Moral Order – Krypteia 2xMC Cloister Recordings 2019
Moral Order are a quite new heavy electronics/death industrial project, helmed by Spaniard Fernando O. Paíno. Having issued three releases since 2018, this is the third album, and while issued on limited double tape the less limited CD version has been issued on Malignant Records.
In a general sense there is a real old school tonal sensitivity to this album without it sounding purposefully or cynically ‘retro’. Likewise, the tone and mood is grey- to black-hued, which comes from what sounds like purely analogue sound sources, with an air of elevating menace. Across the 10 tracks there is a tonally raw simplicity at play, based around loosely rhythmic industrial loops, throbbing bass, fried mid-toned frequencies, and apathetic spoken vocals – as showcased on early track Murder Weapon. At times perhaps there is some parallel to be drawn here to the harsher end of the Galakthorrö roster, with This Is The Life You Must Live having a stilted swagger comparable to early Haus Arafna. Other tracks, such as the lengthy Day of the Dead, mine a death ambient mood of drawn-out drones and minimalist yet tensile atmospheres. Album closer Anonymous Carrion sees Moral Order make their best approximation of an early Brighter Death Now, death industrial sound – and it is certainly a convincing end result.
Perhaps not an album to convince or sway new listeners to a roughly hewn, loosely rhythmic industrial/heavy electronics sound, Krypteia is rather an underground gem to please long-term converts. Packaging wise, the double tape case is housed in an oversized cardboard box, which is evidently a homage to the packaging of the 1989 collaborative double tape Östenbräun by Death In June and Les Joyaux De La Princesse. Being limited to a mere 100 copies and already sold out, the CD version on Malignant Records would be the way to go.
Monocube – Substratum CD Malignant Records/Cyclic Law 2019
Like a monumental ancient breath issuing forth from the bowels of the earth, Monocube have returned with their fourth album of archaic soundscape ambience, issued again on Malignant Records but this time having been co-released by Cyclic Law. As an initial observation, on a whole Substratum has a more consistent sound palette overall than last album The Ritual (2016), which was more varied between tracks and on occasion used prominent musical motifs and ritual percussion. And while musical and melodic motifs are still employed here, it is in a much more subtle way, often semi-obscured within the elongated widescreen droning ambience.
Depth, breadth, and reverb play a huge part in setting the tone and atmosphere of the album, where early in the album foggy and enveloping twilight drones and deep throat chants characterize the lengthy Prima Materia. This piece seamlessly blends into Luft which is differentiated by its subtle and minimal plucked instrument (guitar?) and use of what may be field recordings of blustering storm winds, which perfectly offsets the elongated melodious drones. The semblance of natural field recording elements also weaves through the middle and later sections, providing the consistency in mood across the album. As with the last album, a number of tracks are based on collaborations, here featuring Visions on one composition, and Antti Litmanen of Arktau Eos on another, but without reading the liner notes to determine which tracks these are, their contributions are not immediately evident from sound alone – and again refers back to my comments on the consistent sound palette.
With the tone and atmosphere of Substratum fitting like a glove with similar archaic ambient droning material issued on both Cyclic Law and Malignant, this is another fine album to submerge one’s inner psyche with and effectively lose yourself over its hour-plus timespan.
Eidulon – Combustioni CD Malignant Records 2018
For background context Eidulon issued their debut CD Idolatriae on Malignant Records back in 2007, but then receded into the shadows for over a decade before returning to issue this second album. Although perhaps in truth there was not complete silence from the group following the debut, as in the intervening 11 year period contributions were made to a number of the respected Malignant Records/ Kalpamantra compilations between 2009 and 2018.
With reference to the first album, it was a quite minimalist and abstract take and experimental and industrial tinged dark ambient, Combustioni is an altogether different beast. Being a solid blend of sub-orchestral dark ambient, martial tinged industrial and apocalyptic neo-classical expression, Combustioni is varied in its sonic execution, which is perhaps partly explained by guest contributions on various tracks including: Nordvargr, Kammarheit, Naxal Protcol, Caul and Luca Soi. Specifically speaking, the guest vocals of Henrik Nordvargr Björkk are unmistakable on A Shimmer In The Void and The Hierarchy Of The Inner Planes, but perhaps coincidentally the backing music is not too dissimilar to Nordvargr’s last storming full length Metempsychosis, albeit more doomy and orchestral in execution here. Luca Soi also provides guest vocals on two tracks, with the first being on Grande Rosso which are in a croaked rasp more resembles an underground metal style, while the musical backing features towering orchestral brass horns and slow booming martial drums. Yet in a complete opposite form of vocal expression Luca’s vocals on Immanence are presented as clean sung and chanted, which is a standout element of the album and highlights yet further stylistic variation. Late album track Averni Flammas Transivi features contributions of Kammarheit which results in a droning soundscape which elevates to moments of shrill orchestral strings, while Stratificazione Settima concludes the album as an instrumental dark ambient offering containing muted sustained melodies and floating/ droning textures.
Not an overly long album at 42 minutes, it still packs a multitude of strong ideas in that run time. While the first CD was minimalistic in scope and sound, Combustioni is anything but, where the music is memorable with strong and rousing impact. To round out the physical presentation, the slick graphic design of the high gloss digi-pack includes stunning grey-toned imagery and full lyrics, which has been formatted to fold out into a Maltese Cross. A worthy release.
Leila Abdul-Rauf – Diminution LP Cloister Recordings / Black Horizons 2018
Evidently Leila Abdul-Rauf is active in a number of other projects, including some underground metal bands, but as I am not familiar with any of those my only reference point is with her last album Insomnia from 2015 (reviewed here). In building upon on the earlier sonic template, Leila’s new album Diminution can be considered through the definition of its title which amounts to: “the act, process, or an instance of becoming gradually less”. In this context, the dusky film noir atmospheres established on Insomnia have been further distilled down to a core, slighted abstracted emotional essence, although conversely a lengthier and at times song-tinged format has been employed.
On the opening title track a sparse piano motif sits in the foreground, while a lone haunting trumpet plays off in the foggy distance, and thus with the evoked mood of late hours melancholia, this remains as the constant tone throughout the balance of the album. Half of the eight album tracks include vocals courtesy of Leila, but these remain understated and effectively float through the ether as another haunting textural element, and on occasion layered and multi-tracked for subtle choral effect. With the combination of vocals and music has an ethereal dreamlike quality, but always of a darker emotive hue rather than anything resembling a light or whimsical tone. Likewise the feel of abandoned and desolate nighttime urban streets remains an atmospheric constant (as represented by dour minor keyed synth washes) which blends perfectly with late-night jazz tone (derived from the sporadic lone trumpet playing), to create a deft film noir/ late night ‘Lynchian’ vibe. Late album track Hindsight deviates ever so slightly, through the introduction of a sparse and understated picked acoustic guitar, while final album track Light Rising concludes as a highlight in its convergence of elements described above, but delivered in a slightly more urgent musical framework.
While the artwork in the form of an original painting by Matthew Jaffe would perhaps tend to suggest a more typical dark ambient album, this is far from the reality of what is musically presented, which is hauntingly eloquent in it chosen musical expression, where this album has been the perfect soundtrack to cold autumn nights (being the current Australian season in which the album is being reviewed). In taking the atmospheric mood of Insomnia and building upon it, Diminution stands above as a more impressive and emotionally impacting album. With the vinyl version being jointly issued by Cloister Recordings and Black Horizons, should CD be the preferred format, that is being handled by Malignant Records.
Stromstad – New Devoted Human LP Malignant Records 2017
This debut release from Stromstad is revealed to be collaborative album between the Finnish duo STROM.ec and Norwegian Kristoffer Oustad – and what a debut it is. With STROM.ec being recognized for a highly refined blend of industrial and heavy electronics and with Kristoffer Oustad inhabiting an evocative industrial smeared dark ambient sound, the creative collaboration between the two was always going to be an interesting one. Yet the creativity and flair on display completely exceeds any initial expectations.
Noting that each of the eight tracks are relatively confined (between three and six minutes each), this functions to generate a sense of urgency across the album, where its shifting and morphing elements draw from abrasive mechanical programming, controlled noise, lush sub-orchestral pads and gruff processed vocals. As an example, the fizzing/ buzzing looped static of the album opener Inherent Resurrection soon gives way to rolling tribal percussion and rough yelled vocals (clearly recognisable as those of STROM.ec), and functions very much as a statement of intent of what is explored over the balance of the album. Fever Wave Dream Function quickly following with woozy drones and off-kilter metallic clatter, shimmering synths and all underscored with a throbbing programmed element which leaps into heavily rhythmic section late in the track. The central buzzing tonality and stilted mechanical textures drives Blood Consciousness and when coupled with the gruff, slightly treated vocals is perhaps the piece most comparable to a straight STROM.ec composition. The sub-orchestral strains of Nattsvermer constitutes the first effective respite of the album, being a semi-melodious cinematic drone-scape which reminds of mid era raison detre (and particularly so where some distant choir textures are used). In a somewhat unexpected guest contribution, Grutle Kjellson from Enslaved provides vocals on Reluctant Traveler, another track of stilted mechanical rhythms and buzzing fissures of static mixed with moody orchestral textures, while Gruttle’s vocals range from spoken, guttural chants and urgent yells (a late track guitar gives a partial nod to the current prog metal direction of Enslaved). The title track is positioned towards the album’s ends is in some ways the most straight forward with rapid fire looped beat, tempered static and vocals relegated to the middle of the mix, but in the later half it veers off into moody sub-orchestral territory, while the final album track Kosto then deviates the most, with a synth derived neo-classical piece of moody swelling strings, and with a definite modern sci-fi edge to the sound.
Not being an overly long album, all the same it delivers a heavy impact across its multiple creative arcs, and which consequently makes it feel to be a much longer album than its actual run-time. While New Devoted Human could be said to be of the genres it draws from, at the same time it steps well beyond them given its inspired use and application of such influences. Effectively the album excels by the fact of how vital the finished result sounds, and in the process generates new creative ways of approaching recognizable genre sound elements. Issued on vinyl in gate-fold sleeve, CD or digital formats, it is simply a matter of taking your pick of preferred format. But as a word of advice, do not let this album pass you by.
Analfabetism – Skammen CD Malignant Records 2017
I first came across Analfabetism via their second album Av Hjord Är Du Kommen from 2015 which highlighted that there is still activity within a dank and mechanical Swedish death industrial sound, and particularly that sound pioneered by the likes of Megaptera, select moment of Archon Satani (i.e. their Mind of Flesh and Bones album), or even elements of very early Mz.412. Skammen continues on that established path, and again delivers unassuming but expertly crafted result.
Of the 7 track which span just short of 50 minutes, each piece is around the 6-8 minute mark, which allows each piece to develop in a minimalist and unhurried fashion and where there is a sense of controlled restraint and where tension is slowly ratcheted up amongst the general tonal gloom. Sonically speaking dank fissures of noise spit sonic ash, while sullen mechanized drone and moody minimalist synth lines provide the aural bedrock. Likewise, by virtue of the creaking metallic textures and sporadic clangs being structured into a series of loops, it provides loose and slightly stilted rhythmic structure to proceedings. Tracks such as Den Eviga Skammen differ slightly with its harder and heavier tonal outbursts, but again structured for loose rhythmic effect, while it is only on late album track Vi Reser Nu En Grav where vocals appear, but these are treated beyond recognition.
Although not necessarily deviating from the hallmarks of the genre, Analfabetism have still delivered and strong and convincing album of the chosen death industrial style. As for the artwork of the six panel digipack, the close-up images of factory equipment visually says volumes of the dank death industrial atmospheres captured herein.
Dødsmaskin – Fullstendig Brent CD Malignant Records 2017
Dødsmaskin (…translating to ‘Death Machine’) are new project and signing to Malignant Records. ‘Fullstendig Brent’ is the debut from this Norwegian duo, and from a geographic perspective Norway has far less of a profile than say Sweden when dealing with this type of music. Thematically the album then deals with 17th Century witch trails, with the title translating to an approximation of the English words ‘holocaust’ or ‘completely burnt’ provides further conceptual context for its darkly hued drones and jaggedly erupting post-industrial soundscapes.
Crackling fires samples underpin the majority of the opening track ‘Baldom’, which is coupled with an archaic and forlorn atmosphere driven by a maudlin violins, mid track dour synth melody and later segment of intense fire blasting factory floor ambience (…aka solid death industrial). ‘Heksetimen’ follows with an offering of hollow, grinding drones and mood of lurking malevolence (…again with fire samples featuring as a prominent and consistent element), where this track also follows the format of the first track by evolving into a slow, pounding death industrial soundscape. ‘Christoffering Orning’ is the 10 minute centre piece, which commences with chanted religious proclamations, prior to leaping into a cinematically tinged, throbbing post-industrial soundscape with the anguished wailing a lone female (…clearly representative of the torture of an accused witch). After the grinding intensity of this track, ‘De Ti – 1621’ takes a more atmospheric route, with a sparse echoed dark ambient soundscape, with floating female vocals (…but mid-track this also drives towards a grinding death industrial frame). For the final of the 5 tracks ‘Dømt På Sitt Liv Til Ild Og Bål’, it perhaps demonstrates the greatest degree of restraint with a distant tolling bell, manipulated micro-tonal textures, and a final segment consisting of a ‘duet’ between sparse strings and a tragically toned piano melody.
With ‘Fullstendig Brent’ featuring 5 tracks between 7 to 10 minutes each provides an overall run time of 42 minutes, yet given the presented material is varied and highly detailed in sonic scope the album feels much longer than this (…this observation is meant in a positive light). In sonically articulating its heavy weight theme, the means of recording is highly detailed, nuanced and expertly constructed, where passages of relative calm provides for balance and relief from other passages of highly tensile atmospheres. Likewise ‘Fullstendig Brent’ is noteworthy in that achieves a cinematic soundtrack feel (…rather than a more typical ‘song’ oriented framework), and consequently has resulted in a divergent and high caliber death industrial offering.