Megaptera’s album Disease is a quintessential example of mid-1990s Swedish death industrial and exemplifies a sound which has been copied over the years, but certainly not bettered. To quickly cover its history, Disease was first issued on CD in 1996 on Art Konkret and has been out of print and unavailable for many years until this updated short run pressing. Personally speaking, I obtained the original version of Disease directly from sole project member Peter Nyström as it was already sold out everywhere (such were the days of CD pressings selling out quickly), and incidentally that contact lead to my interview with Peter in the very first issue of Spectrum Magazine issued in 1998. But I digress…
Sonically speaking, the dank and oppressive soundscapes of Disease are built around sweeping drones, atonal metallic pounding beat, sub orchestral synth pads and further augmented with well-placed movie dialogue samples. This approach is perfectly demonstrated on opening track The Passage To Your Evil Dreams. After this rather storming opening track the following two tracks Disoriented and Haunted By Demons are perhaps slightly more abstracted and windswept versions of the opener, being more ominous and slow stalking in tone, where rusted factory conveyor belts creak and buckle and unidentified morbid pulsing textures provide slight rhythmic focus. The album is rounded out by The Squire Goes Insane, which in its original version was 28 minutes (and split into four parts), but has been further expanded here with the inclusion of a newly recorded fifth part, bringing the total run time to nearly 36 minutes. With such an extended run time, the track slowly unfurls and is an excellent example of slow building tension across the bulk of the first half (assuming this to be Part 1: Warm And Relaxed). The mood takes a decided step-up around the 16-minute mark with a heavy catatonic beat and atonal horror strings (assuming this to be Part 2: Evil Thoughts Are Growing), while the later parts are both minimalist and restrained soundscapes. As for the new appended Part 5: (Resurrected As The) Walking Death, it blends in perfectly with the balance of the album by featuring loose conveyor belt loops, a grinding bass thrum, and distant windswept atmospheres.
In essence Disease embodies the sound of the grit and decay of an abandoned industrial complex mixed with a solid dose of creeping horror aesthetic, which when combined is immediately recognisable as Megaptera. Although the project would go on to outdo themselves on next album The Curse of the Scarecrow (issued in 1998), Disease is still a landmark release and it is great to have a newly remastered sound, with expanded content and newly designed asylum-themed artwork. According to the cover this release is ‘unlimited’ (a reference to the undead perhaps?) to 300 copies so is not likely to stick around too long.
Inflated Climax – Inflated Climax MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018
Inflated Climax are a new anonymous project on Trapdoor Tapes where their self-titled tape delivers crude and lo-fi industrial noise/death industrial sounds.
This self-titled tape contains a single lengthy untitled instrumental track, which repeats on both sides. The composition has then obviously been spliced together from a series of recording sessions as the cover indicates this was recorded between 2015-2017. Overall the mood is dank and morose which is achieved through atonal, slow throbbing rhythms which are mixed with thick bass driven distortion. In one section, the slow throbbing beat rolls catatonically onwards, akin a container train lurching forwards to the end destination of an unidentified death-camp, while other segments feature stasis inducing minimal looped rhythms, or looser tonal modulations infused with soot and ash. In some way this reminds of some of the long form experimentation of Atrax Morgue, but where that project’s free form sound was often clinical and mid to higher pitch, here the sound is a deep rumbling lo-fi death industrial approach in a restrictive and suffocating way, which certainly matches the visual cues of the cover.
Obscure, crude and understated in equal measures, packaging comes in a plastic pocket with two double sided photocopy sheets with rubber fetish imagery.
School For Cadavers – Re Education MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018
School For Cadavers is a new project featuring Jon Evans and Julian Percy, who are both members of Last Dominion Lost. In noting that context, there are clearly some strong parallels which can be drawn between the sound of these two project. Yet with reference to School For Cadavers, the tribal industrial elements of Last Dominion Lost has been toned down for a more streamlined industrial noise approach, which on a few occasion furrows within a dank death industrial style.
The tape features seven tracks in all and while three of those are denoted as being live recordings, this is not immediately evident given the consistency in recorded sound spanning all tracks. Sonar opens the tape with a screeching distortion, indecipherable yelled vocals and underpinned but an understated rhythmic loops, while the following track Spirit Of The Air contains a quite distinctly wonky and disorienting tone. Dead Time is a clear standout piece, based around cyclic throbbing mid paced layered loops and other sweeping tones which build in intensity, while other random slashes and cuts of churning sounds continual interject and gradually take over. Side B brings the absolute standout track Demise Of Logic, which is a monolithic pounding ritual death industrial track, completely with wailing air raid sirens, shuddering synth tones and garbled evocations. As for the final track Last Look blends a suspenseful horror soundtrack styled mood and coupled with a central slow pounding death industrial beat, while another screeched distortion layer ratchets up the tension. Great stuff.
Like the very much underrated and under appreciated Last Dominion Lost, School For Cadavers deliver expertly executed high calibre material, and should not be ignored or overlooked.
I am extremely proud to reveal the finalised cover of the Spectrum Compendium book!
After a couple of design options, in the end it was decide to go with a cover design both keeps and builds upon the feel and aesthetic of the original Spectrum Magazines, which to my mind has come out as a very strong and striking visual.
The book layout is still being worked on by the publisher, but evidently I will have a copy to proof and approve this month (October, 2018).
More details on publication date will be announced later when known but getting very close now!!!
Various Artists – Darkness Descends: a post-industrial compilation CDr Live Bait Recording Foundation 2018
This release was originally issued to coincide with the festival of the same name which was held in Cleveland on 16th June, 2018, but as the festival has now been and gone, the role of this compilation has now shifted to that of a commemorative release. Featuring exclusive tracks from the ten artists who performed at the festival, they effectively form a selection of some of the best American death industrial related projects.
Being already well familiar with the output of nine of the ten artists, despite the fact that they all operate within similar genre confines, it is positive to note that each of the tracks stand apart from each other and that the individual stylistic nuances of the featured various projects shine through. The only project I not heard before is the female duo Cunting Daughters, whose piece of obtuse muffled factory ambience hints at a distant lurking horror and a positive introduction to the project. Elsewhere Murderous Vision opens the compilation with a varied death industrial offering, including rolling tribal beat and ranted religious themed sample, while the shrill strings and garbled background noise of Abjection Ritual’s delivers a strong suspense feel, before descending into looped mechanical churn and fried static. The introductory floating drones of Shock Frontier’s piece takes it time in elevating to full blast furnace intensity, while Vitriol Gauge delivery a relatively straight forward but classic toned death industrial track of mid paced looped distortion, subdued static and agonized vocals which are smeared across the sonic spectrum. Compactor’s piece stands apart given the slightly cleaner sonic edge and heady atonal pounding structure, while Gnawed’s track is far more controlled and considered than typically would be expected, here with muted sub-orchestral drones, slow mechanical agitations and trademark treated vocals. Steel Hook Prostheses follows with their distinct brand of clinical tinged death industrial, but of note is the greater than normal reliance on underpinning synths. The Vomit Arsonist also delivers with a devastatingly bleak track of minimalist rhythmic structure and cavernous rumble, while Theologian concludes the album with heavily animated rhythmic driven thrum and moody wavering synths which is strong backing for the stylized half sung/ screamed vocals.
Although technically a CDr release, this is a pro-duplicated disc housed and mini-gatefold cover and if any of the featured acts of or interest, this compilation will be of absolute interest, ans absolutely a suitable document and memento of the Darkness Descends festival.
Murderous Vision – Voided Landscapes CD Live Bait Recording Foundation 2018
Voided Landscapes is the latest full length from American industrial underground stalwart Stephen Petrus who has been recording under this moniker for well over 20 years now, and whose output to date has broadly been categorized by the blurring of the lines between death industrial and dark ambient. Although not being quite sure as to exactly what number album this is, the project has issued in excess of 30 releases during the lengthy period of activity, so this album will certainly be somewhere into double figures.
Musically speaking the abstract industrial rumble and moody minimalist piano of album opening Purity Burns bodes extremely well, while also featuring nature-based field recordings of calm waves lapping at a shoreline and a chorus of seagull cries, which differentiates it from much of the material which has previously been issued under the Murderous Vision banner. The following track Radiate is the categorized by a static buzzing and blast furnace churn and features the first vocals which are heavily processed and agonized in their delivery, and certainly blood boiling and fist pumping overall. Again in a slightly different style, the instrumental Shifting Ash is low key and moody, featuring subtle bass addled drones, random industrial debris and sporadic rhythmic loops which elevate in prominence through the late section. The most deviating track of the entire album is Stale Earth Slumber given its minimalist martial industrial frame of reference, being structure around stoic kit percussion, deep orchestral melody and main spoken vocal, although truth be told it slightly jars the flow of the album given how stylistically different it is. After the quite musically varied first third, the album opts to settle down to a solid display of Murderous Vision’s take on a ‘mid-point’ sound between seething dark ambient and ominous death industrial. The pairing of Concussion and Empty Language both illustrate this strongly, while as the title might suggest Moss and Bone features source material of a more organic sound palate. Voided functions as a heavily layered swirling vortex of mechanized textures, while the final album track Corrosive Materials chooses to go out with heavy impact given its use of a fast paced, massively pounding industrial structures.
Nine tracks over 43 minutes displays a varied stylistic approach and composition, which is clearly rooted in the classic 1990’s era of dark ambient and death industrial, and this feeling is strongly on display, but also without being purposefully ‘retro’ in sonic expression. A 6 panel fold out digi-sleeve on matt card stock and with suitable imagery of urban decay rounds out the presentation of a very enjoyable, sonically varied underground post-industrial release.
DE·TA·US·TO·AS – The Immaculate Triumvirate 12″EP Bestiarie 2018
Although I am not at all familiar with this Spanish project DE·TA·US·TO·AS, I am at least familiar with the label who released it, as they have recently re-issued an early Trepaneringsritualen tape Martyrium on 7”ep + CD. That context then becomes quite relevant to this review as the feel and stylistic approach of The Immaculate Triumvirate embodies grim ritual ambient/ death industrial soundscapes coupled with hoarse croaked vocals. Essentially, if I heard this without context I would have sworn I was listening to Trepaneringsritualen, and with particular reference to the earlier releases in a more ritualized and less song structured style.
As Above So Below leads off as the first of four compositions, and opens at a funeral march pace with shrill strings, grinding bass drones, sparse gongs and other ritual implements. These elements combine as the semi-abstract backdrop for the heavily echoed and smoke charred vocals which are moaned, and throat chanted somewhere off in the murky cavernous depths. The following track The Infliction Apex charts more tribal spheres in a loose song-based format, with heavy rolling mid paced percussion, drawling horns, and vocals split between droning throat chants and a rasping croaked style. Zealots opens side B and is another piece which perfectly balances abstract ritual soundscape drones and rhythmic percussive structured elements, this time sounding to be heavily treated oil barrel type percussion, while the muttered and echo treated vocals bleed across the sonic spectrum. The final of the four tracks is Sanctuary Serenity Scourge and steps back into calmer ritual ambient territory, framed around gongs, flickering fire like analogue textures, slow thrumming bass rhythm and dual deep throat chants and rasped ritual invocations.
In many ways the influence of Trepaneringsritualen weighs heavily on this release, yet at the same time this influence does not feel to be in any way cynical, particularly given how strong the end result is and the fact that DE·TA·US·TO·AS has twisted such influences to their own and very positive ends. Packaging wise, the clean graphic design style sees a number of symbolic references embedded within the font style and layout, while the band logo is printed on the outer plastic slip sleeve. Sonically and visually, this is a recommended release.