Hal Hutchinson – Cold Industrial Experience

Hal Hutchinson – Cold Industrial Experience CD Freak Animal 2022

Although I have heard only select releases in Hal’s extensive discography, I have the impression that typically his solo material is of a harsh noise scrap metal type. Cold Industrial Experience is the latest full-length, evidently ‘assembled’ in 2021.

Five tracks in all make up this instrumental industrial-noise album, and upon initial and subsequent listens I have been struck by how subdued and controlled it is overall. Clearly far less raw and brutal than other solo material I have heard, here the sonics have been hewn into a series of filthy industrial factory soundscapes, further structured around queasy wavering tones, monolithic loops, the slow semi-rhythmic beating of oil barrels, and controlled sheet metal abuse. This gives rise to a greater impression that a couple of tracks align with the later more subdued material of the Zyklon SS project – which speaks volumes of how the sonic timbre and the general industrial styled compositions appeal strongly to my stylistic preferences. The final album track Into Christ is perhaps the loosest on display, with heavy reverbed drenched catacomb rumble and sheet metal sonics. Although it does elevate to increased chaotic territory as the track progresses, even so, there is a ton of breathing space in the mix, and is far from being brick-walled and overloaded in production.

The six-panel digipack perfectly rounds out the visuals with impacts of black and white historic wartime images of twisted metal resulting from an obvious firestorm bombing campaign. An excellent album, but one which may catch harsh noise heads slightly by surprise.

Various Artists – Terässinfonia Vol. 1 / Terässinfonia Vol.2

Various Artists – Terässinfonia Vol. 1 / Terässinfonia Vol.2 CD Freak Animal Records 2020

Freak Animal Records have always been a huge supporter of new and up and coming projects in the noise-industrial-experimental underground, no matter how obscure. These two collated volumes are then noted to have a more specific function: that being to specifically focus on current activities with the Finnish underground as evidenced by the tagline of: ‘The sound of Finnish experimental noise. Terässinfonia : Steel Symphony’.

Noting the role of a good compilation is to showcase projects you may have not come across before, on that front I only recognise a handful of project names across the 24 contributions here, which includes (in order of appearance): Umpio, Kitu, Tyhjä Pää, Hazarda Bruo Sonsistemo, Atrophist, Unclean, Edge Of Decay, H.Ö.H, Jazzhand, Rotat,Junkyard Shaman, Contortus, Metsäkirkko, Ihmisen Jälkeen, Nuori Veri, Parempi Ratkaisu, Amek Maj, Toteslaut, Maskhead, Vitun Siat, YANA, Circle Of Shit, Ahola & Silander, Electric Hobo, Tyhjiø. However, as there are then far too many contributions spanning the two discs to focus on individually, some of the notable highlights of those projects whom I am not overly familiar with include:

  • Kitu – Edeema: features a strong contribution of hollowed-out industrial rumble and soot-infused ‘abandoned factory’ ambience.
  • Hazarda Bruo Sonsistemo – Loishäätö: contains upfront ‘detailed’ sounds sitting over a rising tide of thickly atmospheric distortion.
  • Atrophist – Mutation Cycles: offers a touch of sonic respite on the first disc, with a droning composition that edges ever so closely towards dark ambience.
  • H.Ö.H – Mittausteknologian Kehittyessä: aims for more experimental expression with a short track of wonky sparse cutup sounds and tape loop material.
  • Jazzhand – Gavia Arctica: stands apart given its main focus on natural based field recording, while a minimal underpinning drone and vocal and relegated to being low wihin the mix.
  • Junkyard Sharman – Harha: opting for an enveloping ritual ambient drone-work, the compositions subtle scrap metal elements sitting off within the background.
  • Nuori Veri – Jatkumon Ahjo: ranges from minimalist ‘micro-tonal’ elements, which are blended with sampled choral vocals for emotive effect.
  • Parempi Ratkaisu – Ali-ihmisten Kärsimys: actually reminds quite strongly of Grunt’s sound, given its focus here on raw noise which has been roughly hewn into intertwining scrap metal loops.
  • Toteslaut – Strike the Master Sword: strongly impresses with a track of raw and overblow power electronics, complete with rough vocal proclamations.
  • Yana – Tuntematon: shifts tactic to charts a minimalist soundscape of sparse tones and a variety of scrabbling sonics.
  • Ahola & Silander – Koitos: is notable with its thick and warm, yet hollow tonal quality to its clinical experimental drone-work.
  • Tyhjiø – Aurinko: being a raw and spitting noise-industrial track with significant sonic heft thanks to its massive production sound.

Despite not all tracks getting an individual mention above, there is a lot to like and discover across the 80 minutes of material spanning two separate CDs. But it is also worthwhile noting that a number the more established names like Umpio, Unclean, Edge of Decay, Rotat, Contortus, Maskhead, Circle of Shit function to represent the harsh noise, scrap metal industrial, and ripping power electronics sounds of the Finnish underground. The striking collages of the cover artwork provide a suitably strong visual presentation and are further pressed as four-panel digipacks. Solid compilation collections all round.

Sadio – Copycat Killer

Sadio – Copycat Killer MC Freak Animal Records 2020

When I first noted the title of this new Sadio release, it did not immediately click that it was a clever reference to the fact that this tape consists of cover tracks of the following legendary power electronics projects: Final Solution, Con-Dom, Intrinsic Action, Whitehouse, Grey Wolves, Atrax Morgue, Genocide Organ, and Taint. As Sadio is concerned with a sound and themes slanted towards the nastier end of power electronics, the chosen selection very much reflects this.

With the wide scope of sound of projects covered herein, it is noteworthy that the covers are faithful to the originals, and clearly recognisable as specific cover songs. Yet they also contain the particular sonic hallmarks of Sadio material; in this context the Finnish accent on the vocals certainly gives these covers a distinct Sadio slant. To talk specifics, the driving noise, backing loops, slow pounding beat, and ranted vocals of the cover of Con-Dom’s Moor Rapist hits its mark perfectly, while the covers of a Sutcliffe Jugend (Right to Kill) Whitehouse track (Tit Pulp) elevate the harsh needling and higher range ‘whistling’ sonics of the originals. Elsewhere the shuddering and crumbling loops of the cover of Grey Wolves’ Dominate Her features an aquatic squelch coupled with excellent heavily processed vocals. The cover of Dogday by Genocide Organ equally hits its mark with its militant bulldozing distortion and urgent and angst-filled vocals that are themselves heavily processed.

In the hands of lesser acts this sort of cover album concept would likely have fallen flat in hitting its intended mark. But in the hands of Sadio, it is completely successful in terms of concept, its varied track selection, and its final sonic execution. The packaging is a simple black and white J-card, featuring hand-scrawled text from a letter of David Richard Berkowitz aka Son of Sam (the text relating to the Genocide Organ track Dogday), and sketches by the lesser known suspected serial killer G.J. Schaefer (as documented in the long out of print book Killer Fiction).

Grunt – Spiritual Eugenics

Grunt – Spiritual Eugenics 2CD Freak Animal Records 2020

Following 2009’s sprawling album Petturien Rooli, Grunt slightly reoriented their approach to issue a series of albums based on distinct and individual tracks, including World Draped In A Camouflage (2012), Myth Of Blood (2015), and Castrate the Illusionist (2018). Spiritual Eugenics continues that approach, yet the number of tracks has increased to a length which here spans two 40-minute discs. Interestingly the CD cover lists the 20 tracks in four groups of five tracks, which replicates the track order as presented over the four sides of the 2xLP edition. Given that all tracks could have potentially been squeezed onto the one CD, this speaks volumes about the chosen physical presentation and the way the listener is expected to engage with the presented material.

In taking in the substantial volume of material here, Mikko Aspa yet again demonstrates beyond all question that he is a master craftsman when it comes to the production of power electronics, noise, and industrial-related material. Across the tracks the sound palette is forever varied, and despite its outwardly aggressive and angst-fuelled atmosphere, there are moments of more experimental and sonically spacious respite. Clearly every sonic element is focused and considered, and composition is key here. While base sonics may have been derived from various separate improvisational recording sessions, it is clear they have been specifically selected and combined to gain the end result. As perhaps expected, a myriad of sonics are presented including blustering bass tones, scrap metal abuse, granular noise, morse code distortion, wavering oscillations, looped metallic rhythms, and smattering of samples. The vocals are equally varied in sound treatment and delivery, ranging from deep bellows to angst-fuelled cries.

Lubricant Of The Rebirth stands out with its central conveyor belt loop, further fleshed out with thick droning bass, choir samples, and angst-ridden vocals. The instrumental Tehotuotettu Ihminenis notable for its hollowed-out sound which nudges Grunt’s sound towards the experimental end. Another instrumental track JOB 36:33 blends almost organ-like melodious drones with spitting static and clashing metallic noise, which can be considered in the context of the relevant bible quote: ‘The thunder announces his presence; the storm announces his indignant anger’. The opening track on second disc Inside the Walls is an excellent anxiety-inducing offering, framed around screeching metallic textures, raw junk metal tones, sustained bass drones, and aggressively spat vocals. For yet more variation the slow off-kilter loop of Eight O’Clock has a quite traditional European power electronics tone, with vocals and other flanged elements pushed into the background. Flesh Engine is also notable for its squelched idling loop, general scrap metal clatter, and unhinged shrieking vocals. Immeasurable also stands out by virtue of its fast-paced pulsing undercurrent, over which more unhinged noise is smeared.

To briefly mention the equally stunning physical presentation, this features a multi-panel digipack (including separate eight-panel booklet), pressed into thick matt card stock and containing various collages and artworks, which although uncredited are also from the hands of Mikko Aspa. Spiritual Eugenics is yet another excellent and mandatory album from Grunt, which is also available in a 2LP vinyl edition.

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority

Vigilantism – Incessant Authority CD Freak Animal 2019

Vigilantism are a new Finnish industrial noise project from one of the members of another Finnish noise project Edge Of Decay, with Incessant Authority being Vigilantism’s debut release.

Perhaps then as might be expected for a project from Finland, there is a rough, aggressive and chaotic edge to proceedings. Thus Punkt Ohne Wiederkehr opens the album with fried and fracture mid tones bass rumble, while raw scrap metal type distortion features heavily. With a thick and overblown sound, its elements have been sculpted into a grueling track, while forward momentum is also provided with a slow stilted pounding throb, while occasional distortion drenched vocals also bleed across the sonic frame. Yet on the second track Never Cross the mood takes a decided step up with an incessantly pounding martial-esque ‘beat’ and swirling fissures of caustic distortion, while dialogue samples are buried and barely intelligible in the mix. Although still distorted and rough, Chemical Conversation features greater space and depth within the mix, where grinding layers loop and intertwine, while alarm like buzzing tones elevate the tensile atmosphere. Unbinding The Angst differs again, being of a composed industrial/ power electronics approach, based around a pulsing rhythm and bass pounding tone, duly completed with apathetic and distortion tinged vocals. Although aspects of both sound and visual presentation of Incessant Authority could be described as aligning with the likes of Zyklon SS (which is a clear positive in my estimation), the final track Stepson Diaries is the most obvious example of this. Featuring caustic noise, urgent wavering tones, scrap metal crunch and completed with suitably grim dialogue sample, it is an excellent conclusion.

With its raw, direct and no-frills approach, Incessant Authority is a varied and creative recording across its approximate 40-minute run-time. A cleanly designed 6 panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation. Clearly you will already know if this album if for you, but recommended from these quarters.

Grunt – Kraniometria

Grunt – Kraniometria 3” MCD Freak Animal 2019

Over the past decade Grunt have issued a stellar run of composed power electronics releases, yet Grunt’s new offering has reverted to harsh noise territory, featuring three tracks and around 21 minutes of material. Although this mini CD is concerned with harsh noise, that tonal spectrum is no stranger given it has been a staple element in Grunt’s sound where it has been employed as a core compositional element.

But on Kraniometria harsh noise is used as a free-flowing element, and evidently the end result has been edited from hours of recordings. The opening four-minute track Eschatological Uterus features a raw and blown out/hollowed out sound which has the fierceness and energy of arching high voltage electricity, while the multitude of layers employed gives it a multi-textural sound. Flowing between clear sections, it builds to chaos and recedes to moments of relative calm, rather than employing a singular one-dimensional tone.

The second track is Sex-Paralys-Appeal and under two minutes in length, again with electricity tones arching over a deft raw and heavy junk metal rumble. The title track clocks in at 15 minutes, and while following the same tonal spectrum as the first two tracks, the flow is more fiercely freeform, cutting between distinct sections and segments, including choppy and whistling overblown feedback and a late-track section of almost orchestral intensity, maintaining a prevalent intensity throughout.

Brutally loud, but roughly echoed and hollowed in depth and tone, this is a good short and sharp release to hear Mikko letting loose with noise under the Grunt moniker.

Jaakko Vanhala – Cuts of Grace

Jaakko Vanhala – Cuts of Grace 3” MCD Freak Animal Records 2019

Evidently Jaakko had been working for many years on a full length follow up to 2012’s Here Be Lions. But instead the best fruits of that labour have been culled and issued as a five-track 21-minute mini CD, and literally not a second is wasted across its short span.

While I am not an avid noise listener, when I do so it warrants listening to the best and Jaakko is certainly widely recognized as a master of his craft. Yet Jaakko’s modus operandi is far from an improvisational ‘one take’ approach; rather the sonics are meticulously spliced together from a myriad of separate recording sessions, and this absolutely shines through in the end result. The scalpel-like precision of sonic editing generates an ever-changing and evolving chaotic sonic maelstrom which is simply a joy to listen to, particularly as the production tone is loud, crystalline, and detailed. Here the varying elements include rapid-fire screeching noise, shredding junk metal sonics, ripping distortion, sustained needling elements, and detailed micro-tonal textures that blend, overlap, and radiate off one another. Stereo panning between speakers functions to then further amplify the beautiful aural chaos, and on final track Sword of Death the use of a melodious synth undercurrent provides a vague orchestrally cinematic aura.

There is little point in completing a track by track review, although track titles do perhaps imply arcane and esoteric themes such as Iris Star and Blood Arcanum. Yet the above description functions to capture the essence of the mini CD and highlight the compositional approach of the recordings, which must be heard fully to appreciate this noise master at work. A mini cardboard-gatefold cover rounds out a slick presentation for a fantastic release.

Kristian Olsson – Ligranorex

Kristian Olsson – Ligranorex CD Freak Animal 2019

Kristian Olsson – of Alfarmania and Survival Unit infamy – should really need no introduction. Ligranorex is a solo recording, but not a new one. Originally issued on cassette in 2012, it has been reissued here with an additional track added for good measure.

In a general sense, Kristian’s solo recordings are not light years away from those of Alfarmania; however, a clear differentiator is that his solo recordings are far less aggressive and more ritualized in scope. The opening 22-minute title track, despite its ritualized undercurrent, is overall quite noisy and tonally blustery, begging comparison to Alfarmania works. But from second track Sippurator, the catacombic and esoteric depths at the core of this album are revealed. Here a track of dank cavernous ritualized atmospheres is fully realized, where shuddering darkness comes to life and seems to articulate the psychic membrane separating the real from the unreal and the waking state from the dream. Floating subdued male chants allude to human form, but equally these could be from a netherworld beyond the edges of waking perception. Later, cyclic bass drones provide greater movement to the composition, but the general mood is of drawing you into its fold. Haruspex announces itself with the wailing of a thighbone trumpet, dank and slow-paced ritual percussion, and sparse ceremonial chimes. These sit at the forefront of sound that articulates cavernous archaic depths  sonically receding far off into the distance. Spanning 21 minutes, the mood and pacing is slow and drawling, whereas throughout the middle and later sections the percussive pulse becomes more urgent, coupled with a prominent ascending/descending drone loop. Although lerul is noted to be a bonus track, it fits perfectly with the flow, mood, and balance of the album. Grey-hued and tonally stark soundscapes are releveled and further infused with archaic ritual atmospheres. Yet with its incessant bass throb and wavering sustained drones, it at times begins to resemble a slightly more ritualized version of Anenzephalia’s subdued heavy electronics offerings.

Packaging wise, the six-panel digi-pack is exquisitely presented with a selection of Kristian’s artwork, including the same artwork used for the cover of Issue No.3 of Noise Receptor Journal.

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.

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.