Linekraft – Subhuman Principle

Linekraft – Subhuman Principle LP Tesco Organisation 2019

Over recent years I have heard a number of Linekraft albums, all of them solid and punishing in a freeform scrap metal abuse / noise industrial sort of way. While I have certainly enjoyed those albums, I have also stopped short of becoming an obsessive listener. Now Subhuman Principle has changed that, because this new album has twisted the known Linekraft sound into a much more focused power electronics frame of reference, and the results are simple amazing.

Eight tracks feature in all. Spitting pulsing synths, mangled sampled voices, and a rough industrial ‘beat’ open the album with Archaic. But just as it gets going, the track concludes in little over a minute, which leaves me wanting A LOT more and feels like a misfired opening shot. No Loss in Weeding Out fixes that and charts a slow building sound of wavering synths and crowd chatter/chanting, before surging forward with interweaving atonal synth lines and flourishes of junk percussion and flanger-smeared vocals. A similar sound and approach is showcased on Hunger which runs a knife’s edge between controlled and chaotic – a description that could be applied to much of the album. In essence, there is a strong compositional basis on display here, constructed around shuddering bass, looped conveyer belt rhythms, divebombing atonal synths etc., over which are overlaid more chaotic tonal bursts, shredded processed vocals, documentary samples, and sections of scrap metal abuse. Stand Alone is a late album standout with its strong pulsing rhythmic beat and urgent wavering synth textures, and is reminiscent of mid-era Genocide Organ if any sort of indication of quality was needed.

Thematically and visually the album is concerned with the Khmer Rouge regime (the Communist Party of Kampuchea – aka Cambodia). The title is partially explained by a fragment of the promo blurb: ‘Controlling the people is to kill their bodies and spirits. Human beings are animals. They can’t form a perfect social group. Music presented here is a soundtrack for “subhumans” who starts to act by oneself’. The visuals reinforce the horrendous human toll of the more than a million people who died during the Khmer Rouge’s rule from 1975 to 1979. Sonically and thematically, this is another essential album from Tesco Organisation HQ.

Himukalt – Vulgar

Himukalt – Vulgar CD Found Remains 2020

By way of background, in 2018 Found Remains released Himukalt’s fifth release, Come October, on cassette in a limited run of 100 (reviewed here), and a year later reissued it on CD. In 2020, Found Remains have turned their attention to another earlier Himukalt release for the reissue treatment: fourth cassette, Vulgar, which was originally released in 2018 via No Rent Records. For this version, two bonus tracks have been added to the original eight tracks, and remastered by Grant Richardson (Gnawed), which makes for an extremely impactful result balancing sonic clarity with ample tonal filth.

Although this is one of the early releases from Himukalt, it is intriguing that the project appeared ‘fully formed’ in 2016 and – rather than showing ‘improvement’ or ‘refinement’ over subsequent releases – it has been more of a case of variations on a composed, razor-sharp approach to industrial noise / power electronics. This is very much the case with Vulgar. The eight original tracks are broadly framed around erupting fissures of analogue muck, pulsing atonal synth textures, roughly oscillating ‘conveyor belt’ loops, and misfiring drum machine ‘beats’. Such elements have then been hewn into a selection of equally brooding yet punishing compositions, where vocals and dialogue samples sporadically break through the sonic muck, yet for the most part are unintelligible or only partly detectable. Of the bonus tracks on the CD, Not In This Body was originally issued on the 2019 Found Remains tape compilation, and is slightly more tonally ferocious than the material that precedes it. Featuring a droning and sonically stalking aesthetic, tension builds before sporadically erupting with pulsing bass hewn malice. The final track Want You To See Me (The Voyeur Tapes #15) is by far the longest track at over 16 minutes – twice as long as the longest track of the main collection. The track unfurls in a traditional pulsing death industrial style, with a consistent bass thumping pulse, while mid-tone drones interweave in a sonically invasive fashion, and become increasingly unhinged as the track proceeds.

The original tape version featured non-existent black artwork, but this reissue comes with a 16-page booklet featuring evocative collage artwork by the artist. The quality of the printing and weight of the card stock is also noteworthy, creating a solid tactile presentation that perfectly suits the fetishization of physical media in an era blighted by the instant gratification of media streaming. The liner notes are also an intriguing addition which provide further detail about both source material and inspiration. Recommended.

Herukrat ‎– Darkness Over Najaf / Junta Cadre ‎– The Red Detachment

Herukrat Darkness Over Najaf LP Total Black 2020

Junta Cadre The Red Detachment MC Total Black 2020

While I have not heard the handful of prior releases from Herukrat, Darkness Over Najaf comes six years after the last album in 2014. It is common practice for the post-industrial underground to play with ambiguity. Yet this is not the modus operandi of Herukrat: the project is used to strongly project Jackson Abdul-Salaam’s own worldview following his conversion to Islam in 2014. The liner notes further explain that the album is concerned with the 2003 US invasion of Iraq, as well as Abdul-Salaam’s personal relationship with Islam.

Blood In The Sand Of Sectarian Nights opens the album with an Islamic call to prayer, before bursts of gunfire that place the listener in the middle of urban guerrilla warfare, with a palpable sense of urgency. Soon after, these field recordings are blended with bristling and seething synth lines, while the angst-filled strained and echo-treated vocals partly remind one of the early works of IRM. Steps of Faith follows, a caustically direct track where a central wailing synth loop provides the structure around which scrap metal abuse and harsh noise are overlaid, and vocals bellowed. The title track rounds out Side A with a fierce and barely structured squalling mass of mid- to high-toned distortion and semi-buried dialogue chatter; the personal proclamations of the vocals are particularly rabid (“My God has saved me”). Al-Adiyat opens Side B and offers clear respite by pulling back on the overt sonic chaos; this is a moody ambient track based on a low drone as a backing to Islamic prayer chanting (although the final moments imply military intervention through a helicopter hovering overhead while US soldiers conduct what sounds like a stop and search operation). God Has Delivered Me arcs back to tensile sonics, here with a buzzing fast-paced oscillating loop and Arabic chatter, prior to the arrival of Jackson’s throat-shredding vocal barrage. The final track is March 20th, 2003 which leave no question as to its preoccupations. Being a soundscape track based around a variety of field recording samples and minimalist drone, it is the intermixing of air raid sirens, missile fire, distant explosions, and Islamic prayer calls that give this a tensile sense of being holed up in a city in Iraq as the US ground invasion is underway.

Both the artwork and text of the cover further flesh out the album’s focus, but even without this visual material a blind listen will illustrate how thematically strong this album is; the sonics are perfectly executed, swinging from fierce and bristling to brooding and understated. The album has been mastered by Grant Richardson and has been issued in an edition of 199 copies, and this has been a very rewarding introduction to the project.

In moving on to Junta Cadre, this is another project of Jackson Abdul-Salaam, but this project differs from Herukrat both sonically and thematically. In terms of theme, The Red Detachment focuses on China’s Communist revolution under the guiding hand of Mao Zedong, aka Chairman Mao, evidently following on from the same theme on the debut tape (which I missed).

With Junta Cadre there is less white-knuckled rage on display, rather a heavy electronics / brooding power electronics approach. This understated tone leaves the burrowing, oscillating, interweaving synth lines to generate the atmosphere of the tracks, occasionally underscored with elements of metallic resonance. Vocals are delivered in a spoken ‘manifesto proclamation’ style, and with slight echo treatment sit submerged within the middle of the mix. The tape’s theme is further fleshed out with documentary samples in both English and Chinese interspersed throughout.

Six tracks span the 30-minute tape. Each demonstrates clear focus and control in compositional approach, further showcase the sonically and conceptually strong material produced by Abdul-Salaam.

Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity

Pterygium – Stoic Ubiquity MC No Rent Records 2020

Following Pterygium’s second excellent album Concealing The Past on Tesco Organisation (reviewed here), this new full length tape has just been issued on the American label No Rent Records.

On Stoic Ubiquity Pterygium have taken their established ‘dual edged’ sound and twisted this for more harrowing and harder results. This is immediately evident on album opener 100 Sin, with its massive bass undercurrent, vaguely orchestral yet heavily melancholic synth lines, buzzing static, and harshly impactful tonal blasts. Various sampled voices also float in and out of the mix, providing a fleeting human reference point within the sonics. God Was Incapable is notable as it provides some respite, with well-placed dialogue samples fleshing out the concept and set against mid-toned clicking loops and a catatonic yet pummelling beat. Late in the track the sounds of a church bell tolling, cawing crows, and mournful choirs add a gothic-tinged aesthetic. Force Feeding provides yet more metaphysical musings set to sweeping drones, overblown bass tones, and slashes of static that build to a squalling cacophony of shrill tones. Yet these soon fall away into a section of tragically sombre sub-orchestral melodies. A similar mood permeates final tracks A Tragedy At Point Blank and 36 Heart, given the use of brooding sub-orchestral tones blended with unhinged static blasts and an undercurrent of overloaded bass.

Being somehow more aggressive yet underscored with a greater degree of melancholy, Stoic Ubiquity is no mere re-tread of what has come before. Rather, it is a clear refinement and expansion of a style and sound that Pterygium is very much making his own; the layering, complexity, and attention to detail of the arrangements are clearly evident. At this point it perhaps goes without saying to not snooze on this, as its physical edition is a mere 100 copies. You know what to do.

Crawl of Time – Operation Black Widow

Crawl of Time – Operation Black Widow MC Fusty Cunt 2020

Crawl of Time is the solo project of Sam Montero Torres, who is one half of American power electronics group Terror Cell Unit. Operation Black Widow is the debut cassette album, following an early split release (2017) and a short promo tape (2019). Sonically speaking, Crawl of Time is not dissimilar to Terror Cell Unit, yet the differences are more substantial than the sonic comparison which could be made between Terror Cell Unit and Koufar (another side project helmed by the other half of Terror Cell Unit, to which Sam also contributes). Whereas Terror Cell Unit is focused on a hyper-aggressive sound with a cultural terrorist manifesto edge, Crawl of Time differentiates itself with a slow and laborious industrial noise / power electronics bent. Whereas in the former the themes at play are more of an observational documentary type, here there appears to be a broad focus on gangs and prison culture.

With the overtly aggressive elements slightly dialled down, the eight tracks are built around cyclic loops, well-sourced and placed samples, clean shredding mid- to higher-pitched drones, distortion, and squelching modular sounds. Vocals are predominantly spoken, sometimes with and sometimes without sonic treatment, but blend in within the mix. There are select tracks which stand apart, such as Tyrant And Slave (The Greatest War) with its stilted militant pounding beat, and Section V (Fratricide) with its harsh and needling noise assault approach.

The gold pro-pressed tape is housed in a zip-lock bag, along with an A5 booklet with collage artwork and lyrics, while the use of the ‘Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics’ logo on the cover is a nice touch of pitch-black humour. Over the one hour run time, Crawl of Time demonstrate a wealth of ideas and a meticulous approach to sonic compositions: the end result is unhurried and impactful, making for an extremely strong debut album. Clearly a project to keep an eye on.

Absterbende ‎– Gebärmutter

Absterbende Gebärmutter MC self-released 2019

Sitting well within the depths of the post-industrial underground, here we have the debut tape from this obscure German project, which has links to another project, Die Kombination, and the Deutsch Asphalt label and distro. The title translates to ‘uterus’, derived from the Greek word root ‘hysteria’, which I have been informed provides a hint as to the thematic underpinnings. But with a predominantly instrumental presentation, and liner notes and track titles being in German, further interpretation of the theme was difficult (yet clearly something to mull over while listening to the tape if you can read the text).

The 12 tracks on offer span just over 75 minutes, and the material is perhaps better described as ‘movements’ rather than ‘compositions’. Consisting of longform / freeform layered synth oscillations and filthy analogue tones, the material is predominantly instrumental other than the use of psychological and addiction-related dialogue samples on two tracks on Side B. Sonically speaking, the tape displays an inherent paradox by being low-key yet at the same time animated. Gebärmutter contains sonic contradictions: minimalist yet detailed in layering and blending elements that are sonically forceful with others that are equally subdued. Being generally grey-hued, obscure, and unassuming, selected tracks feature wonky oscillating machine-like loops that drive the flow forward, while others have an incessant idling militant rumble blended with caustic bass tones.

For contextual rather than comparative purposes, the material featured on this tape sits somewhere in the dank in-between spaces characterized by the off-kilter industrial post-mortem sounds of Proiekt Hat, the long-form modulating synth experimentations of Atrax Morgue, and the subdued power electronics / heavy electronics tone of later-era Anenzephalia. Although not sonically derivative, those comparisons should nevertheless give a clear indication of the post-industrial furrow being ploughed by Absterbende. Gebärmutter is a tape I have both enjoyed and returned to for numerous repeat listens, which is clear enough indication of its quality. Although this tape is limited to only 50 copies, evidently a re-release on CD is to occur at some point which is a welcome proposition to give this greater coverage and reach.

Serration – The Open Mouth Of Infinite Destruction / Force of Damnation

Serration The Open Mouth Of Infinite Destruction CD Chondritic Sounds 2020

Serration Force of Damnation MC Total Black 2020

Serration have been on a bit of a roll in recent years with a slew of releases since 2018. If you have heard any of Serration’s prior material, both of these new titles continue the established sound of brooding and militant industrial / heavy electronics.

Turning to The Open Mouth Of Infinite Destruction first, from the outset saturated synth lines waver and dive-bomb in intertwining unison, while the heavily processed vocals are sonically smeared to convey an urgent mood, despite being wholly unintelligible. Inexhaustible Conflict follows in a similar vein but takes a gradual step up with a wailing siren texture and catatonic underpinning beat. A.P.C. embodies yet more tensile militant atmospheres, being a soundscape rather than rhythm-driven; the vocals, subdued and spoken, are heavily processed. The Storm Of Ash And Steel stands apart with what sounds to be a looped synth line replicating an orchestral tone against a backdrop of seething invasive mid-toned drones, and echo-panned production, while the final track is a live recording of A.P.C. made in Chicago in March 2018. Being slightly more hollowed in tone than its studio counterpart, given the noted absence of crowd noise it is clear this material is a recording taken directly from the mixing desk (if it was not identified as a live recording, it would not be immediately apparent). At only 22 minutes long, this is a short and to-the-point release. The packaging is rounded out with a six-panel digipack on heavy card stock with cleanly designed visuals.

Force of Damnation delivers a further five new tracks, also spanning around 22 minutes of material. W.I.T.W opens the tape; immediately obvious is how the vocals have been pushed to the fore and are all the more powerful for it, blended with urban guerrilla battlefield type recordings and seething / brooding synth textures. March Of Lies makes great use of laboriously intertwining synth layers, radio chatter, and hefty processed vocals. Further vocal variation is evident on Survive_Comply where, with reduced sonic treatment for the most part, they are intelligible; the backing is relatively subdued mid- to higher-toned synth drones and Middle Eastern crowd chatter. The tape rounds out with Grease And Blood, another mid-toned mass of seething synths, sonically charred vocals, and urban warfare / machine gun chatter. For the physical presentation a cleanly designed cover rounds out a thus far consistent visual aesthetic for the group, in a limited edition of 125.

Although perhaps splitting hairs between these two releases, the production of Force of Damnation is wider in sonic scope given the separation of its tonal elements, while the mood is ever so slightly more subdued. Yet this is an extremely minor critique: both releases are high calibre and very worthy additions to Serration’s quickly expanding discography, highlighting why the group have been receiving so many positive accolades of late.