Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies CD Death Continues 2017

Australian Mark Groves (he of Von Einem, Dead Boomers, Red Wine and Sugar Absoluten Calfeutrail etc.), has recently launched this new solo project and with Dismal Fantasies being the debut album. Taking some sonic cues from Red Wine and Sugar, the minimalist construction and creepy whispered style of the vocals of that project are both replicated here. Yet sonically Arum Lilies see Mark approaching industrial noise and subdued power electronics from an experimental and almost musique concrete angle. Also, while the project moniker may seem slightly abstract at first, it starts to make more sense when it is discovered that the Arum Lily is also referred to as a funeral flower.

On album opener The Maniac ,minimalist panning static and a morbid bass drone feature prior to the whispered vocals articulating lyrics of psychoanalytical type. The later introduction of maudlin piano melody shifts the mood of the track substantially, which then extends through into the following instrumental cut Erasing the Line. The layered, piecing and invasive whistling noise of Venal Dogs generates far more tensile mood, which in turn matches the lyrical dialogue which addresses a series of internalized thoughts and observations in the first perspective.* Musically speaking I find this piece one of the less successful ones on the album due to its needling and invasive textures, but this impression has far more to do with me avoiding music with tones that mirror my own long suffered tinnitus. Yet despite this personal negative, the sound shifts again on Prostituting Their Ambitions, where scrabbling field recordings and low humming drones provide the basis for fragmented one-line descriptors which gradually builds a picture of a lonely suicide. This general mood then arcs through later third of the album, with the tracks furrowing a sound frames around dour drones, minimalist sustained textures, and wonky piano elements for eerie atmospheric result.

With only seven album tracks, it amounts to a relatively short album (only 38 minutes), yet stylistic diversity is displayed within that run-time. Rather than being aggressive in tone, the overarching mood is unnerving and at times harrowing, and which lyrically function to thematically articulate the malaise and underlying violence of contemporary society from a number of angles. It is also worth noting that through Arum Lilies as well as his other projects, Mark is building quite a strong body of work which is forging a divergent take on the more typical tropes of the post-industrial genre.


* – During the review process I asked Mark whether the image on the back cover was associated with the January, 2017 incident, where Dimitrious Gargasoulas used a car to run down pedestrians in Melbourne Australia, killing six and injuring thirty others.  That impression was confirmed to be correct and it was then highlighted that the lyrics of Venal Dogs were based prior social media posts from Dimitrious, which are very revealing as to his state of mind before the attack. Mark also revealed further conceptual inspiration taken from another notorious Melbourne crime, so for those interested, good luck in potentially working it out from cover images and lyrics.

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Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist LP Freak Animal 2018

Grunt return three years after Myth Of Blood (reviewed here), and continues the approach of delivering albums containing a collection of distinct and individual tracks. This follows the pattern already set down by World Draped In A Camouflage from 2012 (reviewed here) and continued on Myth Of Blood. As such Castrate The Illusionist can be considered as effectively rounding out a trilogy of releases, featuring unhinged, noise infused power electronics of the highest caliber.

Of the eleven album tracks are on the shorter side (two to five minutes each), which allows a wide variety of sounds, textures and sonic approaches to be explored. Likewise some quite unexpected sound-sources make an appearance, including a wonky treated accordion sample on The Iron Curtain Of Discreet Silence, which is placed within an instrumental soundscape of clattering junk metal, maudlin choir-esque sustained synths and squelching up front noise. Varied vocals feature across the album, ranging from the rock hard spoken passages to those of the trademark gruff yells and occasional unhinged shrieks.  Of note, the album contains two effective ‘hit songs’, including Hunting Within Civilization and Purge of Violence, both of which rely on heady pulsing textures to generate anthemic fist pumping effect, coupled with raw junk metal smatterings of noise and gruff agonised vocals (…and for the eagled eyed (eared?) both tracks previously featured in live versions on the Swarm of Parasites tape from 2016). Yet to speak of a slight negative, Human Storage seems somewhat out of place among the rest, as it is sonically less resolved overall and feels to be a more of a short, improvised piece.

Beyond describing individual tracks, the general mood and atmosphere oscillates between controlled anger to barely restrained violence, and while there is a clear display of meticulous construction of its varied sound elements, the tone never forges a shredding and raw tonal aesthetic. In an overarching sense Castrate The Illusionist can be considered to be of equal standing to the last couple of albums (as well as the Sacrosanct Imperium EP reviewed here), meaning this is more extremely high calibre material and again demonstrates without question Mikko Aspa’s sonic mastery of his chosen craft.

Abscheu ‎– Pretense

Abscheu Pretense LP Unrest Productions 2017

Although knowing virtually nothing about this project (including even the country of origin), it is again a case of Unrest Productions showcasing young projects who are effectively the new guard of the post-industrial underground. Pretense is the second release from the group, following 2016’ Breviary Of Chaos tape, and while having missed out on the debut, this functions as my introduction to Abscheu and can be quickly heralded as a stellar release.

Although billed as power electronics, the sound of Pretense sits in the militant tinged and industrial infused end of the genre’s sonic spectrum. Six tracks feature on the LP, where the material is framed around a clean and defined mix of scrabbling and unsettled loops, sustained noise, heaving bass thumps and spoken, sonic treated vocal proclamations.  Broadly the sound is stalking and controlled rather than pushing towards unbridled aggression, although the material does build up toward the final title track, which also includes some strong dialogue samples to flesh out the album’s concept *. Given its thematic focus and militant/ tactical sound, an oblique comparison could be made to Genocide Organ’s Under Kontrakt album, albeit here in a more streamlined and direct style. Either way this is a clear indication of the strength of Abscheu’s sound.

Visually speaking, the clean design of the cover illustrates cultural conflict and societal unrest from differing angles, but without lyrics of further detail being presented the listener must engage in detail with the release to better appreciate the themes on display. Without question this is another outstanding release from the Unrest Productions stables and again highlights the label as the current leading underground outlet for uncompromising and expertly executed material.


* – the promo blurb further expands on the concept: “From Europe to Middle East via Sub-Saharan Africa, Abscheu have been watching some of the most determined acts of violence. Studying how bloodthirsty groups wash their hands by adorning their motivation with divine command. Seeing zealots justify murderous wrath by invoking their favorite sacred book whenever necessary. A self-proclaimed court where justice is selectively rendered. A confusing purgatory where hatred is given a legitimacy. A sneaky trickery designed to mislead one’s enemies in the maze of one’s lies. «Pretense» is the exploration of that system from various perspectives. «Pretense» is an unquestionable judgment before men – definitely not before that thing they call god”.

Trapdoor Tapes final batch 2017

Browning Mummery – World of Shells MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Browning Mummery are a long standing and somewhat obscure Australian experimental/ industrial project whose activities dates back to 1983 (including a couple of early tapes issued on the cult Extreme and Zero Cabal labels). Being primarily the creative vehicle of Andrew Lonsdale, the lineup has also sporadically featured the late John Murphy, in addition to the contributions of many others over the years. While not having been necessarily the most active project (and there seeming to be a gap of activity between 1996 and 2008), World of Shells arrives five years after the last full length, and was recorded in 2014 as a collaboration between Andrew Lonsdale and Yvan Volochine The tape features four lengthy compositions to span around an hour of material, where the sound covers some diverse sonic scope within a broad experimental industrial style.

Predominantly the sound of the tape features deep cavernous tones framed around layered washes of muted industrial distortion. Being mid-paced and slightly muted, the tracks surges forwards with idling/ misfiring machines, squiggly sonics and a decent amount of ‘creak, crunch and clang’. By being meticulously layered, there are a multitude of sounds and textures to focus on throughout, and while loosely structured there is still clear composition as play (including some disorientating left/ right channel panning and wonky mid to high toned whistling sonic treatments). Of note, the third track Fibroscan 1 deviates from the rest given it is more meditative drone in execution, where some playful disorienting sonics build to a muted rhythmic thrum and the material coalesces into headier territory.

While not being overtly dark or morbid in tone and quite playful on occasion, World of Shells wears an ‘experimental industrial’ tag like a badge of honour in delivering a worthy release.


Halthan – Live at Obscurex Kontti MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

As per the title of the tape, this is a live set which consists of five distinct tracks spanning around 30 minutes. Crude and back to basics power electronics is the name of the game from this Finnish project who I have not checked out before, despite them being active from around 2004.

In general terms loose rumbling looped structures act as sonic bedrock, while the vocals are spat in an agonised roar and heavily echo/ flange treated to create a result quite reminiscent of those vocals of Survival Unit. Likewise with its thick grinding industrial debris, hollow tonality and repeated semi-buried samples also reminds (positively) of The Grey Wolves approach to lofi industrial noise infused power electronics. As for the recording the sound is raw and slightly distant in feel, which I am not sure if this is down to the recording or is perhaps representative of the live venue sound (as I understand it the venue it was performed in is in fact a metal shipping container, which would no doubt impact on any live sound created and any recording made thereof). Regardless, the sound is still hefty and thick, with the mood being one of subdued anger with occasional aggressive outbursts (i.e. vocals).

Overall this live tape is no frills and lofi, but definitely to the point, and very effective for it.


Kultur Operating P:N:S – Repeat Offense MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Knowing virtually nothing about this project, it seems they are more commonly known as K.O.P., where the three letters are variously used to stand for different interchangeable phases (as per the protocols established by early industrial pioneer SPK). From what information there is available, K.O.P. is a Japanese project active back in 1988 when the first tape was issued, and with a further six tapes, a 7”ep and CD issued through to 1993 before the project disappeared. Now some 25 years later the project has returned with new recordings dating from 2015-2017.

Having not heard earlier material from the project, I can comment on how this sits as a ‘comeback’ recording, but from listening to this the sound is rough, chaotic and crude in a general noise/industrial style, but also leaning more towards a nosier aesthetic.  Twelve tracks spanning around 45 minutes of material features on Repeat Offence, where Some tracks are based around fiercely raw and chaotically overblown distortion which is staunchly analogue (perhaps derived from junk metal sources?). Conversely other tracks are of an apparent digitized source and rapid-fire style, with a clean and sharp sonic tone. Yet to speak of unifying elements, the mood and feel is chaotic and choppy throughout, and where there is limited overtly rigid structure, rather being freeform and amorphous and where tracks abruptly cut out before lurching into the next piece.

With myself personally not being an avid noise listener, it is those compositions which slightly dial down on the higher pitched and harsher overblown textures which (for me) work best (such as the ambient noise mixed with radio chatter which closes out the tape). But equally that description alone will give a clear idea of whether Repeat Offense is right up your ally.


Neurasthenia Psychological Reincarnation MC Trapdoor Tapes 2017

Neurasthenia ‎is a new Japanese/ Australia collaboration born out of a recording session when Luke Holland (of Armour Group, Mshing, Word Of Life Church SS, Trapdoor Tapes etc.) and Tom Miller (of Word Of Life Church SS, Psychward etc.) toured Japan in September, 2016 and met up with Hiroshi Hasegawa (of C.C.C.C., Astro, Mortal Vision, Nord). According to the notes on the cover, the two tracks on this 60-minute tape (one lengthy track per side) were recording live in a single take and delivers a solid dose of archaic industrial noise.

The title track features on the first side of the tape and steps through a number of distinct passages. Commencing with detailed dynamic noise and spitting/crumbling static, the mood gradually moves towards a passage of hollowed out industrial rumble and the inclusion quasi ritual elements provided by junk metal clatter. Later segments feature crude loops and sparse crumbling textures which resemble the distant thunder of heavy waves. Cardiac Neurosis follows on the flip side and is a more subdued and controlled offering. Initial segments are sparse and cavernous in tone and complimented with ritual chimes, before a rough base of sustained and modulated ‘catacomb’ distortion is set down and gradually tweaked and twisted.  Late sections are further augmented with radio frequency type scanning noise and garbled semi-buried vocals, before ramping up to more chaotic and forceful intent in the final segment.

Given the ‘live in a single take’ method of recording, based on the end results it appears there would have been some clear discussion and pre-planning, as this sounds to be much more than a basic improvised session and particularly given its careful balancing of chaos and restraint (and being able to strategically pull back on the harsher elements throughout the tape for added sonic impact). So, all in all Psychological Reincarnation is a convincing and enjoyable tape in a style which radiates a sound of decades past than anything remotely modern.


 

Linekraft ‎– Apocalypse Factory + Liberated Treatment Area Of Bedlamite

Linekraft Apocalypse Factory + Liberated Treatment Area Of Bedlamite CD/ MC Aussaat 2017

Linekraft is the solo project of Japanese artist Masahiko Okubo but rather than being of a ‘Japanoise’ type, this is raw noise from the industrial end of sonic expression. Appearing to be predominantly derived from rough and ripping junk metal sources, it is assumed the material has been further edited and mixed in a studio setting. Apocalypse Factory is the latest album and is the eleventh release since 2008.

The only material I have previously heard from the project is the Bouryoku Kikai CD from 2012 (reviewed here), with Apocalypse Factory being an effective continuation of a partly composed and partly improvised approach. Each of the seven albums tracks is between four and eight minutes in length, and providing ample variation within an experimental industrial noise style. Apocalypse Factory-1 is an early album standout with multitude of elements including pulsing loops, squelching noise and chaotic sonics which are highly detailed and engaging in its tonal layering (and elevates to nastier intent through the middle and late sections). For variation Polluted Body includes slightly off kilter programming and jumbled dialogue samples, while Public Bondage is another noteworthy piece which flits between wonky loops, burrowing noise and pounding industrial structures.

Liberated Treatment Area Of Bedlamite is 10 minute bonus cassette, limited to 50 copies and only available directly via the record label. Featuring a single track (repeated both sides of the tape), sonically it slightly deviates from the sound found on the parent album. With reference to the title, the word ‘Bedlamite’ is an archaic English word for a lunatic or insane person, and fits nicely with the sonics on offer. Musically speaking it is a sprawling, murky yet overblown mass of sound with semi-buried junk metal clatter, while a deep rhythmic pulse provides depth and cavernous/ windswept atmosphere.

Although Apocalypse Factory leans towards a rough and raw approach rather than a clean and composed sound, it is still not harsh noise by any stretch given it effectively sits at the mid-point between industrial and noise. Displaying a high degree of experimentation in its delivery of raw and energetic industrialized noise, from this description alone it is assumed you will already know if this is likely to be to your liking. But certainly Linekraft embody a sound and approach where you can literally hear both the obsession and commitment of the artist.

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.

Stromstad ‎– New Devoted Human

Stromstad New Devoted Human LP Malignant Records 2017

This debut release from Stromstad is revealed to be collaborative album between the Finnish duo STROM.ec and Norwegian Kristoffer Oustad – and what a debut it is. With STROM.ec being recognized for a highly refined blend of industrial and heavy electronics and with Kristoffer Oustad inhabiting an evocative industrial smeared dark ambient sound, the creative collaboration between the two was always going to be an interesting one. Yet the creativity and flair on display completely exceeds any initial expectations.

Noting that each of the eight tracks are relatively confined (between three and six minutes each), this functions to generate a sense of urgency across the album, where its shifting and morphing elements draw from abrasive mechanical programming, controlled noise, lush sub-orchestral pads and gruff processed vocals. As an example, the fizzing/ buzzing looped static of the album opener Inherent Resurrection soon gives way to rolling tribal percussion and rough yelled vocals (clearly recognisable as those of STROM.ec), and functions very much as a statement of intent of what is explored over the balance of the album. Fever Wave Dream Function quickly following with woozy drones and off-kilter metallic clatter, shimmering synths and all underscored with a throbbing programmed element which leaps into heavily rhythmic section late in the track. The central buzzing tonality and stilted mechanical textures drives Blood Consciousness and when coupled with the gruff, slightly treated vocals is perhaps the piece most comparable to a straight STROM.ec composition.  The sub-orchestral strains of Nattsvermer constitutes the first effective respite of the album, being a semi-melodious cinematic drone-scape which reminds of mid era raison detre (and particularly so where some distant choir textures are used). In a somewhat unexpected guest contribution, Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved provides vocals on Reluctant Traveler, another track of stilted mechanical rhythms and buzzing fissures of static mixed with moody orchestral textures, while Gruttle’s vocals range from spoken, guttural chants and urgent yells (a late track guitar gives a partial nod to the current prog metal direction of Enslaved). The title track is positioned towards the album’s ends is in some ways the most straight forward with rapid fire looped beat, tempered static and vocals relegated to the middle of the mix, but in the later half it veers off into moody sub-orchestral territory, while the final album track Kosto then deviates the most, with a synth derived neo-classical piece of moody swelling strings, and with a definite modern sci-fi edge to the sound.

Not being an overly long album, all the same it delivers a heavy impact across its multiple creative arcs, and which consequently makes it feel to be a much longer album than its actual run-time. While New Devoted Human could be said to be of the genres it draws from, at the same time it steps well beyond them given its inspired use and application of such influences. Effectively the album excels by the fact of how vital the finished result sounds, and in the process generates new creative ways of approaching recognizable genre sound elements. Issued on vinyl in gate-fold sleeve, CD or digital formats, it is simply a matter of taking your pick of preferred format. But as a word of advice, do not let this album pass you by.