Haare – Acid Realm CD Old Europa Care 2021
Haare has really been making a mark of late with a series of atmospheric ritual meets industrial-noise albums which feature a strong and darkly toned psychedelic edge. The project continues with this approach on Acid Realm, featuring four tracks spanning a shade over 40 minutes.
The title track opens the album with blusteringly windy and hollowed out yet highly evocative soundscapes, with further abstract textural shimmer based on the atypically playing of bass guitar strings. Out follows and is even more minimal during its opening passage, but soon enough echoed and distant raw scrap metal sounds appear to take focus and coupled with the askew baying of a ritual wind instrument and abstract shimmer guitars late in the track. Pillar Of Time opts for more controlled territory of gradually elevating elongated organ-like drones, augmented with various panning elements sweeping across the sonic land, including slashes of loose guitar distortion, treated vocal chants etc, although the meandering improvised melody line which appears later in the track is somewhat jarring to the prevailing atmosphere. The final of four tracks is Taiveet and is another atmospheric excursion into sweeping drones, sparse loops, and subtle guitar feedback.
With the now well-established Haare slogan of ‘Destroy fascism, Love forever’ this rounds out a complete package of artwork and sound which bucks the typical underground aspects of a ritual noise-industrial approach and continues to strongly impress in the process.
Lẽtum – The Face Of Life And Death CD Mathias Henriksson 2021
Personally, I have always viewed Lẽtum as one of the three pinnacle dark ambient projects emerging from the classic era of Cold Meat Industry, with the other two being raison d’etre and Desiderii Marginis. However, Lẽtum has ended up being lesser recognised and somewhat overshadowed given Lẽtum’s debut came out in 2001, which at that point in time the other mentioned projects were already well established. Yet now in 2021, it would be a significant mistake to continue overlooking Lẽtum given the project’s albums represent quintessential examples of sacral toned dark ambient music.
With reference to prior albums, I intently followed the project through to 2014’s The Fifth State of Grief, and while far from being a bad album I found it a slight letdown in comparison to prior releases due to some of the orchestral synth pads sounding overly synthetic, while a few melodious passages felt more suited to a dungeon synth style and therefore not typically what I would expect from a Lẽtum album. Consequently, 2019’s Shades Of A Lost World passed me by, where I only picked up the Lẽtum thread again with this new fifth album, which incidentally marks 20 years of activity of the project. I must then admit that The Face Of Life And Death has absolutely blown me away, and been the most listened to dark ambient album of recent times. As an initial observation, the emotively titled tracks are ample mood descriptors, such as: Shadows In The Abyss; Echoes From A Time Without End; The Hidden Vastness; A Seared Conscience; The Beauty Of Miserable Souls; Afraid Of The Void etc, and when coupled with the album title, it seems to allude to a broader concept of spiritual existentialism.
Musically speaking all of the hallmarks of sacral toned dark ambient music is here: the choral vocal textures; the ever-shifting inky black drones; the sparse doom addled rhythmics; the controlling creaking metallics; the deeply emotive orchestral melodies; the lamenting piano/church organ etc. Likewise, as far as dark ambience goes, it is an ‘all in’ scenario, where full immersion is required to appreciate the album in its totality, which spans eight tracks over 47 minutes. Without being a mere re-tread of what has come before, the lamenting minimalist soundscapes are expertly controlled and display clear compositional refinement and emotive depth in the delivery of such high calibre consecrated soundscapes. The end result is Lẽtum’s most sophisticated album to date, and now that I have since become acquainted with 2019’s Shades Of A Lost World, I would also categorise it as the strongest given it has that ‘special’ aura of an exceptional album.
Although The Face Of Life And Death does not flip the script on sacral toned dark ambience, this new recording from Lẽtum is delivered with such flair and emotive impact that it absolutely demands attention. Suitable imagery pressed as a four-panel digipack function to round out the physical presentation, for what is a highly recommended album from these quarters.
Metadevice – Turba CD New Approach Records 2021
Following the disbandment in the mid-2010’s of the highly respected Portuguese industrial group Sektor304, former member André Coelho has since busied himself with other projects, with Beyond Enclosure and Metadevice being the most visible by virtue of being released on Malignant Records. Metadevice is the newest project, with Turba being the third album since 2020.
In a general sense, Metadevice are concerned with a sound rooted in a rhythmically pummelling and broadly ‘industrial’ style, but has also incorporating wider aspects of dark ambient, death industrial and power electronics. Additionally, on selected tracks more unusual elements are introduced such as twilight-noir atmospheres, as well as battered and overblown electronica. Sonically speaking the fizzing static and harshly brooding soundscapes are further inflected with a percussive rhythmic drive, which perhaps obviously give a nod to Sektor304. Also, despite my assumption that Turba is mostly constructed with programmed equipment and studio trickery, there is still a thread of a band format rather than a straight studio project, given the use of occasional low-slung guitars, metallic percussive tones, and the general vocal approach. To further mention the vocals, they differ from earlier albums here being courtesy of collaborator Rui Almeida, and are notable as they are delivered in both Portuguese and English, and range from spoken word narrative to a more urgent half-sung style. Over Turba’s ten tracks span an hour’s playtime substantial sonic territory and harsh atmospheric spaces are covered, and while each track functions as a stand-alone composition, equally they strongly solidify as a collective album whole. To perhaps to speak of one misstep, the frenetic soloed guitar on Vectores Miragens sounds rather out of place with the balance of the album. But equally, on a more positive note, it is interesting to realise that on more than a few occasions Turba begs a comparison to the ‘power industrial electronics’ approach of Stratvm Terror, which is a stylistic approach infrequently emulated.
Packaging-wise, the CD is housed in an 8-panel digi-sleeve making a strong feature of the striking artwork, noted to also be from the hands of André Coelho. With the painting featuring an amorphous assemblage of faces, it thematically reflects the album’s concept, being: “about collective alienation, raving individualism and a deep dive into the hyperreality of our modern times”. In all aspects of sonics and visuals, Turba is very much worthy of attention.