Militia – The Face of God / Ambiorix

Militia – The Face of God CD Old Europa Café 2019

Militia – Ambiorix CD Old Europa Café 2018

To provide a brief history lesson, Militia have been operating since the late 1980’s, where their general approach could be characterised as a logical extension of the early oil barrel percussion of industrial pioneers Test Department. Militia then managed to hit an outstandingly high peak of output early on, with particular reference to: New European Order 3xLP (1996); their contribution to the cult compilation War Against Society 3xLP (1997); and The Black Flag Hoisted 2xCD (2000). Each of these and now broadly considered landmark classics of the post-industrial underground, which then tends to cast a very long shadow over everything which has followed and to which against every new release is compared. Inevitably this is the context in which the two new Militia albums are considered.

The Face of God although issued in 2019, was first issued in 2015 as a self-released box-set, but with poor distribution it was quite difficult to obtain. This 2019 version appears it may in fact be from the original CD pressing but re-issued within a newly designed 6 panel digi-pack. In context of Militia’s discography The Face of God followed on from 2005’s Everything Is One CD and 2011’s Power! Propaganda! Production! CD. Both of those albums where characterized by being more streamlined, cleanly produced, and song focused, and for me were both highly enjoyable releases which demonstrated a gradually refinement of Militia’s earlier approach. Interestingly The Face of God differs from those albums given it has a rougher and distorted edge which more closely aligns with the earlier era. Male choral vocals and tolling bells of Psalm 1: An Atheist Statement opens the album, before an echoed proclamation of project mainstay Frank Gorissen makes the theme of the album exceedingly clear. Following this the track launches into a section of trademark looped synth lines, wailing horns and heady thrummed percussion. Without doubt a brilliant start. Psalm 5: Sermon is also a clear standout with its fast-paced metallic percussive drive and maudlin underpinning synth line. Psalm 7: God’s Face is another track displaying all the pinnacle trademarks of Militia’s approach aka the rhythmic loops, pounding metallic percussion and wailing horns. Late album track Psalm 10: Call All Atheists is another particular highlight with its atonal droning synth-line, blended with forceful incessantly rolling/ clanging percussion and strained proclamation styled vocals. Yet alongside the highlights sporadic missteps don’t go unnoticed, where on occasion the execution of percussion feel overly stilted and out of time, such as on Psalm 2: The immaculate Conception Of Lies. A minor gripe, but a gripe nonetheless.

In moving on to the consideration of the latest Militia opus Ambiorix issued in late 2018, from the outset the album draws a clear parallel to the recent 2017 re-recording of the classic New European Order (reviewed here). By this it is meant the earlier percussive driven windswept battlefield atmospheres are clearly present, but the recording is crystalline and without a grey hued murkiness. Likewise of note, on the thematic side of things instead of political framed social commentary, the album differs as it focuses on a historic period instead, and quoting from the cover: ‘Militia plans King Ambiorix’ struggle again the Roman occupation of Gaul in 54 BC’. In an overarching sense while Ambiorix follows Militia’s established sonic template, the album as a whole is quite atmospherically filmic in tone, particularly where rousing synth based neo-classical elements such as choirs, horns and strings are utilised. This cinematic impression is further reinforced through the clear narrative outlined by the album’s 11 tracks, and with the production being relatively clean and spacious, means that although being percussive based, it does not feel as heavy as other Militia material. To talk specifics, early Negotiation perfectly blends rhythmic loops, driving militant drumming and stirring synth melodies. Equally the introductory neo-classical strains of Ambush are particularly rousing, which sets the scene for a ‘battle march’ percussive driven track. Calling All Gauls again follows the classic Militia format of rolling metallic percussion and looped melody and further elevated with neo-classical backing elements. Late album track War is equally rousing with its battlefield samples, choir synths and ever-present driving percussion. Rounding out the hour length album is the 11.5 minute The Lost King which is an ambient soundscape which evolves into a mid-paced militant percussive track though the mid-section, before shifting back to and ambient soundscape during its final moments.

As an overall comment, I would not profess that either of these Militia releases exceeds the heights of the early era classics, yet they each still stand as resoundingly strong releases on their own. In recognition of their slight deviations in tone and approach, both The Face of God and Ambiorix are fitting additions to the Militia discography and will absolutely please followers of the group, both older or more recent. Recommended.

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.

Blitzkrieg Baby ‎– Homo Sapiens Parasitus

Blitzkrieg Baby Homo Sapiens Parasitus LP Neuropa Records 2019

Strictly speaking Kim Sølve’s Blitzkrieg Baby project is quite incongruent to the typical coverage of Noise Receptor Journal. Yet there is something quite special in the cynical black humor and heavily sarcastic lyrics wrapped up in a diverse song-based approach, spanning elements of cinematic/orchestral dark ambient, martial industrial, and more streamlined song-based industrial. In fact, the Looney Tunes inspired cover artwork ‎– which strongly speaks to my own childhood ‎– is an excellent visual presentation of this thematic and stylistic approach (the artwork is by Trine + Kim Design Studios, which is the graphic design firm Kim runs with his partner and showcases their talents as graphic designers). Likewise, the self-described tag of ‘Norwegian Dystopian Electronic Music’ further emphasizes the approach.

Album opener Hip Hip Hooray displays the cynical and darkly playful nature of the album, with a track of mid-paced bass guitar-driven swagger, while the spoken vocals break out into a chorus chant of the track’s title. After a short instrumental interlude with an industrial/orchestral dark ambient track (Apocalypse To Go), comes Boys Will be Boys, which is a perfect example fusing martial beats, orchestral synths, and dark pop-focused chorus line hooks, with the end result being swaggering rather than martially stilted. The pairing of tracks like The March of Human Progress I & II bring a more serious tone, which is mostly due to the instrumental format, thereby the cynical element brought about by the vocals is absent. On the musical front it strongly reminds me of the martial ambient industrial sound of Toroidh, given the slow dark ambient throb, sub-orchestral elements, and marching music samples. Perhaps for my own listening preferences Praise The Pig comes off as the only misstep due to the prominent chugging guitar riff (but that says more about my personal aversion to guitar-based industrial). Yet despite this criticism, the tolling church bells and chanted male vocals which appear late in the track effectively win me over. Moving towards the album’s end, the dour yet playful nature of the album is again in full flight on Pre-Cum Of The Apocalypse, with a slow brooding dark ambient/martial industrial track, where the lone piano line rings out with reverb, while the vocals are sung choir style which belies their cynical slant. The album closer, Homo Sapiens Parasitus & the Countdown to the Apocalypse is an industrial pop stormer of a composition, driving ever forwards with stoic rolling beats and vocals ranging from whispered to full rousing male choirs.

Despite its vein of cynical black humor on the thematic and lyrical front, the music itself is treated with utmost seriousness, and done exceedingly well, avoiding any notion of being ‘cheesy’ in the end result. This is no mean feat, given the use of any level of ‘humor’ in post-industrial music usually predicts my total uninterest. Wildly divergent – yet recommended at the same time.

 

Mz.412 – Svartmyrkr

Mz.412 – Svartmyrkr LP Cold Spring 2019
Over their now 31 year career Mz.412 have never been the most prolific group, but equally have made their core releases iron clad statement of intent. Likewise, rather that sticking to a single sonic approach over the decades, they have managed to cover quite some stylistic territory under the broader ‘black industrial’ banner. That has variously included: rudimentary ‘factory floor’ framed industrial (Macht Duch Stimmme and Malfeitor); satanic inspired black industrial (In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas Luciferi Excelsi); black metal infused black industrial (Burning The Temple Of God); militant industrial/ power electronics influenced black industrial (Nordic Battle Signs); neo-classical tinged black ambient (Dominie Rex Infernum); and bombastic neo-classical framed black industrial (Infernal Affairs).

When excluding their live albums, Svartmyrkr is the eighth formal album from the group and a long twelve years on from Infernal Affairs. With myself holding a personal mindset
that there may have not been another Mz.412 album, I was OK with that prospect, given the strength and importance of the back catalogue. But in 2019 we have been graced with a new album Svartmyrkr, which thankfully both meets and exceeds hype and expectation. Ten tracks constitute the 45-minute album, where the pounding drums, male choirs of the short Antra Helstraffet functions as the album’s short intro. This is followed by the brooding to bombastic neo-classical track Öppna Helgrind driven forwards by mid-paced militant percussion and strong gruff vocals of Nordvargr. With its
distorted industrial furnace blasts Codex Mendacium mines the earlier black industrial sound of years past, while Ulvens Broder sees the group at their most bombastic with a rousing militantly tinged neo-classical track. Ulvens Bleka Syster is of note by featuring crawling and seething orchestral strings of a clear Penderecki strain. The albums also contains some surprises, such as the moody black ambient track Burn Your Temples, True Change with its central acoustic guitar courtesy of Kristoffer Oustad. Likewise, the late album pairing of She Who Offers Sorrow and We Are Infernal, qualify as effective
album ‘hits’, with both being militant and bombastic neoclassical driven black industrial tracks of the highest order.

With Svartmyrkr released in early 2019 and appreciated over a number of months, it is clear that it is an effective culmination of everything which has come before. Not being a
mere pastiche of earlier elements, rather it has drawn together core sonics elements into a complete and unified whole, where Svartmyrkr both compliments and builds upon the significant legacy of Mz.412. Wholeheartedly recommended.

 

Am Not – Unpunished : Appendix

Am Not – Unpunished : Appendix 10” EP Unrest Productions 2018

In its first version Unpunished : Appendix was issued in an extremely limited edition of 24 deluxe cassette box-sets. Only being available at a live performance in Paris, needless to say it sold out immediately, so having a repress of the four tracks on 10” vinyl is certainly welcome. Although the title refers to this being an ‘appendix’ I don’t get the impression that this is leftover material, rather new material which builds upon the themes and concepts explored on 2015’s exceptional album Unpunished (reviewed here).

Sonically speaking, the four tracks follow the now recognisable sound of Am Not, which, while being meticulously composed power/heavy electronics, does not forgo a suitably rough and raw industrial sonic edge. Opening track And Then We Shall Know commences relatively calmly with two intertwining loops (deep throbbing bass and higher modulated tone), which soon gives way to heavy and raw pounding industrial structures, and the proclamation-style rough vocals, achieving the typical blending of Am Not’s sound. Dark Star Kinshara follows and is another track of rough industrial-tinged heavy electronics that ups the intensity slightly and is also underscored by a dour organ-style drone. Intriguingly this track is: dedicated to the ongoing Congolese space program’, which it turns out is an actual thing, but one with a lengthy and chequered history with alleged links to Nazi scientists and the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Side B offers another two distinct tracks, with Extremophilia II being a mass of thick pulsing loops and swirling mid-toned textures, with prominent dialogue samples and a rough vocal barrage framing the lyrical theme. The final of the four tracks, the instrumental State Funeral, is the most surprising of the lot, blending rough junk metal timbres with highly cinematic, neo-classical elements. With its stoic martial industrial percussive leanings and central dour organ melody, this on first listen is not immediately recognisable as Am Not, yet is a stunningly great track all the same.

As for presentation, the packaging is as slick and considered as the music, including four postcard inserts and four-panel booklet with mini interview to provide further information on the group and its thematic/lyrical preoccupations. Another mandatory release from Am Not and Unrest Productions.

Announcement: Spectrum Compendium book cover released!! 

I am extremely proud to reveal the finalised cover of the Spectrum Compendium book!

After a couple of design options, in the end it was decide to go with a cover design both keeps and builds upon the feel and aesthetic of the original Spectrum Magazines, which to my mind has come out as a very strong and striking visual.

The book layout is still being worked on by the publisher, but evidently I will have a copy to proof and approve this month (October, 2018).

More details on publication date will be announced later when known but getting very close now!!!