Tehôm ‎– Phobos

Tehôm ‎– Phobos CD Zoharum 2021

Tehôm is an old name for me, being a late-1990s project who recorded two decent ritual dark ambient albums prior the untimely death of sole member Siniša Očuršćak. With Miljenko Rajaković having assisted with some recording elements on 2000’s post-humous album Theriomorphic Spirits, he then decided to reactivate the project in 2010 as a tribute to Siniša. While I note a number of Tehôm albums have been issued since the project’s reactivation they have passed me by, so I have picked up the thread again with this recent release. As vaguely alluded to by the title, this is a live recording of Tehôm’s performance at the 2019 Phobos Festival (Wuppertal, Germany).

As with the earliest phase of the project, Phobos inhabits ritual dark ambient spheres. Thus earthen drones, guttural horns, and archaic ritualised sounds abound across the eight untitled interlinking movements. Pacing as expected is catatonically slow, wherein the most part deep percussive thuds function to articulate elemental forces rather than resembling human-derived rhythms, although a passage of tribal driven beat does appear in the latter half of the album. Additionally, moody orchestral-toned drones provide a melodious edge, while a human element sporadically comes to the fore with intense non-lyrical vocal chants.

At a shade over 40 minutes, the album is not a lengthy one by any measure but packs an impact in that runtime all the same. Likewise with the bulk and heft of the recording, and to further mention the detailed and forceful production, clearly this is a professional soundboard recording that has benefited from further mastering treatment. A six-panel digipack with suitable imagery rounds out the physical presentation of a very enjoyable release.

Jagath – Devalaya

Jagath – Devalaya CD Cold Spring Records 2020

Jagath is a relatively new Russian ritual-industrial project concerned with recording in unconventional locations such as underground sewers, mine shafts, and other abandoned industrial spaces. This results in the spatial sonic timbre of such locations being infused with other musical elements including vocals and handmade instruments (while also specifically avoiding the use of digital means such as synthesisers). The generated sound then sees a blending of raw post-industrial metallics and more archaic ritual elements of the vocals and handmade instruments. Evidently, the chosen recording location for this album was a monolithic decommissioned oil tank.

A key aspect to Devalaya’s prevalent atmosphere is the slow and controlled pacing, where the five meditative tracks unfold over an extended length. Deep guttural throat chanting drenched with reverb and thick bass drones introduces the album on Agadah (Abyss), where the subsequent track titles allude to a journey or transformation of sorts (i.e. Utthana (Rise), Catu (Conversation), Devalaya (Temple), Nila (Darkness)). As part of the broader approach, passages of ritual throat chanting are seamlessly blended with reverb-derived drones and further interspersed with slow percussive segments, distant wind instruments, sporadic use of ritual chimes & mouth harp, and the ever-present interjecting shards of metallic textures. Some aspects of contributed sound are clearly identifiable (such as metal being dragged over concrete, or metal striking metal), while the source of many other sonic elements remains obscured. Also of note, a number of repeated sonic elements across the album strongly remind of Alan Lamb’s classic ‘wire music’ experimentation.

For the physical presentation, the six-panel digi-pack is adorned with stunning photos, including some images that appear to be from the actual recording sessions. All in all, Devalaya is an extremely engaging album of emotive atmospherics which blends archaic pre-modern ritual sounds with a current aesthetic of post-industrial decay. But given its minimalist construct and controlled pacing, it certainly does not sound to be the result of a project with eleven members.

Haare – Acid Realm

Haare – Acid Realm CD Old Europa Care 2021

Haare has really been making a mark of late with a series of atmospheric ritual meets industrial-noise albums which feature a strong and darkly toned psychedelic edge. The project continues with this approach on Acid Realm, featuring four tracks spanning a shade over 40 minutes.

The title track opens the album with blusteringly windy and hollowed out yet highly evocative soundscapes, with further abstract textural shimmer based on the atypically playing of bass guitar strings. Out follows and is even more minimal during its opening passage, but soon enough echoed and distant raw scrap metal sounds appear to take focus and coupled with the askew baying of a ritual wind instrument and abstract shimmer guitars late in the track. Pillar Of Time opts for more controlled territory of gradually elevating elongated organ-like drones, augmented with various panning elements sweeping across the sonic land, including slashes of loose guitar distortion, treated vocal chants etc, although the meandering improvised melody line which appears later in the track is somewhat jarring to the prevailing atmosphere. The final of four tracks is Taiveet and is another atmospheric excursion into sweeping drones, sparse loops, and subtle guitar feedback.

With the now well-established Haare slogan of ‘Destroy fascism, Love forever’ this rounds out a complete package of artwork and sound which bucks the typical underground aspects of a ritual noise-industrial approach and continues to strongly impress in the process.

Det Kätterska Förbund – Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås

Det Kätterska Förbund – Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås LP Cold Spring Records 2021

Det Kätterska Förbund is a new collaborative project between Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen and given the recent sound and direction of both projects has been stylistically aligned, this collaboration makes perfect sense. Likewise, with the moniker translating to ‘The Heretical Association’, it is a suitable descriptor of the sounds and themes contained herein.

Across the seven album tracks, a mid-paced and heavily percussive-driven ritual death industrial tone prevails, which in some ways any of the tracks could have easily been featured on either of the main projects’ albums. Yet there have also been some slight yet noticeable tweaks here and there to production and instrumentation in order to distinguish Det Kätterska Förbund. For example, the opening track He Will Fall features monk-like chants against a backdrop of swirling textures, orchestral tinges synths, martial percussion, and subtle ritual chimes. Equally Endless Gologatha differentiates itself with a more prominent programmed rhythmic beat, while Sacred Ground uses some sort of archaic string instrument to meter out a rudimentary organic rhythm. The low-spoken invocations (rather than the typical gruff vocal delivery) feature as another divergent element on Vid Hälleberg, which are then set to deep drones and a martial percussive pulse.

Ultimately this collaborative recording has a prevailing tone of potency and streamlined menace, and as such feels to be more than the simple sum of its collaborative halves. So, if you have followed and appreciated the recent output of either Nordvargr and Trepaneringsritualen, Lidaverken Del I: Att i Vådeld Förgås is an album you should acquire without hesitation. But if I was to raise one criticism, it is with regard to the album’s brevity, as at only 35 minutes it leaves me wanting much more. As for the physical pressing, this has been issued on both vinyl and digipack CD. Obviously, the vinyl pressing is the pick for me for the full-scale presentation of the stunning artwork.

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.

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.

Various ‎– All My Sins Remembered II – The Sonic Worlds Of John Murphy

Various ‎– All My Sins Remembered II – The Sonic Worlds Of John Murphy 2CD The Epicuran 2021

By the ‘II’ tag of the title, clearly this is the second tribute release to the late and sorely missed John Murphy. This time around the double album collates material from five projects (i.e. counting Krank and Crank as the same project), where John was the creative driving force, which differs from volume ‘I‘ which mostly featured a wide variety of bands and projects where he was a contributor (reviewed here).

The twenty-minute Krank track NAOS Number 1 leads off the first CD, where despite dating from 2012 is an 80’s sounding ritual industrial soundscape, consisting of grinding synth textures, scattered wavering tones, fragmented sonic oscillations and occasional percussive elements such as bells and singing bowls etc. The composition is quite loosely structured with not real driving rhythm or beat, rather is built around blown out abstract synth chords, with a very analogue tone and associated sonic warmth. Also featured are liquidous sounding ‘micro’ tones and contact mic-ed clanging metal on metal arrhythmia. Whilst there is an element of freeform improvisational playfulness its sound, the track is also carefully controlled and paced to generate its grimly dissonant atmosphere.

Up next are six tracks from The Grimsel Path, which was a project of John Murphy and Jon Evans (both of Last Dominion Lost), noting also that the moniker The Grimsel Path has contextual links back to Last Dominion Lost, with this project name being a track title off their debut album. The six tracks are noted to be live recordings from 2012 when the group performed at the Foetus Frolics Festival in Berlin and inhabits quite a similar tonal sphere to Krank’s preceding track. Nevertheless The Grimsel Path’s tracks differ in that it is slightly more focused due to the format of shorter stand-alone tracks and includes sporadic vocalisations which are wholly absent from Krank’s track. Unhinged clanging electronics, misfiring machinery and general industrial debris mark the opening piece Deviation, whilst Scorched Earth features humming suspenseful horror synths (aka Angelo Badalamenti style), otherworldly vocalisations and a production of cavernous, echoed depths. Run Please Master then ups the ante somewhat with a stilted rhythmic drive and cinematic synths late in the track, whilst Sideshow of the Soul features a low bass throb, over which a mostly subdued but sometimes chaotic scattered industrial noise soundscape is positioned.

Following on is a project called Ophiolatreia (meaning ‘snake worship’) whom I am wholly unfamiliar, with two tracks dating from 1992 featured. Encompassing a ritual industrial/proto dark ambient material, it has an organic sound and analogue tone, complete with chimes and minimalist wailing horn. Rounding out the first disk are two tracks from My Father Of Serpents (dating from 1987 & 1988), which follows a similar primitive ritual industrial/dark ambient approach, yet there a radio voice cut up technique is employed which gives it a deviating edge.

Moving on to the second disc, it features only three tracks. The first two are short tracks from My Father Of Serpents and Ophiolatreia and continue the mood from the first disc, which is followed by a lengthy 63-minute untitled track from Crank. This extended composition dates from 1993 and is a freeform and loosely flowing industrial/ritual ambient soundscape, with the general tone of a muted mineshaft aesthetic. The pace is slow, and the control of its varied sonic elements is unhurried, allowing the mood to draw the listener in while the sonic movement unfurls. Yet from the muted opening segments through the middle of the track it elevates to noise-industrial bluff and bluster, before receding to ritual soundscape spheres one again.

Despite the various monikers featured across this double album there is also a general sonic consistency and tone to the featured post-industrial soundscape to ritual dark ambient material, where the two discs can be let to simply play through without the flow and atmosphere jarring between projects and features material. Without questions this is another wonderful tribute to John and demonstrates the strength of his output during the pivotal developmental phase of the post-industrial underground and across subsequent decades, even if he perhaps did not receive wider recognition for it during his own lifetime. As with all releases on The Epicurean, the packaging and design is exquisite and makes owning the physical artefact a mandatory recommendation.

Beckahesten – Tydor

Beckahesten – Tydor CD Cyclic Law 2021

Swedish trio Beckahesten have quickly followed up their 2020 debut album Vattenhålens Dräpare (reviewed here), and based on its general style and sound, as well as overall design aesthetic, this is very much a companion album to the debut.

Yet apart from the obvious similarities to the debut, one notable aspect of Tydor is the greater elevation and stronger focus on its Nordic folk elements, particularly evidenced by the chanted and emotivity sung lead vocals of Viktoria Rolandsdotter which has being brought the fore on many of Tydor’s nine tracks. Equally the accompanying musical backing then ranges from dusky soundscapes to more folk based songs, but all broadly framed around a variety of tonal elements including: deep melodious drones, spartan ritual chimes, heathen percussive thrum, folk tinged violins, guttural chants/throat singing, and windswept field recordings. Thus, regardless if a piece forms a sparse soundscape, or otherwise delivers a song focused composition, the consistently evoked atmosphere forms an intense twilight mood and archaic folklore driven sound.

At 48 minutes in run time, this is a longer and more substantial album than the debut. But whereas I described debut as: ‘blending the darkly gothic bleakness of mid 1990s Cold Meat Industry-style dark ambience with a more archaic-edged ritual ambient sound’, here the ‘CMI styled sound’ has been reduced and duly replaced with a central focus on the heathen and folkloric aspects. Yet even with that said, this observation is perhaps overall ‘splitting hairs’, as there is an equal amount to appreciate here under the broader banner of Beckahesten’s ritual ambient folk sound. Available on vinyl or CD in a six panel/double gatefold digi-sleeve.

Sa Bruxa – Gnosis

Sa Bruxa – Gnosis CD Dunkelheit Produktionen

Gnosis functions as my introduction to Sa Bruxa, yet ten or so releases have already been issued since 2016 on various formats (digital, CD and cassette). But in then noting that the project name translates to ‘the witch’ in Sardinian, it provides a strong indication that there is likely to be a ritualised sound at play. This turns out to be correct and being self-described as ‘hexed electronics’, where there is a darkly archaic ritual ambient/industrial timbre to proceedings.

The album features nine distinct but untitled compositions, each around six to ten minutes each. With a slow unfurling of its ritual sonic tapestries, Gnosis displays substantive musical ideas and sonic detailing across the album’s 65 minutes. Each distinct piece is frames around a variety of tonal elements, variously including: dank subterranean drones, bleak but strangely unidentifiable field recordings, tribal rhythmic elements, ritual percussive clatter, and on occasion abstracted garbled/chanted vocals and dour rudimentary synth melodies. Thus, with the core of the material seemingly being framed around seething field recordings and coupled within real instrumentation and occasional vocals, it pushes the overall tone well away from a cleanly produced studio sound, and one which at times gives a slightly more modern nod to the ritual sonic spheres of the cult Nekrophile Rekords roster.

In an overarching sense there both clear character and atmosphere at a play on Gnosis, which makes for a rather sullen experience given its darkly claustrophobic and soot-infused pitch-black atmospheres. Thus with reference to text on the digi-pack which states: ‘Gnosis is a journey into occult emotional soundscapes, articulated in ten nameless rituals’, rather than being a statement of bluff and bluster it is a very spot on and accurate description of what the album delivers.

Beckahesten – Vattenhålens Dräpare

Beckahesten Vattenhålens Dräpare CD Cyclic Law 2020

Sweden’s Beckahesten is a recently formed trio of musicians: Peo Bengtsson, Per Åhlund, and Viktoria Rolandsdotter. Blending the darkly gothic bleakness of mid 1990s Cold Meat Industry-style dark ambience with a more archaic-edged ritual ambient sound, Beckahesten certainly surprise with their debut album. The promo blurb also provides a glimpse of its tonal aesthetic through the following description: ‘Their sound lingers within the shadow lands of ritual and folklore where solemn harmonies and rhythms intertwine with lyrical poetry, becoming rites and omens. Taking its name from an ancient folk tale of a horse that takes children onto its back to then bring them to a nearby lake and drown them.’

Opening track Förnimmelsen immediately brings shades of the classic sound of Aghast, with whispered vocals and shifting icy soundscapes, albeit here with a slightly elevated sub-orchestral tone. The following track Ropet abruptly shifts to an almost doom drone texture due to its thick affecting bass; yet, the sweeping synth pads and chanted male vocal arcs provide a clear Nordic ritual ambient underpinning. The pairing of Skuggan and Dödsfålen deviates further, where the sublime shadowy soundscapes and twilight ambience are driven forwards with slow ritual percussion against which the sparse and achingly subtle vocals of Victoria are delivered as chants and invocations to twilight omens. Hotet is the final and longest track at over 10 minutes, a solemn evolving track of throbbing drones, ritual chimes, sweeping synths, and the commanding sung/chanted vocals of Victoria, while the rhythmic musical backing elevates to cresting crescendos before receding again.

This debut album is clearly not a lengthy one at a mere 36 minutes, but it packs significant impact into that timespan, with a sound that is both individualistic and aware of its influences. The album in its physical form is available on CD, or vinyl if that is preferred.