Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP & Septic

Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP Helen Scarsdale Agency ‎2021

Himukalt – Septic LP Malignant Records 2020

Straight off the mark, it is highlighted that Between My Teeth is not a new album from  Ester Kärkkäinen’s project Himukalt, rather is a welcomed vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape. Packaging is also immediately noteworthy given it comes with a full-sized 16-page booklet of Ester’s collage artwork, while the sonics have been duly given a remastered treatment. On the other hand Septic is one of Himukalt’s newer albums, and the second issued on Malignant Records.

Across the six cuts on Between My Teeth rudimentary yet fractured drum machine patterns eke out minimalist structures while spitting and fizzing fissures of distortion burst forth in chaotic and unexpected patterns. Vocals are then delivered in a laconic whispered to spoken style, but subject to further heavy echo and distortion smear treatment. I No Longer Belong is a particularly good track, based on a start/stop programmed rhythmic loop and cascading waves of bulldozing distortion, while the spoken vocals are relegated to the back of the mix. Mine, which opens Side B features a stilted and simplistic industrial techno thump, which is coupled with layered noise of jet engine proportions. In Every Stage Of This Oppression then offers a counter approach, with sustain tensile drones and spoken vocal passages which are obliterated with increasing jagged noise eruptions.

Septic does not significantly differ in approach, featuring a further five deep cuts of tonal angst. Although immediately notable is the sharpness and bulk of the recordings, as well as the power of the mastering (courtesy of Kris Lapke), where the whispered and low-spoken vocals have an immediate ‘upfront’ presence. Again the rudimentary drum machine patterns provide a basic structure to which static explosions and scrawled noise are framed. Yet with its layered mid-paced rhythmic loops, dive-bombing textures and sweeping noise The Drive Towards Oblivion charts a more straight down the power electronics sound than typical of the project, but the vocals bring an immediately recognisable tone. The title track opens Side B with a deep drone, low static loop, and spoken vocals, then using the tried-and-true method of slowly elevating intensity, which includes a stilted metallic oil barrel beat. The Gun In Her Mouth is the final track and feels to be the hit song of the album, based on its fast-paced programmed beat which when coupled with other looped elements gives it an anthemic type sway. A further sustained melodious synth line pushes the mood ever forwards, coupled with building static before peaking and collapsing at its conclusion.

To my mind, there is a thematic parallel to be drawn between the single-minded approach of Atrax Morgue and that of Himukalt. From Ester’s earliest cassette releases Himukalt arrived fully formed with a distinctly mature style and sound. Now that in excess of ten releases have been issued since 2016, there is a noted singularity of approach displayed across all of her releases, which is an element of consistency that also reminds of much of Atrax Morgue’s discography, despite the two projects sounding decidedly different. Given the sheer volume of material released in the underground these days, it is a difficult proposition to foster an individually recognisable approach and also to maintain an atmosphere of vitality over multiple releases. Yet both of these vinyl editions are equally strong testaments to Himukalt’s ability to do both with seeming ease.

Cloister Recordings cassette batch 2021

Subklinik – Neuroskizm MC Cloister Recordings 2021

The long-standing death industrial/ death ambient project Subklinik returns with a new four track tape, where the featured material heavily slanted toward a death ambient sound. A constant element found across the tape are the low brooding synth layers which ebb forwards in various atonal patterns. Sonic variation is then provided with windswept textures, muted ritualised beats, lamenting chants, wailing horns and semi-burred dialog samples etc. However, the shortest track Pulverise stands out substantially for the rest with its employment of a rudimentary drum machine beat, which when coupled with angular stabs of sound reminds of the early pivotal phase of SPK. The remaining three tracks then have greater consistency, being expertly crafted and sonically restrained in capturing a tone of creeping dread. An all-round strong tape.

Lust Fist – Forflatning MC Cloister Recordings 2021

Forflatning is the follow up to the debut tape Kropper Uten Mellomrom (reviewed here), which showcases a further five tracks of no-frills but absolutely on point European styled power electronics. The title opening track is a brooding instrumental and features a sample commenting on the current ills of society by referencing “moral starvation”. The following track then edges things up a notch with multi-layered caustic loops and wavering modulations, with the shredded megaphone vocals being semi-buried in the mix. The Birth Of A New Man Regenerated Through Labour opts for a gloomy cinematic edge, and feature the flange processed and over-saturated vocals which were such a standout element of the debut. To then make reference to my review of the debut, it highlighted that tape: ‘deftly balances aggression with a sense of lurking menace’, which is equally applicable here. Yet perhaps there is an elevated attention to sonic detailing as well as tonal variation between each of the tracks on display. Without doubt Lust Fist again strongly impress on their new release.

DAYOFWRATH – And The World Will Perish In Flames MC Cloister Recordings 2021

As I understand it DAYOFWRATH is a new solo project which has risen from the ashes of the defunct Barcelona based ritual ambient/ death industrial project DE·TA·US·TO·AS. Therefore, based on general similarities in sound, this new project can be viewed as a follow on from the earlier project (final DE·TA·US·TO·AS release reviewed here). Four tracks feature on the tape, where the lead off track Voidhanger very much wears its Trepaneringsritualen influence on its sleeve. Heavily pounding ritual percussion drives the track forwards, coupled with gruff invocation-based vocals, while a black metal tremolo riffed guitar line is relegated to the background. A similar tone and instrument construct is featured on Imperfection And Oblivion, but the overt forward drive is paired back slightly to brooding pace. The programmed and almost industrial-techno beat of The Warior’s Pilgrimage functions to give DAYOFWRATH’s sound a more individual slant, and which continues on the final track Death To The World. Here the black metal riffed guitars are brought to the fore and coupled with further pounding rhythmic programming to create an anthemic track with undercurrent of a ritualised rhythmic sway. As an overall comment the driving ritual death industrial mood remains the central focus, and regardless of the obvious influence, the use of the tremolo riffed guitars and programming functions sets DAYOFWRATH apart. For a formal debut this is a very impressive tape.

Human Larvae – Fever Dreams

Human Larvae – Fever Dreams MC Total Black 2021

Thankfully the Covid pandemic has had some benefits, demonstrated by the fact Fever Dreams was recorded in Berlin during lockdown in March, 2020, and now issued a year later on the Berlin based Total Black label. Ten tracks in all make up this album length tape.

Following on from the 2020 tape Methods of Submission II, that earlier release was characterised by overt sonic and thematic nastiness, whereas this new tape notably differs by arcing back to more considered and controlled power electronics compositions of earlier material. This is immediately evident on opening track Childhood Monsters, framed around morosely laboured loops, upfront microtonal contact mic noise, creaking metallic tones and buried dialog samples. Grunting Sweat then leaps into more quintessential power-electronics territory with its queasy two note synth drone, yet the myriad of other atypical and quite unidentifiably looped elements gives it a distinct edge. Black Tentacles arrives as the first vocal lead track, based around a harsh barrage crumbling distortion and wailing sirens, and when the vocals roar into frame, they are seething in their delivery and sonic treatment. The Beast Of The Sea further deviates into experimental spheres, which appears to be a track based around garbled and sonically manipulated vocalisations. And When The End Comes is the final track on Side A, and as soon as the vocals appear they are immediately recognisable as those of Martin Bladh of IRM. Likewise the backtracking track itself functions as a decent approximation of IRM’s later era sound fed through a Human Larvae filter, where IRM’s track Sebastian certainly comes to mind given the use of a ringing piano note here.

Side B brings a further five tracks. The instrumental Visions Of Gomorrha bring a slow churning tonal mass, distant siren wails and basic rhythmic elements, whiled Stained Mattress ups the mood based on the simple construction of urgent mid-paced loops and gruff vocal barrage. Rust Fills Our Lungs forms a loose collection of windblown field recordings and upfront scrabbling metallic tones, and is followed by another vocal lead track Charred Remains Of Her. Here the track is framed around minimalist cinematic melodious drones before a bombarding loop and unhinged vocals bring the sonic violence. Final track Eternal Dreams, Sweet Amber forms a moody instrumental conclusion with dour minimalist synth line and sustained unobtrusive static.

As an overall observation Fever Dreams completely nails what I most appreciate about Human Larvae, given it is hard and harsh when it needs to be, yet also is meticulously structured and composed. Also given the presentation of ten individual tracks, it means a significant amount of sonic territory is explored. Packaging wise the chrome tape is housed in an oversized cardboard box, with four double sided collage and lyrics adorned inserts. Limited to 100 and already long sold out as I understand it. Worth tracking down if you can.

Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain

Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain LP Cloister Recordings 2021

Cryptophasia is an new American/ Russian duo, where the atypical imagery and design of the gatefold artwork, orange/gold vinyl pressing, and the translucent orange outer slip-sleeve provides a strong initial impression of this being different from typical underground fare. Likewise, despite having listen to this LP numerous times, there is an amorphous aspect to its sound and general sonic approach which defies easy genre classification within a broader post-industrial sound.

In general terms the album can be thought of in two sonics halves, where the track World of Illusory leads of Side A, which overall is moody and contemplative and of a sound and style of an earlier 80’s ritual industrial approach. As such vocal chants, filmic drones, organ melodies, muted horns, ritualised clatter, and wonky industrial textures abound, where the pacing is both slow and considered. Female spoken vocals also feature on I’m On The Inside, which are offset by a mid-toned droning loop and slowly repeated three note piano melody. As for the second sonic half, the lead off track on Side B is Word Of Pain and functions to indicate a more focused aggression displayed the back half of the album. Here the mood elevates towards a composed power electronics tone, where the ritual elements are paired back and the harder industrial textures and aggressive male vocals are brought to the fore. Condemn Me is a great example of this blends shuddering textures, queasy distortion, unintelligible dialogue and distant yet urgently yelled ‘megaphone’ vocals. As for the final track The Nightmare is a concluding highlight, which much like the album overall splits its sound between the moody ritual industrial approach with harder, aggressive and nauseating tones.

Although not an overly long album, given its variety of sonic ideas on display World Of Illusory, World Of Pain feels far longer than its relatively short runtime. Clearly rooted in post-industrial spheres, it draws equal influence from early ritual industrial soundscape experimentation as well as more modern power-electronics abrasion. But there is still a large individual streak at play here which makes this stand apart from many of its contemporaries, which is no easy feat within the current post-industrial underground.

Serration – Rites Of Flesh

Serration – Rites Of Flesh LP Cloister Recordings / Total Black 2021

With the mixed formats of releases these days I can’t quite keep up with what is deemed as an ‘album’ or other miscellaneous item. Thus while Rites Of Flesh is Serration’s ninth release, it is self-classified as debut full-length album, so who am I to argue with that? But to talk of recent years, Serration have been building a well-deserved following with their ‘military-industrial complex’ focused take on a heavy electronics sound, meaning this new recording has arrived with anticipation.

As a general observation Rites Of Flesh builds on a recognisable template of the project. So it could be said that rather than flipping the script, here it demonstrates more minor tweaks and refinements to the established approach. This then relates to the detail and general pacing of the tracks and well as dialling down of the overtly aggressive elements. Likewise, with only five tracks featured (the shortest is five minutes, and the longest at ten), it allows each piece to find its brooding pace and explore tone in a controlled and unhurried manner, such as displayed on opening cut War On the Ground. This is followed by an early highlight The Failed Counter Insurgency, with looped Arabic prayer chant set against a swamping tide of thick throbbing synth layers, while later on the distortion drenched vocals take to the fore. The title track also charts a minimal yet menacing furrow, which then steps up into a swirling miasma of mid toned drones and aquatic squelch on Fools Of The Land. The final album track We Kill Your Man take brooding restraint to it logical conclusion, while the hefty distorted vocals pack an impact when they soar over the low toned bass drones, and sustained high-pitched needling element.

In an overarching sense the general mood of Rites Of Flesh is one of controlled restraint, yet maintaining a tensile ambience remaining throughout, while the heavily treated vocals are the most on edge and urgent element on display. Ultimately Rites Of Flesh is an expertly crafted and honed album, and well worthy of its vinyl pressing. So for those focusing only on the past classics of the genre, they are clearly missing the current highlights such as this. Limited to 200 copies on black wax and 100 on white, along with a double sided insert.

Rope Society / Am Not ‎– Диархия

Rope Society / Am Not ‎– Диархия 7”ep Novichok ‎2021

Novichok ‎is a new Australian based label with the chosen name specifically referencing a Soviet developed nerve agent. Clearly this split release has carried on with this general theme, given Am Not’s track is also titled Nerve Agents and the cover features an image of Mikhail Khodorkovsky – exiled Russian businessman and Kremlin critic (although in truth I did not immediately recognise who was on the cover as the image is of a much younger Mikhail, meaning I had to seek assistance in identifying who it was). The interior panel of the cover also features an image of the interior of Salisbury Cathedral, UK which would be a reference to the 2018 novichok poisoning of Sergei Skripal in Salisbury, who is a former Russian military officer and double agent for the British intelligence agencies.

Rope Society leads off Side A with the track Bite The Hand. In noting that Rope Society is a side project to Isomer which was primarily launched to focused on harsher sonics, it is interesting that this track partially arcs back to the sound of an earlier Isomer MCD Nil By Mouth. A Russian dialogue sample and low squelching heavy electronics modulating pulse opens the track, over which a seething distorted vocal is spat and further coupled with smattering of static smears. Space and separation of tonal elements provide a spacious production which is controlled rather than unhinged in mood. Am Not follows on the flipside, and feature a track of composed yet harsh power electronics, based predominantly on an idling machine line tone around which more jagged tonal elements are framed. But where the metered vocal delivery of Tamon is a usual and trademark element of Am Not, they are notably absent here. Instead the vocals are provided courtesy of Shift, and are completely flesh searing in their aggressive intensity, where through further sonic treatment are pushed to a point of being yet another distorted sound layered.

Given the short and sharp format of this 7”ep, both groups deliver a poisonous dual dose on this very commendable release. With a number of split 7”ep’s having already issued on the label, it will be rather interesting to watch how Novichok develops.

Blue Eyes ‎– Verlorene Träume

Blue Eyes ‎– Verlorene Träume MC self-released 2021

Blue Eyes are a previously unknown entity, but whom I believe is a German project, with Verlorene Träume appearing to be their second tape. To then not prejudge this tape on the cover alone, it is worthwhile noting that the title translates to ‘Lost Dreams’, and as such neither the image or title hints at the raw noise blended power electronics attack found on the tape’s three untitled tracks.

The open track blusters into frame with hollow distortion, featuring a modicum of a tune with a bass toned melody siting underneath. But that melodious element is short lived when the track gets down to a lengthy section of brutally load and sonically overblown noise calamity, where vocals are smeared somewhere within the over din. The second cut is even more chaotic, with mid-toned to high pitched noise, unhinged upfront vocals and where rupturing and sporadic pulses of lower end distortion at times give a partial sense of structure in the general forward flow. Yet other segments push a more dynamic approach, where it pulls back on the lower end whilst retaining a higher end sustained whistling noise, before blasting in again with the lower end distortion. With the overall bulk and heft of the sound, the general impression I get from this is a ‘live in studio recording’ where head height speaker stacks have been pushed to their limit and beyond with the generated feedback. Clearly freeform, but also with a sense of pacing and direction, I am also not sure if this is partially improvised.

Based on the overall rawness and overblown tone of the recording, this certainly aligns with the general tone and approach of the Filth & Violence label roster. A simple and no-frills J-card rounds out an equally no-frills and straight to the point tape. If raw power electronics heavily slanted towards brutal overblown noise side of proceedings, this tape delivers in spades.

Streicher ‎– Genius Of Victory

Streicher ‎– Genius Of Victory LP ASRAR 2020

ASRAR’s vinyl reissue campaign of early Streicher material continues, with this being the third LP following Annihilism and Hammerskins. Although Genius Of Victory technically constitutes a new title within the Streicher discography, in actuality it is a compilation collection of three impossible to find early 1990s tapes, including Der Stürmer, Gnadelos, and Oi Terroristen.

Der Stürmer opens the album and is a track demonstrating the basic essence of industrial noise, being framed around coarse monotones and sustained synth static and crumbling textures. Streicher Skins follows with a more militaristic approach that very much embodies the self-described ‘tactical electronics’ descriptor, with upfront incessantly oscillating tones paired with a looser undercurrent of semi-rhythmic metallic loops. Des Stürmers Kampf differs through its use of a sampled orchestral nationalist militaristic song, before diverging into a bulldozing track of interweaving and pulsing bass tones and sampled crowd chanting; again, simplicity and directness is the order of the day and absolutely succeeds with the end result. Side B brings a further three tracks, where Purimfest 1946 stands out with its high-pitched needling texture offset against a lower-end idling machine tone and further crowd chanting, while the latter half of the track arcs back to another sampled orchestral nationalist militaristic song. While the crude and basic sonics of Boot Party retains the consistent ‘tactical electronics’ approach, this is coupled with the trademark gruff ‘skinhead thug’-style vocals of Ulex that makes Streicher so immediately recognisable. This approach also follows on final track Skragkraft,but is more sonically consistent with Streicher Skins given its framing around invasive high-pitched modulating tones against a shifting tide-scrabbling lower bass static, while Ulex spits gravelly vocals referencing “skinhead survival”.

Given the focus of the featured tracks, there is a singularity of approach which provides a surprising directness and immediacy that hangs together excellently as a standalone full length, rather than potentially being a disjointed compilation collection. The white vinyl pressing is of a thick 180g weight, as is the chosen card stock of the cover; this and a double-sided insert including reproductions of the original cassette artwork does this release suitable justice.

Sadio – Copycat Killer

Sadio – Copycat Killer MC Freak Animal Records 2020

When I first noted the title of this new Sadio release, it did not immediately click that it was a clever reference to the fact that this tape consists of cover tracks of the following legendary power electronics projects: Final Solution, Con-Dom, Intrinsic Action, Whitehouse, Grey Wolves, Atrax Morgue, Genocide Organ, and Taint. As Sadio is concerned with a sound and themes slanted towards the nastier end of power electronics, the chosen selection very much reflects this.

With the wide scope of sound of projects covered herein, it is noteworthy that the covers are faithful to the originals, and clearly recognisable as specific cover songs. Yet they also contain the particular sonic hallmarks of Sadio material; in this context the Finnish accent on the vocals certainly gives these covers a distinct Sadio slant. To talk specifics, the driving noise, backing loops, slow pounding beat, and ranted vocals of the cover of Con-Dom’s Moor Rapist hits its mark perfectly, while the covers of a Sutcliffe Jugend (Right to Kill) Whitehouse track (Tit Pulp) elevate the harsh needling and higher range ‘whistling’ sonics of the originals. Elsewhere the shuddering and crumbling loops of the cover of Grey Wolves’ Dominate Her features an aquatic squelch coupled with excellent heavily processed vocals. The cover of Dogday by Genocide Organ equally hits its mark with its militant bulldozing distortion and urgent and angst-filled vocals that are themselves heavily processed.

In the hands of lesser acts this sort of cover album concept would likely have fallen flat in hitting its intended mark. But in the hands of Sadio, it is completely successful in terms of concept, its varied track selection, and its final sonic execution. The packaging is a simple black and white J-card, featuring hand-scrawled text from a letter of David Richard Berkowitz aka Son of Sam (the text relating to the Genocide Organ track Dogday), and sketches by the lesser known suspected serial killer G.J. Schaefer (as documented in the long out of print book Killer Fiction).

Grunt – Spiritual Eugenics

Grunt – Spiritual Eugenics 2CD Freak Animal Records 2020

Following 2009’s sprawling album Petturien Rooli, Grunt slightly reoriented their approach to issue a series of albums based on distinct and individual tracks, including World Draped In A Camouflage (2012), Myth Of Blood (2015), and Castrate the Illusionist (2018). Spiritual Eugenics continues that approach, yet the number of tracks has increased to a length which here spans two 40-minute discs. Interestingly the CD cover lists the 20 tracks in four groups of five tracks, which replicates the track order as presented over the four sides of the 2xLP edition. Given that all tracks could have potentially been squeezed onto the one CD, this speaks volumes about the chosen physical presentation and the way the listener is expected to engage with the presented material.

In taking in the substantial volume of material here, Mikko Aspa yet again demonstrates beyond all question that he is a master craftsman when it comes to the production of power electronics, noise, and industrial-related material. Across the tracks the sound palette is forever varied, and despite its outwardly aggressive and angst-fuelled atmosphere, there are moments of more experimental and sonically spacious respite. Clearly every sonic element is focused and considered, and composition is key here. While base sonics may have been derived from various separate improvisational recording sessions, it is clear they have been specifically selected and combined to gain the end result. As perhaps expected, a myriad of sonics are presented including blustering bass tones, scrap metal abuse, granular noise, morse code distortion, wavering oscillations, looped metallic rhythms, and smattering of samples. The vocals are equally varied in sound treatment and delivery, ranging from deep bellows to angst-fuelled cries.

Lubricant Of The Rebirth stands out with its central conveyor belt loop, further fleshed out with thick droning bass, choir samples, and angst-ridden vocals. The instrumental Tehotuotettu Ihminenis notable for its hollowed-out sound which nudges Grunt’s sound towards the experimental end. Another instrumental track JOB 36:33 blends almost organ-like melodious drones with spitting static and clashing metallic noise, which can be considered in the context of the relevant bible quote: ‘The thunder announces his presence; the storm announces his indignant anger’. The opening track on second disc Inside the Walls is an excellent anxiety-inducing offering, framed around screeching metallic textures, raw junk metal tones, sustained bass drones, and aggressively spat vocals. For yet more variation the slow off-kilter loop of Eight O’Clock has a quite traditional European power electronics tone, with vocals and other flanged elements pushed into the background. Flesh Engine is also notable for its squelched idling loop, general scrap metal clatter, and unhinged shrieking vocals. Immeasurable also stands out by virtue of its fast-paced pulsing undercurrent, over which more unhinged noise is smeared.

To briefly mention the equally stunning physical presentation, this features a multi-panel digipack (including separate eight-panel booklet), pressed into thick matt card stock and containing various collages and artworks, which although uncredited are also from the hands of Mikko Aspa. Spiritual Eugenics is yet another excellent and mandatory album from Grunt, which is also available in a 2LP vinyl edition.