Dream Into Dust – Fragments Of Legacy

Dream Into Dust – Fragments Of Legacy CD Chthonic Streams 2020

Dream Into Dust are a project helmed by Derek Rush with a rotating cast of contributors, but has been on a long hiatus given the group never officially disbanded. Although Dream Into Dust are well respected in facets of the post-industrial underground, more to the point they perhaps never received wider recognition they deserved. Musically the early works drew together disparate elements and influences from dark ambient, neo-folk, martial industrial, gothic and neo-classical, while later material incorporated some more contemporary influences and production techniques drawn from alternative, rock and pop.

As for Fragments Of Legacy it draws together 15 tracks, which were previously released on various compilations, or intended for compilations which never eventuated. With the collection of tracks being exclusively lifted from earlier phase the project, this suits my stylistic listening preferences, as personally I was less interested in the later evolution of the sound of Dream Into Dust. Given its musical leanings, Fragments Of Legacy comfortably sits between the sounds coming from Cold Meat Industry and World Serpent Distribution during the late 1990’s. Quite some territory is covered across the span and while martial industrial and neoclassical forms a consistent stylistic underpinning of these cinematically tinged soundscapes. But rather than stoic and bombastic, the overall atmosphere is forlorn and mournful. Equally the elements of neo-folk reinforce this archaic atmosphere which seems to sonically articulate a yearning for a lost time, with this general sentiment being specifically referenced by the title of their debut album The World We Have Lost. Yet with all that said, tracks such as The Chariot and Invictus notably stand out in all their strident neo-classical bombast. To make mention of further stylistic diversions, the album opener Stormbringer displays neo-classical and martial industrial elements, yet these are framed with a muted goth rock tone provided by the clean guitar and part sung/part spoken vocals. Other tracks like Totestadt are framed around fragile simplicity of clean guitar and piano, backed by creaking field recordings and spare neo-classical elements. Fields of Night features as an emotive and stripped back acoustic neo-folk tinged instrumental track, complete with sparse yet stormy martial percussion, while Out of Chaos Stars Are Born is also of note, coming fully formed as a shrilly intense soundtrack styled orchestral composition, moving through a crescendo and following passage of fragility. Late album track London, while neo-classical in tone also contains a whimsical Victorian gothic flavour to its core piano melody and cyclic musical motifs against which Derek recites a poem of William Blake. As for the final track The Trial Invisible, it stands apart from the rest. Deviating from the predominant atmospheric soundscapes, it is a moody and direct neo-folk song, complete with strings and cleanly sung lead vocals, thus give a partial nod to the later direction the project would take.

Packaging wise the CD comes as an 12 page colour printed booklet sleeve, with detailed liner notes on the origins of each track and pick up on some important conceptual influences, such as: poems of William Blake, The Trial by Franz Kafka, films such Slaughterhouse Five, M, Metropolis, Ulysses’ Gaze, While Fragments of Legacy may be effectively a collection of compilation tracks, it is surprising how well this disparate material hangs together as a complete album. Ultimately Fragments of Legacy is a positively conceived and compiled album, and very enjoyable document of the early phase of Dream Into Dust, regardless if you are an existing fan or perhaps a new listener to the project. A legacy of intent if you will.

Death In June – ESSENCE!

Death In June – ESSENCE! CD NER 2018

Although I have kept tabs on the neo-folk scene since my obsession with it during the late ‘90s, there are few albums issued over the past decade which have captured my attention, and virtually none of the newer crop of neo-folk groups have resonated with me. Perhaps this is indicative of my listening preferences shifting elsewhere, but it is only Death In June and Of The Wand And The Moon that I have returned to with any regularity. As it has been eight long years since the last formal album Peaceful Snow was issued, the announcement of ESSENCE! caught me completely by surprise, as I was not expecting or anticipating a new album from Douglas. Yet here it is, and with promises of drawing from the true essence of Death In June.

With the short opening track Welcome To Country being a ritualistic call to arms, God A Pale Curse arrives as the first proper song and is stylistically reminiscent of the acoustic neo-folk material featured on The Rule of Thirds (complete with introductory whistling). But whereas The Rule of Thirds was significantly stripped back in instrumentation, it is immediately evident that ESSENCE! is a much fuller album featuring multiple guitar lines, layered synths, prominent counter-pointed bass guitar, and a variety of other elements depending on the track (dialogue samples, ritual chimes, abstracted guitar feedback, studio treatments, etc.). With a perhaps ‘expected’ sound showcased so early in the album, things quickly take a detour into a far wider frame of influence and inspiration, which extends to both song-writing and playing on Douglas’s behalf. The Trigger is the first example of this and has a distinctly up-beat mood, which keeps pace with a simplistic up-tempo back-beat and prominent plodding bass. The bass guitar maintains prominence in the mix on Snipers of the Maidan, with a loose ‘60s feel to its playing and slashes of guitar noise in the background that substantially deviate from that of typical neo-folk. Humble Brag further references the ‘60s era with a swagging bass line, falsetto backing vocals, and lead guitar flourishes, and when a divergent mid-track bridge and late track (studio trickery) breakdown are thrown in for good measure it amounts to the most surprising track on the album.

In shifting back to perhaps more familiar territory, Going Dark is a particular album standout, where the single piano notes, acoustic guitar, understated bass, and ritual percussion pay homage to the mood and atmosphere of classic albums like What Ends… and Rose Clouds… and include the poignant and contemplative (repeated) vocal line of:  “Like a fly on the wall at my own funeral, I am free”. This is followed by another album standout The Dance of Life-To Shoot A Valkyrie, which is split into two distinct sections, the first characterized by an upfront and upbeat bass line, and the second half a more direct neo-folk piece, with the bass maintaining a plodding upbeat flair. No Belief displays yet more stylistic diversity in song-writing and playing, given it is characterised by a jangly style of guitar playing. Given that Death In June could never be accused of writing ‘happy music,’ it is only during the quite dour and moody What Will Become of Us? that it becomes apparent to how up-tempo the balance of the album is. This song in part even manages to hark back to the ‘80s sound of the group with the inclusion of stoic trumpet blasts, whip-cracks and woodblock percussion, but even then breaks new ground with two duelling and intertwining keyboard lines.

With 11 tracks spanning 45 minutes it is a brisk yet diverse album. After becoming fully acquainted with ESSENCE!, it is intriguing to hear how Douglas has pushed his song writing into newer regions, when he could have simply ‘rung in’ in a standard and perhaps ‘expected’ neo-folk album. But in drawing influences which fall well outside anything remotely neo-folk, to my ear a potential influence is Scott Walker’s ‘60s pop album Scott 4 (I am sure there are many other influences that have passed me by). In noting the wide array of unexpected aspects of this album, this may be to the chagrin of some neo-folk ‘purists’, but I am sure this would hardly be of any concern to Douglas. ESSENCE! is both an admirable and very enjoyable album, and all the more so as it manages to be a staunchly Death In June album, while also allowing Douglas to pursue new creative ends and buck any preconceived expectations in the process. Therein lies its true ‘essence’.

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!!!

Various Artists – All My Sins Remembered: the Sonic Worlds of John Murphy


Various Artists – All My Sins Remembered: the Sonic Worlds of John Murphy 3xCD The Epicurean 2016

With John Murphy passing away on the 11th October, 2015 it was inevitable that a tribute album would be released at some point.  Thankfully this rather daunting task was taken up by The Epicurean, the label of John’s most recent output as Last Dominion Lost, Krank and The Grimsel Path, who have done a stunning job of bringing this 3xCD/ 32 page booklet together.  Also, whilst I initially perceived this to be a straight tribute, the liner notes reveal the concept was already well underway in mid-2015, with an intention for all proceeds from the release to go towards John’s medical treatments at the time.

With the musical content spanning 3 discs there is simply too much to give a track my track review, but that also would be missing the point of what this release is about – that being to celebrate the life and musical legacy of John Murphy.  On this 3 disc set it provides a broadly chronological overview of the many projects John had collaborated with or been a member of over his 30+ year musical career (…although given the sheer number of projects, some of which whose activities span many years, a strict chronological order is simply not possible).  It is then of particular interest that of the 36 artists/ projects featured herein, it still does cover all projects John has been involved in, with there being many other high profile bands and projects he has collaborated with over the years not being featured, which only goes to further highlight the eclectic nature and expansive reach of John’s career.  But of those featured herein, in order of appearance across the 3 discs it includes: Mandrix, NEWS, WhirlyWirld, Associates, Hugo Klang, Krang, Orchestra of Skin and Bone, SLUB, Dumb and the Ugly, Whitehouse, Lustmord, Sooterkin Flesh, Genocide Organ, Vhril, Blood & Iron, Wertham, Bordel Militaire, Browning Mummery, MAA, Gerechtigkeits Liga, Krank, The Walking Korpses, The Grimsel Path, My Father of Serpents & Disciples of None, Of The Wand And The Moon, David E. Williams, Shining Vhril, Nikolas Schreck, Kniffeladder, Blood Axis, Naevus, Foresta Di Ferro, Die Weisse Rose, Andrew King, Zeena Schreck and last but not least Last Dominion Lost.

With recorded material spanning the 40 years between 1975 to 2015 it includes both studio and live recordings (some of which has remained unreleased until now), coupled with these are a selection of 5 newly recorded tracks where close friends and comrades pay tribute.  In its overall trajectory the chronological track selection commences with the more ‘typical’ (albeit eclectic) bands; moving through to experimental and industrial spheres and onward though to ritual and towards neo-folk/ martial industrial expression.  The combined set also functions to highlight the gradual evolution and mutation of John’s collaborative influences within the projects where he held a central creative role.  To speak of selected highlights (based on my own sonic inclinations), these include:

  • Whitehouse: ‘Live Action 4’ from 1983 is a 20 minutes a dueling synth workout of throbbing modulations and spitting static in early chaotic Whitehouse style.
  • Krang: ‘Dissonance 2’ from -1981-1983 highlights John’s own solo industrial noise approach from around the same time as he was collaborating with Whitehouse.
  • Orchestra of Skin And Bone: feature with an excellent song ‘Flame’ from 1996, consisting of screeching horns and rolling tribalised percussion, which draws (an oblique) parallel with John’s later tribal industrial band Knifeladder.
  • Lustmord: ‘Pure’ (a track lifted from 1986’s ‘Paradise Disowned’ album), is a grinding industrial noise soundscape from the period when John was involved, and showcases the early era of the project before it evolved into the more widely recognized dark ambient behemoth it is today.
  • Vhril: Being an early 90’s collaboration project between John and Ulex Xane, ‘Transcosmic Mutations’ delivers an excellent esoteric ritual industrial track of twisting and constantly morphing sonics.
  • Genocide Organ: Although John was never a member of the Genocide Organ, he did provide sound source material on 1999’s ‘The Truth Will Make You Free’ album. On their ‘untitled’ track the group have paid tribute with an instrumental piece which is quite subdued by the group’s usual standards, but given its droning and metallic scraping experimental/ industrial soundscape it clearly is homage to John’s stylistic approach.
  • Knifeladder: Being the trio of John, Hunter Bar and Andrew Trail, they feature with a previously unreleased 2007 track ‘Long March’, which is of their trademark song styled, tribal/ industrial percussive approach.
  • Gerechtigkeits Liga: On 2009’s track ‘Dystopian Dream’ it features a fantastic elephantine percussive stomp (courtesy of John) as the key driving element of this post-industrial dirge.
  • Krank: Being John’s predominantly solo industrial project, the 2011 track ‘Drain Sounds in the Well’ features his distinctive chaotic swirling industrial maelstrom of grinding layered synths, garbled vocalisations and a mélange of found sounds/ random tonal objects.
  • Forest Di Ferro: Being the trio of John, Marco Deplano and Richard Leviathan, they feature with the 2015 track ‘Kalagni – False Dying Dawn’, which is a subdued martial ambient piece of distant rolling drumming, lead accordion melody and lamenting vocals of John.
  • Last Dominion Lost: Being the trio of John, Julian Percy and Jon Evans, they feature with 2015’s ‘Hexatom Recrudesce’. This is an alternate version to a track from 2014’s ‘Towers of Silence’ album, being a twisting garbled mass of bass throb, scattered synths, found sounds, lone woodwind flute and evocation styled vocals.
  • Of The Wand and the Moon: present a new 2016 exclusive track ‘Death Rune’, which is a beautifully haunting funeral dirge of a track with central organ/ accordion melody, ritual chimes and chanted/ whispered vocals (…simply sublime).

If nothing else this release demonstrates the sheer diversity of musical involvement and output of John over the years, but though mid to later periods showcasing darker sounds and esoteric themes providing the thread to neatly knit it all together.  Regarding package it is stunningly designed, featuring photos of John’s own amulets and jewelry, while the 32 page booklet includes written pieces provided by Stefan Hanser (label head of The Epicurean), Jon Evans, Alan Bamford and Andrew King provides further insight regarding the life and wide reaching musical involvement of John and are broadly framed around significant periods of his musical career (i.e. Australia and first England period (1997-1984), second period in England (1996-2008) and the final period in Berlin (2008-2015)).

With its limitation of 750 copies, and exquisite packaging and graphic presentation apart from being a window into John’s expansive sonic world, it has more real world implications given that all proceeds from sale are to be donated to John’s widow. A worthy document, testament and above all a celebration of the life and legacy of John Murphy.

Downfall of Nur – Umbras E Forestas


Downfall of Nur – Umbras E Forestas CDep Ksenza Records/ Infinite Fog Productions 2015

Ordinarily I would not review black metal releases despite having followed the arc and evolution of the genre since the early 1990’s. Downfall of Nur are something a bit different; an Argentinian 1 man band who plays furiously epic folk tinged black metal which is seamlessly blended with passages of ritual dark ambience. Although considered an ‘ep’, the 4 tracks here span 38 minutes, thus being longer than many ‘classic’ full length black metal albums.

Featuring a staunchly organic tone and the seamless weaving of forest based field recordings into the mix, the sound has a very earthy feel (..and to expand this description further, it is a tone of dank moss strewn undergrowth; devoid of light, deep under a forest canopy). In some way could draw parallels with the Cascadian Black Metal band Fauna, while other sections remind very much of the Portuguese neo-folk/ dark ambient hybrid group Karnnos. Vocals when present not a prominent element, featuring a throaty rasp which in some moments resembles the vocals of post-prison Varg (which isn’t actually a negative comment as the comparison might suggest).

Album opener ‘Sa Aurora De Sos Asatros’ sprawls out over an 11 minute expanse and through a number of segments of epically riffed to tremolo played guitars. The drums are pleasingly ‘live’ sounding in their playing with an organic edge to their production and thankfully avoiding the dreaded overproduced ‘click track’ sound. Mid track some synth use appears but is understated as a singular melody line which interweaves with and counterpoints the guitars. The second offering ‘Su Canticu de Sol Montes’ is a piece purely focused on ritual ambient spheres, where the dour echoed woodwind playing, ritual drums and ‘distant storm’ field recordings begs a particular Karnnos comparison. ‘Lunas Anthigas’ then launches headlong into a raw, furious and flailing black metal drumming storm, which maintains an epic folk edge to its riffs (mid track it recedes into a storm addled soundscape before launching back into a black metal guise). The final self-titled track includes a slight change in mood, where although the drums are still flailing in intensity, the riffs have a slightly less aggressive edge being forlornly epic in tone, whilst the second half of the track contains elements akin to a post-black metal style (…surely that description will have some black metal ‘purists’ running for the hills…).

With ‘Umbras E Forestas’ Downfall of Nur have produced a recording which displays conviction and passion and which effortlessly shifts its mood from black metal to ritual dark ambience. Not being a mere traditionalist/ copyist type band, they are managing to do something interesting within a black metal style, which to a greater degree has lost power through sheer repetition of the sound over the last decade/s.