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.

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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.

Mz.412 Vs Folkstorm ‎– Live Ceremony

Mz.412 Vs Folkstorm Live Ceremony CD Old Europa Café 2015

With Mz.412 having infrequently graced the stage over the years, it was way back in 2000 (18th August) when two of the three members (i.e. Henrik Nordvargr Björkk and Jouni ‘Ulvtharm’ Ollila) teamed up to perform at the Collapse festival in Rostock, Germany. Being billed as Mz.412 vs Folkstorm at the time, this goes partway to explain the harder and harsher elements of this recording which incidentally was previously issued via Pagan Dance in 2004 in a limited edition of 412 copies. This has now been reissued by Old Europa Café with new artwork and the inclusion of additional bonus tracks not included on the original version.

Having previous heard the Mz.412 live album Hekatomb (recorded at Cold Spring’s 21st Anniversary show at The Garage, London, 5 March 2011 – reviewed here), that recording illustrated a more refined presentation of their existing studio works in a live setting. However on Live Ceremony, the recording is a far rougher sonic affair which would seem to reflect an approach of only partially relying pre-recorded segments of music, in order to focus on the live generation of distortion and feedback. Without the inclusion of actual track names, the seven live tracks have been referred at as Act I through Act VII. But by way of example, Act I includes a short fragment of the classic track God of Fifty Names which cuts through live scattered noise, while an additional dialogue sample more thematically aligned with Folkstorm. Vocals are also present in the live setting, but which are heavily treated and again reflect the Folkstorm angle to the live proceedings. As with Act I, a number of recognizable snippets of studio works are used over the seven live tracks, such as on Act III when Der Kampf Geht Weiter from Nordic Battle Signs is blended with the introduction of Deklaration Of Holy War from Burning the Temple of God. But these recognisable fragments of albums function as short interludes which bridge the live sections of loose distorted noise and on occasion tribal/ ritual rhythmic movements, while he final short Act VII relies on sample of a Penderecki styled choral work to conclude the set.

As for the bonus tracks, the two Folkstorm tracks are solid examples of the spitting noise and raw militant industrial meets power electronics material that the project was producing in the early 2000’s. However perhaps of greater interest are the two-short bonus Mz.412, where there is no indication as to which era these are derived from (although Nordvargr later confirmed these are from around 2006/07).  Mors Solum Initium Est is the first of the bonus offerings and is a darkly ritualistic affair with a deeply cavernous atmosphere, rattling metallic tones and distant wailing textures, and perhaps more reminiscent of early Archon Satani than typically Mz.412 – but an excellent track all the same. Congregation of the Abyss follows to round out the album and slightly differs given its focus on intensive multi-layered garbled to guttural roaring vocals and sweeping sub-orchestral undercurrent, which overall is a replication of the sound of the Domine Rex Inferum album and another decent track.

Being a generally loose, and at time chaotic live recording, this is a worthwhile document of the live performance, but perhaps not an essential release in Mz.412’s discography. But even in saying that, the inclusion of the two bonus Mz.412 tracks gives clear incentive to track this down.

Analfabetism ‎– Skammen

Analfabetism Skammen CD Malignant Records 2017

I first came across Analfabetism via their second album Av Hjord Är Du Kommen from 2015 which highlighted that there is still activity within a dank and mechanical Swedish death industrial sound, and particularly that sound pioneered by the likes of Megaptera, select moment of Archon Satani (i.e. their Mind of Flesh and Bones album), or even elements of very early Mz.412. Skammen continues on that established path, and again delivers unassuming but expertly crafted result.

Of the 7 track which span just short of 50 minutes, each piece is around the 6-8 minute mark, which allows each piece to develop in a minimalist and unhurried fashion and where there is a sense of controlled restraint and where tension is slowly ratcheted up amongst the general tonal gloom. Sonically speaking dank fissures of noise spit sonic ash, while sullen mechanized drone and moody minimalist synth lines provide the aural bedrock. Likewise, by virtue of the creaking metallic textures and sporadic clangs being structured into a series of loops, it provides loose and slightly stilted rhythmic structure to proceedings. Tracks such as Den Eviga Skammen differ slightly with its harder and heavier tonal outbursts, but again structured for loose rhythmic effect, while it is only on late album track Vi Reser Nu En Grav where vocals appear, but these are treated beyond recognition.

Although not necessarily deviating from the hallmarks of the genre, Analfabetism have still delivered and strong and convincing album of the chosen death industrial style. As for the artwork of the six panel digipack, the close-up images of factory equipment visually says volumes of the dank death industrial atmospheres captured herein.

Murderous Vision – What We’re Able To Recover

Murderous Vision – What We’re Able To Recover MCDr Live Bait Recording Foundation 2017

This three track EP is the first new material issued in a couple of years from Stephen Petrus’s long-standing project which charts a midpoint between abrasive dark ambience and subdued death industrial. Evidently this release was issued in part to fund travels to the CMI 30th Anniversary Festival in Stockholm, and to coincide with some live shows in Finland around the same time.

The opening track Protocols of Removal is the longest track at 13 minutes, featuring an undercurrent of a yawning and grinding dark ambience, while a low-key sparse ‘beat’ and swelling synth pads, and a semi-buried dialogue sampled provides further tonal variation. Through the middle and late sections of the track it pushes towards a heavier and heaving inwardly spiraling vortex, including ritual styled chimes, metallic textures and wonky ‘kraut’ synth lines added for good measure. No Ascension follows and is a more dour and cavernous death industrial affair of murky layered tonality, crumbling muted distortion, sparse ritual gongs and garbled indecipherable voices (both spoken and chanted).  The title track rounds out the EP with a short four minute track of a structure straight forward death industrial offering of a plodding militant tinged rhythmic framework, sparse synth lines and distortion spat vocals.

All in all What We’re Able To Recover is another solid, albeit quite short release from the ever dependable Murderous Vision, while packaging wise, the clean and simple design thankfully avoids all of the worst aspects of a slapdash presentation which often befalls the Cdr format.

Genocide Organ – Civilzation

Genocide Organ – Civilzation 3xLP Tesco Organisation 2017

In the ongoing re-release campaign of Genocide Organ’s back catalogue, the time has finally come for Save Our Slaves to receive due attention, with this expanded compilation format already having been many years in the making. Save Our Slaves was first released on Tesco Organisation in 1991 (as Tesco04, and now already 26 years old), and is the central element to this re-release. In context of Genocide Organ’s discography Save Our Slaves arrived as the second album for Genocide Organ and followed their debut Leichenlinie released 2 years prior in 1989. Although the impact of Leichenlinie in undeniable in first establishing the group, Save Our Slaves stands out as a landmark release that cemented Genocide Organ’s cult underground status and particularly highlighted their willingness to present potentially controversial thematic material without explanation or qualification.

Noting that the original format of Save Our Slaves contained a 12”LP & 7”EP (six tracks totaling around 35 minutes of music), rather than simply re-releasing that material Civilization constitutes a complete re-contextualization of original content. Here the set has been substantially expanded with the inclusion of the two tracks from 1998’s Klan Kountry 7”EP, and a further 5 tracks taken form various compilations from 1991 to 1997, along with a further LP that documents the audio of a live performance from 1990. Cleverly all additional content is conceptually tied together by having a similar American thematic focus, the original title has been altered to Civilisation, which itself takes its title from the live performance video Save Our Slaves: The Rise Of American Civilization, which was only included with the ultra limited special steel and cement version of Save Our Slaves (limited to a mere 18 copies).  Thus, with the inclusion of additional material spanning the years of 1990 to 1998, it functions to seamlessly ties together these scattered thematic threads under the Civilzation banner.

With reference to musical content, obviously Genocide Organ’s prototype, aggressive, and barely restrained power electronics forms a large proportion of the musical scope, which involves rumbling noise, blasting static, loosely composed oscillating forms, and antagonistic distortion drenched vocals (i.e. Kill Useless Nations, Klan Kountry & We Grow). Alternatively other tracks function to cover the industrial-noise styled approach of the group, such as is displayed on Patria Y Libertad, Search for a Place to Die & Violent Coordinating Committee. Likewise the throbbing rhythms, cinematic synths, squelching noise, and sweeping drones of selected compositions see Genocide Organ operating at their most melodic, such is the case with I Want James Meredith & Weg Der Verlorenen). Last of all, John Birch Society (a highly recognisable track within Genocide Organ’s canon), is a clear standout with its simplistic structure, crude but almost upbeat programmed drum machine, aggressive distorted vocals, and further treated with with harsh noise.

On the third live LP Live At Lever Sunlicht / Mannheim 15.12.90, this is the audio from the Save Our Slaves: The Rise Of American Civilization VHS, where the production is raw and harsh as one might expect for a live recording from 1990. Yet despite the harshness of the sound, the set list does not constitute an all-out jugular attack, but rather it opts for a series of industrial noise soundscapes, vague shuddering factory rhythms, squelching noise, and snarled vocalisations. The final chaotic triptych rounds out the live recording and, in the process, amps up the mood more towards an expected power electronics assault with Patria Y Libertad.

For the packaging and presentation, no attempt as been made to recreate the special format of the original box-set, which was a rough painted, hand assembled cardboard box with banderole striping and image and text panels, and additional inserts. Here an entirely new box-set design has been devised, which involves a newly designed outer slip box in which three single LP’s/ jackets are housed, along with a fourth LP jacket to house the 24 page A4 booklet* (which fleshes out the thematic context), along with a series of three printed inserts and a woven patch. With the presentation following Genocide Organ’s recognisable design aesthetic, and while completely different to the original Save Or Slaves presentation does absolute justice to the expanded set.

Considering its original impact in 1991, coupled with its revered status today, Save Our Slaves stands out as the landmark release that definitively executed each hallmark element of sound, visuals and strong and uncompromising thematic content with flawless accuracy. As a re-contextualized version of this Genocide Organ classic, Civilization can easily be categorisaed as another celebrated addition to their illustrious discography. Already sold out in its vinyl version (limited to 500 copies), a double CD, A5 sized cover and 24 page booklet* housed in an outer slip-case will have to suffice.


*  – in full disclosure, I was asked by the group to write a separate article about this box-set. Parts of that text were used as the promotional text for this release, and short fragments of it were also used in the booklet to provide further thematic context.