Various Artists – Dies Natalis Invicti Solis CD Live Bait Recording Foundation 2020
The Dies Natalis Invicti Solis compilation brings together 12 extremely varied tracks from both known and more obscure acts within the broader post-industrial underground. Devised in Autumn 2020 with a conceptual focus on the northern hemisphere’s winter solstice rituals, miraculously all contributing artists managed to hit the required deadline, with the final result released in time for the end of 2020.
Kleistwahr, the long-running solo project of Gary Mundy, opens the album with Despite It All, Still We Rejoice. Being a stark track of slow morphing melodious but abstracted guitar-based drones, it sets the introductory tone nicely given that it resembles a dour organ dirge at times. Gnawed follows with Ritual In Depths (Protect Me From An Unconquerable Sun), a track of doom-addled death industrial in their now immediately recognisable style and sound. This comment about a ‘recognisable sound’ equally applies elsewhere, where the perhaps more well-known artists such as Brighter Death Now, Deutsch Nepal, and Contrastate each bring a strong contribution in their particular trademark sonic styles. But to talk of the perhaps less familiar projects, ORD is a post-industrial ritual ambient project from Russia, who present Winterdrone, a track that balances a strong ritual undercurrent with muted caustic post-industrial debris. Murderous Vision somewhat differ from their usual approach, given their track May Diana is a collaboration with Crow Hill Gnostic Temple who deliver a theatrical spoken-word monologue over sparse windswept ambient backing which shifts towards a laboured death industrial style later in the track. The previously unknown to me Konstruktivists impresses with a rhythmic ritual industrial composition Future Days, where the shimmering drones and spoken and chanted vocals give a further unique edge. Envenomist’s We Live Here Now charts the outer edges of the dark ambient void, with tensile drones elevated and receding from the inky blackness. Dream Into Dust’s Cycle’s End brings the sound back to an earthbound realm given its neo-classical focus with sweeping string and stoic percussion, while the sparse distorted guitar pushes the sound ever so slightly towards goth and doom territories. Failing Lights is another project I am not at all familiar with, yet Herod Walks In Nativity Night is a positive introduction to some sparse yet evocatively rendered (guitar?) drones. The compilation closes with a collaboration track between Theologian and The Vomit Arsonist. Raw Nerve is the result and faithfully blends recognisable elements of each project to create a forceful track based on sub-orchestral drones with a death industrial pulse, rounded out with a charred vocal smear.
At their best, compilations that are framed around a central theme where contributing artists manage to submit their strongest work can become more than the sum of their parts. This is a far cry from many compilations that do not hang together coherently, and in some cases feel as if contributing artists have submitted second-rate offcuts. Thankfully Dies Natalis Invicti Solis sits squarely in the former camp given that there are simply no dud contributions. Although in its early days of release, the impression is that Dies Natalis Invicti Solis stands with the best of what a compilation can achieve, and strongly reminds me of the early classic compilations such as the Death Odors compilations on Slaughter Productions and the various Cold Meat Industry-related compilations of the mid to late 1990s. A slick design and beautifully printed six-panel eco-wallet rounds off the physical presentation, but 300 copies will not stick around long with a compilation of this quality.