Am Not – Auto

Am Not – Auto 7”ep Ant-Zen, Raubbau 2021

As an initial observation, the clean and refined power electronics approach of Am Not clearly lends itself to the established sound of Ant-Zen, so clearly makes for a positive pairing of project and label. Also, although Ant-Zen in recent years stopped producing physical media for main releases, they have however instead been issuing special short-run art editions of selected releases such as this. This white 7”ep is limited to a mere 100 copies and exquisitely presented with printing on acrylic glass, and with the vinyl and inserts housed in an electrostatic bag, further affixed with a special release sticker.

The Side A track Autopoa Now quickly establishes itself with a throbbing invasive drone and stilled beat framework, over which the slightly treated vocals of Tamon are urgently delivered, and with other layered textures added for good measure. Bioluminesence takes up the flip side, and is far more brooding in its atmospheric approach. Cinematic tension abounds, as melodious drones and mid-paced programming keeps a focused drive, while the treated vocals are mostly relegated to another tonal element.

With a mere 9 minutes of music, this is a short and sharp release, but sonically on point for Am Not’s composed and controlled approach. The special art packaging is simply the perfect icing on the cake.

Metadevice – Turba

Metadevice – Turba CD New Approach Records 2021

Following the disbandment in the mid-2010’s of the highly respected Portuguese industrial group Sektor304, former member André Coelho has since busied himself with other projects, with Beyond Enclosure and Metadevice being the most visible by virtue of being released on Malignant Records. Metadevice is the newest project, with Turba being the third album since 2020.

In a general sense, Metadevice are concerned with a sound rooted in a rhythmically pummelling and broadly ‘industrial’ style, but has also incorporating wider aspects of dark ambient, death industrial and power electronics. Additionally, on selected tracks more unusual elements are introduced such as twilight-noir atmospheres, as well as battered and overblown electronica. Sonically speaking the fizzing static and harshly brooding soundscapes are further inflected with a percussive rhythmic drive, which perhaps obviously give a nod to Sektor304. Also, despite my assumption that Turba is mostly constructed with programmed equipment and studio trickery, there is still a thread of a band format rather than a straight studio project, given the use of occasional low-slung guitars, metallic percussive tones, and the general vocal approach. To further mention the vocals, they differ from earlier albums here being courtesy of collaborator Rui Almeida, and are notable as they are delivered in both Portuguese and English, and range from spoken word narrative to a more urgent half-sung style. Over Turba’s ten tracks span an hour’s playtime substantial sonic territory and harsh atmospheric spaces are covered, and while each track functions as a stand-alone composition, equally they strongly solidify as a collective album whole. To perhaps to speak of one misstep, the frenetic soloed guitar on Vectores Miragens sounds rather out of place with the balance of the album. But equally, on a more positive note, it is interesting to realise that on more than a few occasions Turba begs a comparison to the ‘power industrial electronics’ approach of Stratvm Terror, which is a stylistic approach infrequently emulated.

Packaging-wise, the CD is housed in an 8-panel digi-sleeve making a strong feature of the striking artwork, noted to also be from the hands of André Coelho. With the painting featuring an amorphous assemblage of faces, it thematically reflects the album’s concept, being: “about collective alienation, raving individualism and a deep dive into the hyperreality of our modern times”. In all aspects of sonics and visuals, Turba is very much worthy of attention.

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.

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14 LP Force Majeure 2020

Cent Ans De Solitude is a somewhat obscure French experimental noise-industrial project of Jean-Yves Millet who has been active since the mid 1980’s. Yet the obscurity is perhaps explained by the limited output from the project over the years, which has mostly on compilations rather than his own albums. To speak of one compilation contribution, the project notably was featured on the now cult classic Zyklon B cassette compilation from 1994 which was collated and assembled by Les Joyaux De La Princesse (LJDLP).

To then talk of this recent release, the visually striking Russian Constructivism-inspired cover artwork draws immediate attention, while the title denotes this album as being a live recording from 2014. La-Bas is the short intro piece based on dour melodious elements, shimmering noise and smatterings of muted vocal chatter opens the album, which later shifts off into a lengthy experimental noise passage of drone, bowed metal shrieks and sampled radio dialogue which encapsulates a moodily atmospheric and hollowed out tone. Given the live flowing format of the recording, it is not immediately clear where one track concludes the next commences, but the later half of Side A sees jagged and metallic tonality offset against a drone of increasing intensity, and by side’s end the tone has risen into a cavernously echoed cacophony of sound. Paysages Industriels opens Side B resets the sonic approach with melodious (piano?) loop and distant creaking junk metal tones. The next track Des Visages Et Des Ruines with its layers radio chatter, rising orchestral style synths, slow pounding martial beat and muted industrial noise reminds strongly of the martial industrial approach of LJDLP, which is a high compliment from these quarters. The Unacceptable Face Of Beauty follows and charts yet further stylistic territory with prominent looped orchestral elements taking focus prior to rhythmically percussive elements being introduced later in the track. Ailleurs is the final piece and reverts to tonal noise experimentalism of the first side, featuring shimmering drones, sampled dialogue and the shrieking of bowed sheet metal, while muted dour melody and heartbeat pulse appears late in the piece.

Of note, this live recording was first issued in 2019 on CD via Jean-Yves Millet’s own label Les Nouvelles Propagandes and now been given the vinyl treatment on ‘rust’ coloured wax, which is housed in full colour screen-printed, foldout sleeve. Despite being from a lesser-known artist within the post-industrial underground this is a wonderful discovery of highly varied and atmospheric experimental noise-industrial soundscapes. Very worthy of further investigation.

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.

Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain

Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain LP Cloister Recordings 2021

Cryptophasia is an new American/ Russian duo, where the atypical imagery and design of the gatefold artwork, orange/gold vinyl pressing, and the translucent orange outer slip-sleeve provides a strong initial impression of this being different from typical underground fare. Likewise, despite having listen to this LP numerous times, there is an amorphous aspect to its sound and general sonic approach which defies easy genre classification within a broader post-industrial sound.

In general terms the album can be thought of in two sonics halves, where the track World of Illusory leads of Side A, which overall is moody and contemplative and of a sound and style of an earlier 80’s ritual industrial approach. As such vocal chants, filmic drones, organ melodies, muted horns, ritualised clatter, and wonky industrial textures abound, where the pacing is both slow and considered. Female spoken vocals also feature on I’m On The Inside, which are offset by a mid-toned droning loop and slowly repeated three note piano melody. As for the second sonic half, the lead off track on Side B is Word Of Pain and functions to indicate a more focused aggression displayed the back half of the album. Here the mood elevates towards a composed power electronics tone, where the ritual elements are paired back and the harder industrial textures and aggressive male vocals are brought to the fore. Condemn Me is a great example of this blends shuddering textures, queasy distortion, unintelligible dialogue and distant yet urgently yelled ‘megaphone’ vocals. As for the final track The Nightmare is a concluding highlight, which much like the album overall splits its sound between the moody ritual industrial approach with harder, aggressive and nauseating tones.

Although not an overly long album, given its variety of sonic ideas on display World Of Illusory, World Of Pain feels far longer than its relatively short runtime. Clearly rooted in post-industrial spheres, it draws equal influence from early ritual industrial soundscape experimentation as well as more modern power-electronics abrasion. But there is still a large individual streak at play here which makes this stand apart from many of its contemporaries, which is no easy feat within the current post-industrial underground.

Serration – Rites Of Flesh

Serration – Rites Of Flesh LP Cloister Recordings / Total Black 2021

With the mixed formats of releases these days I can’t quite keep up with what is deemed as an ‘album’ or other miscellaneous item. Thus while Rites Of Flesh is Serration’s ninth release, it is self-classified as debut full-length album, so who am I to argue with that? But to talk of recent years, Serration have been building a well-deserved following with their ‘military-industrial complex’ focused take on a heavy electronics sound, meaning this new recording has arrived with anticipation.

As a general observation Rites Of Flesh builds on a recognisable template of the project. So it could be said that rather than flipping the script, here it demonstrates more minor tweaks and refinements to the established approach. This then relates to the detail and general pacing of the tracks and well as dialling down of the overtly aggressive elements. Likewise, with only five tracks featured (the shortest is five minutes, and the longest at ten), it allows each piece to find its brooding pace and explore tone in a controlled and unhurried manner, such as displayed on opening cut War On the Ground. This is followed by an early highlight The Failed Counter Insurgency, with looped Arabic prayer chant set against a swamping tide of thick throbbing synth layers, while later on the distortion drenched vocals take to the fore. The title track also charts a minimal yet menacing furrow, which then steps up into a swirling miasma of mid toned drones and aquatic squelch on Fools Of The Land. The final album track We Kill Your Man take brooding restraint to it logical conclusion, while the hefty distorted vocals pack an impact when they soar over the low toned bass drones, and sustained high-pitched needling element.

In an overarching sense the general mood of Rites Of Flesh is one of controlled restraint, yet maintaining a tensile ambience remaining throughout, while the heavily treated vocals are the most on edge and urgent element on display. Ultimately Rites Of Flesh is an expertly crafted and honed album, and well worthy of its vinyl pressing. So for those focusing only on the past classics of the genre, they are clearly missing the current highlights such as this. Limited to 200 copies on black wax and 100 on white, along with a double sided insert.

Rope Society / Am Not ‎– Диархия

Rope Society / Am Not ‎– Диархия 7”ep Novichok ‎2021

Novichok ‎is a new Australian based label with the chosen name specifically referencing a Soviet developed nerve agent. Clearly this split release has carried on with this general theme, given Am Not’s track is also titled Nerve Agents and the cover features an image of Mikhail Khodorkovsky – exiled Russian businessman and Kremlin critic (although in truth I did not immediately recognise who was on the cover as the image is of a much younger Mikhail, meaning I had to seek assistance in identifying who it was). The interior panel of the cover also features an image of the interior of Salisbury Cathedral, UK which would be a reference to the 2018 novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, who is a former Russian military officer and double agent for the British intelligence agencies.

Rope Society leads off Side A with the track Bite The Hand. In noting that Rope Society is a side project to Isomer which was primarily launched to focused on harsher sonics, it is interesting that this track partially arcs back to the sound of an earlier Isomer MCD Nil By Mouth. A Russian dialogue sample and low squelching heavy electronics modulating pulse opens the track, over which a seething distorted vocal is spat and further coupled with smattering of static smears. Space and separation of tonal elements provide a spacious production which is controlled rather than unhinged in mood. Am Not follows on the flipside, and feature a track of composed yet harsh power electronics, based predominantly on an idling machine line tone around which more jagged tonal elements are framed. But where the metered vocal delivery of Tamon is a usual and trademark element of Am Not, they are notably absent here. Instead the vocals are provided courtesy of Shift, and are completely flesh searing in their aggressive intensity, where through further sonic treatment are pushed to a point of being yet another distorted sound layered.

Given the short and sharp format of this 7”ep, both groups deliver a poisonous dual dose on this very commendable release. With a number of split 7”ep’s having already issued on the label, it will be rather interesting to watch how Novichok develops.

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.