, before shifting back to and ambient soundscape during its final moments.

As an overall comment, I would not profess that either of these Militia releases exceeds the heights of the early era classics, yet they each still stand as resoundingly strong releases on their own. In recognition of their slight deviations in tone and approach, both The Face of God and Ambiorix are fitting additions to the Militia discography and will absolutely please followers of the group, both older or more recent. Recommended.

Terror Cell Unit – Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God

Terror Cell Unit – Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God MC Oxen 2019

With six new releases issued in 2019 alone, the determined forward march of Terror Cell Unit continues. This short 20-minute cassette features four tracks, noted to have been recorded in March, 2019, and based on the chosen cover imagery it appears the thematic focus may be Christian fanaticism and evangelical firebrand preaching. Although this cannot be confirmed as the lyrics are not included and much of the vocals are processed beyond recognition.

A Watchful Eye solidly kicks off proceedings featuring monumentally thick throbbing bass, heavily treated vocals and relatively clean mid-toned sound. The following A Different Path lives up to its title, given it veers towards a pounding death industrial structures based on a massive drubbing beat grimly smeared synth layers and the heavily processed rabid vocals sitting semi-buried at the centre of the mix. Side B brings a further two tracks where a religious focused sampled introduces His Wrath Setting Fire In The Sky, being a track of layered looped elements, where the noise wheezes, crumbles and squelches in equally measure. Calling Your Bluff finishes on a particular high note with tonal drones and loosely looped rhythms, and when the vocals appear, apart from a slight delay treatment, are fully intelligible.

Embodying a now immediately recognisable sound of Terror Cell Unit which showcases a modular synth derived and sharply incisive tone, this is another high calibre industrial strength power electronics release.

Galme – Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande

Galme – Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande MC Styggelse 2019

Galme are a new and entirely obscure Swedish project. Clearly they are obsessed with the earliest expressions of what would become known as a death ambient/death industrial, but also features enough sinister obscurity to also be tagged with the ‘post-mortem’ descriptor. Likewise, the phase on the cover ‘spektral elektriks’ is a suitable descriptor of the atmospheric qualities of this tape

With what is effectively a singular long form track, Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande traverses through a myriad of interlinking movements. Slow pulsating emanations provides a forward drive, while sections of muted conveyor belt rhythms, stilted ritual beats, cryptic melodies, and dank tonal washes generate a sickly ethereal mood. Predominantly an instrumental affair, on occasion disembodied radio voice chatter flits in and out of sonic frame, much like EVP recordings cutting through the ether onto the magnetic tape. Production wise there is nothing remotely modern with the tone of the recording. Rather this embodies the atmosphere of the earliest 1980’s phase of industrial music which spawned the likes of Korpses Katatonik and what would follow. But thankfully this does not sound in any way purposefully retro or otherwise pastiche of what has come previously.

For the physical presentation, the austere colouring and visuals of the j-card, inserts and table label suits the sonics perfectly. Much like all of the material issues on Styggelse, this is purposefully obscure, is limited in edition and difficult to obtain due to lack of wide distribution. Likewise with no digital versions available, it only elevates the impact of the music when a post-industrial underground obscurity like this can be obtained. Yes – this is recommended.

Blood Rhythms – Civil War

Blood Rhythms – Civil War LP No Part Of It 2019

The Blood Rhythms project is primarily helmed by Arvo Zylo who also employs the collective inputs of a raft of other musicians. This collaborative process has led to a broadly power electronics defined expression, but which also flirts with varied experimental elements and musically tinged post-industrial sounds.

The first thing of note about Civil War is the packaging, with the beautifully designed, high gloss gate-fold cover and large 11” sized 16-page art booklet, also printed on weighty high gloss stock and containing a selection of darkly abstracted images. For the sonic side of proceedings (En) Closure (Heart’s On Fire) kicks off the album, and based on the layered atonal horn blasts it is immediately clear that Civil War is far from a ‘business as usual’ power electronics album. Embodying an abstracted dark experimental jazz-noir mood in the first section, by track’s end the jumbled vocals and scratching textures have gradually built into a heady noise piece. Onism (Sick Skin) follows and is very much an exercise in endurance given its high-pitched needling textures which are sustained throughout. With its raw unhinged vocals and overblown noise approach, as a comparison it reminds of some of the nastiest and rawest material to come from the Filth & Violence label in recent times. Locked Away provides some welcomed respite being far moodier with slow crumbling drones and muted melodies. Yet the elevating distortion, driving mechanical whine and slow drawled vocals places the track squarely within post-industrial spheres. Paris Window is the most atmospheric track on offer with sampled film-noir melody and windswept melodious drones, yet a fleeting vein of muted noise is also noted. The Face is perhaps the most song-oriented track of the album, where its digital squelching loop is reminiscent of late era Whitehouse, while the slow drawled/yelled vocals completely sets it apart. Mid track it launches into an atonal jazz saxophone freak-out (where the shrill layering verges on Penderecki style strings), before diverging off into a trial percussive rhythm and noise section. The album is rounded out with Alchemy & Grief (Part I & II). Part I features blown out noise, radio chatter, creaking junk metal and ritual styled gongs. On the other hand Part II is a concluding highlight featuring a sluggish pounding bass pulse, slow panning saxophone melody and roughly bellowed vocals, while detailed noise and general backing clatter fleshes out the throbbing post-industrial sound.

Far from being a power electronics ‘genre’ piece, this is a wildly varied and creative release, where Civil War manages to continually surprise despite its relatively short overall run time. If it is not already apparent, Civil War is a perfect album for those craving sonic diversity well beyond the expected norms of a more typical ‘power electronics’ offering.