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.

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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.

Serration – Deconfliction / In The Shadow Of Tyranny

Serration – Deconfliction MC New Forces 2019

Serration – In The Shadow Of Tyranny MC Cloister Recordings 2019

Serration, a duo from the States, are an exponent of a modern, militant framed, heavy electronics sound. With their first release issued in 2017, already six releases have been issued, with these two cassettes being their latest items.

Like the earlier tape I have heard, Deconfliction bristles with controlled tension, where tensile loops, throbbing bass, and distortion/echo-treated vocals are the order of the day. The five tracks total around 20 minutes of material, meaning each is relatively short at around four minutes. Usually a pattern is established early on based around droning synth loops, augmented with additional layered sonic elements and completed with treated vocals (some of which are clearly manipulated media samples).

The mood and tone of In The Shadow Of Tyranny is quite similar to Deconfliction although it is slightly different in two key ways. In the first instance the four tracks are on the longer side at six to 12 minutes each, while in the second the tension on selected tracks has been elevated a couple of notches. A great example of this is Weakness In Remorse where the driven loops and urgency of the vocals provide an added edge. The title of the following track Into Annihilation provides a quick synopsis of the elevated tone of this track, where the explosive bass-driven synths and seething vocals drive the track forward.

Overall there is an overt mood of tension across both tapes, rather than actual sonic violence, and while relatively straightforward, the mood and atmosphere is strong and confident. Both tapes are short and sharp and of clear quality, reinforcing the impression that Serration are a project to keep a keen eye on.

Kristian Olsson – Ligranorex

Kristian Olsson – Ligranorex CD Freak Animal 2019

Kristian Olsson – of Alfarmania and Survival Unit infamy – should really need no introduction. Ligranorex is a solo recording, but not a new one. Originally issued on cassette in 2012, it has been reissued here with an additional track added for good measure.

In a general sense, Kristian’s solo recordings are not light years away from those of Alfarmania; however, a clear differentiator is that his solo recordings are far less aggressive and more ritualized in scope. The opening 22-minute title track, despite its ritualized undercurrent, is overall quite noisy and tonally blustery, begging comparison to Alfarmania works. But from second track Sippurator, the catacombic and esoteric depths at the core of this album are revealed. Here a track of dank cavernous ritualized atmospheres is fully realized, where shuddering darkness comes to life and seems to articulate the psychic membrane separating the real from the unreal and the waking state from the dream. Floating subdued male chants allude to human form, but equally these could be from a netherworld beyond the edges of waking perception. Later, cyclic bass drones provide greater movement to the composition, but the general mood is of drawing you into its fold. Haruspex announces itself with the wailing of a thighbone trumpet, dank and slow-paced ritual percussion, and sparse ceremonial chimes. These sit at the forefront of sound that articulates cavernous archaic depths  sonically receding far off into the distance. Spanning 21 minutes, the mood and pacing is slow and drawling, whereas throughout the middle and later sections the percussive pulse becomes more urgent, coupled with a prominent ascending/descending drone loop. Although lerul is noted to be a bonus track, it fits perfectly with the flow, mood, and balance of the album. Grey-hued and tonally stark soundscapes are releveled and further infused with archaic ritual atmospheres. Yet with its incessant bass throb and wavering sustained drones, it at times begins to resemble a slightly more ritualized version of Anenzephalia’s subdued heavy electronics offerings.

Packaging wise, the six-panel digi-pack is exquisitely presented with a selection of Kristian’s artwork, including the same artwork used for the cover of Issue No.3 of Noise Receptor Journal.

Sutcliffe Jugend – Relentless

Sutcliffe Jugend – Relentless 4xCD Death Continues 2019

Sutcliffe Jugend (SJ) have been on quite the creative run over the last thirteen years since their reactivation in 2006. During that time the group have not shied away from producing extended length releases, which has included the massive six CD set SLAVES (2016), and the double CD album The Hunger (2018). But now the end of the road has been reached, and evidently the project has come to an end, as prior to release of Relentless it was announced that SJ were no more and that this four CD set was their final statement. The title then constitutes a very succinct description of what to expect across its significant runtime.

In noting the stylistic arc of the group over recent albums, this album both aligns with and builds upon the of wider sonic experimentation of recent years. This means there is plenty of material of the partially structured industrial/power electronics, or loose guitar driven pieces resembling SJ’s take on noise-rock/doom-drone, but both approaches which are further complimented with visceral vocals with their strong psychoanalytical slant. Likewise, there is plenty of material of a more experimental and creatively divergent bent, which includes Bludgeoned (I am the one) (CD1), with an almost martial industrial feel like early In Slaughter Natives, given its clanging/ pounding framework and blaring sub-orchestral synths, yet the wailed and unhinged vocals sets it clearly within the SJ camp. Equally the wonky but controlled pulsing electronics and semi-crooned vocals of Worm (This Is The Rest Of Your Life) (CD1) stands apart given its muted melodious construct, but gradually becomes completely unhinged as the track progresses. A prominent spoken work narrative features on Pavlov’s Dog (The Artists Dilemma) (CD2), set against caustic throb and churning distortion, while the following track Different (I am a slave) (CD2) forms a minimalist tensile drone-scape with whispered vocals.

On a whole CD3 brings together a series of more minimal and subdued tracks where tone and tension take precedence over volume and harshness. The God (who craved his own death) (CD3), rates a mention with its shimmering, droning soundscape of melodious hum/chanted vocals which builds to muted noise squalls towards its end, while Scars (CD3) features minimalist micro-tonal tones, whispered vocals and loose plodding bass, while elevating tension is created though a myriad of wonky electronics. After the partial respite of CD3, the following CD4 ups the aggression again with a collection of looser and harsher PE driven tracks which arc back to a more ferocious era of the project (refer to Unleash the Fury, Violence and Stripped as key examples). Yet even so there are further surprises, such as the spoken narrative of Domestic, with its needling mid-toned electronics and sparse abstracted piano motif, and Endurance (in a world of pain), with its fast pulsing rhythmic electronics and unhinged distortion blended vocals.

Not to be content with the four main CDs, there is yet another album’s worth of material, available as a limited download card with the first 100 copies of the album. This bonus material is an effective addendum and continuation of the main collection of tracks, but perhaps siting towards the soundscape and rhythmically experimental end of SJ’s current sound. On the final track Poison (an ending), it is then a quite fitting conclusion to the entire release, being a in a dour and moody contemporary classically style, where a minimalist strings quartet and low spoken vocals characterize proceedings.

Given the massive expanse of material featured, the sheer diversity and length of Relentless is quite a thing to behold. In recent years other projects have opted for much longer releases, and with the most-high profile being Prurient’s extended album Rainbow Mirror (spanning 7 LP’s or 3CD’s). For comparative sakes, while Rainbow Mirror contains a range and engaging and sonically interesting passages, when taken in totality it never fully captured my full attention for the entirety of its duration. Yet to then refer this back to Relentless, it is significantly longer release than Rainbow Mirror, but has no difficultly in maintaining focus and interest over its substantial runtime. Perhaps Relentless won’t change your mind if the recent run of albums have not been to your liking, but for those who have been following SJ’s creative decade plus journey, Relentless is a very fitting final statement.