Alberich / Lussuria  ‎– Borgia

Alberich / Lussuria  Borgia LP Hospital Productions 2018

Here we have a reissue of a 2016 collaborative tape between Alberich and Lussira, which according to the liner notes was: “recorded live to tape using Korg Digital Synthesizers”.  With this release then being billed as ‘dark ambient’ it should be relatively clear that Lussuria has had a greater influence over the sound, particularly as what is offered differs substantially from the recognized driving and rhythmic industrial meets heavy/ power electronics sound of Alberich. However at the same time the sound is a fair bit more animated and digital in tone when compare the usual abstract approach and timeless quality which is characteristic of Lussuria.

Album opener Continuum features tensile but melancholic dark ambient styled atmospheres, while the following cut Antechamber amalgamates cyclic drones and washes of crumbling distortion which refract and fold in on themselves. Anti-Renaissance stands out in that pushes towards something resembling an Alberich rhythmic approach, yet here is remains muted in execution and backed with distant and cavernous squalling noise. Untenable is also noteworthy based on its incorporation of smatterings of sparse tribal-esque percussive textures within a maudlin power-drone framework. Alabaster is another offering which appears to be more strongly driven by Alberich’s influence given the programmed driving rhythm and melancholic synth elements, but they still remain understated in the overall sonic framework. For the final track Voice Of The Dagger it is an animated piece which features an excellent blend of of sub-orchestral drones, micro-tonal metallic textures and rhythmic throbbing undercurrent.

Although being billed as ‘dark ambient’, Borgia is varied in both approach and resulting atmosphere and maintains a strong sense of animated movement throughout. Although differing quite significantly from the typical approach of either project, both have a clear appreciation of the use of melancholic elements within an experimental dark ambient framework, meaning Borgia is a very enjoyable collaborative release. An edition of 500 copies (200 in purple and 300 in black vinyl) will likely serve demand, but won’t hang around long either.

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Augure Concret ‎– An Act Of Desperation / Cephalophore

 

Augure Concret An Act Of Desperation MC Fall Of Nature 2017

Augure Concret Cephalophore MC Unrest Productions 2018

Augure Concret are a new industrial / power electronics project from the UK who have issued two tapes in relative quick succession (in November, 2017 and February, 2018 respectively), however I have no idea as to the time-frames over which the material on these two tapes were composed and recorded. Regardless of this, An Act Of Desperation is the debut release, featuring eight compact and to the point tracks which are framed around an ominously aggressive mood. Compositionally the track feature layering of caustic loops, deeps slow percussive thuds, raw junk metal type noise, semi-melodious loops and somewhat distant vocals which are still decipherable in their yelled presentation with slight echo treatment. The overall sonic tone is thick and hefty, where the slow plodding motion of the tracks gradually elevates in intensity. Some tracks specifically bring to mind Grunt of Human Larvae and their penchant for using creaking junk metal sound sources as a central part of their sonic framework. Therefore such comparisons should give an indication of the detailed compositional approach and rawer and ripping noise infused edge of the material found on An Act Of Desperation.

Cephalophore is the second follow up tape and demonstrates a clear evolution in sound and approach, given it features four untitled longer form tracks which sprawl out over greater length. Thick and spitting distortion open the album as a backing to a dialogue sample discussing schizophrenia, before launching into a chaotic noise infused ‘rocks in a cement mixer’ loops, while a melancholic synth line cuts through strongly and the vocals are rendered unintelligible through their distortion treatment. The second track is split into two halves, where the first segment incorporates whistling noise, mid-toned tensile drones and roared vocals, while the later section is instrumental in scope and shows a willingness of the project to explore controlled and atmospheric spheres through the use of looped and layered orchestral strings which are underpinned by a plodding bass hum and muted mid-toned static. Excellent stuff. The first track on Side B is a particular standout with its shuddering cascading loops, distant underpinning synth line and semi-buried gruff vocals, with gradually elevating momentum and mid pitched noise.  For the final track it is controlled rather than outwardly aggressive, being subdued and sparse overall, vocals are cavernous and distant and mid-toned, chattering noise.

Clearly both of these tapes demonstrate Augure Concret to have definite level of skill and a wealth of compositional ideas. However in comparing the two Cephalophore stands above An Act Of Desperation, as it is more varied overall in style and approach and willingness to pair back on overt aggression and bodes well for Augure Concret caving out their own niche sound and approach within a power electronics infused industrial style. Best be quick if interested in these as both of these professionally duplicated tapes are extremely limited – 60 copies for An Act Of Desperation and 121 copies for Cephalophore.

Lussuria- Standstill

Lussuria- Standstill 8xMC Hospital Productions 2017

Lussuria may not be the biggest or most well-known artist on the Hospital Production roster, but over the last decade this solo project of American Jim Mroz has issued a large array of releases which draws from a diverse sonic base, including: dark ambient, experimental industrial, muted noise, abstract techno and cinematic soundtrack styled sonic explorations. In then drawing together such a diverse sound palate, it is of interest that the end result contains a vague approximation of each chosen stylistic element, but where they are combined in such a way to sidestep the usual or expected traits of the genres being drawn from, and in the process evokes an intangible and at times mysterious aura.

To then speak of this new release, Standstill represents an exercise in stamina and endurance given that the eight cassettes feature a whopping 33 tracks (formatted as 29 tracks for the digital version), with a combined total playtime pushing almost the four-hour mark. In then choosing to issue such a monolithic release in today’s age of short attention spans, on run-time alone Standstill has to be acknowledged for its rather epic and time stretching efforts. Perhaps then of contextual interest is the fact that Jim Mroz was a contributing member who joined Dominik Fernow on Prurient’s 2017 album Rainbow Mirror – the three hour and twenty minute marathon  meaning Jim is no stranger to releases with an excessively elongated run-time.

When further considering the monumental length of Standstill it might be somewhat expected that it would be most sonically diverse. Upon listening that expectation is revealed to be true, where at times Standstill is the most purposefully musical release in Lussuria’s discography to date and consequently a fair departure from the oblique industrial and abstract techno infused experimentation of earlier works. Yet, regardless of the sheer stylistic diversity on display, the overarching mood is one of a cinematic sound-score which remains as stylistic hallmark of earlier material. Likewise while the fractured beats and rhythms of earlier works make sporadic appearances here and there, more broadly Standstill evokes a deft filmic quality and timeless atmosphere.

To talk of specifics, but without attempting the unnecessary task of describing all aspects of the release, an impression of some of the more notable moments found within the sprawling scope follow. As such the album opens with Tree of Marble, an excellent cut of hushed experimental electronica with strong underpinning tone of melancholia. Another early track Aegri Somnia channels a quite distinct archaic soviet synthesizer sound, while the combined piece Viaticum/ Spear Dance/ Companion Note features driving doom addled beats, minor keyed synth washes, and maudlin clean shimmering guitars to generate a mood driven piece of the highest order. Another combined track Acanthus Leaves/ Of Rage And Denial/ Lashes features emotive drones, radio chatter, orchestral synth washes and tribal percussion which strongly brings to mind the early 1990’s sound of Cold Meat Industry (and specifically artists such as Morthound or Deutsch Nepal), before shifting into a section of muted but driving techno-esque beats. Moving into the middle of the set list, Natura Liberari I-III – plays out as a minimalist and abstract contemporary classical piece of sparse percussion, cello piano and woodwind instrumentation, before later segments divert off into conveyor belt rhythms and looped choir like drones. Twilight Red stands out as a dark ambient track of the highest callable, where the deep sub-orchestral drones are very reminiscent of the best moments of mid era raison d’etre (and when first listening to this my mind wandered and forgot I was listening to Lussuria, where I then momentarily wondered which raison d’etre album I was listening to!). Cliff In The Red Tidal Wave shows yet more variety, by channeling a lurking, suspense styled atmospheric piece of minimalist horror stings and abstract creaking tonality, ritual chimes, and sparse clean guitar. Your Voice To Arise As Incense then completely stands out from the rest, given it is based around sampled male choral vocals (Russian? Not sure), before their tonal resonance of the vocals is harnessed and the track veers off into heady ritual drone territory. As for the final track of the entire set, De Svarta Porten strides into neo-classical and martial industrial tinged territory, but maintaining a forlorn and abstract edge through to the final moments.

With the overall massive run-time being what it is, it was simply not possible to consume this in a single sitting, rather it was approached in larger blocks of tracks over a number of listening sessions. But given the distinct individual focus of the tracks which make up Standstill, it means the material can be approached in this way without hampering its appreciation. In noting from the above description of particular standout moments, it perhaps indicates that not every moment of Standstill is of the same high level. Yet even with that said there is no poor quality or skippable content, which in of itself is an impressive feat when dealing with literally hours of music.

With its monolithic scope and creative diversity Standstill is a stellar release and the most varied and engaging material I have heard from Lussuria to date. But as this was issued in an physical edition of a mere 150 copies (already long sold out), this leaves only the digital version as the means in which to experience this. As a final comment, it is noted that Hospital Productions have previously issued similar 8xMC’s from a number of their artists. So perhaps like Alberich’s original 8xMC NATO-Uniformen from 2010 which was treated to a ‘best of selection’ reissue on 2xLP in 2014, in future Standstill may also be given the same ‘best of’ reissue treatment. We shall see.

Alberich – Precursor

Alberich – Precursor MC Hospital Productions 2018

Kris Lapke has been issuing material under the Alberich moniker since 2005 and has amassed 18 releases in that time. But with many of those being issued on cassettes and in small runs, it has made it rather difficult to keep track of Alberich’s output, which in turn has created an elusive aura around the project. However, 2014’s 2xLP reissue of the 8xMC NATO-Uniformen (in a larger edition of 700 copies), functioned to raise greater awareness of the project and showcased the distinct blend of rhythmic industrial arrangements and controlled heavy/ power electronics atmospheres. While Precursor is technically the latest release, in actual fact it is a live recording from 2017, where the title should then perhaps be read as a statement given it has been issued prior to the upcoming and anticipated new full length Quantized Angel.

With Precursor being a live recording, as might be expected it plays out as a singular interconnected 35 minute piece which moves through a series distinct tracks and passages. In the process it then delivers all of the recognized and lauded elements of the project’s style, including: the driving rhythmic industrial beats, the pounding techno-esque movements; minor keyed melancholic synth washes; and sporadic but heavily treated vocals. In fact there are some massive artillery grade and explosively pounding beats on display here, with the melancholy synth washes offsetting those by providing an otherworldly tone.

Being expertly crafted and controlled in its delivery, on face value the recording does not at all sound to be a live recording, so I gather it has been made directly from the soundboard due to the clarity and volume of the sonics. Likewise, with is relatively short run time and brisk pacing of material the tape breezes by and concludes all too quickly, leaving a distinct sense of wanting more – a lot more in fact. So, here’s hoping that such demands will be duly sated by the upcoming full length – which is then pretty much guaranteed given it seems this live set features live versions of various new tracks. In the meantime this is a rather worthy tape to track down, issued in an edition of 300 copies.

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.

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.