She Spread Sorrow – Midori

She Spread Sorrow – Midori CD Cold Spring Records 2018

She Spread Sorrow is a solo Italian project fronted by Alice Kundalini, with Midori being her third album since 2015. In making reference to the first two albums, those were broadly promoted as being of a death industrial and power electronics type, however in truth Alice’s approach was a far more restrained and minimalist take on such styles. Thus by forgoing the typical outwardly aggressive elements, She Spread Sorrow’s sound was (and is) framed around creepy and vaguely disturbing atmospheres. To then speak of Midori, it has taken the base template of earlier material and added a heavy dose of ritual dark ambient tonalities to further widen the sound of the project. The trademark vocals also remain as a constant, where they are clearly recognizable for their drawling whispered style, being delivered in English with an obvious Italian inflected accent. In an overarching sense Midori is an album of tensile widescreen ambient soundscapes with smatterings of noisier textures and sonic elements, but those elements are clearly dialed down in tonal intensity when present. Additionally, Midori has embedded a greater use of orchestral synth pads also pushes the album towards dark ambient expression, yet are also used sparingly for added impact.

The evolution of She Spread Sorrow’s sound is then clearly demonstrated on album opener Escape, being an excellent piece of orchestral washes, muted drones, vague percussive elements, with whispered vocals mixed upfront. Following track Night One is a heavier and grim bass addled piece, but ritual chimes give it a differing overall sensibility. That ritual aspect is further amplified on The House through the use of a central ritual percussive texture against an undercurrent of minimalist layered drones. Who Are You, Midori? is of note as it features the most varied instrumentation of the album, including sweeping orchestral strings, a distant plodding piano create a darkly cinematic atmosphere, coupled with sporadic percussive hits and the trademark vocals. To The Light is an album standout based on its darkly moody sweeping orchestral framework and clearly of a neo-classical tinged dark ambient offering, while the album concludes with End of Midori, and has an almost abstract dark jazz tone due to the slow rhythmic percussion set to sweeping sub-orchestral drones.

Clearly building on what has come before, Midori is the strongest work yet from She Spread Sorrow, being an expertly crafted album which has an expanded sound palate and feels to have been created with a greater degree of compositional confidence. Clean visuals and design of the digi-pack cover rounds out the visual presentation, with full lyrics included to further outline its thematic and conceptual story-line which is clearly implied through the titles of the album’s six tracks.

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Alberich – Precursor

Alberich – Precursor MC Hospital Productions 2018

Kris Lapke has been issuing material under the Alberich moniker since 2005 and has amassed 18 releases in that time. But with many of those being issued on cassettes and in small runs, it has made it rather difficult to keep track of Alberich’s output, which in turn has created an elusive aura around the project. However, 2014’s 2xLP reissue of the 8xMC NATO-Uniformen (in a larger edition of 700 copies), functioned to raise greater awareness of the project and showcased the distinct blend of rhythmic industrial arrangements and controlled heavy/ power electronics atmospheres. While Precursor is technically the latest release, in actual fact it is a live recording from 2017, where the title should then perhaps be read as a statement given it has been issued prior to the upcoming and anticipated new full length Quantized Angel.

With Precursor being a live recording, as might be expected it plays out as a singular interconnected 35 minute piece which moves through a series distinct tracks and passages. In the process it then delivers all of the recognized and lauded elements of the project’s style, including: the driving rhythmic industrial beats, the pounding techno-esque movements; minor keyed melancholic synth washes; and sporadic but heavily treated vocals. In fact there are some massive artillery grade and explosively pounding beats on display here, with the melancholy synth washes offsetting those by providing an otherworldly tone.

Being expertly crafted and controlled in its delivery, on face value the recording does not at all sound to be a live recording, so I gather it has been made directly from the soundboard due to the clarity and volume of the sonics. Likewise, with is relatively short run time and brisk pacing of material the tape breezes by and concludes all too quickly, leaving a distinct sense of wanting more – a lot more in fact. So, here’s hoping that such demands will be duly sated by the upcoming full length – which is then pretty much guaranteed given it seems this live set features live versions of various new tracks. In the meantime this is a rather worthy tape to track down, issued in an edition of 300 copies.

Trepaneringsritualen ‎– Kainskult

Trepaneringsritualen Kainskult LP Tesco Organisation 2017

Some three years on from 2014’s Perfection & Permanence (reviewed here), Thomas Ekelund has returned with the follow up full length Kainskult, issued via the cult industrial label Tesco Organisation. Sonically speaking this new album demonstrates the further honing and refinement of the evolved rhythmic song-based approach, where everything about Kainskult feels as it has been stepped up a notch: from the song writing; to vocal delivery; to recording; and finally to the production. Yet with reference to the production, it is far from being clean and polished as it maintains harshness and grit befitting of its chosen ritual death industrial style, so is more a case that all elements have been elevated in sonic intensity. The methods of recording also illustrates the use of programmed elements blended with real instrumentation such a s standing drum kit (floor tom and cymbals), junk metal type percussion, distant ceremonial horns and other ritual percussion, while the vocals are on occasion multi-tracked, or presented as a backing chorus.

With a distant gruff voice proclaiming “Fratricide! Fratricide! Fratricide!”, Death & Ecstasy opens the album which is a vocal led number set to a minimalist rhythmic thump and with the semi chanted vocals comes across as a mantra of sorts. With this relative slow burner as the album opener, it only functions to amplify the impact of Maðr Malformed which is heavily driving piece based around rolling militant percussion, swaying bass rhythm and gruff vocals following a perhaps now trademark verse/ chorus/ verse format. All Flesh Has Corrupted is also noteworthy for the lyrical approach where the multi-tracked vocals are rhythmically delivered to follow the bass and ritual drumming. One of the longest tracks of the album (at 7 minutes) is which sits towards a soundscape styled offering, although bass and slow pounding drums provides a ritualized framework, while the following pairing of Feral Me and Serpent Seed demonstrates the album in its strongest song-based format. Feral Me features some fantastic roiling metallic percussive elements, while Serpent Seed is by far the album standout, with its monolithic pounding bass, counterpointed clanging metallic beat, and gruff multi tracked vocals which again demonstrates Thomas’s skill in executing vocal delivery which perfectly melds within the tracks percussive and rhythmic structure. An Immaculate Body Of Water is another 7 minute track, and while it is effectively double the length of the majority of tracks, it does not feel as long as this even with its slow pacing, where grinding drones, slow bass thuds and garbled vocals are the order of proceedings. With a blink and miss it length of at 29 seconds, the album concludes with V V V, being one final song based percussive rhythmic based track, again with thick bass drones and militant rolling beats.

Thematically speaking, the title of the album clearly alludes to the continuation of an esoteric and symbolic exploration of the Cain and Abel mythology, which is also reflected strongly in both in lyrics and visuals. It would then seem there is further meaning embedded in the cover artwork, yet I have yet been able to decipher the clues within select lyrical symbolism and typographic design to determine what the hidden message may be. But aside from such conundrums, this review has been written some months after the original release in October, 2017, where it was then observed that the first edition issued in 250 copies each of black and white vinyl pressing sold out at lightening speed, and has since been repressed in a red vinyl edition (500 copies). Based on those sales this obviously evidences that Kainskult has been a very popular album, but perhaps it is also indicative of interest being shown outside of the core underground post-industrial scene. This can then be explained by the fact that Trepaneringsritualen have toured extensively as a support act with a number of underground black metal bands, which is likely to have fostered a diversification of a typical audience for this sort of material. Likewise, given the occult and esoteric thematic focus and the strong rhythmic song based approach, it is easy to appreciate why black metal listeners would find a certain affinity with Kainkult. But regardless of where the current audience interest in Trepaneringsritualen is coming from, this is ultimately irrelevant to the fact that Kainkult functions as an expertly crafted, stormer of an album.

Various Artists – Certified Dead

Various Artists – Certified Dead CD Death Continues Records 2018

Much like printed ‘zines, physical compilation albums are considered redundant formats in the minds of the majority, which is primarily based on the perceived convenience of the internet to be able to quickly check out pretty much any artist or release. Yet that attitude completely misses the point of the compilation format when it is able to maintain coherence around a theme, sound and approach. Certified Dead is one such compilation which clearly understands the strengths of the format, concept and artist and track selection.  As such Certified Dead harks back to the classic 1990’s Death Odors I & II compilations on Slaughter Productions, given it has collected together a stellar collection of ten known and more obscure projects.

Relative newcomer Arum Lilies (Australian project of Mark Groves) opens the compilation with Martin Luther, where a minimalist wonky piano line and creaking/ micro-tonal textures combine with tensile effect, prior to the whispered vocals providing a creepy psychological analytical edge. Being clearly cut from the same sonic cloth as his recent debut Dismal Fantasies (also on Death Continues Records) this track is noted to be of equal standing. Brighter Death Now follow and although Dead Boy does not really matching the quality much of his back catalogue, it sonically differs by being cleaner and perhaps more digital than his usual sound, where the throbbing looped structure is offset with morbid spoken vocals. Grunt’s track Cadaver also deviates in sound from the current material from the project, where this track is a great deal murkier given its swirling mass of caustic noise, punctuated by vocals ranging from whispers to agonized screams. While Necromondo is a previously unknown project, their offering Cadaver Obedience delivers a grim piece of instrumental droning and interweaving oscillations. For Sutcliffe Jugend’s Beyond Perverse, it features experimental scrabbling textures, cavernous drones and thudding overblown bass, while perhaps as expected the vocals bring angst and aggression. On Anapath In Search of Death delivers an excellent death industrial piece, built around revving conveyer belt mechanized loops to generate a general mood of chocking soot and ash, which provides the sonic backdrop for a sample of mortician narrates an autopsy procedure. Great stuff! Femeheim are next and are one of the newer projects featured, where on their track Kältetod it features controlled and intertwined buzzing and oscillating loops, while the spoken vocals are a standout element and provide a morbid edge (achieved through apathetic delivery and a sonically wet treatment). On Wertham’s instrumental track Mourning The Loss Of My Own Shadow, it forgoes the usual bulldozing wall of sound approach and instead opts for an excellent atmospheric industrial noise sound of layered swilling loops and caustic metallic debris and with clearly room to breathe within the mix, the driving loops gradually build with elevating effect.  Another Italian act Today I’m Dead follows and given the project appears to have been inactive since around 2004, I am unsure to if their track What A Pleasant Place is a new recording or archival. Regardless of this the piece fits within a minimalist Italian power electronics style with crude basic structure and a higher pitched central tone resembling a wailing air raid siren and spoken vocals being semi buried within the mix. Perhaps the best offering is left to the last, where on Savagely Mauled Crucifixion Genocide Organ pull no punches with a direct track of pulsing/ driving loops, fluttering textures, morse-code bleeps, angst filled crown samples crowd and heavy as fuck vocal proclamations. Both aggressive and maudlin in mood, Genocide Organ (again) convincingly demonstrate their mastery of a straightforward and direct approach.

As alluded to in the introductory passage, Certified Dead is something of a modern answer to the classic Slaughter Productions Death Odors I & II compilation, while it is also pleasing to see that some of the more obscure acts have turned in contributions to equal or exceed those of more established and recognized names. Overall this is certainly a thematically coherent and sonically enjoyable compilation. As a final comment, I do wonder if the title is a nod to a track of the same name from Brighter Death Now’s classic album Great Death?

Nordvargr – Metempsychosis

Nordvargr – Metempsychosis CD Cyclic Law 2018

For any long term reader of my writings on the post-industrial underground, it should be blatantly obvious by now that projects affiliated with the Cold Meat Industry label have constituted a constant thread of my listening choices since the mid 1990’s. This then obviously extends to the numerous musical offerings of Nordvargr which have been issued via his MANY projects over the same period. In then noting his hyper-productivity over his career to date, even in that context the last couple of years appear to have been particularly busy for Nordvargr.  Likewise perhaps another relevant observation to be made, is that over the years Nordvargr has demonstrated continual creative reinventions of his working methods, where old approaches have been discarded in favour of new sounds and approaches within the broader post-industrial underground (and therefore thankfully avoids his output potentially diminishing in impact via a gradual watering down of ideas). Now with reference to Nordvargr’s current creative arc, the focus has been squarely on a ritual death industrial tangent, where Metempsychosis feels to be a culmination of this sound. To this ear, the linage of this new album can be traced in part to the album length EP The Secret Barbarous Names (reviewed here), and elements of the recent collaborations with Margaux Renaudin under the Anima Nostra moniker (reviewed here and here), in addition to drawing in external influences from the vocal led and rhythmic death industrial song based approach of Trepanseringritualen (aka TxRxP). And speaking of the later, Thomas of TxRxP is a vocal contributor on one of the album tracks.

In essence the musical approach encapsulated on Metempsychosis involves somber ritual soundscapes which function as short bridging pieces between the heavily driving and rhythmic/ tribal/ industrial beat driven songs.  In also utilising a perhaps non-typical elements for this sort of material, a bass guitar is prominently featured to provide a throbbing rhythmic undercurrent to match the real drums, ritual percussion and verse/ chorus/ verse gruff vocals. A particularly good example of this mix is on First East, where the bass line is coupled with stoic martial tinged percussion for strongly rousing result. While the bass playing on Salve Teragmon borders on being overtly groovy, it fits neatly with the clanging pounding percussion to create a driving mid-paced furrow, and consequently stands out as one the album’s most recognizable offerings. Sweet Death Triumphant also features as another album standout based on the slow pounding percussion, blaring foghorns, and guttural anthemic repeated chorus, which combine for an absolute immediacy of impact. But rather than that last statement being mere hyperbole, it was literally proven at the Cold Meat Industry 30th Anniversary pre-show, as when Nordvargr played Sweet Death Triumphant live for the first time, the crowd responded with an unscripted sing along (despite no-one having heard the track before that moment it was being played).

Featuring ten tracks in all, and with the use of real instrumentation mixed alongside the synthetic produced elements, it results in the material sounding to be more of a band than solo studio project, and provides a tangible human essence which is sorely missed when music is crated by computer means alone. The sonic quality provided by its real instrumentation and song focused tracks functions to added to the overall listening experience, where this album has proven itself to be engaging album by virtue of being regular rotation over recent months – such is the benefits of being provided with early versions and the final mix well in advance of its formal release date. While it then remains to be seen whether Nordvargr will continue on this creative path, or perhaps again forges off in new directions, it certainly feels as if there is far more creative territory to be covered within this current stylistic approach. But before that question is answered by the next release, Metempsychosis stands as another pinnacle album in the ever-expanding creative cannon of Nordvargr. Vinyl, CD, cassette and digital rounds out the options for format, evidently with slight variations in track listing on each.

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies CD Death Continues 2017

Australian Mark Groves (he of Von Einem, Dead Boomers, Red Wine and Sugar Absoluten Calfeutrail etc.), has recently launched this new solo project and with Dismal Fantasies being the debut album. Taking some sonic cues from Red Wine and Sugar, the minimalist construction and creepy whispered style of the vocals of that project are both replicated here. Yet sonically Arum Lilies see Mark approaching industrial noise and subdued power electronics from an experimental and almost musique concrete angle. Also, while the project moniker may seem slightly abstract at first, it starts to make more sense when it is discovered that the Arum Lily is also referred to as a funeral flower.

On album opener The Maniac ,minimalist panning static and a morbid bass drone feature prior to the whispered vocals articulating lyrics of psychoanalytical type. The later introduction of maudlin piano melody shifts the mood of the track substantially, which then extends through into the following instrumental cut Erasing the Line. The layered, piecing and invasive whistling noise of Venal Dogs generates far more tensile mood, which in turn matches the lyrical dialogue which addresses a series of internalized thoughts and observations in the first perspective.* Musically speaking I find this piece one of the less successful ones on the album due to its needling and invasive textures, but this impression has far more to do with me avoiding music with tones that mirror my own long suffered tinnitus. Yet despite this personal negative, the sound shifts again on Prostituting Their Ambitions, where scrabbling field recordings and low humming drones provide the basis for fragmented one-line descriptors which gradually builds a picture of a lonely suicide. This general mood then arcs through later third of the album, with the tracks furrowing a sound frames around dour drones, minimalist sustained textures, and wonky piano elements for eerie atmospheric result.

With only seven album tracks, it amounts to a relatively short album (only 38 minutes), yet stylistic diversity is displayed within that run-time. Rather than being aggressive in tone, the overarching mood is unnerving and at times harrowing, and which lyrically function to thematically articulate the malaise and underlying violence of contemporary society from a number of angles. It is also worth noting that through Arum Lilies as well as his other projects, Mark is building quite a strong body of work which is forging a divergent take on the more typical tropes of the post-industrial genre.


* – During the review process I asked Mark whether the image on the back cover was associated with the January, 2017 incident, where Dimitrious Gargasoulas used a car to run down pedestrians in Melbourne Australia, killing six and injuring thirty others.  That impression was confirmed to be correct and it was then highlighted that the lyrics of Venal Dogs were based prior social media posts from Dimitrious, which are very revealing as to his state of mind before the attack. Mark also revealed further conceptual inspiration taken from another notorious Melbourne crime, so for those interested, good luck in potentially working it out from cover images and lyrics.

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist LP Freak Animal 2018

Grunt return three years after Myth Of Blood (reviewed here), and continues the approach of delivering albums containing a collection of distinct and individual tracks. This follows the pattern already set down by World Draped In A Camouflage from 2012 (reviewed here) and continued on Myth Of Blood. As such Castrate The Illusionist can be considered as effectively rounding out a trilogy of releases, featuring unhinged, noise infused power electronics of the highest caliber.

Of the eleven album tracks are on the shorter side (two to five minutes each), which allows a wide variety of sounds, textures and sonic approaches to be explored. Likewise some quite unexpected sound-sources make an appearance, including a wonky treated accordion sample on The Iron Curtain Of Discreet Silence, which is placed within an instrumental soundscape of clattering junk metal, maudlin choir-esque sustained synths and squelching up front noise. Varied vocals feature across the album, ranging from the rock hard spoken passages to those of the trademark gruff yells and occasional unhinged shrieks.  Of note, the album contains two effective ‘hit songs’, including Hunting Within Civilization and Purge of Violence, both of which rely on heady pulsing textures to generate anthemic fist pumping effect, coupled with raw junk metal smatterings of noise and gruff agonised vocals (…and for the eagled eyed (eared?) both tracks previously featured in live versions on the Swarm of Parasites tape from 2016). Yet to speak of a slight negative, Human Storage seems somewhat out of place among the rest, as it is sonically less resolved overall and feels to be a more of a short, improvised piece.

Beyond describing individual tracks, the general mood and atmosphere oscillates between controlled anger to barely restrained violence, and while there is a clear display of meticulous construction of its varied sound elements, the tone never forges a shredding and raw tonal aesthetic. In an overarching sense Castrate The Illusionist can be considered to be of equal standing to the last couple of albums (as well as the Sacrosanct Imperium EP reviewed here), meaning this is more extremely high calibre material and again demonstrates without question Mikko Aspa’s sonic mastery of his chosen craft.