H.C.O.D. – Instruments Of Destiny CD Chondritic Sound 2021
Instruments Of Destiny was originally issued in 2016 on tape via the US label Fieldwork, and now five years later has been given the reissue treatment on CD, featuring new artwork and remastering by Grant ‘Gnawed’ Richardson.
With respect to the project’s name, it is noted to be an acronym for Hideous Colors Of Decay which suitably describes sonic intent, and at the time of the original release Instruments Of Decay appeared to be the formal debut. Featuring seven tracks spanning around 60 minutes, the general approach draws a clear parallel with a northern European post-industrial ‘post-mortem’ sound, where, H.C.O.D’s approach is sprawling in scope and is a hotbed of caustic industrialized noise which bleeds out over greater length. Caked in sonic soot, the tone is one of analog filth where the tracks work on a dual-level involving sustained cavernous widescreen bass rumble over which mid-toned squall, higher-pitched ‘whistling’ feedback, and junk metal crunch is belched. Will to Oppression provides some variance with its centrally featured echo-tinged and half-chanted vocals, as does Mutilated Victory with its garbled and undecipherable dialogue sample. Perhaps with its singular overall approach, Instruments Of Destiny is something akin to a marathon crawl through a post-industrial dystopian nightmare of wrack and ruin.
A six-panel, matt digipack with suitably oblique and bleak imagery rounds out a very welcomed reissue.
Various Artists – Terässinfonia Vol. 1 / Terässinfonia Vol.2 CD Freak Animal Records 2020
Freak Animal Records have always been a huge supporter of new and up and coming projects in the noise-industrial-experimental underground, no matter how obscure. These two collated volumes are then noted to have a more specific function: that being to specifically focus on current activities with the Finnish underground as evidenced by the tagline of: ‘The sound of Finnish experimental noise. Terässinfonia : Steel Symphony’.
Noting the role of a good compilation is to showcase projects you may have not come across before, on that front I only recognise a handful of project names across the 24 contributions here, which includes (in order of appearance): Umpio, Kitu, Tyhjä Pää, Hazarda Bruo Sonsistemo, Atrophist, Unclean, Edge Of Decay, H.Ö.H, Jazzhand, Rotat,Junkyard Shaman, Contortus, Metsäkirkko, Ihmisen Jälkeen, Nuori Veri, Parempi Ratkaisu, Amek Maj, Toteslaut, Maskhead, Vitun Siat, YANA, Circle Of Shit, Ahola & Silander, Electric Hobo, Tyhjiø. However, as there are then far too many contributions spanning the two discs to focus on individually, some of the notable highlights of those projects whom I am not overly familiar with include:
Kitu – Edeema: features a strong contribution of hollowed-out industrial rumble and soot-infused ‘abandoned factory’ ambience.
Hazarda Bruo Sonsistemo – Loishäätö: contains upfront ‘detailed’ sounds sitting over a rising tide of thickly atmospheric distortion.
Atrophist – Mutation Cycles: offers a touch of sonic respite on the first disc, with a droning composition that edges ever so closely towards dark ambience.
H.Ö.H – Mittausteknologian Kehittyessä: aims for more experimental expression with a short track of wonky sparse cutup sounds and tape loop material.
Jazzhand – Gavia Arctica: stands apart given its main focus on natural based field recording, while a minimal underpinning drone and vocal and relegated to being low wihin the mix.
Junkyard Sharman – Harha: opting for an enveloping ritual ambient drone-work, the compositions subtle scrap metal elements sitting off within the background.
Nuori Veri – Jatkumon Ahjo: ranges from minimalist ‘micro-tonal’ elements, which are blended with sampled choral vocals for emotive effect.
Parempi Ratkaisu – Ali-ihmisten Kärsimys: actually reminds quite strongly of Grunt’s sound, given its focus here on raw noise which has been roughly hewn into intertwining scrap metal loops.
Toteslaut – Strike the Master Sword: strongly impresses with a track of raw and overblow power electronics, complete with rough vocal proclamations.
Yana – Tuntematon: shifts tactic to charts a minimalist soundscape of sparse tones and a variety of scrabbling sonics.
Ahola & Silander – Koitos: is notable with its thick and warm, yet hollow tonal quality to its clinical experimental drone-work.
Tyhjiø – Aurinko: being a raw and spitting noise-industrial track with significant sonic heft thanks to its massive production sound.
Despite not all tracks getting an individual mention above, there is a lot to like and discover across the 80 minutes of material spanning two separate CDs. But it is also worthwhile noting that a number the more established names like Umpio, Unclean, Edge of Decay, Rotat, Contortus, Maskhead, Circle of Shit function to represent the harsh noise, scrap metal industrial, and ripping power electronics sounds of the Finnish underground. The striking collages of the cover artwork provide a suitably strong visual presentation and are further pressed as four-panel digipacks. Solid compilation collections all round.
Various – All My Sins Remembered II – The Sonic Worlds Of John Murphy 2CD The Epicuran 2021
By the ‘II’ tag of the title, clearly this is the second tribute release to the late and sorely missed John Murphy. This time around the double album collates material from five projects (i.e. counting Krank and Crank as the same project), where John was the creative driving force, which differs from volume ‘I‘ which mostly featured a wide variety of bands and projects where he was a contributor (reviewed here).
The twenty-minute Krank track NAOS Number 1 leads off the first CD, where despite dating from 2012 is an 80’s sounding ritual industrial soundscape, consisting of grinding synth textures, scattered wavering tones, fragmented sonic oscillations and occasional percussive elements such as bells and singing bowls etc. The composition is quite loosely structured with not real driving rhythm or beat, rather is built around blown out abstract synth chords, with a very analogue tone and associated sonic warmth. Also featured are liquidous sounding ‘micro’ tones and contact mic-ed clanging metal on metal arrhythmia. Whilst there is an element of freeform improvisational playfulness its sound, the track is also carefully controlled and paced to generate its grimly dissonant atmosphere.
Up next are six tracks from The Grimsel Path, which was a project of John Murphy and Jon Evans (both of Last Dominion Lost), noting also that the moniker The Grimsel Path has contextual links back to Last Dominion Lost, with this project name being a track title off their debut album. The six tracks are noted to be live recordings from 2012 when the group performed at the Foetus Frolics Festival in Berlin and inhabits quite a similar tonal sphere to Krank’s preceding track. Nevertheless The Grimsel Path’s tracks differ in that it is slightly more focused due to the format of shorter stand-alone tracks and includes sporadic vocalisations which are wholly absent from Krank’s track. Unhinged clanging electronics, misfiring machinery and general industrial debris mark the opening piece Deviation, whilst Scorched Earth features humming suspenseful horror synths (aka Angelo Badalamenti style), otherworldly vocalisations and a production of cavernous, echoed depths. Run Please Master then ups the ante somewhat with a stilted rhythmic drive and cinematic synths late in the track, whilst Sideshow of the Soul features a low bass throb, over which a mostly subdued but sometimes chaotic scattered industrial noise soundscape is positioned.
Following on is a project called Ophiolatreia (meaning ‘snake worship’) whom I am wholly unfamiliar, with two tracks dating from 1992 featured. Encompassing a ritual industrial/proto dark ambient material, it has an organic sound and analogue tone, complete with chimes and minimalist wailing horn. Rounding out the first disk are two tracks from My Father Of Serpents (dating from 1987 & 1988), which follows a similar primitive ritual industrial/dark ambient approach, yet there a radio voice cut up technique is employed which gives it a deviating edge.
Moving on to the second disc, it features only three tracks. The first two are short tracks from My Father Of Serpents and Ophiolatreia and continue the mood from the first disc, which is followed by a lengthy 63-minute untitled track from Crank. This extended composition dates from 1993 and is a freeform and loosely flowing industrial/ritual ambient soundscape, with the general tone of a muted mineshaft aesthetic. The pace is slow, and the control of its varied sonic elements is unhurried, allowing the mood to draw the listener in while the sonic movement unfurls. Yet from the muted opening segments through the middle of the track it elevates to noise-industrial bluff and bluster, before receding to ritual soundscape spheres one again.
Despite the various monikers featured across this double album there is also a general sonic consistency and tone to the featured post-industrial soundscape to ritual dark ambient material, where the two discs can be let to simply play through without the flow and atmosphere jarring between projects and features material. Without questions this is another wonderful tribute to John and demonstrates the strength of his output during the pivotal developmental phase of the post-industrial underground and across subsequent decades, even if he perhaps did not receive wider recognition for it during his own lifetime. As with all releases on The Epicurean, the packaging and design is exquisite and makes owning the physical artefact a mandatory recommendation.
Hollow Men – Burial of the Unheard MC Styggelse 2021
Hollow Men will perhaps not be a recognized name, but this is the precursor of Memorandum, the tribal death industrial project of Petter Marklund, who was also behind the cult but short-lived label Mechanik Cassettes. As Memorandum’s early releases are considered classics that were instrumental in establishing the late 80s and early 90s sound of Cold Meat Industry, it was with significant intrigue that I approached these complete Hollow Men recordings compiled from material dating from the mid 1980s.
From the outset it becomes apparent that the sound of Hollow Men differs from that of Memorandum, given it has forgone any tribal/rhythmic elements, and functions at a more obscure and rudimentary level of early Nordic industrial experimentation. This is also evidenced by the shorter length of tracks which are mostly a couple of minutes each, except for the final track which is eight minutes. In many ways the overall approach constitutes the early building blocks of a sound which would later evolve into a recognisable Swedish Death Industrial, albeit here at a less refined level. As such, soot-soaked and deep analogue tones feature as loosely constructed mechanized structures and slow-paced rhythmic movements, while the treated apathetic spoken vocals evoke a morbid tone. Coupled with these sonics are sampled elements of film/documentary dialogue, choral vocals etc. which blend in with the general sonic muck. The early pairing of tracks Our Souls and Do You Hear Them? stands out from the rest due to their minimalist synth sound, and despite its simplicity the pulsating rhythm and two-note melody used in both tracks has quite an odd charm. The final title track is also notable as an excellent death ambient track of muffled droning tonality coupled with a slow ‘train on the tracks’ rhythmic element during the first phase, which later morphs into a prototype death industrial sound in the final section.
Clearly Burial of the Unheard is an important archival release given its heritage and pedigree, providing early context for what would later come from the Swedish industrial underground. But more importantly it contains ample no-frills charm and a certain obscure factor that makes for very enjoyable listening (and therefore more than simply a release to be collected and filed away by archivists).
Galme – Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande MC Styggelse 2019
Galme are a new and entirely obscure Swedish project. Clearly they are obsessed with the earliest expressions of what would become known as a death ambient/death industrial, but also features enough sinister obscurity to also be tagged with the ‘post-mortem’ descriptor. Likewise, the phase on the cover ‘spektral elektriks’ is a suitable descriptor of the atmospheric qualities of this tape
With what is effectively a singular long form track, Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande traverses through a myriad of interlinking movements. Slow pulsating emanations provides a forward drive, while sections of muted conveyor belt rhythms, stilted ritual beats, cryptic melodies, and dank tonal washes generate a sickly ethereal mood. Predominantly an instrumental affair, on occasion disembodied radio voice chatter flits in and out of sonic frame, much like EVP recordings cutting through the ether onto the magnetic tape. Production wise there is nothing remotely modern with the tone of the recording. Rather this embodies the atmosphere of the earliest 1980’s phase of industrial music which spawned the likes of Korpses Katatonik and what would follow. But thankfully this does not sound in any way purposefully retro or otherwise pastiche of what has come previously.
For the physical presentation, the austere colouring and visuals of the j-card, inserts and table label suits the sonics perfectly. Much like all of the material issues on Styggelse, this is purposefully obscure, is limited in edition and difficult to obtain due to lack of wide distribution. Likewise with no digital versions available, it only elevates the impact of the music when a post-industrial underground obscurity like this can be obtained. Yes – this is recommended.
Kristian Olsson – of Alfarmania and Survival Unit infamy – should really need no introduction. Ligranorex is a solo recording, but not a new one. Originally issued on cassette in 2012, it has been reissued here with an additional track added for good measure.
In a general sense, Kristian’s solo recordings are not light years away from those of Alfarmania; however, a clear differentiator is that his solo recordings are far less aggressive and more ritualized in scope. The opening 22-minute title track, despite its ritualized undercurrent, is overall quite noisy and tonally blustery, begging comparison to Alfarmania works. But from second track Sippurator, the catacombic and esoteric depths at the core of this album are revealed. Here a track of dank cavernous ritualized atmospheres is fully realized, where shuddering darkness comes to life and seems to articulate the psychic membrane separating the real from the unreal and the waking state from the dream. Floating subdued male chants allude to human form, but equally these could be from a netherworld beyond the edges of waking perception. Later, cyclic bass drones provide greater movement to the composition, but the general mood is of drawing you into its fold. Haruspex announces itself with the wailing of a thighbone trumpet, dank and slow-paced ritual percussion, and sparse ceremonial chimes. These sit at the forefront of sound that articulates cavernous archaic depths sonically receding far off into the distance. Spanning 21 minutes, the mood and pacing is slow and drawling, whereas throughout the middle and later sections the percussive pulse becomes more urgent, coupled with a prominent ascending/descending drone loop. Although lerul is noted to be a bonus track, it fits perfectly with the flow, mood, and balance of the album. Grey-hued and tonally stark soundscapes are releveled and further infused with archaic ritual atmospheres. Yet with its incessant bass throb and wavering sustained drones, it at times begins to resemble a slightly more ritualized version of Anenzephalia’s subdued heavy electronics offerings.
Packaging wise, the six-panel digi-pack is exquisitely presented with a selection of Kristian’s artwork, including the same artwork used for the cover of Issue No.3 of Noise Receptor Journal.
The rather illusive Proiekt Hat has returned to the Italian cult label XN Recordings and, based on the minimal presentation and title, this seems to be the third in a series on the label. When this release was announced the promo text indicated these two tracks were older recordings from the project, but the cover provides no further detail on this.
The first track Freeloader encapsulates a grey-hued sonic aesthetic with cavernous depth and thickly grinding machine oscillations and wavering bass tones. Laboured but also minimally animated it delivers a grim post-mortem atmosphere as an expectantly good track from the project. Iron Lung Cancer features on the flip side and without doubt is an extremely divergent track for the group. The first thought that went through my mind when hearing this was ‘This sounds like Proiekt Hat doing Kraftwerk’ and, as the saying goes, often first impressions are the correct one. Here archaic modular synth loops intertwine in very animated and uptempo form – albeit wonky and off kilter. Some more atonal elements sit underneath, but these very much take a back seat to the pulsing and driving forward momentum of the track. Being a sound I would have never expected from the project, it is a great track all the same.
To mention the cover, the minimal presentation mirrors the beautiful attention to detail which is characteristic of XN’s productions, while an inside image hints at strong anti-American imperialism sentiments. Although this 7” EP was far from cheap (in both cost and postage), there are no qualms about this based on the final product.
Inflated Climax – Inflated Climax MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018
Inflated Climax are a new anonymous project on Trapdoor Tapes where their self-titled tape delivers crude and lo-fi industrial noise/death industrial sounds.
This self-titled tape contains a single lengthy untitled instrumental track, which repeats on both sides. The composition has then obviously been spliced together from a series of recording sessions as the cover indicates this was recorded between 2015-2017. Overall the mood is dank and morose which is achieved through atonal, slow throbbing rhythms which are mixed with thick bass driven distortion. In one section, the slow throbbing beat rolls catatonically onwards, akin a container train lurching forwards to the end destination of an unidentified death-camp, while other segments feature stasis inducing minimal looped rhythms, or looser tonal modulations infused with soot and ash. In some way this reminds of some of the long form experimentation of Atrax Morgue, but where that project’s free form sound was often clinical and mid to higher pitch, here the sound is a deep rumbling lo-fi death industrial approach in a restrictive and suffocating way, which certainly matches the visual cues of the cover.
Obscure, crude and understated in equal measures, packaging comes in a plastic pocket with two double sided photocopy sheets with rubber fetish imagery.
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!!!