Det Kätterska Förbund – Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås

Det Kätterska Förbund – Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås LP Cold Spring Records 2021

Det Kätterska Förbund is a new collaborative project between Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen and given the recent sound and direction of both projects has been stylistically aligned, this collaboration makes perfect sense. Likewise, with the moniker translating to ‘The Heretical Association’, it is a suitable descriptor of the sounds and themes contained herein.

Across the seven album tracks, a mid-paced and heavily percussive-driven ritual death industrial tone prevails, which in some ways any of the tracks could have easily been featured on either of the main projects’ albums. Yet there have also been some slight yet noticeable tweaks here and there to production and instrumentation in order to distinguish Det Kätterska Förbund. For example, the opening track He Will Fall features monk-like chants against a backdrop of swirling textures, orchestral tinges synths, martial percussion, and subtle ritual chimes. Equally Endless Gologatha differentiates itself with a more prominent programmed rhythmic beat, while Sacred Ground uses some sort of archaic string instrument to meter out a rudimentary organic rhythm. The low-spoken invocations (rather than the typical gruff vocal delivery) feature as another divergent element on Vid Hälleberg, which are then set to deep drones and a martial percussive pulse.

Ultimately this collaborative recording has a prevailing tone of potency and streamlined menace, and as such feels to be more than the simple sum of its collaborative halves. So, if you have followed and appreciated the recent output of either Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen, Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås is an album you should acquire without hesitation. But if I was to raise one criticism, it is with regard to the album’s brevity, as at only 35 minutes it leaves me wanting much more. As for the physical pressing, this has been issued on both vinyl and digipack CD. Obviously, the vinyl pressing is the pick for me for the full-scale presentation of the stunning artwork.

Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP & Septic

Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP Helen Scarsdale Agency ‎2021

Himukalt – Septic LP Malignant Records 2020

Straight off the mark, it is highlighted that Between My Teeth is not a new album from  Ester Kärkkäinen’s project Himukalt, rather is a welcomed vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape. Packaging is also immediately noteworthy given it comes with a full-sized 16-page booklet of Ester’s collage artwork, while the sonics have been duly given a remastered treatment. On the other hand Septic is one of Himukalt’s newer albums, and the second issued on Malignant Records.

Across the six cuts on Between My Teeth rudimentary yet fractured drum machine patterns eke out minimalist structures while spitting and fizzing fissures of distortion burst forth in chaotic and unexpected patterns. Vocals are then delivered in a laconic whispered to spoken style, but subject to further heavy echo and distortion smear treatment. I No Longer Belong is a particularly good track, based on a start/stop programmed rhythmic loop and cascading waves of bulldozing distortion, while the spoken vocals are relegated to the back of the mix. Mine, which opens Side B features a stilted and simplistic industrial techno thump, which is coupled with layered noise of jet engine proportions. In Every Stage Of This Oppression then offers a counter approach, with sustain tensile drones and spoken vocal passages which are obliterated with increasing jagged noise eruptions.

Septic does not significantly differ in approach, featuring a further five deep cuts of tonal angst. Although immediately notable is the sharpness and bulk of the recordings, as well as the power of the mastering (courtesy of Kris Lapke), where the whispered and low-spoken vocals have an immediate ‘upfront’ presence. Again the rudimentary drum machine patterns provide a basic structure to which static explosions and scrawled noise are framed. Yet with its layered mid-paced rhythmic loops, dive-bombing textures and sweeping noise The Drive Towards Oblivion charts a more straight down the power electronics sound than typical of the project, but the vocals bring an immediately recognisable tone. The title track opens Side B with a deep drone, low static loop, and spoken vocals, then using the tried-and-true method of slowly elevating intensity, which includes a stilted metallic oil barrel beat. The Gun In Her Mouth is the final track and feels to be the hit song of the album, based on its fast-paced programmed beat which when coupled with other looped elements gives it an anthemic type sway. A further sustained melodious synth line pushes the mood ever forwards, coupled with building static before peaking and collapsing at its conclusion.

To my mind, there is a thematic parallel to be drawn between the single-minded approach of Atrax Morgue and that of Himukalt. From Ester’s earliest cassette releases Himukalt arrived fully formed with a distinctly mature style and sound. Now that in excess of ten releases have been issued since 2016, there is a noted singularity of approach displayed across all of her releases, which is an element of consistency that also reminds of much of Atrax Morgue’s discography, despite the two projects sounding decidedly different. Given the sheer volume of material released in the underground these days, it is a difficult proposition to foster an individually recognisable approach and also to maintain an atmosphere of vitality over multiple releases. Yet both of these vinyl editions are equally strong testaments to Himukalt’s ability to do both with seeming ease.

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.

Svenska Likbrännings Föreningen ‎– Likvaka

Svenska Likbrännings Föreningen ‎– Likvaka MC Cloister Recordings 2021

Being a new Swedish project the chosen moniker translates to ‘Swedish Cremation Association’, which provides a fairly apt indication of the muted death industrial and dark ambient sonics found herein, delivered in a very recognisable Nordic vein from the late 1980’s and early 1990’s (i.e. Lille Roger, early Brighter Death Now, Archon Satani, early Mz.412 etc).

Shimmering textures and ashen toned synth lines provide elongated muted semi-melodious elements around which random thuds, sporadic clangs, mangled vocal eruptions and guttural chants abound. On selected tracks the catacomb ambiences sees the clanging tones and thudding elements coalesce into forward rolling rhythmic structures. As for the general tone of the production, it is muffled yet equally thick and sonically overblown, which is a typical aspect of this sort of material, and therefore adding to the general dank charm on display. Variations on the above sonic parameters ultimately play out over the span of the eight tracks, and where the translated track titles suitable match the sonics, such as: Meat On The Pathologist’s Table; Death Redeems; and Ethanol / Glycerin fixation. A specifically notably track is Embalming Hunger, as it stands apart based on its rolling martial toned beat and grimly grinding synths which gives a clear nod to Mz.412.

While the original digital version of this release was issued on Nordvargr’s label 205 Recordings in late 2020, Cloister Recordings have given this a limited pressing on tape in an edition of 100 copies. In its physical edition the J-card has been purposefully aged and distressed and housed in an old scratch up 1980’s cassette case to suitably match the featured music. So, while certainly not turning the chosen style on its head, this is still an excellent and very enjoyable tape without sounding cynically retro or structurally formulaic. A project to watch with keen interest.

Hollow Men ‎– Burial of the Unheard

Hollow Men ‎– Burial of the Unheard MC Styggelse ‎2021

Hollow Men will perhaps not be a recognized name, but this is the precursor of Memorandum, the tribal death industrial project of Petter Marklund, who was also behind the cult but short-lived label Mechanik Cassettes. As Memorandum’s early releases are considered classics that were instrumental in establishing the late 80s and early 90s sound of Cold Meat Industry, it was with significant intrigue that I approached these complete Hollow Men recordings compiled from material dating from the mid 1980s.

From the outset it becomes apparent that the sound of Hollow Men differs from that of Memorandum, given it has forgone any tribal/rhythmic elements, and functions at a more obscure and rudimentary level of early Nordic industrial experimentation. This is also evidenced by the shorter length of tracks which are mostly a couple of minutes each, except for the final track which is eight minutes. In many ways the overall approach constitutes the early building blocks of a sound which would later evolve into a recognisable Swedish Death Industrial, albeit here at a less refined level. As such, soot-soaked and deep analogue tones feature as loosely constructed mechanized structures and slow-paced rhythmic movements, while the treated apathetic spoken vocals evoke a morbid tone. Coupled with these sonics are sampled elements of film/documentary dialogue, choral vocals etc. which blend in with the general sonic muck. The early pairing of tracks Our Souls and Do You Hear Them? stands out from the rest due to their minimalist synth sound, and despite its simplicity the pulsating rhythm and two-note melody used in both tracks has quite an odd charm. The final title track is also notable as an excellent death ambient track of muffled droning tonality coupled with a slow ‘train on the tracks’ rhythmic element during the first phase, which later morphs into a prototype death industrial sound in the final section.

Clearly Burial of the Unheard is an important archival release given its heritage and pedigree, providing early context for what would later come from the Swedish industrial underground. But more importantly it contains ample no-frills charm and a certain obscure factor that makes for very enjoyable listening (and therefore more than simply a release to be collected and filed away by archivists).

Infinexhuma – Frontier

Infinexhuma – Frontier DCD Alchemy Labor Unit 2021

Infinexhuma are a previously unknown project for me, but seven albums including this new album have been issued since 2018. With 12 lengthy tracks spanning 100 minutes and two separate CDs, three of the tracks feature collaborations with Blood Box, NERATERRÆ, and Common Eider, King Eider. Given the album collaborators, this is an album to be filed under a broad dark ambient banner.

The first notable feature is the artwork of Frontier’s six-panel digipack, which features images of monolithic elements of nature, including the ocean and mountains, coupled with other earthbound visuals and abstracted colours and shapes. This gives a strong indication that the sound is one which is concerned with sonically articulating the colossal scale of the elemental forces of nature, although at times the tone could also pass for galactic-scale dark ambience and cosmic deep space drone. Accordingly, this means a large part of the album in concerned with spiraling corkscrew drones that seamlessly blend widescreen sub-orchestral atmospheres and rhythmic emanations from cavernous depths. Far from being one-dimensional, there is a meticulous approach to composition and complex sonic layering, where hints of vocal chants, chimes, and other abstracted field recordings are dotted throughout, further adding to the sonic depth. Yet, rather than the general mood being a sedate or catatonic affair, the overall tone has bulk, heft, and strong sonic drive, making for a commanding sonic presence. Given how strongly active the tone is, this invites detailed attention and focus rather than receding to be mere atmospheric background music. Apart from the deep sub-orchestral spheres and isolationist ambience sonics, there are a few further curve balls thrown in on the second disc. One example is In The End, which features a mutated driving industrial electro beat that, along with the gruff half-sung emotive vocals, makes for the most deviating and anthemic song-focused track of the album, a genuinely positive surprise. Equally the mid-section Every Door flirts with a passage of clinical-tinged death industrial bluster before the late section introduces loosely played and abstracted guitar riffing.

Much of the material found on Frontier very much aligns with the monolithic dark ambience of similar material on the likes of Loki Foundation or Malignant Records, and this is a comparative marker of the quality found here. Yet, the willingness of Infinexhuma to push their sound beyond strict genre confines on selected tracks makes for a refreshing listen, and an excellent album overall.

Linekraft – Death Still Persists

Linekraft – Death Still Persists CD SSSM 2020

Death Still Persist is Linekraft’s relatively quick follow-up to 2019’s exceptional Subhuman Principle LP issued by Tesco Organisation (reviewed here). Being issued on the Japanese label run by Hiroshi Hashimoto of Contagious Orgasm, the acronym SSSM stands for ‘Seeking Sensation Scale Music’.

On this new album, Linekraft continues with a composed style involving a supreme blending of Japanese industrial noise which has clearly been inspired by a composed European-style power electronics. Yet there are some other more melodious and mellow experimental synth elements added in for good measure which draw comparison to the 2020 tape Industrialized Criminals History (reviewed here). As for the theme, the focus has shifted well outside of Asia, this time focusing on Ukraine, as alluded to by the promo blurb: ‘Music presented here is a soundtrack for people who live a reality survival life in north of black sea’.

Opening track Ravage features sweeping junk metal tones, thick acidic drones, and garbled radio chatter, and loose industrial rhythm late in the track. Kill Campaign then clearly deviates with its nationalist-style music motif before leaping headlong into a fierce track of loosely constructed pulsing noise, arcing static and heavily processed vocal barrage, and from there further morphs into a percussive-driven track. Fantastic stuff! This general approach continues over the following clutch of tracks, essentially playing out as a variation on the sonic approach of balancing loose rhythmic structures and chaotic tonal outbursts, further complemented with sampled radio voices and the fiercely processed vocals of Masahiko. Monitor The Death then shifts away from this prevailing mood with an excellent track framed around a dour melodious synth line, which is on par with the material featured on the Industrialized Criminals History tape. Still Persist then rounds out the tape with a track built around mechanised conveyer belt loops and incessant machine alarm.

Packaging wise, the CD is housed in cardboard mini-gatefold sleeve, with suitable cover imagery relating to the album’s theme. Another exceptional album within Linekraft’s expanding discography.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Utøya – Lay Down And Rot

Utøya – Lay Down And Rot MC Cipher Productions 2020

When I previously tried to check out Utøya I missed out on available stock when attempting to order from various distros. I was luckier with Lay Down And Rot which is the third solo release from this newish project in as many years, and it functions as an excellent introduction. The presentation of the release immediately sets a grim tone, with the ‘standard’ edition featuring a cover image affixed to a hand-painted paper envelope. The ‘special’ edition includes the same cover image affixed to a black zip-loc bag which is wrapped in sturdy wire and slathered with thick tar paint.

Five tracks are spread across the two sides of the tape, and there is a degree of singularity in the approach to tone and composition which generally sits within a heavy/power electronics frame of reference. Specifically, the tracks are structured around raw static, buzzing noise, looped oscillations, morbid sustained synth tones, and semi-buried samples, rounded out with guttural vocals. There is also a notable hollowness to the tone, where its sonic elements are amply separated, while the slow rhythmic loop and sustained alarm wailing on Enough Is Enough injects a clear death industrial tone to proceedings.

Overall Lay Down And Rot demonstrates a clear directness, although not necessarily ‘unique’ or bringing something new to the genre. Despite this, it is still an extremely enjoyable tape of straightforward death industrial and controlled heavy/power electronics sounds.

Various Artists – Dies Natalis Invicti Solis

Various Artists – Dies Natalis Invicti Solis CD Live Bait Recording Foundation 2020

The Dies Natalis Invicti Solis compilation brings together 12 extremely varied tracks from both known and more obscure acts within the broader post-industrial underground. Devised in Autumn 2020 with a conceptual focus on the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice rituals, miraculously all contributing artists managed to hit the required deadline, with the final result released in time for the end of 2020.

Kleistwahr, the long-running solo project of Gary Mundy, opens the album with Despite It All, Still We Rejoice. Being a stark track of slow morphing melodious but abstracted guitar-based drones, it sets the introductory tone nicely given that it resembles a dour organ dirge at times. Gnawed follows with Ritual In Depths (Protect Me From An Unconquerable Sun), a track of doom-addled death industrial in their now immediately recognisable style and sound. This comment about a ‘recognisable sound’ equally applies elsewhere, where the perhaps more well-known artists such as Brighter Death Now, Deutsch Nepal, and Contrastate each bring a strong contribution in their particular trademark sonic styles. But to talk of the perhaps less familiar projects, ORD is a post-industrial ritual ambient project from Russia, who present Winterdrone, a track that balances a strong ritual undercurrent with muted caustic post-industrial debris. Murderous Vision somewhat differ from their usual approach, given their track May Diana is a collaboration with Crow Hill Gnostic Temple who deliver a theatrical spoken-word monologue over sparse windswept ambient backing which shifts towards a laboured death industrial style later in the track. The previously unknown to me Konstruktivists impresses with a rhythmic ritual industrial composition Future Days, where the shimmering drones and spoken and chanted vocals give a further unique edge. Envenomist’s We Live Here Now charts the outer edges of the dark ambient void, with tensile drones elevated and receding from the inky blackness. Dream Into Dust’s Cycle’s End brings the sound back to an earthbound realm given its neo-classical focus with sweeping string and stoic percussion, while the sparse distorted guitar pushes the sound ever so slightly towards goth and doom territories. Failing Lights is another project I am not at all familiar with, yet Herod Walks In Nativity Night is a positive introduction to some sparse yet evocatively rendered (guitar?) drones. The compilation closes with a collaboration track between Theologian and The Vomit Arsonist. Raw Nerve is the result and faithfully blends recognisable elements of each project to create a forceful track based on sub-orchestral drones with a death industrial pulse, rounded out with a charred vocal smear.

At their best, compilations that are framed around a central theme where contributing artists manage to submit their strongest work can become more than the sum of their parts. This is a far cry from many compilations that do not hang together coherently, and in some cases feel as if contributing artists have submitted second-rate offcuts. Thankfully Dies Natalis Invicti Solis sits squarely in the former camp given that there are simply no dud contributions. Although in its early days of release, the impression is that Dies Natalis Invicti Solis stands with the best of what a compilation can achieve, and strongly reminds me of the early classic compilations such as the Death Odors compilations on Slaughter Productions and the various Cold Meat Industry-related compilations of the mid to late 1990s. A slick design and beautifully printed six-panel eco-wallet rounds off the physical presentation, but 300 copies will not stick around long with a compilation of this quality.