Heretic Grail – A World Without Order

Heretic Grail – A World Without Order MC Total Black 2021

Here we have a project that has been rather active in the last few years, but which is also couched in a reasonable amount of obscurity. Having then only been able to track down a couple of their releases to date, A World Without Order is the latest three tracks tape (billed as a ‘demo’), which delivers a bludgeoning and no-frills power electronics attack.

In quickly getting to the point the tape reveals static fried dive-bombing distortion is coupled with muted synth lines, squelching electronics and a caustic vocal barrage. This combined into relatively simple structures, but which are also delivered with control and intent. Likewise, with melodious oscillations providing for song-oriented structures, these are balanced with static and noise to provide an unhinged edge to match the intensity of the distortion-drenched vocals which are unintelligibly strained in their delivery.

With three short discrete tracks (two on side A and one on Side B), A World Without Order whets the appetite but is not long enough to properly satisfy hunger. Regardless, this is a tasty morsel for the time it sticks around.

H.C.O.D. – Instruments Of Destiny

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.

Metadevice – Turba

Metadevice – Turba CD New Approach Records 2021

Following the disbandment in the mid-2010’s of the highly respected Portuguese industrial group Sektor304, former member André Coelho has since busied himself with other projects, with Beyond Enclosure and Metadevice being the most visible by virtue of being released on Malignant Records. Metadevice is the newest project, with Turba being the third album since 2020.

In a general sense, Metadevice are concerned with a sound rooted in a rhythmically pummelling and broadly ‘industrial’ style, but has also incorporating wider aspects of dark ambient, death industrial and power electronics. Additionally, on selected tracks more unusual elements are introduced such as twilight-noir atmospheres, as well as battered and overblown electronica. Sonically speaking the fizzing static and harshly brooding soundscapes are further inflected with a percussive rhythmic drive, which perhaps obviously give a nod to Sektor304. Also, despite my assumption that Turba is mostly constructed with programmed equipment and studio trickery, there is still a thread of a band format rather than a straight studio project, given the use of occasional low-slung guitars, metallic percussive tones, and the general vocal approach. To further mention the vocals, they differ from earlier albums here being courtesy of collaborator Rui Almeida, and are notable as they are delivered in both Portuguese and English, and range from spoken word narrative to a more urgent half-sung style. Over Turba’s ten tracks span an hour’s playtime substantial sonic territory and harsh atmospheric spaces are covered, and while each track functions as a stand-alone composition, equally they strongly solidify as a collective album whole. To perhaps to speak of one misstep, the frenetic soloed guitar on Vectores Miragens sounds rather out of place with the balance of the album. But equally, on a more positive note, it is interesting to realise that on more than a few occasions Turba begs a comparison to the ‘power industrial electronics’ approach of Stratvm Terror, which is a stylistic approach infrequently emulated.

Packaging-wise, the CD is housed in an 8-panel digi-sleeve making a strong feature of the striking artwork, noted to also be from the hands of André Coelho. With the painting featuring an amorphous assemblage of faces, it thematically reflects the album’s concept, being: “about collective alienation, raving individualism and a deep dive into the hyperreality of our modern times”. In all aspects of sonics and visuals, Turba is very much worthy of attention.

Two 7″ doses of Novichok

The pace of releases issued on the new Australia Novichok label continues, noting that six 7”ep have been issued in 2021 already. Following below are reviews of two ep’s from the latest batch, with both issued in an edition of 150.

Krang Music / Browning Mummery – How I Want To …. Ronald Reagan (Extract) / Lament For Comrade Time 7”ep Novichok 2021

This 7”ep functions as a tribute to the late Australian percussionist and underground experimentalist John Murphy. The first side features a short excerpt of a longer work from John’s long-running Krang Music project, originally recorded and released in 1981. Being of a raw noise-industrial style, the tone sits at the mid to higher ranges, with a windswept and washes out lower end. Sonically it is an immediate headlong dive into sustained layered noise with a solid dose of industrial grit. With little in the way of tonal variation, it is a short but sweet homage to John’s early industrial experimentation.

Australian stalwart Browning Mummery (aka Andy Lonsdale) takes up the flip side, and is sonically completely different, and features the inputs of John’s wife Annie Stubbs (vocals) and further contributions from Julian Percy and Rob Cumings. Being far more song-oriented than Side A, Lament For Comrade Time it is perhaps most reminiscent of a 1980’s experimental industrial type. Framed around a loose bass line, mid-paced minimalist programmed beat, and smatterings of abstracted sounds, it is then strongly characterised by the lamenting but almost jazz-inflected vocals of Annie. Divergently engaging.

 

Psychward / Concentration – Morbid Paralysis / Deathmarch 7”ep Novichok 2021

Psychward, the solo project of Australian Thomas Miller leads off the split with Morbid Paralysis. Here it features tightly wound coils of charred noise and spitting static, which are framed around a central queasy oscillating tone. Ripping junk metal clatter and scrappy noise sonics add variety to the noise-industrial soundscape, while the overall feel is one of laborious control rather than psychotically unhinged. With the track abruptly cutting off rather than fading out, it concludes a short but very on-point track.

From what little information I can glean on Concentration, it is a new noise-industrial meets power electronics project of another Australian Larissa Kunst. On Deathmarch it features distortion which resembles distant thunderclaps, low bass rumble and a stilted death industrial-like pulse which acts as a backing to a (sampled?) poetic spoken voice. Yet that vocal element is smeared with just enough distortion so as to be difficult if not impossible to interpret, while late track further noise layers and metallic clangs give a slightly more chaotic edge. With a lo-fi and no-frills approach, it is a solid introduction to this project.

Various Artists – Terässinfonia Vol. 1 / Terässinfonia Vol.2

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.

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.