Various Artists – Certified Dead

Various Artists – Certified Dead CD Death Continues Records 2018

Much like printed ‘zines, physical compilation albums are considered redundant formats in the minds of the majority, which is primarily based on the perceived convenience of the internet to be able to quickly check out pretty much any artist or release. Yet that attitude completely misses the point of the compilation format when it is able to maintain coherence around a theme, sound and approach. Certified Dead is one such compilation which clearly understands the strengths of the format, concept and artist and track selection.  As such Certified Dead harks back to the classic 1990’s Death Odors I & II compilations on Slaughter Productions, given it has collected together a stellar collection of ten known and more obscure projects.

Relative newcomer Arum Lilies (Australian project of Mark Groves) opens the compilation with Martin Luther, where a minimalist wonky piano line and creaking/ micro-tonal textures combine with tensile effect, prior to the whispered vocals providing a creepy psychological analytical edge. Being clearly cut from the same sonic cloth as his recent debut Dismal Fantasies (also on Death Continues Records) this track is noted to be of equal standing. Brighter Death Now follow and although Dead Boy does not really matching the quality much of his back catalogue, it sonically differs by being cleaner and perhaps more digital than his usual sound, where the throbbing looped structure is offset with morbid spoken vocals. Grunt’s track Cadaver also deviates in sound from the current material from the project, where this track is a great deal murkier given its swirling mass of caustic noise, punctuated by vocals ranging from whispers to agonized screams. While Necromondo is a previously unknown project, their offering Cadaver Obedience delivers a grim piece of instrumental droning and interweaving oscillations. For Sutcliffe Jugend’s Beyond Perverse, it features experimental scrabbling textures, cavernous drones and thudding overblown bass, while perhaps as expected the vocals bring angst and aggression. On Anapath In Search of Death delivers an excellent death industrial piece, built around revving conveyer belt mechanized loops to generate a general mood of chocking soot and ash, which provides the sonic backdrop for a sample of mortician narrates an autopsy procedure. Great stuff! Femeheim are next and are one of the newer projects featured, where on their track Kältetod it features controlled and intertwined buzzing and oscillating loops, while the spoken vocals are a standout element and provide a morbid edge (achieved through apathetic delivery and a sonically wet treatment). On Wertham’s instrumental track Mourning The Loss Of My Own Shadow, it forgoes the usual bulldozing wall of sound approach and instead opts for an excellent atmospheric industrial noise sound of layered swilling loops and caustic metallic debris and with clearly room to breathe within the mix, the driving loops gradually build with elevating effect.  Another Italian act Today I’m Dead follows and given the project appears to have been inactive since around 2004, I am unsure to if their track What A Pleasant Place is a new recording or archival. Regardless of this the piece fits within a minimalist Italian power electronics style with crude basic structure and a higher pitched central tone resembling a wailing air raid siren and spoken vocals being semi buried within the mix. Perhaps the best offering is left to the last, where on Savagely Mauled Crucifixion Genocide Organ pull no punches with a direct track of pulsing/ driving loops, fluttering textures, morse-code bleeps, angst filled crown samples crowd and heavy as fuck vocal proclamations. Both aggressive and maudlin in mood, Genocide Organ (again) convincingly demonstrate their mastery of a straightforward and direct approach.

As alluded to in the introductory passage, Certified Dead is something of a modern answer to the classic Slaughter Productions Death Odors I & II compilation, while it is also pleasing to see that some of the more obscure acts have turned in contributions to equal or exceed those of more established and recognized names. Overall this is certainly a thematically coherent and sonically enjoyable compilation. As a final comment, I do wonder if the title is a nod to a track of the same name from Brighter Death Now’s classic album Great Death?


Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies

Arum Lilies – Dismal Fantasies CD Death Continues 2017

Australian Mark Groves (he of Von Einem, Dead Boomers, Red Wine and Sugar Absoluten Calfeutrail etc.), has recently launched this new solo project and with Dismal Fantasies being the debut album. Taking some sonic cues from Red Wine and Sugar, the minimalist construction and creepy whispered style of the vocals of that project are both replicated here. Yet sonically Arum Lilies see Mark approaching industrial noise and subdued power electronics from an experimental and almost musique concrete angle. Also, while the project moniker may seem slightly abstract at first, it starts to make more sense when it is discovered that the Arum Lily is also referred to as a funeral flower.

On album opener The Maniac ,minimalist panning static and a morbid bass drone feature prior to the whispered vocals articulating lyrics of psychoanalytical type. The later introduction of maudlin piano melody shifts the mood of the track substantially, which then extends through into the following instrumental cut Erasing the Line. The layered, piecing and invasive whistling noise of Venal Dogs generates far more tensile mood, which in turn matches the lyrical dialogue which addresses a series of internalized thoughts and observations in the first perspective.* Musically speaking I find this piece one of the less successful ones on the album due to its needling and invasive textures, but this impression has far more to do with me avoiding music with tones that mirror my own long suffered tinnitus. Yet despite this personal negative, the sound shifts again on Prostituting Their Ambitions, where scrabbling field recordings and low humming drones provide the basis for fragmented one-line descriptors which gradually builds a picture of a lonely suicide. This general mood then arcs through later third of the album, with the tracks furrowing a sound frames around dour drones, minimalist sustained textures, and wonky piano elements for eerie atmospheric result.

With only seven album tracks, it amounts to a relatively short album (only 38 minutes), yet stylistic diversity is displayed within that run-time. Rather than being aggressive in tone, the overarching mood is unnerving and at times harrowing, and which lyrically function to thematically articulate the malaise and underlying violence of contemporary society from a number of angles. It is also worth noting that through Arum Lilies as well as his other projects, Mark is building quite a strong body of work which is forging a divergent take on the more typical tropes of the post-industrial genre.

* – During the review process I asked Mark whether the image on the back cover was associated with the January, 2017 incident, where Dimitrious Gargasoulas used a car to run down pedestrians in Melbourne Australia, killing six and injuring thirty others.  That impression was confirmed to be correct and it was then highlighted that the lyrics of Venal Dogs were based prior social media posts from Dimitrious, which are very revealing as to his state of mind before the attack. Mark also revealed further conceptual inspiration taken from another notorious Melbourne crime, so for those interested, good luck in potentially working it out from cover images and lyrics.

In Search of Death – III


In Search of Death – III CD Death Continues Records 2015

In Search of Death is the project of Xavier H, label boss of Death Continues Records, which perfectly aligns with the focus and output of the label to date.  Likewise with the liner notes highlighting that this material was recorded some 12 years ago in 2003, sonically it is more akin to having being recorded an further 12 years prior given it has a particular tone and feel of death industrial music recorded in the early 1990’s.  To then talk of further early 1990’s inspiration, the chosen project name is an obvious homage to Atrax Morgue by using one of Marco’s album titles.

Although released in 2015 evidently In Search of Death is not a currently active musical project, rather was only operational between 1999 and 2003. Yet despite recording a large volume of work at the time, none have been formally released until now, which perhaps also explains the title of ‘III’ although being the first release from the project. 10 untitled compositions make up the album, which are all staunchly of a dank, analog driven, death industrial sound.

With a pitch black tone and slightly muffled aura (although the album has been mastered by Peter Andersson for added volume and impact), the tracks utilise full range of tried and true death industrial sonic elements. As such the compositions rely on well-defined structures and combinations of the idling of fractured industrial machinery, conveyor belt rhythms, stormy loops, muffled cascading distortion, menacing pounding beats, ominous synths stabs and smattering of dialogue samples on a couple of tracks (being exclusively in French their meaning and intent is entirely missed). Although my way of a minor criticism it might be said that there are a couple of included tracks which feel undercooked and simplistic in execution, which tend to mar an otherwise strong collection of material (an example would be the somewhat ‘jolly’ quasi-orchestral/ militant structure of track IX).

Clearly the Death Continues Records label had identified a particular death industrial niche and all of the label’s output to date has sought to maintain this approach and focus. Noting this approach is also a type of homage to the likes of Slaughter Productions, In Search of Death’s album perfectly fits the label’s chosen niche and positively continues such an agenda.

Femeheim – Dominium Terrae


Femeheim – Dominium Terrae CD Death Continues Records 2014

Femeheim have returned with their second album, following the debut from only a year prior (reviewed here) and whilst it was staunchly a lo-fi death industrial affair, the sonic focus of ‘Dominium Terrae’ has been expanded to combine direct power electronics tracks within a slightly more focused death industrial framework.

Pleasingly Femeheim has maintained a direct approach to classic genre traits where album opener ‘Camera Silens’ features a stilted mechanical thrum with a filth infused analogue tone, before bleeding into the caustically ominous throbbing industrial drone of ‘Ewiger Suhnetod’.  The third piece ‘Voluntas… Infamia’ then features a direct and excellent throbbing and squelching analogue tone and garbled/ flanged vocals, noting that if this track were played in isolation without me being told who it is, I would swear it is from the earlier brute force era of Genocide Organ (as a rather direct compliment this track comes across something like an alternate slightly more laidback version of Genocide Organ’s ‘White Power Forces’).  For good measure the following piece ‘Absolute Umkehrung’ opts to channel the pummeling mechanical rhythms of Megaptera, before settling down into a tryptic of slightly more subdued death industrial territory, with lone analogue modulations, throbbing/ wavering frequencies etc.  Late album track ‘Oppertunistsche Infektion’ pushes back towards power electronics territory with the flanged vocal presentation and singular burrowing mid-toned frequency, while the title track then concludes the album which is structured around heaving mid toned cyclic throb, spoken to yelled vocals and slightly mangled choral singing.

‘Dominium Terrae’ is an album that again demonstrates Femeheim clearly understand the classic base elements of the death industrial and power electronics genre and consequently can deliver a strong, genre specific album, where this album has taken a step up from the debut given its more focused and direct approach.  Straightforward graphic presentation rounds out the release, which reflects a simplistic yet stylised visual aesthetic reminiscent of Slaughter Productions.

Nekrofellatio – Pesadilla En Una Noche Sin Estrellas


Nekrofellatio – Pesadilla En Una Noche Sin Estrellas CD Death Continues Records 2014

This rather mysterious Italian project (helmed by Leonardo Carballo Canto), returns with their second album and again on the same label who released their debut. As with the first album it seems Nekrofellatio is intent on channelling the morbid minimalism of the fellow Italian project Atrax Morgue, but still manages to do this with enough individual flair so as to be just a ‘mere’ copyist project.  Yet, whereas the debut displayed a loose crudeness to the death industrial musings, on this new album there is a much greater degree or control and restraint on display.  Essentially tracks are constructed with minimal fuss – usually a central oscillating analogue tone – around which other muted occasionally rhythmic layers are added for atmospheric effect.  Echo and reverb also play a strong part in the foggy atmospheres created.

‘Sex Electronic Poison’ opens the album is suitable fashion with cold and slow evolving minimalist drones, smattering of dialogue samples, 80’s horror synths and muted grinding static.  Things then kick in in an impressive fashion on ‘Unidos Por La Sangre’ with warbling atonal synths, choral vocals and rolling industrial/ tribal rhythms and garbled demonic vocalisations.  ‘Muneco De Carne’ then opts for the heavy use of multi-layered and intertwining dialogue samples (religion, death and abuse seem key topics here), which are set against a loose yet stifling analogue distortion base which ramps up in intensity over the track’s span.  ‘Disgusted By Humans’ also pushes into more urgent territory, with forceful rhythmic loops and waves of echo infused distortion.  ‘Demoni’ functions as a touch more unhinged and chaotic, including field recordings of random crowd noise, screamed violence and a grinding upsurge of static.  Late album track ‘Reanimated Flesh’ opts for slightly more mechanised rhythmic structure with mid paced factory-esque loops.

All in all this is not an outwardly aggressive album, rather it is one which embodies a slow, tense and stalking atmosphere which has been honed to razor sharpness through the mastering undertaken by John Stillings (aka Steel Hook Prosthesis). With ten tracks at just short of hour’s playtime, this is a far more focused and accomplishes album than the debut, and should more than please any fan of Atrax Morgue’s morbid analogue minimalism.

Femeheim – Grenzniederkunft / Stadingers – Deadly Silent Impuse


Femeheim – Grenzniederkunft CD Death Continues Records 2013

Stadingers – Deadly Silent Impuse CD Death Continues Records 2013

Death Continues Records are a relatively new Belgian label and despite having issued a mere five releases since 2012, they have established a clearly defined aesthetic and sonic approach.  As such the initial impression is that Death Continues Records are seeking to draw a direct lineage to the aesthetic and sound of Slaughter Productions, which can be further translated to mean lo-fi, old school, death industrial of a late 1980’s early 1990’s vein. To date album packaging has been rather rudimentary (utilising standard jewel cases), and with the graphic presentation being straight forward in style it again reflects the general Slaughter Productions approach.

Femeheim is up first and delivers a sonic expression which encompasses lo-fi analogue death industrial musings. Tracks are mostly between 2 and 4 minutes in length, meaning they quickly set down a mood rather than stretching out over an extended length. Containing a mix of elements, here buzzing/ burrowing lo-fi analogue frequencies, stilted percussive thumps and grinding frequencies form slow loose rhythmic patterns, while partially mangled samples (choir vocals, marching tunes etc.) add to the sordid death industrial tone. Vocals are also an occassional feature, which range from spoken to screeched, but usually flanged or distortion drenched. Although sporadic tracks use mid paced pulsing structures to increase atmospheric urgency (almost power electronics in tone on late album track), a sullen tonality remains a constant. So without necessarily being ground-breaking, all in all Femeheim deliver a solid example of morbidly minimalistic death industrial music, which sits somewhere between the minimalist psychological tension of Atrax Morgue and the heaving/ pounding tone of Brighter Death Now’s ‘Great Death’ era.

Stadingers is up next and differs slightly due to its dank droning sound, which sits between a dark ambient and death industrial tone (but leaning more towards the later). The title track opens the album with atonal droning textures which are possibly generated via a guitar, but any real resemblance to a guitar riff has been abstracted to the point of unrecognizability. As the album progresses, the crude analogue sound provides a soot and grime infused atmosphere, which also articulates a sonic aesthetic of a cavernous industrial space (…far off tarnished vocalisations make an occasional appearance, but always garbled and unintelligible). ‘Putiphar’ stands out with its use of a prominent dialogue sample over a throbbing/ thumping mechanised industrial base (…yet the looped sample actually looses a bit of potential impact through overuse). A dank, oppressive and muffled analogue feel is present throughout, which when coupled  with the crude looseness to the compositional approach (evidenced by the occasional atonal warbling synths), all tends to amplify a lo-fi late 80’s early 90’s vibe of dark experimental / ambient music.

As suggested by the label name Death Continues Records appear intent on raising a recognisable banner under which death industrial obscurities can be issued to a wider audience. In more specific terms this is about fostering a ‘classic’ death industrial sound independent of genre fads or trends. Both album’s from Femeheim and Stadingers achieve this aim, where each will suit those whose listening habits yearn for the early era of the death industrial genre. As a final comment, if these two albums were to be ranked, for these ears at least Femeheim wins out for its slightly more focused (yet subdued) morbidly morose atmospheres.

Skull:Axis – The Transparent Society


Skull:Axis – The Transparent Society CD Peripheral Records / Death Continues Records 2013

This relatively obscure new release comes from the creative mind of Jason Bernard – aka Peripheral Records head honcho – who via this album demonstrates he has more than just a label boss’s ear for quality and creative sounds.

From a cursory perusal of the album’s cover the thematic focus of ‘The Transparent Society’ is of central importance to the presented music, being summed up by the quote on the cover: “surveillance induced morality: relics of cultural retardation”.  Although not knowing the context of this quote, it could however be easily be interpreted as a scathing comment on the British Government’s well established obsession with attempting to monitor all pubic space through the installation of the ever expanding CCTV networks.

Regarding musical content the eight album tracks present a degree of continuity in sound and approach, meaning the album can be appreciated as a longer singular piece.  Whilst there is also an abstract approach to the structure of the tracks the material is in no way improvised as the meticulous approach to the composition can be clearly heard.  Accordingly the tone is very much focused on washes of muffled distortion, repetitive radio chatter, mid to higher pitched analog synth layers, clinical transmission pulses, arrhythmic metallic ‘clanks’ and ‘clangs’ and droning factory ambiences.  Ultimately ‘The Transparent Society’ is very much rooted in a ‘classic’ German industrial vein but with a definite experimental bent.  For a comparison maybe a less refined, abstract and vocal-less version of Anenzephalia would appropriately suit, whilst also highlighting the calibre of the presented material.

The visuals for the release also tie in nicely, where the xeroxed black and white imagery of outdated communications/ surveillance technology evokes a paranoid cold war type visual aesthetic.  Given the bleak claustrophobia inherent in the sound these accompanying visuals perfectly tie in with the music and theme.  With a ludicrously small pressing of 150 hopefully this album does not go unnoticed for it.