Zyklon SS – Racial Superiority

Zyklon SS – Racial Superiority LP Viva Angel Press 2019

After numerous releases since the debut cassette in 2014 (including: various tapes + CD reissues, a further live CD, a DVD, 7”ep and 10” ep), Racial Superiority is billed as the formal debut album from the project. To then make mention of the ZSS’s previously self-described ‘war against moral remediation’, the fact this is issued on a label from China functions to up the stakes and amplify the confusion around what is the actual meaning and message of the project, particularly when taken context of its title. This situation is then further reinforced by the statement on the back cover which notes: ‘wielded in faith, illusion is the ultimate weapon’.

From the liner notes, the material which forms the eight tracks of the album were recorded and assembled over ten years spanning 2008 to 2018, which technically speaking the earlier years predate the first release from the project. But sonically this sit squarely within the ongoing evolution of the project’s sound, where it displays a further reduction of the raw noise and increase of the structured and brooding industrial elements. Thus with the incessantly oscillating noise and slowly grinding loops, the prevalent atmosphere of this album is one of laboured and morose stasis, and quite noticeably only five tracks featuring the morbid toned phaser/ flanged vocals.

On Side A, the admittedly excellent vocals are sparing used and only feature on one track, given two tracks are instrumental, while a fourth Ascension Cycle then utilises a prominent looped sample of the Lord’s Prayer atop cavernous rumbling loops and ominous industrial soundscape backing. Given the use of controlled restraint, it is not until the end of Side B when the mood shifts towards blood boiling intensity, with the final two tracks providing suitable tension release. We Belong To The Lord  brings the goods with a mid-paced waivering drone and ominously pounding beat, as the brutal and antagonistic processed vocals rip through the centre of the mix. Bullets Of Flesh rounds out the album a steps up another notch with a forceful and militant beat, and incessant industrial drones, while the phaser treated vocals generate a clear anthemic quality.

In a general sense the atmosphere feels perhaps overly subdued on initial listens, but on repeated listens gives ways to a mood of controlled tension created through careful restraint. But when played at suitably high volume the massively seething bass layers add a solid sonic punch. Thematically the album appears to be mostly focused on religion, belief and fanaticism, while the overall mood and feel of the album draws a clear parallel to Genocide Organ’s The Truth Will Make Your Free album from 1999, which itself was a clear exercise in control and restraint, as is mirrored here. Limited to only 100 copies, this was promptly sold out, so will no doubt be highly sought after, but don’t despair as it would seem that a CD reissue on Freak Animal is already planned.

 

 

 

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S.T.A.B. Electronics – Enemy OF Pigs

S.T.A.B. Electronics – Enemy OF Pigs LP Unrest Productions 2019

Is it really four years since the last S.T.A.B. Electronics was issued in 2015? I guess that is the truth of it, but it certainly feels it was only a couple of years ago at most. Ah, how time flies. Anyway, here is the new brutal power electronics offering from this UK project, and in pulling no punches Enemy Of Pigs is without question an aggressive aural attack. But also in truth this was perhaps was to be expected.

Given its relatively straight forward and no-frills power electronics approach, each of the seven tracks are structured around a number of blended sonic layers, broadly consisting of looped/ mid-toned harsh distortion, industrial strength/ noise infused drones and smatterings of dialogue samples. In also acknowledging the project’s trademark and standout vocals, these are again present in their white knuckled profanity laden rage, where lyrical focus spans both social commentary on matters such as identify politics, as well as those tracks of clear personal catharsis. Yet it is pleasing that tonal variation has been employed in the way which the vocals have been treated, processed, mixed and layered, meaning they are far from one dimensional in approach.

To speak of specific tracks, album opener High Infant Mortality features a Jim Jones ‘drink the kool-aid’ related sample, which itself has been looped and repeats throughout a track of shuddering bass heavy noise and vocals which are smeared with distortion across the mix. The following track Slug then ups the brutality with churning static and vocals which barely contain their spite and rage. Her Dead Eyes is another visceral standout based on the hard and nails sonics, as well as the delivery of and thematic focus of the vocals. Likewise, the cascading looped distortion and quivering noise Sic Semper Tyranis provides the backing for another vocal barrage, which themselves have been pitched and slowed for added impact.

If you have heard earlier material from S.T.A.B. Electronics you are going to know what to expect here. Yet even with that said there is a noticeable refinement and control in the way in which these tracks have been constructed, layered and mixed, making for yet another storming addition to the S.T.A.B. discography. Issued in limited editions on vinyl and cassette.

Slogun – Nothing. Ever.

Slogun – Nothing. Ever. CD Old Captain 2019

The long standing Slogun returns in 2019 with a new album which incidentally is the 19th full length* issued since the mid 1990’s (* – excluding splits and collaboration albums). With solo member John Balistreri being active under the Slogun banner for 23 years now, the sound of the project has always been defined by and is immediately recognisable for his New York drawl and bile fuelled misanthropic rants. In that regard some things remain the same, as the vocals again play a core and central role, while the thematic preoccupations are neatly wrapped up in the album tag-line of: ‘Nothing you do will ever matter. Nothing. Ever’.

On the sonic front, it is apparent just how far the sound has elevated out of a harsh free-form noise style which was prevalent in the early days of the project, but which over recent albums has been gradually moving towards greater structural and refinement. Accordingly, Nothing. Ever. spans 11 tracks and 48 minutes, where creaking metallic textures, field-recording based loops, buzzing static, digital pulses, sustained drones etc. characterise the sonic framework. But rather than built a harsh wall of sonics, clear space and separation is employed in the mix, which gives each element room to breathe. Likewise the mood is controlled in tone and tensile in atmosphere, without being overtly aggressive or punishing. This then allows the centrally prominent and delay treated vocals to amplify a more overtly attacking and antagonistic mood. To speak of the vocals, these are are hard as ever in their aggressive and strained delivery, where it is also quite a monumental effort on John’s behalf to keep delivering rock solid, psychoanalytical tinged but street level focused rants without running out of either steam or thematic ideas.

With relatively compact and to the point tracks, the albums moves through at a brisk pace, which functions to maintain interest given the differing sonic compositions between each track. Clearly Nothing. Ever. this is still power electronics and industrial noise at its core, but when comparing this to much earlier output from Slogun it absolutely underlines how much emphasis has been placed on the meticulous structuring of the sonics into distinct and individual tracks. Consequently Nothing. Ever. manages to both sate expectations and surprise in equal measures, resulting in a very enjoyable album.

Institution D.O.L. – Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World

Institution D.O.L. – Our Love Can Destroy This Whole Fucking World CD TORM Ent. 2019

Three years on from 2016’s Exzess (reviewed here), Institution D.O.L. have returned with a new album and which features a title previously utilised as a manifesto tag line on the last release. To then mention some early pre-release promotion, I remember reading that this would be the final album from the project, but I am also not sure on the current validity of that statement. But onward with the review.

In wasting no time, Invocation blasts forth from the speakers with loud and digitally crisp industrial textures, which are counterpointed by (sampled?) religious choirs and chants and dour organ melody. Throbbing oscillations then characterizes We Are The Black Ones, mixed with a decent dose of echo and raw junk metal crunch and shattering glass, while processed vocals and samples of crowd riots and gunfire ratchet up tension. Structured around mechanized loops and sharp spitting textures You Are All Lost, these tones bleed into the following Abschlachtung, but which is differentiated by deep melancholic sub-orchestral synth pads which underscores the majority of the track. Absolute Hell delivers more heady power electronics, which sonically spans the both rough and clean sonic textures, yet the latter half deviates completely though the use of a tragic toned piano line, which is offset with an evangelical preacher sample. In Dust and Death is by far the most rhythmic track on offer, but it is of a crude and simplistic style and not at all of a dance floor ‘rhythmic industrial’ type, while the title track rounds out the album and is the longest offering by far at twelve minutes. The first segment features brooding overblown noise and cavernous echo, but by the two minute mark the piece opens out into widescreen cinematic tones synths and from the five minute mark shifts to a beautifully melancholic piano melody which extends through to the end of the album (with only subtle noise sweeping and panning in the background). Perhaps the only slight drawback of this track are the vocals, where the emotional overwrought style of delivery detracts from the overall mood, although I am clearly missing the meaning of the words as they are being spoken in Austrian.

As with earlier albums the production sound is top notch but at only 37 minutes this is a very short and to the point album. But even so, it crams a wide variety of styles and sounds into the mix, while still managing to sound as a cohesive whole. Certainly being a solid album, if you have liked prior output of Institution D.O.L, you would no-doubt like this.

Am Not – Incursions

Am Not – Incursions MC Zaetraom 2018

Tamon Miyakita’s project Am Not is very much a current ‘leading light’ in the underground. With a sound built upon an established bedrock of the post-industrial scene, Am Not have also developed a highly recognisable approach within a heavy electronics/ power electronics/ noise industrial style. In then noting that the key releases from the project being able to be counted on a single hand, Am Not’s discography is already extremely focused, meaning the project is yet to disappoint. This new release continues this established modus operandi, and pleasingly contains an album’s length of new material (approx. 40 minutes).

The tape opens with the track Into Hostile Space and features an archival sample of George Bush Jnr, which in today’s context is far more interesting given the current US political climate. Musically speaking it features all the hallmarks of the best elements of project, where roughly hewn metallic tones are offset against crushing loud and sonically thick loops and mid-toned tensile drones, as the heavily process vocal barrage rounds out a storming opening track. But in moving away from a now recognisable sound Am Not, Incursions is noteworthy for its willingness to experiment and push into uncharted territory. Once such example is Feindes Land with its initial blending of neo-classical and dialogue sampling, which quickly gives way to a swaying, electronica tinged industrial track, completed with spoken vocals courtesy of Hermann Kopp. As for another significantly deviating track, Auf Wiedersehen, Pet could perhaps be playfully described as an unnamed Soviet era project trying to emulate Kraftwerk! Continental Drift III is also sonically differentiated from the rest by the fact of how subdued it is, and is framed around deep sub-orchestral drones, passive echo treated junk metal sounds and spoken Russian female vocals. Elsewhere a perhaps more ‘typical’ highly composed power/heavy electronics sound of the project is employed (i.e. top notch), but one striking example is Irruption where the rabidly intense vocals are immediately recognisable as that of S.T.A.B. Electronics.

Thematically speaking prominent dialogue samples are strongly represented, while guest vocals are employed and feature on a number tracks, where I was later informed that Tamon’s (English) lyrics on the opening track are repeated in different languages on three other tracks (including: German, Gaelic, and Russian), thereby subverting its meaning and message from a singular perspective. Thus, apart from the outstanding strength of the music featured on Incursions, part of the enjoyment of engaging with a release such as this is carefully listening, picking apart and interpreting both samples and lyrics (where detectable). To that end at a most simplistic level the thematic preoccupations of Incursions could be interpreted as a multifaceted analysis of nationhood, identity, sovereignty and associated political influence in a globalised context which has emerged following the Cold War (but as always there are likely to be elements I have perhaps either misinterpreted or otherwise completely missed). Seemingly not short on sonic or conceptual ideas, Am Not are going from strength to strength, where Incursions is yet another mandatory release.

Sutcliffe Jugend – The Hunger

Sutcliffe Jugend – The Hunger 2xCD Death Continues 2018

Over the past twelve years Sutcliffe Jugend – the duo of Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor – have been rather productive and issued 20 releases in that time-frame. Specifically 2006 appears to be the particular point in time when the project was reactivated, following a five year gap from 1999’s viscerally direct The Victim As Beauty album, while also shifting towards wider sonic experimentation. Although today’s version Sutcliffe Jugend is a very different beast from the sonic brutality issued during the initial 1980’s phase, they have remained a power electronics act at heart and in overall attitude. But in forging new paths by dialing down on the all-out sonic assault and seeking out far more diverse sonic treatments and stylistic experimentation, this approach is in full display on this sprawling double CD.

On the early album track The Mute Shall Speak, the crisp digital noise squalls is perhaps partially reminiscent of later era Whitehouse, while Sehnusucht features a stuttering fast paced rhythmic programming coupled with jagged digital shards stabbing at the ears from the background. This track is also noteworthy as it demonstrates the vocals of Kevin Tomkins being in a strong trademark style, which are delivered in a drawling semi whispered rant which on occasion steps up to being half sung and half screamed. Lyrically the album is noted to be densely rendered, which have a particular psychoanalytical bent in various description of the power dynamic in personal relationships; first person internalised dialogue; and at times ‘stream of conciseness’ narration. Yet Cause comes as the first major surprise by featuring a ‘doom jazz’ sound of minimalist piano and double bass (and consequently wholly reminiscent of Bohren & Der House of Gore), yet further augmented with spoken vocals and swathes of minimalist backing distortion. But not to stop there, the sonic surprises just keep on coming, where Crushed delivers pump organ, synth drones, sparse xylophone and meditative spoken vocals, and Unashamed with its quirky programmed electronica. From there the rest of the first CD deviates through musique concrète (Dissonance); maudlin piano melody and abstracted strings (Angels Flying Into The Burning Gates of Hell); emotive sub-orchestral drones (A Room Full of Knives and Eulogy); while the closing track The Pain Will Take Everything Away is a doom drone oriented work with treated ethereal female vocals and moody bowed cello etc.

The second CD delivers a further ten tracks spanning an hour which builds upon the wide frame of experimentation of the first disc. The Lost is built around misfiring digital noise and a rabid vocal attack, but is quickly offset by the moody and contemplative Authors Note of sonically over-processed synth line. Blindfold charts more abstracted sounds and half formed melodies which at times verges on musique concrète, while the loose guitars of Dancehall Etiquette evokes the sound of noise rock (minus drums). Perhaps the only major misstep of the entire two CD set is All I have Forgotten, which sounds to be based on improvised abstracted piano and accompany cello, but sonically the tinkling piano awkwardly jars the prevailing album atmosphere. As for the title track, this arrives as a 15 minute monster of sprawling yet tensile shifting bass drones sub-orchestral elements, as the spoken vocals gradually ramp up in aggression to match the upward trajectory of the choppy and chaotic digital noise. As for the final album cut My Crumbling Walls, it is an instrumental offering it is quite cinematically toned with its building string orchestral elements, which build and recede in intensity.

Apart from the 2xCD version, there is a special bonus third digital album, recorded at the same time at The Hunger. Featuring 6 tracks across 50 minutes, this bonus album is limited to 100 by virtue of only being available via plastic business card sized plastic download card. On a whole the bonus album is more subdued overall, by broadly opting for a series of tensile sub-orchestral droning tracks, where vocals do not rise above a narrative whisper.

Given that 2016’s Offal and 2017’s Shame (reviewed here) were albums with a more singular sound and musical vision, The Hunger stands out by the sheer diversity displayed, and consequently is a far stronger album for it. Likewise, while unhinged aggression is an underpinning element of The Hunger, this is more a case of being implied through tonal tension and lyrical phrasing, rather than actual sonic execution. As an album issued so far into Sutcliffe Jugend’s extensive discography, The Hunger is an extremely well executed and sonically diverse collection of tracks, where it seems there is no shortage of musical and lyrical ideas, nor any sense of slowing down from the Sutcliffe Jugend camp. Recommended.

Pterygium – Concealing The Past

Pterygium – Concealing The Past CD Tesco Organisation 2018

The relatively new Australian project Pterygium have returned with their second full length album Concealing The Past, which follows the 2017 debut Grip (issued on a small cassette run on Algebra Of Need and reviewed here). Also of note, Pteryrium had a track on Tesco Organisation’s 2017 Projekt Neue Ordnung II 4xLP boxset, where Tesco has now subsequently issued this new and admittedly excellent sophomore album.

In noting the dual sonic approach of Grip, which blended minimalistic melodic tones with sharper distortion squalls, that approach has been both repeated and further honed here where the tonal range has been further refined and sonic depth amplified. As an album Concealing The Past is structured around nine distinct and individual pieces of between three and seven minutes each, which on the most part follow an understated melodic and minor keyed compositional framework. Being effectively an instrumental album, a variety of discreet sampled ethnic/ religious framed vocals provides an ethereal touch, as does the melancholic elements (such as piano lines, neo-orchestral strings etc.), which evokes a detached yet strongly emotive resonance (such as is immaculately displayed on A Vacant Regret). Yet there is still a willingness to let loose on select with heavy menacing drones and higher-toned noise squalls such as displayed on Entry_Exitpoint which has a raw tonal sharpness which perhaps is indicative of a live in studio recording technique. A pair of late album tracks (Siphon Like Parasites & And Love Became A One Way Street) both balance on a knifes edge between the dual sonic approaches, on the one side featuring crude distortion blasts and choppy loops, which on the other are offset against bass addled drones and swelling sub-orchestral melodies.

Thematically Concealing The Past clearly fits within the broader post-industrial network, but to its credit does not sound in any way typical or derivative of a particular sub-genre. Rather, it draws extensively from various elements to create its own internalized sound and logic and is all the stronger for it, but for comparative sake the multi-faceted sound displayed by Prurient on Frozen Niagara Falls is perhaps a reasonable reference point.

Although some people continue to complain that the post-industrial music is broadly redundant for lack of new ideas and approaches, and further accuse newer projects of being mere copyists of the originators, Pterygium is the effective antithesis of that opinion. Solo member Henry Gillet clearly understands the underground scene Pterygium operates within, but armed with a wealth of musical ideas he has creates a strong and individual sound which sidesteps being in any way derivative of genre confines of noise, industrial, dark ambient and power electronics. If the current and next generation of projects can match the creativity displayed on Concealing The Past, there is still much new ground to be explored and much to look forward to and be celebrated. A resounding recommendation from these quarters.