Am Not – Auto

Am Not – Auto 7”ep Ant-Zen, Raubbau 2021

As an initial observation, the clean and refined power electronics approach of Am Not clearly lends itself to the established sound of Ant-Zen, so clearly makes for a positive pairing of project and label. Also, although Ant-Zen in recent years stopped producing physical media for main releases, they have however instead been issuing special short-run art editions of selected releases such as this. This white 7”ep is limited to a mere 100 copies and exquisitely presented with printing on acrylic glass, and with the vinyl and inserts housed in an electrostatic bag, further affixed with a special release sticker.

The Side A track Autopoa Now quickly establishes itself with a throbbing invasive drone and stilled beat framework, over which the slightly treated vocals of Tamon are urgently delivered, and with other layered textures added for good measure. Bioluminesence takes up the flip side, and is far more brooding in its atmospheric approach. Cinematic tension abounds, as melodious drones and mid-paced programming keeps a focused drive, while the treated vocals are mostly relegated to another tonal element.

With a mere 9 minutes of music, this is a short and sharp release, but sonically on point for Am Not’s composed and controlled approach. The special art packaging is simply the perfect icing on the cake.

Dead Boomers – Aspen Liberals

Dead Boomers – Aspen Liberals CD Cipher Productions 2022

Dead Boomers – an Australian duo of Leith Thomas and Mark Groves – may be (‘cough’) dead, but Aspen Liberals functions as a compilation to collect together a selection of material from 2015-2020. This includes previously released tracks and others issued for the first time here. But prior to getting into the details of the release, to my mind, Dead Boomers always had a uniquely Australian edge. With the snide slang of the project’s chosen name (which incidentally pre-dates the ‘OK Boomer’ phrase by a decade), thematically the project has then been concerned with localised societal themes which sardonically address: the housing market; financial/banking systems; the wealthy upper-class; the ruling conservative political party (the ‘Liberals’); and the broader societal influence and interests of the ‘baby boomer’ generation. It is this approach I have found strongly satisfying, which contained serious observations and on occasion humorously deadpan commentary, which is far removed from more typical themes within the post-industrial underground.

As a general observation the overt and unhinged aggression of some of the earlier output (such as strongly displayed on the debut album The Pig In the Python), has been dialed down a few notches. This then functions to put the controlled method of sonic composition clearly on display. Despite the material on Aspen Liberals being culled from numerous recording sessions, it hangs together surprisingly well and spans a number of composed power electronics cuts, and a larger number of subdued, experimental spoken word and post-industrial soundscapes. With regard to the power electronics focus, Half Windsor and Escorted from the Building are both anthemic standouts with their rhythmic fist-pumping pulse, scrabbling scrap metal noise, and raw spat vocals. A Gentle Occasion is also of a power electronics frame of reference and uses simplistic structures of maximum effect, with a mid-paced pulse, minimalist noise and gruff bellowed voice. Yet in opposition to these focused tracks, other cuts like Afternoon Film Club focus on post-industrial soundscapes of rumble and echo, while the deadpan spoken vocals provide a detached observational commentary. The spoken word and almost musique concrete backing of Annual Rite perhaps leans towards some of Mark’s separate recorded works, while Place of the Pink Seashells has a tensile creeping atmosphere based around sustained drones and (perhaps?) atonal piano note. The album is rounded out with the monolithic 28-minute title track, which charts numerous segments across its span, including: unhinged clawing distortion; tensile drones; sparse experimental soundscapes; processed field recordings; spoken word narrative, and media reporting sampling.

The full-colour dig-pack and printed booklet functions to further illustrate the atypical approach of Dead Boomers within the underground, while full lyrics and notes on the meaning behind the title are included for suitable context. Given Aspen Liberals appears to be a swansong release, it is an excellent final document of the later era of the project and absolutely worthy of your attention even if you have not checked out Dead Boomers earlier.

Totenrune / Sarin Snow – श्रवो अक्षितम् / Κλέος Άφθιτον

Totenrune / Sarin Snow – श्रवो अक्षितम् / Κλέος Άφθιτον 7”ep Novichok 2022

Here is a quick dose of Novichok poison, being another split 7″ep in the ongoing series. This release sees the Australian Totenrune paired with the American Sarin Snow, who have each sought to thematically focus on a warrior archetype derived from the ancient world.

Totenrune leads off with an instrumental track based around muted buzzing oscillations which are partially buried under multitudes of raw metallic textures and general static fizz. Being consistently seething and edging towards the chaotic, the layering still remains paced and controlled, while equally infused with a distant and hollow tone. Despite the general bulk and heft of the track’s layering, the end result is far less brute force than other material I heard from Totenrune, here achieving imposing industrial noise result. Sarin Snow then takes up the flip side, which is immediately characterised by a queasy and swaying synth line, further blended with sparse and echoed metallic clatter, faint rhythmic pulse, tensile drone, and numerous other crumbling textures. The ominous vocals feature as another layer of distortion smear, and while being unintelligible, all the same they give the strong impression of being a harbinger of doom.

With both tracks focusing on generally controlled and contemplative atmospheres, each project duly impresses on this short split, and again commendably demonstrates the strength of Novichok’s label vision. Double-sided, pro-printed sleeve and insert rounds out the presentation.

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.