Contrastate ‎– An Exercise In Defascination

Contrastate An Exercise In Defascination 7”ep Black Rose Recordings, 2019

With their immediately recognisable darkly surreal soundscapes, which are further characterised by poetically metaphoric vocal narratives, Contrastate have always been an anomaly within the post-industrial underground. It has then been some time since 2012’s last full length A Breeding Ground For Flies, noting that 2016’s No Eden Without Annihilation was not an album proper, but rather a collection of live recordings. An Exercise In Defascination arrives as a precursor to the upcoming full length album, where the liner notes highlight that the two featured tracks: ‘are alternate mixes from our ongoing studio recordings for the next Contrastate album. The album concept is inspired by the Italian giallo films of 1970s’.

The instrumental title track arrives on the first side, and within the first minute manages to span cinematic synths, rolling percussion and pitch-shifted sonics. From there the surreal serpentine soundscape is derived from shimmering textures, abstracted guitars and a myriad of other sonic elements, while a shrill drone and rising strings through the later part of the tracks functions to create tensile and urgent tone. Spasmo takes up the flip side with more shimmering drones and abstracted guitars, but the mood is more stayed overall in a drugged miasma sort of way. Snippets of vocals are present but are sonically warped and fragmentary in presentation, rather than their usual focus of a central narrative based tool. Regardless, the resultant feel is a darkly surreal one.

With this 7”ep effectively being a short taster to the new album, but on their own form a welcomed slice of Contrastate experimental post-industrial eccentricity. It will then be equally interesting to see how these compositions will fit within the greater whole of the upcoming full length. As for this release it is limited to 250 copies.

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Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd

Trepaneringsritualen – Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd CD Neuropa Records 2019

Originally issued in 2013 on cassette via Merzbild, and again in 2015 on vinyl by In Solace Publishing, this third press takes the original three tracks and appends them with two bonus tracks for good measure, bringing the total run time to over 50 minutes.

Thematically this release relates to the Norse legend of the Swedish King Domalde, whose ritual self-sacrifice prevented an impending famine. This conceptual content is addressed within the cover image, which is a black and white excerpt from Carl Larsson’s famous painting Midvinterblot (Midwinter Sacrifice), whilst select Swedish song titles roughly translate to: For The Benefit of the Swedes, Blood Rain, and The Corpse of the Fallen Dómaldr. The original three tracks form sections which essentially bleed into a singular 30-minute ritual death ambient composition, music more characteristic of the earlier phase of the project before the sound mutated towards direct and song-focused compositions. But rather than the additional material simply being tacked on at the end, the two tracks are included as the first and last tracks respectively, to broadly fit and extend the mood of the original three compositions.

The first section (track one) is moody and minimal, with grey-hued drones, clanging sounds, and disembodied vocalizations; it feels like an extended introduction. The second section (track two) leads off with some gritty textural static; the main focus is squarely the procession of slow deathly drums, swirling winds, wavering synth textures and croaked/echo-distorted vocals, which combine to deliver an excellent track of slow brooding ritual menace. The third section (track three) is sparser in construction and encompasses an air of distant abstraction to its voluminous atmosphere. Here a lone cavernous bass thump provides focus in amongst various sweeping/cavernous tonal elements and the call/response of howling wolves. The fourth section (track four) continues the windswept sound in a slightly more forceful guise, building upon ominous drones, a slow percussive bass pulse and a melancholic synth line akin to the title track of Brighter Death Now’s Necrose Evangelicum album – an excellent and harrowing conclusion to the main collection. The final section (track five) spans out over a 14-minute stretch with freezing windswept plains, ominous bass drones, and slow semi-buried ritual thrum.

The expanded version of Konung Dómaldr Vid Upsala Hängd is an excellent release within the project’s discography and a strong reminder of the earlier soundscape death industrial sound of the project.

Monocube ‎– Substratum

Monocube Substratum CD Malignant Records/Cyclic Law 2019

Like a monumental ancient breath issuing forth from the bowels of the earth, Monocube have returned with their fourth album of archaic soundscape ambience, issued again on Malignant Records but this time having been co-released by Cyclic Law. As an initial observation, on a whole Substratum has a more consistent sound palette overall than last album The Ritual (2016), which was more varied between tracks and on occasion used prominent musical motifs and ritual percussion. And while musical and melodic motifs are still employed here, it is in a much more subtle way, often semi-obscured within the elongated widescreen droning ambience.

Depth, breadth, and reverb play a huge part in setting the tone and atmosphere of the album, where early in the album foggy and enveloping twilight drones and deep throat chants characterize the lengthy Prima Materia. This piece seamlessly blends into Luft which is differentiated by its subtle and minimal plucked instrument (guitar?) and use of what may be field recordings of blustering storm winds, which perfectly offsets the elongated melodious drones. The semblance of natural field recording elements also weaves through the middle and later sections, providing the consistency in mood across the album. As with the last album, a number of tracks are based on collaborations, here featuring Visions on one composition, and Antti Litmanen of Arktau Eos on another, but without reading the liner notes to determine which tracks these are, their contributions are not immediately evident from sound alone – and again refers back to my comments on the consistent sound palette.

With the tone and atmosphere of Substratum fitting like a glove with similar archaic ambient droning material issued on both Cyclic Law and Malignant, this is another fine album to submerge one’s inner psyche with and effectively lose yourself over its hour-plus timespan.

156 – Memento Mori

156 – Memento Mori 10”EP Fear of Hate and Fear 2016

Although 156 are a project I have little awareness of, Adel Souto appears to be main member and key contributor to the project. With a handful of releases issues since 2012, this EP is one of the more recent offerings. While I am not sure how this compares to other releases, on Memento Mori all tracks have been composed and recorded using only human bones as percussive or wind instruments (i.e thigh bone trumpet). Thus taking ques from one of the earliest ritual industrial pioneers Zero Kama (and more broadly Nekrophile Rekords), there is a deftly archaic and moody in feel and atmosphere to Memento Mori. However such a contextual reference point is more than a mere compassion, given that one of the tracks (Starlit Mire) is noted to be a cover of a Zero Kama track from The Secret Eye Of L.A.Y.L.A.H. 

As for the resultant sonics, the material is relatively simple and straight forward in execution, including minimalist percussive thrum, micro-tonal scraping textures and wailing atonal bone trumpet notes. Yet clearly the source material has been subject to studio treatment in the form of manipulating the recordings into series of structural loops and more widescreen soundscape drones. With nine tracks in all, each is a relatively short exploration of its tone and mood (with tracks ranging from one to five minutes each), with some being meditative and ritualistic, while others are heavily percussive driven. Rather intriguingly, the vinyl has been cut at 45rpm, with the intent that it can also be purposely played at 33rpm to create a slower elongated experience of the offered tracks.

For the physical manifestation, the music has been pressed into a hefty slab of bone coloured vinyl. The printed cover is then noted to feature a colour scheme which gives a further nod to Zero Kama, given it replicates the colours of The Goatherd And The Beast 10”EP. Archaic and obscure in the best way possible, Memento Mori is very much worthy of investigation.

Arktau Eos – Erēmos

Arktau Eos – Erēmos CD Aural Hypnox 2018

After the abstracted and minimalist Catacomb Resonator CD/LP from 2017, Arktau Eos have returned to a slightly more direct musical form, although this is clearly still within the enveloping ritual ambient framework for which the group is known and lauded. As is typical with this form of music, it’s structured around interlinking movements to aid flow and meditative/immersive impact; Erēmos features nine tracks, spanning 49 minutes of dour, slow evolving, minor-tuned melodies, droning soundscapes, and subtle field recordings.

The Liminal Pilgrim opens the album with swelling drones, catatonic drum pulse, and looped elements (sounding like twittering birds) which evokes a very organic and ritualistic sound, far from a computer-generated sounds palette, while a variety of other subtle layered sonic elements create diversity despite the minimalist ambient framework. After the extremely short one-and-a-half-minute track Facing The Exarchs Of Desolation, the following piece He Who Drinks The Light Of The Stars arrives with slow and sustained intertwining minor-keyed melody lines and pulsating synth tones, which further blend with various shimmering and metallic-toned ritual percussion. Autochthon is perhaps the most divergent piece by virtue of its swirling vortex of animated and surreally disorientating layers. Likewise, late album track In The Jaws Of Basalt Lions is a particular standout with its forceful droning framework, ascending/descending melodic line and sparse ritualistic percussion.

Of particular note on Erēmos is the archaic ritual- and occult-infused atmosphere embedded throughout, which is mostly derived from the deep analogue tone of the synthesizers. This generates a strong sense of mysterious and ethereal otherworldliness, but is also tinged with a strong degree of musicality in both sound and general direction, even if the instrumentation is atypical, such as a hand pump organ, archaic-toned synthesizers, and various ritual percussive implements. Although pretty much everything issued on the Aural Hypnox label constitutes mandatory listening for me, Erēmos is a pinnacle album which continues to reward with newly noted sonic details and nuances on repeat listens.

School For Cadavers – Re Education

School For Cadavers – Re Education MC Trapdoor Tapes 2018

School For Cadavers is a new project featuring Jon Evans and Julian Percy, who are both members of Last Dominion Lost. In noting that context, there are clearly some strong parallels which can be drawn between the sound of these two project. Yet with reference to School For Cadavers, the tribal industrial elements of Last Dominion Lost has been toned down for a more streamlined industrial noise approach, which on a few occasion furrows within a dank death industrial style.

The tape features seven tracks in all and while three of those are denoted as being live recordings, this is not immediately evident given the consistency in recorded sound spanning all tracks. Sonar opens the tape with a screeching distortion, indecipherable yelled vocals and underpinned but an understated rhythmic loops, while the following track Spirit Of The Air contains a quite distinctly wonky and disorienting tone. Dead Time is a clear standout piece, based around cyclic throbbing mid paced layered loops and other sweeping tones which build in intensity, while other random slashes and cuts of churning sounds continual interject and gradually take over. Side B brings the absolute standout track Demise Of Logic, which is a monolithic pounding ritual death industrial track, completely with wailing air raid sirens, shuddering synth tones and garbled evocations. As for the final track Last Look blends a suspenseful horror soundtrack styled mood and coupled with a central slow pounding death industrial beat, while another screeched distortion layer ratchets up the tension. Great stuff.

Like the very much underrated and under appreciated Last Dominion Lost, School For Cadavers deliver expertly executed high calibre material, and should not be ignored or overlooked.

Announcement: Spectrum Compendium book cover released!! 

I am extremely proud to reveal the finalised cover of the Spectrum Compendium book!

After a couple of design options, in the end it was decide to go with a cover design both keeps and builds upon the feel and aesthetic of the original Spectrum Magazines, which to my mind has come out as a very strong and striking visual.

The book layout is still being worked on by the publisher, but evidently I will have a copy to proof and approve this month (October, 2018).

More details on publication date will be announced later when known but getting very close now!!!