Nordvargr – Daath

Nordvargr – Daath LP Cyclic Law 2019

2018’s Metempsychosis heralded a new musical direction for Nordvargr, being the effective culmination of a number of stylistic threads spread across various projects. To then speak specifically of Metempsychosis (reviewed here), it featured a vocal driven, song based death industrial style heavily rooted in real instrumentation, including standing kit percussion and rhythmic bass guitar. Now that well over a year has passed since its release, the follow up Daath has finally arrived, it continues the same path set down by Metempsychosis. Yet by mostly forgoing the bridging ambient interludes, Daath is a far more honed and focused affair, with eight direct song based compositions.

The first track Inner Monarch Awakened functions to metaphorically open the gates, where the wailing horns and looped creaking metallics creates a slow laborious rhythm over which Nordvargr’s gruff throat rasped vocals are bellowed. The Horsemen Ride Out On Foaming Steeds then quickly establishes itself as an early album highlight, with its deep sub-orchestral drones and thundering percussion, mid-paced bass guitar rhythm and again with prominent vocals. With a continued upward trajectory Tabernakelvisa – The Redeemer And The Secret further steps up mood, where the rolling tribal drums of death and deep thrummed bass guitar rhythm perfectly intertwine, being a track of resounding dark menace. As King, As Queen – When Kingdom Collide is yet another highlight with plodding bass and martial kit percussion, but very much framed as a vocal lead ritual death industrial song. Late album track The Light Of The Lord And The Black Sun Behind The Sun contains subtle hints of a sound which pushes more towards MZ.412 given its use of martial snare, deep brass orchestral horns and piano motif. Yet this is partly explained by the promotional blurb, as evidently Daath was recorded back to back with the latest MZ.412 album Svartmyrkr (reviewed here). As for the final track Where There Is Word There Is Enlightenment, it features as a widescreen ritual ambient soundscape, thus opts for a mellow conclusion to the album.

With eight tracks and a mere 34-minute run time, Daath is not a long album by any measure, but it packs a major impact in that short time-frame to feel much longer than it actually is. Given the song-based material is very much suited to the live arena, this was strongly evidenced when personally witnessing a number of tracks from Daath performed by Nordvargr at the Dominion of Flesh in Stockholm, November, 2019 (aka Cloister Recordings 5th Anniversary festival). As a final comment, and without putting too much of a point on it, Daath is yet another high water-mark in Nordvargr’s ever-expanding discography, so yes, this is recommended. LP and CD version comes via Cyclic Law and MC version via Cloister Recordings.

Moral Order ‎– About Degradation And Death

Moral Order About Degradation And Death 7″ep Cloister Recordings 2019

Following the relatively quick release of three heavy electronics / industrial albums on Tesco Organisation, Malignant Records and Cloister Recordings in 2018 / 2019, it has quickly established Moral Order within the within the underground. More specifically Moral order is a Spanish project helmed by Fernando O. Paíno, where this short two track EP then continues the already established sonic style.

The first track on Side A is the title track and delivers an ominously swirling heavy electronics / industrial infused sound, including windswept analogue synths and muted two note droning melody. The second track on the flip side is The Fire Is Still Burning and is another ominous track. Here layered analogue synths blend with sampled choral vocals, but also differentiates itself with a low rhythmic beat and whispered male vocals. Although short in length, both tracks are understated yet caustic and menacing in the best way possible.

For its physical edition the black vinyl has been issued in two version (50 in a white cover/ black envelope and 50 in a back cover/ white envelope), and with the envelope sealed with the wax seal of the label, it clearly plays up to the collectors’ fetishist mindset. Track a copy down if you can.

Funerale Classico Italiano – /e·ṣi·zià·le/

Funerale Classico Italiano – /e·i·zià·le/ MC SoundScape 713 2019

If you have not heard of this project before, Funerale Classico Italiano is helmed by Giovanni Maffeis, who notably has been a live member of Brighter Death Now in recent years. This is then the debut tape, limited it physical copies to a mere 23.

Perhaps alluding to the project’s moniker, the first track Nei Tuoi Occhi Innocenti features the distraught wailing of female voices, thus assuming these have been sampled from a funeral recording. From there the backing sonics feature as a grim and laborious bass rumble mixed with sustained but muted synth drones. For good measure gruff spoken and slightly treated vocalizations appear, where the overall atmosphere is very much in the classic 1990’s Italian underground death industrial style heavily characterized by the likes of Atrax Morgue. The second track ups the mood slightly, with a rumbling, fast pulsing synth line which also clearly brings to mind a 1990’s Brighter Death Now verses Atrax Morgue death industrial axis, while aggressive distorted vocals make an appearance from mid track.

With only two tracks and around eight minutes of music, this is perhaps more akin to 7”ep in run time. But in functioning to introduce the project and also to wet the appetite, it would seem that Funerale Classico Italiano are extremely well equipped to carry forward an Italian death industrial sound. I am therefore very much looking forward to what may come next.

Trapdoor Tapes batch 2019

Hal Hutchinson – Steelwork Fabricators MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Modelbau – The Whole Truth MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Luke Holland – Virtues Of Torture MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Being well aware of Hal’s activities in his other projects, I am then not as well versed with his solo output – other than understanding it is of a raw scrap metal noise type. Steelwork Fabricators features two untitled tracks, which are both excellent examples of what can be achieved with slow control noise, opposed to an overtly chaotic noise attack. Thus a laborious and roughly hewn scrap metal approach is the order of the day. Clearly not being from a singular improvised recording session, Hal has taken a multi-layered approach, where the tracks are carefully constructed layered for maximum impact. With a slow, jagged, hefty and ripping bass tone, the production is also thickly hollow, and in select moments contains a thunderous but abstracted oil barrel beat. In essence the sound is amazing and could be creatively described as an the rusting hulk of an abandoned steel cargo ship being slowly crushed and swallowed by expanding sheets of ice. With only 20 minutes run time, this is far too short and leaves me wanting much more.

Regarding Modelbau I I had not heard of the project before before, but then immediately recognised the name behind the project – Frans de Waard – formerly of Kapotte Muziek and the Staalplaat shop/ label, and currently of the Vital Weekly online publication. But to talk specifically of Modelbau, the project is concerned with densely detailed tape experimentation, where two length tracks feature on each side of the tape. The title track leads off with highly animated lo-fi noise, which is blended with treated bells or gongs and a plethora of detailed natural field recordings elements (wind, water, birds, voices etc). Extremely dense in sound, the atmosphere is one of an elevating maelstrom of sound than anything remotely ambient or relaxing. Back There features on Side B, and steps the sound up a notch with a more direct sound which verges on industrial-noise. Here scrambling and scattered distortion sit in the foreground, while abstracted metallic tones and distant echoed field recording elements site far back within the mix. With around 50 releases issued since 2012, this is an intriguing introduction to Modelbau and their forcefully detailed, yet engaging low-fi approach.

On Virtues of Torture, Luke Holland delivers a single lengthy 28 minute track of his particular brand of muted industrial noise. But from the lead off, it is immediately apparent that the the track displays more of an affinity with a loosely rhythmic death industrial sound. As such the slow ‘two note’ rhythmic pulse and windswept oscillating layers generates an excellent dank minimalism, which sits at a mid-point somewhere between Atrax Morgue and early Brighter Death Now. Being an instrumental track and with its elongated length, the track takes its time to gradually morph and shift, but generally not straying too far from the core framework, until a quite dramatic shift late in the track to a section of crumbling distortion, forceful bass tones and wailing horns of death. All in all another solid offering from the Trapdoor Tapes label head.

Megaptera – A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art

Megaptera – A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art  LP/CD Cloister Recordings 2019

In the early to mid-1990’s Mepaptera were a leader and mainstay of the early Swedish death industrial sound. In noting that the last proper album The Curse of the Scarecrow dates from 1998, focus on the project has been maintained over the following years based on sporadic live performances, as well as a slew of releases including: live albums, reissues, compilation collections and remixes. But A Horse In The Eye Is Part Of The Art is a welcomed release as it features new music from project mainstay Peter Nyström, indicated to have been recorded between 2012-2018.

Lobotomy leads off in classic Megaptera fashion with pulsing bass tones, shuddering factory ambiences, scrapping metallics, rupturing fissures of sound and medical lecture samples which all laboriously unfurl over a ten-minute span. Bipolar (Type 1&2) follows and displays another side to the Megaptera oeuvre, with a semi-stilted ritual drums, wavering horns and dank echoed factory ambience, again slowly unravelling over ten minutes, where additional beat programming, grinding distortion and junk metal crunch are added for good measure. Side B leads off with a remix of Second Recovery by Stephen Petrus, being a slow maelstrom of mid to lower ranged swirling/grinding layers. Further blended with various rolling programmed beats, treated vocals/samples it generates an overall grim result. Final of the four tracks is Walking Death, and spans a 14 minute run-time. Scrabbling conveyor belt metallic textures and rumbling windswept ambience features heavily, while fractured voices can also be detected but are semi-buried in the mix. From the midpoint of the track stilted metal clanging elements provides further structure and forward movement, with a gradual elevation of urgency through to its conclusion.

For good measure a bonus CD is included along with the vinyl LP, and features a live recording from The Epicurean Escapism Festival 2014. Previously issued as a digital only release, it spans a play-time of 41 minutes and features classic cuts such as The Final Day, Don’t Desecrate The Dead and The Curse Of The Scarecrow. With a foggy and distant depth to the recording and detectable crowd chatter, this is definitely not a direct soundboard recording. But equally this only adds to the murkiness and general dank death industrial atmosphere.

From what I understand, this may be the final swansong album from Megaptera. While this is a shame, equally this album was not perhaps not even expected given the length of time since the release of the last proper album. If it is indeed the final album, is at least a fitting epitaph for the project, where the industrial decay illustrated on the cover is a suitable visual representation.

Striations – Keepsakes

Striations – Keepsakes LP Fusty Cunt 2019

Off the back of my introduction to this US industrial/noise/power electronics project (via the Vietnamization DCD – reviewed here), Keepsakes comes as the latest album from Striations. The first thing is note is the packing, which has all the hallmarks of classic over the top DIY approach to presentation. Here a think and weighty vinyl floor tile has been stencilled with the project name and attached to a spray painted LP cover. Further housed in a yellow dust cover, the whole packaging is sealed with an obi-strip made from police tape.

On the musical front, album opener Unseen (Body Dump), wastes no time and leaps straight in with deep, distant loops blended with mid-to higher toned noise. With an elevating trajectory it charts crudely constructed, loose shuddering noise and rabid flanged vocals, and when bleeding directly into Transgression I, the swirling and shuddering noise takes a step up in intensity. Keepsakes comes next and mines a sound of metallic bass rumble, programmed rhythmic pulse and jumbled noise, which squares off against a deep metallic production and hollowed out and howled vocal barrage. Rounding out the first side is Odontology, which is a short instrumental noise drone, where a short serial killer related news report sample plays out as the Side A outro. The same news report sample then continues on Side B, prior to Manifestation kicking in with queasy dive-bombing atonal synth lines, muted and modulated distortion, searing high-pitch noise and flanged semi-buried vocals. Modern Predator differs by making great use of rhythmic revving distortion and loosely looped scrap metal recordings, and again with the intense vocals which are flange treated beyond recognition. Fantastic stuff. The quite short piece Transgression II features greater tonal breath by dialling down on the higher pitched elements, and features a deeply echoed metallic soundscape. For the final track Definition of Abuse it is introduced with a TV talk show interview, and when the track gets going it is perhaps the album standout, with slow laboured bass pulse, fluttering mid-toned noise and treated vocals floating above. In a word, excellent.

Clearly Keepsakes is both a shorter and more fiercely direct album than Vietnamization. While there may less immediately obvious thematic fodder than Vietnamization (i.e. extensive documentary samples), the short vocals snippets and track titles provide clear indicators of thematic preoccupations.  Limited to a mere 100 copies, this is perhaps more a byproduct of the work required to construct the packaging, but musically speaking Keepsakes certainly warrants a bigger edition.