2018’s Metempsychosis heralded a new musical direction for Nordvargr, being the effective culmination of a number of stylistic threads spread across various projects. To then speak specifically of Metempsychosis (reviewed here), it featured a vocal driven, song based death industrial style heavily rooted in real instrumentation, including standing kit percussion and rhythmic bass guitar. Now that well over a year has passed since its release, the follow up Daath has finally arrived, it continues the same path set down by Metempsychosis. Yet by mostly forgoing the bridging ambient interludes, Daath is a far more honed and focused affair, with eight direct song based compositions.
The first track Inner Monarch Awakened functions to metaphorically open the gates, where the wailing horns and looped creaking metallics creates a slow laborious rhythm over which Nordvargr’s gruff throat rasped vocals are bellowed. The Horsemen Ride Out On Foaming Steeds then quickly establishes itself as an early album highlight, with its deep sub-orchestral drones and thundering percussion, mid-paced bass guitar rhythm and again with prominent vocals. With a continued upward trajectory Tabernakelvisa – The Redeemer And The Secret further steps up mood, where the rolling tribal drums of death and deep thrummed bass guitar rhythm perfectly intertwine, being a track of resounding dark menace. As King, As Queen – When Kingdom Collide is yet another highlight with plodding bass and martial kit percussion, but very much framed as a vocal lead ritual death industrial song. Late album track The Light Of The Lord And The Black Sun Behind The Sun contains subtle hints of a sound which pushes more towards MZ.412 given its use of martial snare, deep brass orchestral horns and piano motif. Yet this is partly explained by the promotional blurb, as evidently Daath was recorded back to back with the latest MZ.412 album Svartmyrkr (reviewed here). As for the final track Where There Is Word There Is Enlightenment, it features as a widescreen ritual ambient soundscape, thus opts for a mellow conclusion to the album.
With eight tracks and a mere 34-minute run time, Daath is not a long album by any measure, but it packs a major impact in that short time-frame to feel much longer than it actually is. Given the song-based material is very much suited to the live arena, this was strongly evidenced when personally witnessing a number of tracks from Daath performed by Nordvargr at the Dominion of Flesh in Stockholm, November, 2019 (aka Cloister Recordings 5th Anniversary festival). As a final comment, and without putting too much of a point on it, Daath is yet another high water-mark in Nordvargr’s ever-expanding discography, so yes, this is recommended. LP and CD version comes via Cyclic Law and MC version via Cloister Recordings.
Moral Order – About Degradation And Death 7″ep Cloister Recordings 2019
Following the relatively quick release of three heavy electronics / industrial albums on Tesco Organisation, Malignant Records and Cloister Recordings in 2018 / 2019, it has quickly established Moral Order within the within the underground. More specifically Moral order is a Spanish project helmed by Fernando O. Paíno, where this short two track EP then continues the already established sonic style.
The first track on Side A is the title track and delivers an ominously swirling heavy electronics / industrial infused sound, including windswept analogue synths and muted two note droning melody. The second track on the flip side is The Fire Is Still Burning and is another ominous track. Here layered analogue synths blend with sampled choral vocals, but also differentiates itself with a low rhythmic beat and whispered male vocals. Although short in length, both tracks are understated yet caustic and menacing in the best way possible.
For its physical edition the black vinyl has been issued in two version (50 in a white cover/ black envelope and 50 in a back cover/ white envelope), and with the envelope sealed with the wax seal of the label, it clearly plays up to the collectors’ fetishist mindset. Track a copy down if you can.
Aural Hypnox – Underworld Transmissions CD Aural Hypnox 2019
This CD represents the closing of the Underworld Transmissions series as it collates together the three earlier cassettes issued in 2014 and 2015. Of those earlier releases each contained two tracks each, thus totalling six tracks and nearly 60 minutes of music on this collated album. To quote from the cover regarding the concept and series, it states: “Underworld Transmissions was Aural Hypnox label series, filmed and captured on tape in the private séances held in our subterranean lodge located in Oulu, Northern Ostrobothnia. The concept was to invite artists from the Helixes collective, in different combinations, to join a séance and to establish through sound and movement an elemental communication. In greater sense, apart from personal goals, these séances aimed to bring forth the seasonal currents of the lodge; the undertone of the Aural Hypnox label and the artists involved. Each séance was guided by a unique automatic-portal-portrait reflecting the planetary and stellar distances seen at that particular time in the lodge altar mirror-receiver. All audio was captured live on tape by using binaural recording technique. Films were captured during séances and also in the preceding and subsequent sessions that took place in Other Rooms and in the surrounding wilderness. The candles have been extinguished; transmissions completed”.
Due to the apparent improvisational nature, the musical output of the Underworld Transmissions series sits more at the abstract end of label’s discography, and in sonic terms this is possibly most comparable to the minimalist style of Aural Holograms (a lone album was released by Aural Hypnox back in 2007). Séance I/2013 (November 2013) and is a composition of deep subterranean atmospheres, slow sustained drones generated by sparse bowed and blown instruments. Additionally some distant chants appear to mark the path, and assist in evoking a minimalist meditative aura. Séance I/2014 (January 2014) follows, and although still minimalist in style is slightly more animated, with a mid-pointed tonal range and wavering notes looping in a non-melodious patterns. Moving onto Séance II/2014 (March 2014) the track takes a short moment to get going but quickly elevates into a heavily cinematic, ritual ambient soundscape. Although drones form the compositional backbone, tense and urgent abstract sounds sweep and pan through the speakers, coupled with sustained atonal horn and string notes which rise to elevated crescendos of almost modern classical proportions (Penderecki certainly comes to mind in the later more animated sections of the piece). Séance III/2014 (April, 2014) then evokes a dank catacomb atmosphere with slow pounding ritualised thump, buried chants and abstract scraping/ creaking textural sounds, which at its sonic peak is not too far from a death industrial style. Great in other words. Moving towards the back of the collection, Séance IV / 2014 (July 2014) is a hazy atonal soundscape of shifting analogue drones and creaking sonorities which cyclically build to forceful sonic impact. Séance I / 2015 (January 2015) concludes the set which follows similar sonic paths, although is embedded with a more mysterious tone within its droning dark ambient frame.
Being housed in an oversized, screen printed cardboard cover, with a 16-page xeroxed booklet it is a fitting closure to the concept and séance cycle. Likewise with each of the original tapes being limited to mere 50 copies, this CD reissue a slightly larger run at 150, but clearly it won’t be available for long given how well the physical editions of the Aural Hypnox label engages with the fetishist collectors mindset.
AMEK are a Bulgarian underground experimental label and while I have not followed all of their output, from what I have heard they are releasing a decent amount of atypical post-industrial music. In this context I have not come across the Ergomope project before, but that is also perhaps explained by the fact that Етиологии appears to be their only release to date.
Opening with short experimental and evocative piano motif which has been layered and treated in studio, it immediately catches attention in the most positive of ways, before shifting off into a length 15-minute track framed around grey hued sonic treatments of obviously urban based field records. But not to be based on raw field recordings alone, those elements are coupled with sonically melodious and shimmering drones which blend and intertwine and carries the material forward at a generally unhurried pace. Likewise, though a number of tracks the minimalist field recordings elements have been looped for vaguely rhythmic effect, while on occasion the drones and field recordings elevate in pressure and force towards an heavier post-industrial frame of reference, where the sound builds to a peak before recedes again. In other sections there appears to be what sounds like abstracted playing of a treated piano, and sections of shrill orchestral strings and percussion which have been mutated in a studio environment. Of individual note, lengthy track Whiteout functions as a sort of album centrepiece given its more prominent musicality, including layered piano playing, plucked string instruments, and elevating melodious drones late in the track.
Clearly there is lot to digest across the two cassettes, amounting to a run time of around 80 minutes. But with emotive experimental ambiental music such as this, appreciation is rewarded from an unhurried listening, allowing the shifting and morphing sonics to unfurl at their own pace. For the sake of comparison, the likes of the material released on Touch, and specifically the likes of Fennesz and BJ Nilsen comes strongly to mind, which is testament to the quality of this material, despite its relative obscurity. In then noting that the Black Sea is referenced in the promo text, and is a title of a Fennesz album, perhaps my comparative impressions are more than mere coincidence? Either way this has been both an enjoyable and rewarding listen.
Funerale Classico Italiano – /e·ṣi·zià·le/ MC SoundScape 713 2019
If you have not heard of this project before, Funerale Classico Italiano is helmed by Giovanni Maffeis, who notably has been a live member of Brighter Death Now in recent years. This is then the debut tape, limited it physical copies to a mere 23.
Perhaps alluding to the project’s moniker, the first track Nei Tuoi Occhi Innocenti features the distraught wailing of female voices, thus assuming these have been sampled from a funeral recording. From there the backing sonics feature as a grim and laborious bass rumble mixed with sustained but muted synth drones. For good measure gruff spoken and slightly treated vocalizations appear, where the overall atmosphere is very much in the classic 1990’s Italian underground death industrial style heavily characterized by the likes of Atrax Morgue. The second track ups the mood slightly, with a rumbling, fast pulsing synth line which also clearly brings to mind a 1990’s Brighter Death Now verses Atrax Morgue death industrial axis, while aggressive distorted vocals make an appearance from mid track.
With only two tracks and around eight minutes of music, this is perhaps more akin to 7”ep in run time. But in functioning to introduce the project and also to wet the appetite, it would seem that Funerale Classico Italiano are extremely well equipped to carry forward an Italian death industrial sound. I am therefore very much looking forward to what may come next.
Trepaneringsritualen – ᛉᛦ – Algir; Eller Algir I Merkstave LP Cold Spring 2019
After a run of strong albums framed around vocal driven, rhythmic death industrial compositions, Trepaneringsritualen (TxRxP) has chosen to take an abrupt left-hand turn (onto the left hand path?) to deliver an extremely minimalist ritual dark ambient album, thus harks back to an earlier phase of the project. In fact this new instrumental album is so minimal and ritualized in style, it would not at all be out of place on the Aural Hypnox label.
Compositionally this album consists of two lengthy nineteen-minute tracks, each titled with the algiz rune, but noting for the second track the algiz rune has been inverted. To glean meaning from this, in its upturned position, the algiz rune can be interpreted as a human with upraised arms to received the protection, guidance and wisdom from the Universe. But in its inverted position can be interpreted as meaning hidden dangers for the self and the need to reflect and look within as part of the process of gaining strength and connecting with higher self. Yet even with the cover image of the algiz rune formed by tree branches, based on the spartan artwork and text in Swedish, how the algiz runes should be interpreted in context of this album remains unclear.
Sonically speaking the atmosphere is one of bass driven tonal depth and catacombic echo, where blackened washes of archaic drones blend with reverb drenched ritual percussive sounds, including: deep catatonic drum hits; sparse gongs; wailing horns; ritual chimes; singing bowls, low atonal piano notes etc. Yet for all of its apparent minimalism, this album is one that immediately draws you into its sinister clutches and does not loosen its grip for the entire album duration, particularly given the ample tensile sonic elements which keep interest and engagement throughout. Although cut into two separate tracks, the sound effectively plays out at an album length track as the sound between the two pieces bridges the same pace and articulates visions in the mind’s eye of a ritual ceremony being conducted in the falling twilight on the damp forest floor, while tree limbs creak and sway in response to the winds gusting through treetops far above. Also of note is the deep shuddering thud featuring at the start and end of the album album, as if sonically representing the opening and subsequent closing of a ritual cycle.
Prior to the release of this album, perhaps I had assumed that TxRxP would continue to forge ahead with a song-based approach. That impression has been proven to be completed incorrect, but at the same time, ᛉᛦ – Algir; Eller Algir I Merkstave is an exceptional example of minimalist and strongly meditative ritual dark ambient music, and completely takes me back to the earliest days of when I started listening to this type of music. Recommended.