Dominion of Flesh: 5 Years of Cloister Recordings: Festival Report 2019

Full and detailed show report with photos can be located here.

Heretic Grail – Instruments of War / On The Heels Of Insignificance

Heretic Grail – Instruments of War 2xMC Slave Chandelier 2019

Heretic Grail – On The Heels Of Insignificance LP Breathing Problems Productions 2019

Instruments of War constitutes my introduction to Heretic Grail, yet it seems that as of April, 2019 the project may have already ceased activity. If that is the case the project was active for less than a year since mid-2018, but still managed to issue twelve releases in that time.

The six tracks featured on Instruments of War are spread across the two tapes, totalling around 37 minutes. With a strongly militant edge to the sound, the industrial/power electronics approach is based on loosely constructed and generally mid-paced compositions. As for the broad approach on display, the tracks feature windswept battlefield ambience based on blended layers of caustic electronics consisting of: idling static; trembling distortion; erupting fissures of noise; smatterings of dialogue samples; and rounded out with strained, echo-smeared vocals (which are ranted but unintelligible). To talk specifics, Tortured Lullaby stands out positively with its melodious synth drone and shuddering bass. Regrets Of Termination And Conquest also follows a similar sonic template, but is defined by a dialogue sample where a soldier recounts his first kill in combat (which is revealed to be civilian and in the telling is tinged with repent). Beyond the sonic side of things, specific mention also needs to be made of the packaging, where the two pro-printed tapes are housed in a black elongated paper envelope along with a myriad of collage-based inserts. But being limited to only 60 copies, this is already likely to be difficult to track down.

Although also issued in 2019 On The Heels Of Insignificance is not a current recording from the project, rather is a vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape issued on Fusty Cunt. Although it does inhabit the same general sound sphere as Instruments of War, this LP is also less refined and slightly more direct in sonic expression. In a general sense an elevated level of tension is evident, where the tracks are built around grimly grinding machine like loops and augmented with vocals and/or dialogue samples. Swine.Cleaner sitting at the centre of the album is particularly impacting, based on its searing distortion and grinding noise-based approach which elevates to wind-tunnel intensity.

For the chosen style and approach Heretic Grail have delivered releases which perhaps not necessarily rising to a ‘mandatory’ status, both releases remain strongly enjoyable for what they are in their chosen style. In then comparing the two Instruments of War is the more varied and refined release of the two, and perhaps also warrants a re-edition – hopefully on vinyl.

Sarin Snow – Incurring Wisdom / Deus Vult

Sarin Snow – Incurring Wisdom MC Slave Chandelier 2019

Sarin Snow – Deus Vult LP Breathing Problems Productions 2019

I have only recently come across Sarin Snow, which is a relatively new American project with a clutch of releases since 2016. The majority of those has been issued on Slave Chandelier, which as I understand it is helmed by the same individual behind Sarin Snow.

The latest cassette Incurring Wisdom functioned as my proper introduction to the project, which although broadly billed as being an industrial/power electronics project, to my impression there is far greater degree of sonic linage of the militant noise-industrial/heavy electronics prevalent in the Europe territories in the mid-1990’s. Given it is far more subdued overall and with a decidedly more ‘European’ angle to sound and approach, this means Sarin Snow feels to be a bit of an anomaly when compared to the majority of material to come out of north America.

Incurring Wisdom features four tracks over around 27 minutes – pressed on a gold cassette, with fold out artwork/ lyric insert. Ecclesia Unveiled kicks things off with grimly droning oscillations, while the heavily rasped vocals are muted with distorted echo and sit semi-buried within the mix. So, while the vocals are clearly discernible as a vocal texture, the actual lyrics are not, meaning the voice is effectively presented are as another sonic element. With the general sonic premises established on the first track, the balance of the three tracks play out as variations on this theme, where the resultant grimly laborious yet tensile sound is a strongly engaging one. On Side B, Iron Cross is a particularly good example of an effective sound despite a straightforward approach, where layered loops and vocals ratchet up tension.

Moving onto Deus Vult, it is another recent 2019 release, but which embodies an ever so slightly different tone and approach. The same sort of grim, laborious tone of the oscillating drones (synth?) remains, as do the raspingly yelled but muted vocals. Yet the overall atmosphere feels to be a heavier and more direct, which becomes quite crushing on a number of tracks due to the greater reliance of junk-metal/factory floor derived sonic elements. This tonal rawness of slabs of metal dragged across a factory floor and metal bars dropped on concrete etc. provides a cavernous echoed depth to the generated atmosphere. Saint Longinus is a track which stands out from the rest, with its generally sedate tone, by featuring a maudlin melody, watery textures and dour spoken vocals which are blended with junk metal sonics. That mood bleeds into the final album track Saint Michael follows suit, where the simple by effective synth melody carries a dour melancholy atmosphere against an elevating cascade of junk metal tones. Of note, the title of Deus Vult is a Latin phrase for “God wills it”, and while the track titles give a religious nod, the lyrics themselves remain abstracted, but rather than giving the impression of pious worship and devotion, it appears more to articulate strength and spiritual mysticism.

On both releases Sarin Snow display strong ideas and solid execution where both releases embody a laborious, menacing yet melancholic approach. Likewise, with track titles and chosen imagery being presented in an abstracted/ non-linear way, meaning the theme and message remains obscured and allows the listener to piece together their own impression of meaning. From these initial impressions Sarin Snow are clearly worthy of attention and investigation.

Vril Jäger – Celestial Bliss

Vril Jäger – Celestial Bliss MLP Heiðrunar Myrkrunar 2019

This new two track MLP from Vril Jäger delivers two lengthy compositions covering an animated ritual drone/heavy electronics tinged sound. The title track leads off, where immediately the lyrics are noted to have been previously used on the debut album (i.e. on the track Sanctified By Constellations). Yet where the original use of the lyrics was presented as a poetic reading against a sparse yet achingly morose sub-orchestral melody, here they spoken vocals are presented through seething distortion treatment. As for the backing sonics, they is equally distorted, constituting a rumbling mass of blown out yet muted drones. With a total run time of 14-minute spans, though the layering various elements elevate in sonic heft over the duration, while the semi-melodious elements remaining obscured within the dense production. Under The Emblem takes up Side B, and immediately has a greater ritualized edge to its slow thrummed rhythmic pulse, and interestingly its main melodious progression is noted to replicate a musical fragment of the debut album (i.e. refer to the track The Road Back To Agartha). The drawling vocals, weird wailing tones, processed militant percussion and what sounds to be dive-bombing aircraft rounds out sonic variety and is the clear standout of the two tracks.

With recognisable musical and lyrical elements, Celestial Bliss has the feeling of being an addendum to the debut, or at the very least a stop gap released until the next full length is completed. Despite this, it is an enjoyable two track MLP where the overall impression is one of wanting more from the project.

Himukalt – Sex Worker

Himukalt – Sex Worker MC Total Black 2019

The meteoric rise of Ester Kärkkäinen’s project Himukalt in underground circles continues, with this new tape the eighth release in three years. While that might seem like a lot of output in a short space of time, far from being shoddy or rushed, all releases to date have been careful composed and honed to razor sharpness.

In many ways this new release is a continuation of what has come before, and the opening cut is particularly impactful with its sharp and cutting noise hewn into rhythmic blasts, as the vocals are apathetically delivered from the background. But as the album progresses, a greater harrowing tension is revealed and becomes the characteristic element. Essentially this restraint has been employed to allow the multitude of female sex worker interview samples to take central prominence. The use of such first-person narrative of the interview subjects gives a strongly personal edge to the tracks and is particularly affecting on the later track Cold and Empty, where the subtle backing sound embodies a low humming drone of creeping dread. Likewise, the low industrial throb and distortion-smeared vocals of Transactional are the effective embodiment of building tension, which also ruptures in moments of ecstatic release. The final of the eight tracks, No Safe Distance, rounds out the tape on an absolute high, based on a basic drum loop and another moody loop which are interrupted by jarring distortion slashes and cutting vocal barrages. Excellent stuff.

If you have not bothered checking out Himukalt to date, that situation should clearly be rectified. Sex Worker is as good a place as any to become better acquainted, but you pretty much can’t go wrong with any of the other releases either. Recommended.

Terror Cell Unit ‎– The Data Industrial Complex

Terror Cell Unit The Data Industrial Complex MC Total Black 2019

On this new album length tape, seven tracks span an hour, which means tracks are generally on the lengthier side (six minutes at the shortest and 13 minutes at the longest), which provides time for the compositions to sprawl out and gradually evolve. Being less outwardly chaotic and blood-boiling than other material I have heard from the group, this means there is a greater emphasis on mood and control, which positions this towards the heavy electronics rather than power electronics end of the spectrum. Yet, that said, it is still quite tonally jagged in parts, and the ripping over-the-top vocal barrages of Mackenzie are employed, with a smattering of dialogue samples relating to the release’s theme.

With its experimental leanings, The Data Industrial Complex displays a willingness to try new sonic approaches and sounds, while tonally there appears to be greater clarity and an overt digital veneer which, to this ear, reflects the theme of the tape. Manufactured Identity (Delusions of Grandeur) employs a muted melodies element, offset against quivering higher pitched digital distortion, which is moody yet tensile, while the vocal barrage amps up the mood. A predominantly minimal atmosphere and mood characterizes Technological Iconoclast (A Stain On Your Soul), yet sharper tonal elements characterize the later sections. To mention a track which perhaps does not work so well in execution, the muted experimental style of the instrumental title track feels slightly aimless, compared to the balance of other tracks. Yet this misstep is rectified on final track In The Wood Of The Suicides (Perfection Eluded), with its oscillating loops, queasy wavering textures, and late-track vocal barrage.

Perhaps not as immediate and to the point as other material I have heard from the group, but there is a lot to explore here, particularly the wealth of ideas at play. Clearly a lot of thought has been done regarding compositional structure and the layering of sonics, and it shows in the resulting tone and atmosphere: this is far from being spat out quickly in improvisational recording sessions. But more to the point, it functions to highlight the current creative streak Terror Cell Unit are blazing.

Moral Order – Krypteia

Moral Order – Krypteia 2xMC Cloister Recordings 2019

Moral Order are a quite new heavy electronics/death industrial project, helmed by Spaniard Fernando O. Paíno. Having issued three releases since 2018, this is the third album, and while issued on limited double tape the less limited CD version has been issued on Malignant Records.

In a general sense there is a real old school tonal sensitivity to this album without it sounding purposefully or cynically ‘retro’. Likewise, the tone and mood is grey- to black-hued, which comes from what sounds like purely analogue sound sources, with an air of elevating menace. Across the 10 tracks there is a tonally raw simplicity at play, based around loosely rhythmic industrial loops, throbbing bass, fried mid-toned frequencies, and apathetic spoken vocals – as showcased on early track Murder Weapon. At times perhaps there is some parallel to be drawn here to the harsher end of the Galakthorrö roster, with This Is The Life You Must Live having a stilted swagger comparable to early Haus Arafna. Other tracks, such as the lengthy Day of the Dead, mine a death ambient mood of drawn-out drones and minimalist yet tensile atmospheres. Album closer Anonymous Carrion sees Moral Order make their best approximation of an early Brighter Death Now, death industrial sound – and it is certainly a convincing end result.

Perhaps not an album to convince or sway new listeners to a roughly hewn, loosely rhythmic industrial/heavy electronics sound, Krypteia is rather an underground gem to please long-term converts. Packaging wise, the double tape case is housed in an oversized cardboard box, which is evidently a homage to the packaging of the 1989 collaborative double tape Östenbräun by Death In June and Les Joyaux De La Princesse. Being limited to a mere 100 copies and already sold out, the CD version on Malignant Records would be the way to go.