Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist

Grunt – Castrate The Illusionist LP Freak Animal 2018

Grunt return three years after Myth Of Blood (reviewed here), and continues the approach of delivering albums containing a collection of distinct and individual tracks. This follows the pattern already set down by World Draped In A Camouflage from 2012 (reviewed here) and continued on Myth Of Blood. As such Castrate The Illusionist can be considered as effectively rounding out a trilogy of releases, featuring unhinged, noise infused power electronics of the highest caliber.

Of the eleven album tracks are on the shorter side (two to five minutes each), which allows a wide variety of sounds, textures and sonic approaches to be explored. Likewise some quite unexpected sound-sources make an appearance, including a wonky treated accordion sample on The Iron Curtain Of Discreet Silence, which is placed within an instrumental soundscape of clattering junk metal, maudlin choir-esque sustained synths and squelching up front noise. Varied vocals feature across the album, ranging from the rock hard spoken passages to those of the trademark gruff yells and occasional unhinged shrieks.  Of note, the album contains two effective ‘hit songs’, including Hunting Within Civilization and Purge of Violence, both of which rely on heady pulsing textures to generate anthemic fist pumping effect, coupled with raw junk metal smatterings of noise and gruff agonised vocals (…and for the eagled eyed (eared?) both tracks previously featured in live versions on the Swarm of Parasites tape from 2016). Yet to speak of a slight negative, Human Storage seems somewhat out of place among the rest, as it is sonically less resolved overall and feels to be a more of a short, improvised piece.

Beyond describing individual tracks, the general mood and atmosphere oscillates between controlled anger to barely restrained violence, and while there is a clear display of meticulous construction of its varied sound elements, the tone never forges a shredding and raw tonal aesthetic. In an overarching sense Castrate The Illusionist can be considered to be of equal standing to the last couple of albums (as well as the Sacrosanct Imperium EP reviewed here), meaning this is more extremely high calibre material and again demonstrates without question Mikko Aspa’s sonic mastery of his chosen craft.

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Sadio / Caligula031 – Sadio / Caligula031

Sadio / Caligula031 – Sadio / Caligula031 LP Freak Animal Records/ Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2016

On this split the Finnish Sadio (a collaborative project between Grunt and Skin-Graft) have teamed up with the Italian Caligula031 (side project of Wertham main man Marco Deplano), and is ultimately a release which sits at the depraved and nastiest end of power electronics.

Sadio take on Side A with 3 tracks of ‘basement torture’ electronics which are even less structured than those on the debut album Sophisticated Methods In Torture (…which itself was an exercise in direct aggression over detailed or meticulous studio recording).  With more similarity than difference across the first two pieces Inhale the Animal Filth and Slavemarket, the result is absolutely rough, raw and ripping.  Here the sound, whilst having a solid lower end, is more prominent at the mid to high spectrum with overblown and hollowed out tones, barely controlled feedback squalls and occasional barked vocals rising to the surface.  The clear impression is the material has perhaps been recorded live in studio, with recording levels being max’ed out in the red, and followed with limited (if any) post production. The third and final track Innocent And Pure then shows a fair bit more restraint and opts for a slow building atmospheric cut of sweeping and fluttering mid tones and bulked out with heavier bass rumble and with the late track murky vocals being vomited somewhere off in the distance of a cavernous warehouse.

Caligula031 then encompasses a voyeur’s ‘sleaze perspective’ on Side B (4 tracks and around 20 minutes of material), which thematically focus on heroin addition and the depravity of the ‘fix’ lifestyle. Needle Park – Platzspitz 1990 is the opening piece of extremely murky, idling machine clatter to set a general mood of stasis, thus leaving ample room for the forceful vocal torrent to remain prominently throughout. Following on Nothing Comes For Free is excellent for its minimalism which is constructed with two sustained but counteracting tones (…one needling texture and the other at the mid to lower end), which allows Marco’s heavily Italian accent vocals to sit front and centre within the track. Sponge of the Sidewalk follows and is framed around subdued bass rumble and dialogue sample referencing addiction, prostitution and criminality (…which appears to have been lifted from a UK talk show), while Sob Story is the final of four tracks and is another piece of hollow mid-toned textures and heavily processed vocals.

Packaging is noteworthy for its simple white sleeve and sticker, which has been further ‘augmented’ with flecks, drips and spatters of real blood, while a double sided insert includes further thematic imagery.  Clearly a release for those knowing exactly what they are in for, and not for the squeamish or ‘scene tourist’ types, thus with its limitation of 250 copies this would be sufficient for this nasty and no-frills release to find its intended audience.

Contact caligula031@gmail.com for availability.

Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light

HL

Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light LP Freak Animal 2016

Daniel Burfoot’s Human Larvae project has only issued 3 albums (including this) in 8 years since the debut was issued in 2008.  Although each have been individually strong and focused noise industrial/ power electronics releases, a gradual step up in refinement has also been noted.  Likewise while last album ‘Womb Worship’ (reviewed here) received high rotation, ‘Behind Blinding Light’ then contains a focused directness and immediacy beyond anything previously displayed by Human Larvae.  Working with wide variety of sonic elements and stylistic approaches, this new album contains a degree or familiarity and which beg parallels comparisons with the likes of IRM, Prurient and Grunt*, but Daniel cleverly has twisted them to his own ends under the Human Larvae banner.

‘Paradigm Shift’ leads off in exceptional ‘controlled tension’ style, where its subdued windscreen drone and detailed junk metal sounds displays depth in the recording and production. ‘Severing Sirens’ is the second track of stilted quasi death-industrial pounding structures and cathartic vocals, which gradually builds to a crescendo of aggression and feedback squall.  After reaching a particular peak the mood falls away to one of tense restraint, where he microtonal textures, shimmering static drones and distant choir like solo female vocals (perhaps a mythical ‘Siren’ of the track’s title?), while creaking sheet metal provides a sharper rusted industrial aesthetic.  The cathartic lyrics of ‘Isolation of the Stain’ and their gruff roared delivery brings to mind the approach of Prurient, although the musical undercurrent is more restrained than typical Prurient, where it balances between static, drone and feedback.

On Side B, the first track is ‘Psychosis’, where the guest vocals of Levas (of the Lithuanian project Pogrom), provides a deeper and harder masculine edge to a undercurrent of widescreen drones, which then take second stage to a rough and chaotic layering of junk metal and sprayed distortion.  At 10 minutes in length ‘Epiphany’ is an album highlight, where the elements of widescreen drone and clanging junk metal have been looped and structured into a focused rhythmic industrial/ power electronics track which perfectly balances structure and chaos (…where the elevating scraping feedback is used as an element to ratchet up the tension and augment the rough barked vocals of Daniel).  In the final third of the track the mood shifts to a segment built around looped clean guitar lines, which itself leads directly in the short track ‘Exit Elend’ to concludes the album.  This final piece, is then a back to basics display of a rough and shuddering industrial drone and course flange track vocals (repeating: “nothing changes” in a frantic yell).

Being the first Human Larvae album to be pressed on vinyl, this is an album which absolutely warrants such a pressing, where the collage artwork suits the sound and feel of the album.  Without being in any way derivative, ‘Behind Blinding Light’ is a strong, focused and sonically diverse industrial/ power electronics release which demonstrates full control over its sonic elements, both in the recording and their construction.  Recommended.

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* – while I acknowledge that these artists were mentioned in the promo text, this is not merely me ‘retreading’ the promo material, rather highlights that I completed agree with the comparisons (…although I don’t so much agree with the promo text’s comparison to Control).

Grunt – Sacrosanct Imperium

GruntMC

Grunt – Sacrosanct Imperium MC Freak Animal 2015

Evidently recorded over the same period as ‘Myth of Blood’, Mikko has also specifically pointed out that material featured herein does not constitute abandoned or leftover material. So, regardless of origin ‘Sacrosanct Imperium’ is a short and tasty 20 minute three track cassette which continues to push Grunt’s audibly recognisable blend of power electronics filth and industrialised noise.

‘Prologue for Plague’ opens site A with a subdued sound that is not at all characteristic of Grunt, where sampled male operatic vocal and semi-orchestral tones weaves in out of a subdued crumbling noise drone. With this acting as a bit of a ‘intro’ piece ‘Sacrosanct Imperium’ then delivers a hard hammer blow, with squelching mid-toned noise and fast paced throbbing militant tinged beat which is loose and unhinged in presentation. Mikko’s vocals are then used sporadically, where they are an urgent high pitched wail to match the urgency and unhinged aspects of the throbbing noise backing, which sprawls out over an extended length. Excellent stuff. ‘Gas Fumes’ is then a single extended piece which takes up Side B, where spitting static fried noise, and lower revving noise loops makes up the bulk of the sound, whilst the noise lines interweave, overlap and interject in equal measures, where vocals are more of the typical gruff shouted type, featuring a slight treated edge and only sporadically used. Late in the piece things calm down somewhat with a mid-toned sustained maudlin organ dirge tone, but with spitting, static fried noise remaining in the foreground. Simply put, another excellent track.

Feeling very much as a companion release to the ‘Myth of Blood’ album, ‘Sacrosanct Imperium’ should not be passed over due to its cassette only format and is another very strong release to add to Grunt’s ever growing discography.

Grunt – Myth of Blood

myth

Grunt – Myth of Blood LP Freak Animal 2015

Three years have already passed since the release of the exceptional ‘World Draped In A Camouflage’ album, where this new full length follows a similar approach bedded down on the last, i.e. by featuring a collection of individual and uncompromising tracks; each displaying a clear diversity of approach within a general industrial / noise / power electronics framework.

The opening cut ‘Black Flag’ commences the album in unhinged fashion with swirling/ grinding layered noise, sporadic junk metal sounds and harsher static elements as the screeched / distorted vocals yell the track’s title (sampled operatic vocals are also used but barely discernible and only becoming apparent after a number of listens). This is followed by the early album standout ‘Ghosts of Old Europe’, being based on a basic structure of sustaining buzzing tone and background lurching loops, further augmented with a heady dose of metallic clangs and distant wailed vocals.  Additionally semi-buried droning abstract strings add a melancholic tone, as Mikko’s prominent trademark gruff yelled and slightly treated vocals provide a level of raw aggression. ‘Interrogation Paranoia’ then shifts the mood toward more noisier realms, based on its spitting and sustained frequencies (mid to higher piecing tonal range), whilst the vocals are more antagonistically accusing in their delivery. ‘Linkola Legacy’ arrives as the most divergent track of the album, based around a fractured and partly rhythmic tone, sounding like a switch being flicked between different noise generator settings. Wet and squelching sounding static infused loops feature as the backing for ‘Unmarked Graves’, which is then pushed into noisy chaotic realms with further layers of distortion and rough barked vocals. ‘Ordeal of Water’ is based around a core of junk metal abuse and as a consequence is loose and chaotic, where the vocals relegated to gurgled and pain inflected screams which do not seem to be articulating any actual words. The title track is another clear standout, with sustained mid toned distortion and revving noise loops, as an underpinning accordion drone provides a dour edge to the track’s mood. A low cyclic noise drone commences ‘Saws Are Waiting’, but evolves in the latter half to contains a rather fist pumping and anthemic PE quality, due to its strong militant rhythmic loop and (again) trademark wailed vocals of Mikko (junk metal clatter also makes a late track appearance).

Focused and forceful, each of the 10 tracks are perfectly controlled, again being an absolute demonstration of Mikko’s mastery of his honed sound. This stands as a testament to his ability to construct varied and distinct PE compositions which never forsakes a gritty industrial and noise infused underground aesthetic. Given its individual track based approach this quite feels like the brother/ companion album to ‘World Draped In A Camouflage’, although it does not achieve the same level of immediate impact, rather is more of a slow burner in revealing it true character.  Regardless, ‘Myth of Blood’ is another extremely strong addition to Grunt’s catalogue.

Budrus – Canine Visions IX

Budrus

Budrus – Canine Visions IX CD Freak Animal 2013

Budrus are an unusual and difficult to categorise project which covers some diverse sonic territory whilst managing to amass it into a coherent whole.  Skin Area might be a good comparison in this regard, but not for a comparison to their sound, rather with respect of Skin Area’s own diverse mixture of industrial and non-typical industrial elements.  Given their diverse musical influences Budrus arrive at their own sound through a mixture of abstract pounding industrial, guitar based instrumental drone, (almost) martial atmospheres and power electronics attitude evidenced by the gruff, yelled vocals presented without distortion treatment (other than light echo).

In some ways the opening track ‘Canine Vision I’’ is the most straightforward, with its droning analogue synths and aggressive upfront vocals evoking an industrial/ power electronics tone, before the introduction of drums and synth layers which have a vague martial industrial sensibility.  This martial sensibility is also evident with the pounding rhythm of ‘Greet Me’, which offsets the loose guitar drones, distorted noise layers and unhinged vocals. The excellent ‘Shores of Glass’ delivers a spare melancholic drone tracks of sweeping tonal textures, sparse kit drums and slow clean guitars, with the mood being altered by the aggressive vocals appearing mid track.  Likewise late album track ‘Wake up!’ is an excellent example of the eclectic nature of the project: the vocals hint at power electronics aggression, the synth and percussion hint at martial / industrial genres, yet the the clean and distorted guitars pushes the composition into a sound realm all its own.

Despite its varied musical expression ranging from sparse to focused and heavy, the overarching mood remains a melancholic one, either forming the main focus or remaining as the undercurrent to the more aggressive segments.  Beyond musicality comment is warranted regarding the visual presentation.  Given that I consider the artwork of any release to be of central importance, to my aesthetic sensibilities the cover and logo do not do this album justice, and on face value it carries a visual feel more suited to a crust punk band or similar.  As such I have pondered whether this album might have been better represented with something altogether different. Notwithstanding this aesthetic criticism, ‘Canine Visions IX’ is a varied and ultimately difficult album to categorise, yet one which should confound expectations and reward those adventurous enough to check it out.

Sickness / John Wiese – Amnesia

Sickness: John Weise

Sickness / John Wiese – Amnesia 7”ep Freak Animal 2011

Although I am by no means an expert in noise appreciation, here we have a short and sharp studio collaboration 7” from two heavyweights in the noise genre.  Cut at 45rpm, four tracks are presented (two per side) ranging in length from 2 to 2.5 minutes.  This is supremely chaotic stuff, but not of a chaotic improvisational style, rather this is meticulously constructed and layered brutal noise, where the multiple layers and segmented cuts ups and individually audible within the sonic mass.

The first cut ‘Bright Region Xanadu’ is crisp and tonally heavy, with its full spectrum dynamic harsh noise including intense cut ups and avalanches of scattergun noise.  ‘Excise’ follows and has slightly more breathing room with a pulsing bass undercurrent acting as a base for driven harsh noise and interjecting distortion.  ‘Featherweight’ is slightly more freeform with its heavy tonal squalls and wretched crescendos of distortion, which although dense is sonically clear with an abundance of minute tonal detail.  Final track ‘Back to Xanadu’ feels slightly more ‘constructed’ due to its use of broken loops, yet random cut ups and metallic overloaded distortion keep things suitably chaotic.

Basically ‘Amnesia’ is a short, heavy, intense, no-frills and absolutely to the point 7”ep, highlighting the focus and dynamics that can be achieved with harsh noise, as well as the control of two artists who have honed their skills to razor sharp intensity over multiple years and releases. In a word – brutal.