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.

Funerale Classico Italiano – /e·ṣi·zià·le/

Funerale Classico Italiano – /e·i·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.

Trapdoor Tapes batch 2019

Hal Hutchinson – Steelwork Fabricators MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Modelbau – The Whole Truth MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Luke Holland – Virtues Of Torture MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Being well aware of Hal’s activities in his other projects, I am then not as well versed with his solo output – other than understanding it is of a raw scrap metal noise type. Steelwork Fabricators features two untitled tracks, which are both excellent examples of what can be achieved with slow control noise, opposed to an overtly chaotic noise attack. Thus a laborious and roughly hewn scrap metal approach is the order of the day. Clearly not being from a singular improvised recording session, Hal has taken a multi-layered approach, where the tracks are carefully constructed layered for maximum impact. With a slow, jagged, hefty and ripping bass tone, the production is also thickly hollow, and in select moments contains a thunderous but abstracted oil barrel beat. In essence the sound is amazing and could be creatively described as an the rusting hulk of an abandoned steel cargo ship being slowly crushed and swallowed by expanding sheets of ice. With only 20 minutes run time, this is far too short and leaves me wanting much more.

Regarding Modelbau I I had not heard of the project before before, but then immediately recognised the name behind the project – Frans de Waard – formerly of Kapotte Muziek and the Staalplaat shop/ label, and currently of the Vital Weekly online publication. But to talk specifically of Modelbau, the project is concerned with densely detailed tape experimentation, where two length tracks feature on each side of the tape. The title track leads off with highly animated lo-fi noise, which is blended with treated bells or gongs and a plethora of detailed natural field recordings elements (wind, water, birds, voices etc). Extremely dense in sound, the atmosphere is one of an elevating maelstrom of sound than anything remotely ambient or relaxing. Back There features on Side B, and steps the sound up a notch with a more direct sound which verges on industrial-noise. Here scrambling and scattered distortion sit in the foreground, while abstracted metallic tones and distant echoed field recording elements site far back within the mix. With around 50 releases issued since 2012, this is an intriguing introduction to Modelbau and their forcefully detailed, yet engaging low-fi approach.

On Virtues of Torture, Luke Holland delivers a single lengthy 28 minute track of his particular brand of muted industrial noise. But from the lead off, it is immediately apparent that the the track displays more of an affinity with a loosely rhythmic death industrial sound. As such the slow ‘two note’ rhythmic pulse and windswept oscillating layers generates an excellent dank minimalism, which sits at a mid-point somewhere between Atrax Morgue and early Brighter Death Now. Being an instrumental track and with its elongated length, the track takes its time to gradually morph and shift, but generally not straying too far from the core framework, until a quite dramatic shift late in the track to a section of crumbling distortion, forceful bass tones and wailing horns of death. All in all another solid offering from the Trapdoor Tapes label head.

Megaptera – A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art

Megaptera – A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art  LP/CD Cloister Recordings 2019

In the early to mid-1990’s Mepaptera were a leader and mainstay of the early Swedish death industrial sound. In noting that the last proper album The Curse of the Scarecrow dates from 1998, focus on the project has been maintained over the following years based on sporadic live performances, as well as a slew of releases including: live albums, reissues, compilation collections and remixes. But A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art is a welcomed release as it features new music from project mainstay Peter Nyström, indicated to have been recorded between 2012-2018.

Lobotomy leads off in classic Megaptera fashion with pulsing bass tones, shuddering factory ambiences, scrapping metallics, rupturing fissures of sound and medical lecture samples which all laboriously unfurl over a ten-minute span. Bipolar (Type 1&2) follows and displays another side to the Megaptera oeuvre, with a semi-stilted ritual drums, wavering horns and dank echoed factory ambience, again slowly unravelling over ten minutes, where additional beat programming, grinding distortion and junk metal crunch are added for good measure. Side B leads off with a remix of Second Recovery by Stephen Petrus, being a slow maelstrom of mid to lower ranged swirling/grinding layers. Further blended with various rolling programmed beats, treated vocals/samples it generates an overall grim result. Final of the four tracks is Walking Death, and spans a 14 minute run-time. Scrabbling conveyor belt metallic textures and rumbling windswept ambience features heavily, while fractured voices can also be detected but are semi-buried in the mix. From the midpoint of the track stilted metal clanging elements provides further structure and forward movement, with a gradual elevation of urgency through to its conclusion.

For good measure a bonus CD is included along with the vinyl LP, and features a live recording from The Epicurean Escapism Festival 2014. Previously issued as a digital only release, it spans a play-time of 41 minutes and features classic cuts such as The Final Day, Don’t Desecrate The Dead and The Curse Of The Scarecrow. With a foggy and distant depth to the recording and detectable crowd chatter, this is definitely not a direct soundboard recording. But equally this only adds to the murkiness and general dank death industrial atmosphere.

From what I understand, this may be the final swansong album from Megaptera. While this is a shame, equally this album was not perhaps not even expected given the length of time since the release of the last proper album. If it is indeed the final album, is at least a fitting epitaph for the project, where the industrial decay illustrated on the cover is a suitable visual representation.

Terror Cell Unit – Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God

Terror Cell Unit – Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God MC Oxen 2019

With six new releases issued in 2019 alone, the determined forward march of Terror Cell Unit continues. This short 20-minute cassette features four tracks, noted to have been recorded in March, 2019, and based on the chosen cover imagery it appears the thematic focus may be Christian fanaticism and evangelical firebrand preaching. Although this cannot be confirmed as the lyrics are not included and much of the vocals are processed beyond recognition.

A Watchful Eye solidly kicks off proceedings featuring monumentally thick throbbing bass, heavily treated vocals and relatively clean mid-toned sound. The following A Different Path lives up to its title, given it veers towards a pounding death industrial structures based on a massive drubbing beat grimly smeared synth layers and the heavily processed rabid vocals sitting semi-buried at the centre of the mix. Side B brings a further two tracks where a religious focused sampled introduces His Wrath Setting Fire In The Sky, being a track of layered looped elements, where the noise wheezes, crumbles and squelches in equally measure. Calling Your Bluff finishes on a particular high note with tonal drones and loosely looped rhythms, and when the vocals appear, apart from a slight delay treatment, are fully intelligible.

Embodying a now immediately recognisable sound of Terror Cell Unit which showcases a modular synth derived and sharply incisive tone, this is another high calibre industrial strength power electronics release.

Galme – Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande

Galme – Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande MC Styggelse 2019

Galme are a new and entirely obscure Swedish project. Clearly they are obsessed with the earliest expressions of what would become known as a death ambient/death industrial, but also features enough sinister obscurity to also be tagged with the ‘post-mortem’ descriptor. Likewise, the phase on the cover ‘spektral elektriks’ is a suitable descriptor of the atmospheric qualities of this tape

With what is effectively a singular long form track, Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande traverses through a myriad of interlinking movements. Slow pulsating emanations provides a forward drive, while sections of muted conveyor belt rhythms, stilted ritual beats, cryptic melodies, and dank tonal washes generate a sickly ethereal mood. Predominantly an instrumental affair, on occasion disembodied radio voice chatter flits in and out of sonic frame, much like EVP recordings cutting through the ether onto the magnetic tape. Production wise there is nothing remotely modern with the tone of the recording. Rather this embodies the atmosphere of the earliest 1980’s phase of industrial music which spawned the likes of Korpses Katatonik and what would follow. But thankfully this does not sound in any way purposefully retro or otherwise pastiche of what has come previously.

For the physical presentation, the austere colouring and visuals of the j-card, inserts and table label suits the sonics perfectly. Much like all of the material issues on Styggelse, this is purposefully obscure, is limited in edition and difficult to obtain due to lack of wide distribution. Likewise with no digital versions available, it only elevates the impact of the music when a post-industrial underground obscurity like this can be obtained. Yes – this is recommended.