Sutcliffe Jugend – Relentless

Sutcliffe Jugend – Relentless 4xCD Death Continues 2019

Sutcliffe Jugend (SJ) have been on quite the creative run over the last thirteen years since their reactivation in 2006. During that time the group have not shied away from producing extended length releases, which has included the massive six CD set SLAVES (2016), and the double CD album The Hunger (2018). But now the end of the road has been reached, and evidently the project has come to an end, as prior to release of Relentless it was announced that SJ were no more and that this four CD set was their final statement. The title then constitutes a very succinct description of what to expect across its significant runtime.

In noting the stylistic arc of the group over recent albums, this album both aligns with and builds upon the of wider sonic experimentation of recent years. This means there is plenty of material of the partially structured industrial/power electronics, or loose guitar driven pieces resembling SJ’s take on noise-rock/doom-drone, but both approaches which are further complimented with visceral vocals with their strong psychoanalytical slant. Likewise, there is plenty of material of a more experimental and creatively divergent bent, which includes Bludgeoned (I am the one) (CD1), with an almost martial industrial feel like early In Slaughter Natives, given its clanging/ pounding framework and blaring sub-orchestral synths, yet the wailed and unhinged vocals sets it clearly within the SJ camp. Equally the wonky but controlled pulsing electronics and semi-crooned vocals of Worm (This Is The Rest Of Your Life) (CD1) stands apart given its muted melodious construct, but gradually becomes completely unhinged as the track progresses. A prominent spoken work narrative features on Pavlov’s Dog (The Artists Dilemma) (CD2), set against caustic throb and churning distortion, while the following track Different (I am a slave) (CD2) forms a minimalist tensile drone-scape with whispered vocals.

On a whole CD3 brings together a series of more minimal and subdued tracks where tone and tension take precedence over volume and harshness. The God (who craved his own death) (CD3), rates a mention with its shimmering, droning soundscape of melodious hum/chanted vocals which builds to muted noise squalls towards its end, while Scars (CD3) features minimalist micro-tonal tones, whispered vocals and loose plodding bass, while elevating tension is created though a myriad of wonky electronics. After the partial respite of CD3, the following CD4 ups the aggression again with a collection of looser and harsher PE driven tracks which arc back to a more ferocious era of the project (refer to Unleash the Fury, Violence and Stripped as key examples). Yet even so there are further surprises, such as the spoken narrative of Domestic, with its needling mid-toned electronics and sparse abstracted piano motif, and Endurance (in a world of pain), with its fast pulsing rhythmic electronics and unhinged distortion blended vocals.

Not to be content with the four main CDs, there is yet another album’s worth of material, available as a limited download card with the first 100 copies of the album. This bonus material is an effective addendum and continuation of the main collection of tracks, but perhaps siting towards the soundscape and rhythmically experimental end of SJ’s current sound. On the final track Poison (an ending), it is then a quite fitting conclusion to the entire release, being a in a dour and moody contemporary classically style, where a minimalist strings quartet and low spoken vocals characterize proceedings.

Given the massive expanse of material featured, the sheer diversity and length of Relentless is quite a thing to behold. In recent years other projects have opted for much longer releases, and with the most-high profile being Prurient’s extended album Rainbow Mirror (spanning 7 LP’s or 3CD’s). For comparative sakes, while Rainbow Mirror contains a range and engaging and sonically interesting passages, when taken in totality it never fully captured my full attention for the entirety of its duration. Yet to then refer this back to Relentless, it is significantly longer release than Rainbow Mirror, but has no difficultly in maintaining focus and interest over its substantial runtime. Perhaps Relentless won’t change your mind if the recent run of albums have not been to your liking, but for those who have been following SJ’s creative decade plus journey, Relentless is a very fitting final statement.

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Sutcliffe Jugend – The Hunger

Sutcliffe Jugend – The Hunger 2xCD Death Continues 2018

Over the past twelve years Sutcliffe Jugend – the duo of Kevin Tomkins and Paul Taylor – have been rather productive and issued 20 releases in that time-frame. Specifically 2006 appears to be the particular point in time when the project was reactivated, following a five year gap from 1999’s viscerally direct The Victim As Beauty album, while also shifting towards wider sonic experimentation. Although today’s version Sutcliffe Jugend is a very different beast from the sonic brutality issued during the initial 1980’s phase, they have remained a power electronics act at heart and in overall attitude. But in forging new paths by dialing down on the all-out sonic assault and seeking out far more diverse sonic treatments and stylistic experimentation, this approach is in full display on this sprawling double CD.

On the early album track The Mute Shall Speak, the crisp digital noise squalls is perhaps partially reminiscent of later era Whitehouse, while Sehnusucht features a stuttering fast paced rhythmic programming coupled with jagged digital shards stabbing at the ears from the background. This track is also noteworthy as it demonstrates the vocals of Kevin Tomkins being in a strong trademark style, which are delivered in a drawling semi whispered rant which on occasion steps up to being half sung and half screamed. Lyrically the album is noted to be densely rendered, which have a particular psychoanalytical bent in various description of the power dynamic in personal relationships; first person internalised dialogue; and at times ‘stream of conciseness’ narration. Yet Cause comes as the first major surprise by featuring a ‘doom jazz’ sound of minimalist piano and double bass (and consequently wholly reminiscent of Bohren & Der House of Gore), yet further augmented with spoken vocals and swathes of minimalist backing distortion. But not to stop there, the sonic surprises just keep on coming, where Crushed delivers pump organ, synth drones, sparse xylophone and meditative spoken vocals, and Unashamed with its quirky programmed electronica. From there the rest of the first CD deviates through musique concrète (Dissonance); maudlin piano melody and abstracted strings (Angels Flying Into The Burning Gates of Hell); emotive sub-orchestral drones (A Room Full of Knives and Eulogy); while the closing track The Pain Will Take Everything Away is a doom drone oriented work with treated ethereal female vocals and moody bowed cello etc.

The second CD delivers a further ten tracks spanning an hour which builds upon the wide frame of experimentation of the first disc. The Lost is built around misfiring digital noise and a rabid vocal attack, but is quickly offset by the moody and contemplative Authors Note of sonically over-processed synth line. Blindfold charts more abstracted sounds and half formed melodies which at times verges on musique concrète, while the loose guitars of Dancehall Etiquette evokes the sound of noise rock (minus drums). Perhaps the only major misstep of the entire two CD set is All I have Forgotten, which sounds to be based on improvised abstracted piano and accompany cello, but sonically the tinkling piano awkwardly jars the prevailing album atmosphere. As for the title track, this arrives as a 15 minute monster of sprawling yet tensile shifting bass drones sub-orchestral elements, as the spoken vocals gradually ramp up in aggression to match the upward trajectory of the choppy and chaotic digital noise. As for the final album cut My Crumbling Walls, it is an instrumental offering it is quite cinematically toned with its building string orchestral elements, which build and recede in intensity.

Apart from the 2xCD version, there is a special bonus third digital album, recorded at the same time at The Hunger. Featuring 6 tracks across 50 minutes, this bonus album is limited to 100 by virtue of only being available via plastic business card sized plastic download card. On a whole the bonus album is more subdued overall, by broadly opting for a series of tensile sub-orchestral droning tracks, where vocals do not rise above a narrative whisper.

Given that 2016’s Offal and 2017’s Shame (reviewed here) were albums with a more singular sound and musical vision, The Hunger stands out by the sheer diversity displayed, and consequently is a far stronger album for it. Likewise, while unhinged aggression is an underpinning element of The Hunger, this is more a case of being implied through tonal tension and lyrical phrasing, rather than actual sonic execution. As an album issued so far into Sutcliffe Jugend’s extensive discography, The Hunger is an extremely well executed and sonically diverse collection of tracks, where it seems there is no shortage of musical and lyrical ideas, nor any sense of slowing down from the Sutcliffe Jugend camp. Recommended.

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 match 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 apathetic 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

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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

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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

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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.