Altar of Flies – Signaler CD Chondritic Sounds 2021
Altar of Flies is the long-running project of Swede Mattias Gustafsson, where I am personally more aware of the project by name and reputation than being familiar with the bulk of his rather imposing back catalogue. But of the handful of albums I have obtained, the general approach slots into a particular style of Swedish tape and electronics experimentation: meaning it is infused with a darker sonic hue than typical experimental fare. This new album was recorded in 2020 and spans five tracks in just over 40 minutes.
From the opening moments, a vein of darkly Nordic sounds abound, and where dour and deep rumbling textures blend with a variety of ‘concrète’ sonics which sporadically interject and duly falls away. The overarching tone then spans both bright and muffled sonics, while the creaking metallics and detailed tonal bluster provides for focused listening. Likewise, in rapidly shifting from forceful peaks of metallic tones to subtle and minimalist troughs, this functions to strongly accentuate the calmer moments. Various raw field recording elements also seem to feature, such as a steel tank being dragged over concrete to name just one, while other sonics elements then give the vague impression of arcing electricity, as well as the sound of archaic misfiring machinery in their death throes (as mechanical fluid leaks in random spurts onto the factory floor).
In a general atmospheric sense one track blends into the next, and most importantly it maintains focused interest over its run time. This is achieved by generating many fleeting mind’s eye visions, which could be creatively described as: being the depth of winter traipsing through an abandoned and derelict factory complex, where drifting snow is being blown in through the shattered windowpanes by the winter storm blustering outside. A four-panel digipack adored with bleakly abstracted imagery rounds out the physical presentation.
Blind Ruler Cursed Land – Chrysantheme Delirium MC Rum Fixion Records 2021
Blind Ruler Cursed Land is a side project to UGFC which takes a slightly different thematic slant by: ‘exploring various shades of cultural & moral decline, post-defeat societies and dark esoteric “fanaticism” fascinations’. With some further investigation, Chrysantheme Delirium appears to be the debut tape from the project (after a couple of digital singles from 2020), while thematically focusing on Imperial Japan.
Musically speaking the sonics issued under the Blind Ruler Cursed Land name is not worlds apart from the main project, although its stylistic framework is based more on drone and dark ambient with only fleeting tinges of martial industrial inspiration. Four interlinking compositions deliver a combined runtime of around 20 minutes of material, where the pacing is slow and atmospheric, letting musical segments slowly shift and change in a controlled drone-ambient manner. More specifically synth-based orchestral textures, looped structural drones, and various choir vocals are used, which functions to balance the sound somewhere between whimsical, melancholic, and uplifting. However, the final of four tracks In This Sign You Shall Perish introduces overt martial industrial elements, featuring air raid bombing sounds, speech samples, distant martial percussive pulse, and a rising storm of muted distortion, before the tape concludes with a sample of a stirringly nostalgic 1940’s era Japanese song.
To conclude on the album’s chosen theme, the promo text reveals: ‘Imperial Japan symbolism is just one gate left opened for you to come. Tread softly, but come wholeheartedly!’, which functions as oblique instructions for a sonically strong release. A full-colour, fold-out, doubled-sided j-card and transparent lurid fluorescent green tape round out the physical presentation.
Heretic Grail – A World Without Order MC Total Black 2021
Here we have a project that has been rather active in the last few years, but which is also couched in a reasonable amount of obscurity. Having then only been able to track down a couple of their releases to date, A World Without Order is the latest three tracks tape (billed as a ‘demo’), which delivers a bludgeoning and no-frills power electronics attack.
In quickly getting to the point the tape reveals static fried dive-bombing distortion is coupled with muted synth lines, squelching electronics and a caustic vocal barrage. This combined into relatively simple structures, but which are also delivered with control and intent. Likewise, with melodious oscillations providing for song-oriented structures, these are balanced with static and noise to provide an unhinged edge to match the intensity of the distortion-drenched vocals which are unintelligibly strained in their delivery.
With three short discrete tracks (two on side A and one on Side B), A World Without Order whets the appetite but is not long enough to properly satisfy hunger. Regardless, this is a tasty morsel for the time it sticks around.
H.C.O.D. – Instruments Of Destiny CD Chondritic Sound 2021
Instruments Of Destiny was originally issued in 2016 on tape via the US label Fieldwork, and now five years later has been given the reissue treatment on CD, featuring new artwork and remastering by Grant ‘Gnawed’ Richardson.
With respect to the project’s name, it is noted to be an acronym for Hideous Colors Of Decay which suitably describes sonic intent, and at the time of the original release Instruments Of Decay appeared to be the formal debut. Featuring seven tracks spanning around 60 minutes, the general approach draws a clear parallel with a northern European post-industrial ‘post-mortem’ sound, where, H.C.O.D’s approach is sprawling in scope and is a hotbed of caustic industrialized noise which bleeds out over greater length. Caked in sonic soot, the tone is one of analog filth where the tracks work on a dual-level involving sustained cavernous widescreen bass rumble over which mid-toned squall, higher-pitched ‘whistling’ feedback, and junk metal crunch is belched. Will to Oppression provides some variance with its centrally featured echo-tinged and half-chanted vocals, as does Mutilated Victory with its garbled and undecipherable dialogue sample. Perhaps with its singular overall approach, Instruments Of Destiny is something akin to a marathon crawl through a post-industrial dystopian nightmare of wrack and ruin.
A six-panel, matt digipack with suitably oblique and bleak imagery rounds out a very welcomed reissue.
Browning Mummery – Live / Berlin & Melbourne CDr Inner City Uprising 2021
Andrew Lonsdale’s long-standing post-industrial / experimental project Browning Mummery has been reasonably active in recent years, including both new studio material as well as sporadic live performances. Obviously, the title of this album indicates the live context of this release, but in being more than a straight live recording of a single show, this album features material culled from two live performances. The liner notes further confirm the four chosen tracks cover the full history of the project by spanning the years from 1984 to 2019, where the opening track Disintegration of Personality derives from one of the earliest tapes Obiter Scripta, originally issued in 1984.
With a wonky semblance, there is a deft mechanical ebb and flow to these experimental-industrial soundscapes, while cleanly dynamic noise and a metallic rhythmic churn also underpin the general atmosphere. Each track functions as a lengthy standalone composition, where the tonal framework is detailed in the layering and construction, and which on occasion rise to segments of muted tonal ferocity. Sampled and processed vocal chants appear on Slaughterhouse Sutra, as do choppy and slightly chaotic metallic shards, and off-kilter revving tones blended with misfiring industrial-noise textures. Foreign Devils on the Amber Road further differentiates itself with driving bass and programmed percussive rhythm, where the associated choppy sampling of orchestral movements and choir vocals becomes increasing unhinged and noise infused as the track progresses. With the first three tracks being recorded in Berlin in 2015, the fourth and final track Abandoned was recorded in Melbourne in 2019, and at a show, I was able to witness in person. While this track contains many of the same sonic elements of the earlier tracks (such as a loose mechanised churn, multiple sampled vocal textures, and sub-orchestral styled movements), the atmosphere has been pulled back to a contemplative ambient-industrial soundscape.
Given the clarity and force of the sonics on display, the recordings have clearly been taken directly from the soundboard and I assume to have been further treated with suitable studio mastering for release. The end result is a recording that functions excellently as an archival document of the live performances and as standalone listening.
UGFC – Ost LP Grom & Lord Records 2021
Following 2019’s Stalinist God (reviewed here), this is the second album I have heard from UGFC, which incidentally is an acronym of Uncle Grasha’s Flying Circus. As an immediate observation, Ost is again concerned with high calibre martial framed ambient-industrial soundscapes, containing a distinct hint of satire which I can’t quite put my finger on. But to also start with a comparison, with its prevalent tone of obscure martial industrial atmospheres Ost it is very much reminiscent of early Laibach, or other notable martial industrial projects like Toroidh.
Mother (Guilt) acts as a short introduction, framed around rolling kettle drums and sampled nationalist type song, which leads into Mother Lied (Zeppelin Dance). Here it features a central unwavering drone, slow martial percussive thrum, while whispered vocals and wailing air raid siren provides a brooding warlike mood. Von Richthofen’s Flying Circus then steps up the pace a notch with faster-paced industrial loops, loose mechanised clatter, and further nationalistic song sampling, while the back half of track is far more atmospherically melancholic despite maintaining a rougher industrial edge. On Side B the lengthy Hüzün Horns features ‘post-battlefield ambience’ at its finest, with thick bass-toned sub-orchestral drones and windswept barren bomb-blasted landscapes. The final track East Is The Best edges into anthemic territory with rousing martial percussion, industrialised loops, and gruff vocals which are later replaced with lamenting chants and church bells.
Not an overly long album by any stretch (totally just over 30 minutes), Ost still maintains a strong mood and atmosphere throughout which edge towards a more ambient-industrial mood overall. But of note, Ost functions to strongly demonstrate that it is still possible to create interesting results with a broader martial industrial style, which for a number of years fell out of favour due to the genre becoming rather tired and derivative through the mid to late 2000’s.