Dødsmaskin ‎– Fullstendig Brent

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.

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Anima Nostra – Atraments

Anima Nostra – Atraments CD Malignant Records 2017
The collaborative duo of Henrik ‘Nordvargr’ Bjorkk and Margaux Renaudin have returned and in building upon 2016’s album ‘Anima Nostra’, that title has now been adopted as the as the moniker for the project’s continuation. Although taking clear cues from the debut (reviewed here), this sophomore album demonstrates a refinement and streamlining of musical approach. While also broadly drawing influence from the multi-faceted approaches of Nordvargr over his career to date, the involvement with Margaux Renaudin allows the music to chart new stylistic territory.

Rooted in the post-industrial crossroads of dark ambient, black industrial and neo-classical, ‘Atraments’ is still more varied and complex than those genre tags might suggest. Being musically focused and almost soundtrack in stylistic orientation, Anima Nostra’s compositions are darkly cinematic in scope. Driving martial percussion and slow distorted guitars loom large on selected tracks, which clearly nods to influence from blackened, doom-drone spheres. Yet these ‘band’ instruments are wielded in an heavily abstracted way, where the music never sounds like an actual ‘band’ (…and thankfully avoids any feel of constituting a metal pastiche, or a dreaded industrial/metal hybrid). Further textural variation comes in the ritualised elements such as gongs, chimes, meditative chants, choral chanting samples and treated vocal proclamations, which are combined with shrill strings, drawling brass horns and organ dirges which all woven together into a dense post-industrial sonic tapestry.

During a couple of moments a comparison with Trepaneringsritualen comes to mind, particularly given the use of gruff yelled/ sung vocals and rhythmic/ tribal styled framework (…such as is found on ‘Anima Nostra’ and the final cut ‘The Seal’, but within the context of this album the sound is more polished and refined). For further comparative purposes ‘Atraments’ also sits within the same general sonic sphere as late era Mz.412, yet the sound charts its own individualistic direction, with is powerful atmosphere articulating its own form of grim esoteric spirituality. Despite the sheer number of albums Nordvargr has been involved with over the decades, this is yet another album and project which has struck gold, thus making Nordvargr and Margaux Renaudin akin to modern day sonic alchemists. Recommended.

The Vomit Arsonist – Meditations On Giving Up Completely

The Vomit Arsonist – Meditations On Giving Up Completely CD Malignant Records 2017

With a substantial discography extending close to 40 releases since 2004, ‘Meditations On Giving Up Completely’ is in fact only the 5th full length album from Andy Grant’s solo project.  In then taking a quick looking at Andy’s creative arc over the last few albums, ‘Only Red’ from 2015 was notable in that it took the brooding death industrial sound of 2013’s ‘An Occasion For Death’, but opted to ramp it up with an aggressively rhythmic approach.  But rather than potentially continuing on that more direct path, ‘Meditations On Giving Up Completely’ shows clear sense of honing, refinement and restraint in order to create claustrophobic death industrial atmospheres (…to rival the best moments of early Brighter Death Now).

‘Meditations’ opens the album with a minimalist “yawning chasm” tone (…this metaphor is to be read as industrial hum, echo & rumble), and with its semi-buried dialogue sample it very much feels as an introductory piece to set the mood. The following piece ‘What’s Left’ then features as an excellent offering constructed around a slow pummeling death industrial ‘beat’, idling machines and general wasteland ambience, as Andy’s agonized and unintelligible distortion charred vocals articulate a mood of anguish and desperation. Thus from the template established by the first two pieces, the following tracks effectively play out as further variations on these established theme. However to talk of notable elements, the wailing siren sound on ‘It Never Ends’ is a standout when set against a monolithic and slow pounding beat, as is the morbidly cavernous depth and gradually rising dread of ‘On Living’. During the album’s last third, ‘There is Nothing Here’ features a pounding beat that despite pushing towards a mid-paced rhythm the overall mood remains of one of brooding restraint, and with this same tone seeping into the final track ‘Sick Over’ (..which itself bleeds out in shuddering convulsions over 10 minutes).

With each track spanning around 6 minutes or longer, each of the 7 tracks are effectively elongated death industrial meditations on nihilism, underpinned with an enveloping sense of brooding despair. Likewise given the album’s general minimalism and restraint in deliver, its layered sonic elements and sporadic vocals have been meticulously combined for substantive impact. Without seeking to significantly deviate from what has preceded it, ‘Meditations On Giving Up Completely’ features a clear sense of honed refinement, and in the process has issued an imposing death industrial statement.

Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light

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Human Larvae – Behind Blinding Light CD Malignant Records 2016

For those who missed the original LP version released by Freak Animal also in 2006 (…perhaps due to the limitation of 300 copies, or maybe vinyl is not the preferred format?), Malignant Records have been kind enough to quickly reissue this on CD.

Not to repeat the original review (which can be located here), this is an excellent album and one of the best of last year. To then quote the conclusion of the full review: “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”.

All elements of the original artwork are included here, but reformatted in the guise of a 8 panel fold over digi-pack. In a word: recommended.

Nordvargr – The Secret Barbarous Names

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Nordvargr – The Secret Barbarous Names CD Malignant Records 2017

The longstanding and highly renowned Henrik ‘Nordvargr’ Björkk should need no introduction given his near 3 decade involvement in the post-industrial underground.  Yet to make specific reference to his most active solo guise he has issued upwards of 50 releases under the Nordvargr banner since the early 2000’s, where each have explored a wide range of sounds and stylistic approaches.  Although I have not personally heard all of the solo Nordvargr releases, of the 15 or so I have they demonstrate a high level of creative flair and with more than a select few rising to laudable greatness.

For this new release ‘The Secret Barbarous Names’, it sees Henrik exploring a vocal focused stylistic approach and also is notable as the first time the Nordvargr project has appeared on Malignant. Bracketed under an amalgam of droning ritual dark ambient/ post-industrial drone, the album utilizes vocals as a central element of the compositional structure, noting this focus on the vocal elements sets this album apart from other Nordvargr albums (…evidently based on Draconian and Typhonian traditions, the thematic context relates to the inherent and hidden power of scripture text which can be manifested through their correct utterance, as opposed to their specific meaning).  As such the vocal delivery ranges from whispered invocations, meditative hums and low drawling to croaked chants, which the latter drawing parallels with Tibetan throat singing.  With the vocals themselves being multi-layered and treated with a fair dose of reverb and echo they forum the bulk of the tonal soundscapes, where underpinning widescreen drones rise and fall in force and prominence depending on the track. Although predominantly sitting within a certain tonal spectrum overs its 49 minute span, on occasion swelling orchestral strings and slow ritual percussive drums appear to given further sonic variation.

As should be expected from a Nordvargr album, its rendered sonic world is darkly hewn, but the slow pacing here manages to maintain an omnipresent meditative and ritualistic quality.  Nothing also that Henrik has used the Nordvargr project to explore varied approaches, including abstract glitch (i.e. ‘I End Forever’ album) and ambient techno (i.e. ‘Resignation 2’ album) , modular synth drone (i.e. ‘Murkhr’ album) and all manner of dark ambient in-between, ‘The Secret Barbarous Names’ represents yet further variation in stylistic approach.  But most importantly these new recordings sound both inspired and invigorated and certainly stands out as a pinnacle album within Nordvargr’s rather imposing back-catalogue. Regardless of whether you need a place to start, or a reason to reengage with Nordvargr’s current creative arc, this is a praiseworthy album.

Monocube – The Rituals

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Monocube – The Rituals CD Malignant Records 2016

Monocube represents yet another new addition to the (ever) expanding Malignant roster, with this Ukrainian project being one I have not come across before. ‘The Rituals’ is their second album which demonstrates itself to be wildly diverse in terms of sound with a wealth of musical ideas on display, including clear attention to detailed sonic textures and fleeting moments of musicality (…the most obvious musical element being sparse guitar on one particular piece).

Although at its core this is a dark ambient album, it also interweaves elements of acrid drone and an undercurrent of post-industrial discontent.  Thus drawing from the recognized tropes of this type of music, including: twilight atmospherics, catacomal drones, sweeping sub-orchestral undercurrents, foggy disembodied invocations, tribal percussive thrum etc., individual creativity is demonstrated across the 9 tracks and 64 minutes. This is perhaps in part due to 3 tracks feature contributions from Apocryphos, Treha Sektori and Asmorod, although the tracks which are solely of Monocube’s creation are hardly of a singular sonic type.  There is also a high degree of forward momentum and tonal intensity which drive the sprawling widescreen compositions, meaning the results are well beyond a minimalistic or abstracted.  Equally there is an organic flair and resonance to numerous elements such as vocal textures and chants, dank field recordings and on occasion real instrumentation (i.e. ominous ritual percussion and sparse guitar), which functions to ground the principal atmosphere with an earthy tribal realism.

Although ‘The Rituals’ can be categorised under a broad ritual-dark ambient/ post-industrial drone banner, it pleasingly illustrates the creativity and diversity in approach which can still be achieved with the confines of such genres.

Gnawed – Pestilence Beholden / Steel Hook Prostheses – Calm Morbidity

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Gnawed – Pestilence Beholden CD Malignant Records 2016

Steel Hook Prostheses – Calm Morbidity CD Malignant Records 2016

From personal experience 2012’s ‘Terminal Epoch’ album was my introduction to Gnawed and with its excellent blend of US power electronics and death industrial musings it received high rotation over many months.  With that template following through to 2014’s ‘Feign and Cloak’, now 2 years on the new and third official album has arrived and seeing Gnawed rerouting their established approach into more brooding and ominous territory.

To describe the general order of proceedings, the album constitutes stark arrangements of drawling foghorn drones, layered synth derived sludge, slow echoed pounding beats and a greater emergence of metallic ‘clang and clatter’ which is roughly hewn into rhythmic structures.  With its overarching atmosphere oozing urban decay, this tone evident from the methods of recording the junk metal inputs, which according to the liner notes: “all scrap metal, performed percussion and natural sounds were recorded within sewers and rotting abandoned industrial complexes in Minneapolis, 2015”.  Although vocals do not feature on all compositions, when they are used they’re universally distortion drenched and agonized in delivery, and as is typical for this fare the lyrics are completely unintelligible, but the aggression and anguish in conveyance is tangible.

With its 9 tracks and 56 minutes, the sound and mood does not hugely deviate, but more plays out on variations on broader sonic themes, thus with the constant mood being grim and grey toned throughout, and with the greater reliance on looped junk metal being an noteworthy element.  With is greater display of structure, control and restraint, this is another excellent addition to Gnawed’s discography.

Moving on to ‘Calm Morbidity’, it represents the new album from US stalwart Steel Hook Prosthesis and would seem to be the 9th formal studio album (excluding splits and live albums), from this project since the early 2000’s, again demonstrating them to be in strong and consistent form.

Constituting a further excursion into their established clinical and medical obsessed death industrial approach, in some ways the album title is a clear synopsis of what can be expected from this album, noting that the overt aggression and sonic maelstrom has been pared back (to the bone?) to reveal greater brooding restraint (…that said, this a still far cry from potentially being tagged as ‘dark ambient’). The heavily processed vocals remain as a particular trademark, while the sonic base is cleaved into slow to mid paced rhythmic structures of throbbing distortion, erupting static, sustained caustic noise and dour synth drones to create varied offerings of brooding intensity and morbid intent.  Yet despite its broader restraint, there are specific instances where greater aggression erupts such as is displayed on both ‘Hand of Glory’ and ‘Stranguary’, which both feature variations on fast paced pulsing distortion, textured noise and garbled static infused vocals.  Also of note are the sonically processed medical based samples on ‘Deep in the Marrow’, which seem to be in complete homage to the same style of treated medical samples used by Carcass on their classic ‘Necroticism – Descanting the Insalubrious’ album.

With 10 tracks at just short of an hour play time, rather than being a particular step up in refinement this is perhaps a side step into slightly more restrained realms, but with the broader sonic palate remaining staunchly recognizable as Steel Hook Prosthesis.  Noting the ever so so slight shift in focus, I would not say this album is merely ‘more of the same’, nevertheless a key point to be made is if prior output is to your liking, this will again do the trick (…but equally this won’t alter your mind if you were not convinced by earlier output).  6 panel DVD sized digi-pack rounds out the visual presentation.