Gruntsplatter & Wilt – The Trough of Armageddon

Gruntsplatter & Wilt – The Trough of Armageddon 2xCD Phange Tapes / Cipher Productions 2021

This split release is from two long-standing American projects and is conceptually interesting given each CD features a single artist who has used sonic source material from the other as the starting basis, and further sculpted and augmented it into their own material.

Gruntsplatter leads off with the first disc titled Indoctrination and functionally twists Wilt’s source material into Gruntsplatter’s own frame of reference, which means it is a textbook example of their crushing claustrophobic bleakness. Foreboding waves of corrosive sounds abound, with nary a fleck of light managing to piece the tonal gloom. Functionally, the tracks are minimalist but also operate as hefty atmospheric soundscapes, where multiple tonal layers combine into a grinding sonic mass. In generally articulating a barren post-apocalyptic landscape and ashen cloud atmosphere, the tonally windswept elements have a natural timbre, combined with others elements with a clear mechanical churn.

Moving onto the second disc, Wilt’s album is titled Repercussion and differs from Gruntsplatter’s side given it immediately displays a subtle spaciousness to the sonics. Melancholic and contemplative is the general flavour of proceedings, with an open and floating sparseness, coupled with the occasional tasteful use of minimal synth melodies. Although through the middle and back half of the album the sound of several tracks do contain a more forceful tonal bluster, and sees the use of abstracted mechanical rhythmic loops which gives a nod to the more typical sonic elements of Gruntspatter.

The end result of this collaborative release is one that displays the best elements of each project, and while there are subtle differences between each half, they are equally very complimentary as a combined release of high-grade, noise-industrial inflected dark ambience. The double gatefold dig-pack on thick card stock rounds out the cleanly designed and packaged presentation.

Gruntsplatter – Dowsing In The Cancer Lands

Gruntsplatter – Dowsing In The Cancer Lands CD Crionic Mind 2021

The last full-length Gruntsplatter album was issued way back in 2005, and apart from some compilation collections dating from 2015 and 2020 respectively, 2021 has seen some renewed activity from Scott Candey’s main project, as well as his label Crionic Mind. Noting that I came across Grunsplatter from their early days of activity in the late 1990’s, Scott always excelled and blending sounds from disparate underground genres such as dark ambient, noise and death industrial, yet combining these elements in his own unique way. As is then illustrated on Dowsing In The Cancer Lands this broader approach has not altered and still remains the core of his sound.

From the opening moments of the album, molasses think waves of industrial-grade dark ambience abound, further combined with noise-infused drones, providing an excellent indication of what is to play out over the following 12 tracks/ 70 minutes. A suffocating claustrophobia remains a constant mood which is threaded throughout, while sonic detailing and a meticulous approach to the laying of the multitude of its sounds elements also characterises proceedings. As such buzzing drones, mechanical churn and radioactive bluster form a bedrock of sorts. Added to this are higher-pitched tonal shards which slash through thick inky black soot clouds, while in other segments extremely minimal rhythms and muted doom addled melodious elements appear and recede. Scarlet Quarry manages to then stand apart however thanks to the lone melancholic violin which floats above a roiling tonal mass. The album mastering by Thomas Garrison is also noteworthy has also given the sound significant presence and bulk without being overblown or losing depth and separation of sound layers.

As is clearly on display here Scott is clearly not seeking to reinvent Grunsplatter’s sound. Rather this new album builds upon what has come before and plays out as an expertly crafted and surprising vital sounding recording. This is then the sort of release which is best appreciated as an album in its entirety, rather than singling out specific tracks. A cleanly designed and suitably darkly grey-hued 6-panel digipack rounds out the physical presentation.

Cloister Recordings cassette batch 2021

Subklinik – Neuroskizm MC Cloister Recordings 2021

The long-standing death industrial/ death ambient project Subklinik returns with a new four track tape, where the featured material heavily slanted toward a death ambient sound. A constant element found across the tape are the low brooding synth layers which ebb forwards in various atonal patterns. Sonic variation is then provided with windswept textures, muted ritualised beats, lamenting chants, wailing horns and semi-burred dialog samples etc. However, the shortest track Pulverise stands out substantially for the rest with its employment of a rudimentary drum machine beat, which when coupled with angular stabs of sound reminds of the early pivotal phase of SPK. The remaining three tracks then have greater consistency, being expertly crafted and sonically restrained in capturing a tone of creeping dread. An all-round strong tape.

Lust Fist – Forflatning MC Cloister Recordings 2021

Forflatning is the follow up to the debut tape Kropper Uten Mellomrom (reviewed here), which showcases a further five tracks of no-frills but absolutely on point European styled power electronics. The title opening track is a brooding instrumental and features a sample commenting on the current ills of society by referencing “moral starvation”. The following track then edges things up a notch with multi-layered caustic loops and wavering modulations, with the shredded megaphone vocals being semi-buried in the mix. The Birth Of A New Man Regenerated Through Labour opts for a gloomy cinematic edge, and feature the flange processed and over-saturated vocals which were such a standout element of the debut. To then make reference to my review of the debut, it highlighted that tape: ‘deftly balances aggression with a sense of lurking menace’, which is equally applicable here. Yet perhaps there is an elevated attention to sonic detailing as well as tonal variation between each of the tracks on display. Without doubt Lust Fist again strongly impress on their new release.

DAYOFWRATH – And The World Will Perish In Flames MC Cloister Recordings 2021

As I understand it DAYOFWRATH is a new solo project which has risen from the ashes of the defunct Barcelona based ritual ambient/ death industrial project DE·TA·US·TO·AS. Therefore, based on general similarities in sound, this new project can be viewed as a follow on from the earlier project (final DE·TA·US·TO·AS release reviewed here). Four tracks feature on the tape, where the lead off track Voidhanger very much wears its Trepaneringsritualen influence on its sleeve. Heavily pounding ritual percussion drives the track forwards, coupled with gruff invocation-based vocals, while a black metal tremolo riffed guitar line is relegated to the background. A similar tone and instrument construct is featured on Imperfection And Oblivion, but the overt forward drive is paired back slightly to brooding pace. The programmed and almost industrial-techno beat of The Warior’s Pilgrimage functions to give DAYOFWRATH’s sound a more individual slant, and which continues on the final track Death To The World. Here the black metal riffed guitars are brought to the fore and coupled with further pounding rhythmic programming to create an anthemic track with undercurrent of a ritualised rhythmic sway. As an overall comment the driving ritual death industrial mood remains the central focus, and regardless of the obvious influence, the use of the tremolo riffed guitars and programming functions sets DAYOFWRATH apart. For a formal debut this is a very impressive tape.

Sa Bruxa – Gnosis

Sa Bruxa – Gnosis CD Dunkelheit Produktionen

Gnosis functions as my introduction to Sa Bruxa, yet ten or so releases have already been issued since 2016 on various formats (digital, CD and cassette). But in then noting that the project name translates to ‘the witch’ in Sardinian, it provides a strong indication that there is likely to be a ritualised sound at play. This turns out to be correct and being self-described as ‘hexed electronics’, where there is a darkly archaic ritual ambient/industrial timbre to proceedings.

The album features nine distinct but untitled compositions, each around six to ten minutes each. With a slow unfurling of its ritual sonic tapestries, Gnosis displays substantive musical ideas and sonic detailing across the album’s 65 minutes. Each distinct piece is frames around a variety of tonal elements, variously including: dank subterranean drones, bleak but strangely unidentifiable field recordings, tribal rhythmic elements, ritual percussive clatter, and on occasion abstracted garbled/chanted vocals and dour rudimentary synth melodies. Thus, with the core of the material seemingly being framed around seething field recordings and coupled within real instrumentation and occasional vocals, it pushes the overall tone well away from a cleanly produced studio sound, and one which at times gives a slightly more modern nod to the ritual sonic spheres of the cult Nekrophile Rekords roster.

In an overarching sense there both clear character and atmosphere at a play on Gnosis, which makes for a rather sullen experience given its darkly claustrophobic and soot-infused pitch-black atmospheres. Thus with reference to text on the digi-pack which states: ‘Gnosis is a journey into occult emotional soundscapes, articulated in ten nameless rituals’, rather than being a statement of bluff and bluster it is a very spot on and accurate description of what the album delivers.

Murderous Vision – Abscission

Murderous Vision – Abscission CD Chthonic Streams / Live Bait Recording Foundation 2020

By way of background Chthonic Streams released the limited tape version of Abscission in 2019 (effectively an EP in length), which also marked 25 years of activity of the Murderous Vision. Those four original tracks have now been expanded with three additional compositions to now make Abscission a full-length album.

Noting that Murderous Vision have always been broadly defined by a murky death industrial style characteristic of the now classic 1990’s era, more recent output has displayed a greater degree of experimentation. Yet interestingly, the material featured on Abscission, harks back to the early era of the project. Tape opener Breaking the Bonds of Light announces intent with horror synths, militant percussion and murky drones which border on choral chants, but things take a noted step up with the following track Echoed Voice. The first a section of darkly brooding cinematic ambience and spoken vocals, prior to the second half featuring chanted male vocals against rolling, echo processed percussion and rising tide of grim distortion. Following next is the pairing of two new tracks Blood Moon Ritual and Veiled Ghosts. The first is a tensile minimalist piece of sub-orchestral dread, garbled vocals and catatonically slow drums of doom. The second new track up the pace with rolling beat and forbidding tone of oscillating loops, while morbid proclamation style spoken vocals arrive mid-track. Autumn Black follows and begs a partial comparison to the brooding, cinematically tinged and percussive death industrial of Megaptera. With an excellent display of restraint, the driving percussion only arrived in the later half of track to ratchet up the tensile mood. Open The Night Sky features as the heaviest and most direct track, featuring slow pummelling beat, grinding looped bass distortion and aggressive heavily processed vocal barrage. The album finishes with another new composition Machinery of Life. Low drones blend with a contemporary classical mood, featuring shrill strings, sparse tympani percussion and choral vocals (all sampled?), before the track arcs off into a long section of mechanised death industrial, before the classical strings reappear later track. As a concluding track it certainly delivers an excellently paced and darkly moody piece.

With seven tracks spanning 50 minutes, this hangs together as a coherent album, which delivers a distinct and individual sound within a broader death industrial framework. Assuming many missed the original extremely limited tape edition (50 copies), this expanded edition in a more generous pressing (300 copies) is well worth the attention and investment.

Nordvargr – Daath

Nordvargr – Daath LP Cyclic Law 2019

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.

Murderous Vision – Abscission

Murderous Vision – Abscission MC Chthonic Streams 2019

Consistent longevity in the underground is no easy feat, yet 2019 is revealed as the 25th anniversary of Stephen Petrus’ solo project Murderous Vision. Having always been broadly defined by a murky death industrial style characteristic of the now classic 1990’s era, recent output has displayed a greater degree of experimentation. Yet of the four tracks which feature on Abscission, it harks back to the early era of the project.

Tape opener Breaking the Bonds of Light announces intent with horror synths, militant percussion and murky drones which border on choral chants, but things take a noted step up with the following track Echoed Voice. The first a section of darkly brooking cinematic ambience and spoken vocals, prior to the second half featuring chanted male vocals against rolling, echo processed percussion and rising tide of grim distortion. Autumn Black begs a partial comparison to the brooding, cinematically tinged and percussive death industrial of Megaptera. With an excellent display of restraint, the driving percussion only arrived in the later half of track to ratchet up the tensile mood. For the final of the four compositions, Open The Night Sky round out the tape as the heaviest and most direct track, featuring slow pummeling beat, grinding looped bass distortion and aggressive heavily processed vocal barrage.

At around 27 minutes of music, this is a short and to the point released, but also packs a major impact in that time, where each of the four track deliver a distinct and individual sound within a broader death industrial framework. Abscission is great tape and fitting celebration of a quarter century of activity. But with an extremely limited physical edition, this would also be a great candidate for a vinyl reissue.

Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd

Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd CD Neuropa Records 2019

Originally issued in 2013 on cassette via Merzbild, and again in 2015 on vinyl by In Solace Publishing, this third press takes the original three tracks and appends them with two bonus tracks for good measure, bringing the total run time to over 50 minutes.

Thematically this release relates to the Norse legend of the Swedish King Domalde, whose ritual self-sacrifice prevented an impending famine. This conceptual content is addressed within the cover image, which is a black and white excerpt from Carl Larsson’s famous painting Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), whilst select Swedish song titles roughly translate to: For The Benefit of the Swedes, Blood Rain, and The Corpse of the Fallen Dómaldr. The original three tracks form sections which essentially bleed into a singular 30-minute ritual death ambient composition, music more characteristic of the earlier phase of the project before the sound mutated towards direct and song-focused compositions. But rather than the additional material simply being tacked on at the end, the two tracks are included as the first and last tracks respectively, to broadly fit and extend the mood of the original three compositions.

The first section (track one) is moody and minimal, with grey-hued drones, clanging sounds, and disembodied vocalizations; it feels like an extended introduction. The second section (track two) leads off with some gritty textural static; the main focus is squarely the procession of slow deathly drums, swirling winds, wavering synth textures and croaked/echo-distorted vocals, which combine to deliver an excellent track of slow brooding ritual menace. The third section (track three) is sparser in construction and encompasses an air of distant abstraction to its voluminous atmosphere. Here a lone cavernous bass thump provides focus in amongst various sweeping/cavernous tonal elements and the call/response of howling wolves. The fourth section (track four) continues the windswept sound in a slightly more forceful guise, building upon ominous drones, a slow percussive bass pulse and a melancholic synth line akin to the title track of Brighter Death Now’s Necrose Evangelicum album – an excellent and harrowing conclusion to the main collection. The final section (track five) spans out over a 14-minute stretch with freezing windswept plains, ominous bass drones, and slow semi-buried ritual thrum.

The expanded version of Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd is an excellent release within the project’s discography and a strong reminder of the earlier soundscape death industrial sound of the project.

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.