Mz.412 Vs Folkstorm ‎– Live Ceremony

Mz.412 Vs Folkstorm Live Ceremony CD Old Europa Café 2015

With Mz.412 having infrequently graced the stage over the years, it was way back in 2000 (18th August) when two of the three members (i.e. Henrik Nordvargr Björkk and Jouni ‘Ulvtharm’ Ollila) teamed up to perform at the Collapse festival in Rostock, Germany. Being billed as Mz.412 vs Folkstorm at the time, this goes partway to explain the harder and harsher elements of this recording which incidentally was previously issued via Pagan Dance in 2004 in a limited edition of 412 copies. This has now been reissued by Old Europa Café with new artwork and the inclusion of additional bonus tracks not included on the original version.

Having previous heard the Mz.412 live album Hekatomb (recorded at Cold Spring’s 21st Anniversary show at The Garage, London, 5 March 2011 – reviewed here), that recording illustrated a more refined presentation of their existing studio works in a live setting. However on Live Ceremony, the recording is a far rougher sonic affair which would seem to reflect an approach of only partially relying pre-recorded segments of music, in order to focus on the live generation of distortion and feedback. Without the inclusion of actual track names, the seven live tracks have been referred at as Act I through Act VII. But by way of example, Act I includes a short fragment of the classic track God of Fifty Names which cuts through live scattered noise, while an additional dialogue sample more thematically aligned with Folkstorm. Vocals are also present in the live setting, but which are heavily treated and again reflect the Folkstorm angle to the live proceedings. As with Act I, a number of recognizable snippets of studio works are used over the seven live tracks, such as on Act III when Der Kampf Geht Weiter from Nordic Battle Signs is blended with the introduction of Deklaration Of Holy War from Burning the Temple of God. But these recognisable fragments of albums function as short interludes which bridge the live sections of loose distorted noise and on occasion tribal/ ritual rhythmic movements, while he final short Act VII relies on sample of a Penderecki styled choral work to conclude the set.

As for the bonus tracks, the two Folkstorm tracks are solid examples of the spitting noise and raw militant industrial meets power electronics material that the project was producing in the early 2000’s. However perhaps of greater interest are the two-short bonus Mz.412, where there is no indication as to which era these are derived from (although Nordvargr later confirmed these are from around 2006/07).  Mors Solum Initium Est is the first of the bonus offerings and is a darkly ritualistic affair with a deeply cavernous atmosphere, rattling metallic tones and distant wailing textures, and perhaps more reminiscent of early Archon Satani than typically Mz.412 – but an excellent track all the same. Congregation of the Abyss follows to round out the album and slightly differs given its focus on intensive multi-layered garbled to guttural roaring vocals and sweeping sub-orchestral undercurrent, which overall is a replication of the sound of the Domine Rex Inferum album and another decent track.

Being a generally loose, and at time chaotic live recording, this is a worthwhile document of the live performance, but perhaps not an essential release in Mz.412’s discography. But even in saying that, the inclusion of the two bonus Mz.412 tracks gives clear incentive to track this down.

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Atomine Elektrine – The Second Moon

Atomine Elektrine – The Second Moon CD Old Europa Café 2017

Operating since the mid 1990’s, Atomine Elektrine is perhaps Peter Andersson’s most well-known and recognized side project of raison d’être.  The Second Moon is the new and sixth full length album, if not including demo collections and live material which have also been formally released on CD.

With the project name being the Lithuanian word for ‘nuclear power plant’, there has always been and ‘Eastern Bloc’ angle to the sound and approach of the project, where it could also be suggested that the deep space elements and melodic passages sonically articulate the space program era of the Soviet Union. To then quickly speak of context, personally the project hit an absolute high mark with their second album Archimetrical Universe from 1999, which perfectly blended abstract deep space movements with more melodious compositions and occasionally beat driven programming. While the albums which followed experimented with this template, more often than not the abstracted and experimental elements took greater focus, but did not archive the same sonic coherence of Archimetrical Universe (although it must be said that none of the following albums could be considered lackluster or poor in quality by any means).

As a general observation The Second Moon builds on the template of 2015’s Laniakea album, which was framed around sparse and floating deep space drones, which are augmented with looping musical phrases which gives a nod to 1970’s era cosmic space synth music of Tangerine Dream and the like. Yet on this new album there feels to be a greater degree of cohesion and focus to the combination of the deep space drones and pulsing melodious elements. Structurally the album has a drifting and enveloping quality, where the drones and melodies elevate in intensity, to then recede again and build anew, which makes it an album length experience, rather than one focusing on individual musical pieces (featuring only five track, it still has an expansive run time given the shortest track is eight minutes and the longest twenty minutes in length).

Although I have followed and enjoyed all of Atomine Elektrine’s outputs over the years, equally I have found The Second Moon to be one of the most listened to of the last few albums, which is predominantly down to its refinement and balancing of its sonically abstracted and melodious parts. A cleanly designed, 4 panel digi-pack rounds out the presentation.

Militia – New European Order

Militia – New European Order 2xCD Old Europa Café 2017

Back in around 1996 I was made aware of Militia well before I heard any of their music, thanks to a full page advert for the original 3xLP edition of New European Order (featured in Issue 7 of Audio Drudge magazine from 1996). I was then introduced to their music a couple of years later via the now classic War Against Society 3xLP compilation, and needless to say I was instantly hooked by their heavily percussive, martial-tinged industrial music and immediately tracked down the New European Order album.

Fast forward some 21 years from the original release, here we have the New European Order album issued on double CD. With the cover featuring the same artwork my obvious first impression was that this is a straight re-release. However upon further investigation it is revealed to be the same material, but having been completely re-recorded. While I am generally dubious of projects or bands who choose to re-record earlier albums (particularly in instances where the original already has a degree of recognition), thankfully here the end result maintains the mood and spirit of the original.  In fact if I was not aware that this was a re-recording, perhaps I would have taken this as a heavily polished ‘remastered’ version rather than a re-recording. On the production front the biggest difference to note is that the general murkiness of the original has been removed in favor of clarity, volume and a separation of its sonic elements. This has created a sweepingly atmospheric sound where the foggy, distant and forlorn ambience of the original remains at its core, but the sound is cleaner and elevated in production terms (as is particularly the case with the sharp and pounding oil barrel percussive elements). The music ranges from brooding sub-orchestral movements to rousing percussive industrial oil barrel attacks; the lineage and comparison to early Laibach or Test Department looms large, but in the case of Militia they thankfully never succumbed to using cheesy electronic/dance elements. Yet even with such comparisons, in 2017 it is clear that Militia have made their mark on this percussive and sub-orchestral driven approach, and can also stand proud in not deviating from their core approach and thematic intent over the years.

Where New European Order excels (be it in this or its original form) is in its juxtaposition of brooding soundscapes and driving metallic percussive pieces, where the pieces of brooding ambience set a solemn tone which functions to amplify the mood of the heavily percussive and driving industrial tracks. A variety of samples (some entirely new) are then scattered throughout the album, and when combined with the inclusion of a number of vocal-led tracks, the underpinning ideology of a socialist position and anarchist worldview is more clearly articulated, given the samples and vocals on the original version were mostly buried in the mix and partially indecipherable as a result. The track listing is noted to be almost identical to the original, with only a slight adjustment to track order on the first disc, whereas the title track is featured as a completely different version.

Although in revisiting this album after many, many years (both the original recording and this new version), rather than finding the re-recordings a jarring or off-putting experience, they are adequately faithful and respectful to the original recording, while having more than ample differences to make it an enjoyable standalone experience.  With a clean and slickly designed six panel digi-pack sleeve and the added inclusion of lyrics, this new version is very much worth checking out – be it as an older fan revisiting this new version of the album, or as a new listener checking out the album (and perhaps the group) for the first time. Recommended.

Satanismo Calibrio 9 – Kymah Rising

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Satanismo Calibrio 9 – Kymah Rising CD Old Europa Café 2016

The Italian based Satanismo Calibrio 9 are one of those projects I have been aware of by name, but have not previously heard until now.  Likewise given they have issued just short of 30 releases in their 10 years of activity, this means I don’t have a specific frame of reference to how ‘Kymah Rising’ compares, so have to review it ‘as is’.

Evidently ‘Kymah Rising’ is final release in the ‘Rising Trilogy’ and has been issued on the long running and respected Italian Old Europa Café.  This is their 12th release on the label and clearly fits within a ritual industrial/ dark ambient classification.  But by forgoing potential harder and harsher ‘industrial elements’, it is the organic ritual ambient elements on ‘Kymah Rising’ that allows to fit alongside the sound associated with the Finnish Aural Hypnox label.  Equally this then sets itself apart from its central and prominent use of layer vocals (male and female chants, screams, whispers etc.) which themselves function with obvious invocation based intent.

6 tracks in total feature, and by spanning 6 to 11 minutes each it is indicative of its sprawling catacomb oriented mood.  Echo and reverb play a key role in generating a murky droning atmosphere, where other ritual percussion, random thumbs and general industrial wasteland sonics bulk out the sound.  ‘Maha Kymah’ is an atmospheric standout with its thick drones, elongated chants and bass rumbling mass, whereas ‘Drifting in Perdition’ is less sonically weighty by use of its mid-toned drones.  Based on personal preferences, perhaps the vocals are too prominent and centrally focused for my liking, which tends to take away from the meditative aspects of the of the music (…I do acknowledge this as being a personal point of view rather than specific criticism).  ‘Rapture In Scorpio’ is one such vocal heavy example, however other pieces such as the title track ‘Kymah Rising’ strikes an appropriate balance between its sonic backing and understanding, chanted and whispered vocals.

Aimed squarely at a ritual focused industrial/ dark ambient sound, Satanismo Calibrio 9 have utilised a range of genre staples and twisted them into a sound which is not derivative of other similar projects or themed material.  No doubt the specific ritual aspects of this will be of further interest to those more versed in such matters, but I am afraid I am not one of them so can’t comment further.

Slogun / Wertham – By Blood : In Blood

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Slogun / Wertham By Blood : In Blood CD Electronica Radicale Edizioni / Old Europa Café 2015

On ‘By Blood : In Blood’ the Italian stalwart Wertham and American protagonist Slogun have combined their divergent takes on power electronics for this part split / part collaboration album.  Thus for the ‘split’ part of this release each project has provided 3 individual tracks, while for the ‘collaboration’ part 2 tracks by Wertham feature John Balistreri on vocals and vise versa for Slogun’s 2 tracks (i.e. Marco Deplano on vocals).

Musically speaking this CD is exactly what is expected for a pairing of Slogun and Wertham.  The individual Slogun tracks follow the recent more composed and refined direction of the project, with fierce layered loops providing vague rhythms which are mixed with urban field recordings and clinical static as the base for the trademark wailed/ echoed vocals barrage of John Balistreri.  On this front ‘React and Destroy’ is a particularly good example of Slogun’s current sound and modus operandi.  Regarding the exclusive Wertham tracks these display a murkier and distant tone (which is essentially a bulldozing analogue sound), which comes across as the sound of some mammoth idling industrial machine, as the heavily accented vocals are semi-buried within the sonic mass.  Of particular note is Wertham’s track ‘Bloodlines’, which for the normal ferocity of the project, this piece is fiercer and static fried than typical.

For the collaborative offerings, these then (obviously) blends the two sounds, by the ‘Slogun’ sound featuring Marco’s vocals and the ‘Wertham’ sound featuring John’s distinctive vocals.  On the Wertham tracks John’s vocals are less upfront in the mix, but retain the trademark wailed spite and echoed treatment.  Likewise for the Slogun collaboration tracks, these are just a touch more subdued and experimental in approach, with Marco murky treated vocals sitting low in the mix.

Although this is pretty much an album as expected from a pairing of these long established projects, it has still resulted in a strong collaboration. Colour digi-pack with 12 page booklet with all lyrics rounds out the visual side of things.

Uncodifed / Wertham – Vindicta II / Uncodifed – Hardcore Methodology

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Uncodifed / Wertham – Vindicta II CD Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2014

Uncodifed – Hardcore Methodology CD Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2014

As should be clearly apparent from the title, this is the second instalment in the ‘Vindicta’ series and again focuses on aspects of Sardinian criminal history and culture.  For this instalment: “The concept slightly moves from the blood-feud/knife obsessive themes of the first work, toward the aftermath of the war between families that lead the protagonist of our tale to turn into a feral life style on impenetrable mountains, ‘living like boars and sleeping like foxes’, until his capture and subsequent confinement in the notorious Boncammino’s jail. The solitude of the forced mountain life meets the despair of 30 years of life in a cage of the notorious legal larger.”

As with the first collaboration the individual sound and direction of both Uncodified and Wertham are clearly complimentary and again deliver a strong and focused amalgam of their styles.  Essentially ‘Vindicta II’ encompasses a collection of tracks where the bulk of proceedings are marked by various combinations burrowing atonal synth lines, shuddering industrial clamor, static fried frequencies and echo treated spoken/ shouted vocals.  As such the album is one which expertly combines grinding industrial noise and shuddering yet muted power electronic structures.  The sound of the album also differs from ‘Vindicta I’ in that it is far less sonically invasive in tone, where ‘Vindicta II’ also achieves a controlled and restrained feel to its outwardly aggressive elements.  With the sound frequencies generally sitting at the mid to lower range, this is also a clear differentiating point from the first instalment which contained many tracks with prominent elements of mid to high pitched tinnitus inducing noise.   Also whilst being clearly aggressive the production of ‘Vindicta II’ is one which is also low key and sweepingly atmospheric.  Noting its sonorous consistency this is an album best appreciated in its totality; as an overarching block of sound, rather than singling out specific pieces; where a tone of general noise squalor and an atmosphere of tense oppression and confinement prevail, thus suitably reflecting the album’s thematic focus.  Yet given the strong coherence of the bulk of the album the final track deviates quite markedly from the balance of the album as it encompasses the later era of Haus Arafna styled piece of subdued atonal rhythmic power-electronics.

Essentially the second instalment in the ‘Vindicta’ series is faithful to the sound and concept of the first, yet also achieves a differing tonal approach which sets it apart.  With a third CD in the trilogy planned to round out the concept, which based on the strength of the first two is a release on the horizon to look out for.

Released at the same time as ‘Vindicta II’, ‘Hardcore Methodology’ is the new album from Uncodifed and whilst technically a solo outing, 8 of the 15 tracks feature collaborations with other artists, including: Gianlica Favaron, Bologna Violenta, Caligula 031, Sshe Retina Stimulants and Simon Balestrazzi.  Tonally ‘Hardcore Methodology’ presents a varied recording which spans many aspects of harsher underground experimental sounds and encapsulates fractures synth textures, sparse loose rhythmic elements, atonal synth drones, grinding bass tonality etc. The album displays a sharp and loud production with a certain sonic crispness to the tone and as stated by the promo sheet the album encompasses “abrasive post-industrial experimentation”.

Generally more abstract and varied in tone and approach that ‘Vindicta II’, the overarching feel of the album is as a collection of sonic experimentations rather than being structured around a strong central theme.  Evidently the album’s title does make some conceptual reference to the obsessive methodologies employed by directors of Hardcore movies, however exactly what such methodologies are and how they relate to this album is not clear (…perhaps the album is abstract homage to ‘obsessiveness’, but here focused on experimental industrial sounds?).

Although there are many strong brooding segments (such as ‘(L) Hotel’) and other tracks with excellent tonal qualities (such as the sonically invasive ‘Collection of Clothes’) which are spread throughout the album, I can’t shake the feeling that the album plays out as a collection of sporadic tracks which lacks an element of coherence due to the track’s being on the shorter side (between 0.16 seconds at the shortest and the longest at 4.10 minutes).  A clear misstep is also evident on ‘Anterooms’ where the sullen mood is jarringly interrupted by the inclusion of a pre-set rhythm from a cheap casio keyboard (?).  But countering this, late album tracks ‘Cotton Pads’ and ‘Methodology 3 (end of report)’ each contain a fierce higher range tonal spectrum which would not be out of place on the ‘Vindicta I’ album, sans the aggressive vocalisations.

Although ‘Hardcore Methodology’ constitutes an interesting listen with some excellent sonic moments, to this ear it also suffers from a bit of a scattergun approach and lack of thematic focus.  Whilst this presents somewhat of an issue for this reviewer, for others not who prefer straight sonic experiments for their own sake, this could fit the bill perfectly. But when placing ‘Hardcore Methodology’ in direct comparison with ‘Vindicta II’, the later wins out in style, focus and finesse.

The Grey Wolves / Wertham / Survival Instinct – Ramraiding Thee Abyss

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The Grey Wolves / Wertham / Survival Instinct – Ramraiding Thee Abyss LP Old Europa Café / Elettronica Radicale Edizioni 2013

Here is a new three-way split/ collaboration album which in many ways reflects the past, present and future of the contributing acts, whilst also remaining devoted to the underground scene from which they have been collectively spawned.  Obviously the Grey Wolves and Wertham should already be well-known, however this LP also functions to introduce Survival Instinct who are noted to be: a splinter cell and an exit strategy, of and from, the Grey Wolves”.  Noting the potential ambiguity of this statement that seems to allude to a potential end to the Grey Wolves, this may or may not in fact be the case.  Or perhaps it is just a solo project of either of the Grey Wolves members David Padbury or Trevor Ward?  Not too sure on this point, so on with the review.

Noting the aggressive atmospheric noise meets power electronics tone of both the Grey Wolves and Wertham, in an overall sense this LP delivers exactly what is expected.  Thus ‘Ramraiding Thee Abyss’ opens with ‘No Good Deeds Will Be Left Unpunished’, which is appropriately a three-way collaboration, where the layered, mid-range fluctuating distortion and partially buried vocalisations combine into a heavy and urgent statement of intent.  ‘Latin Day (Flashback – Ipswich Agro)’ quickly follows and sees the Grey Wolves operating in the vein of their classic sound.  That is to say it includes vague shuddering industrial rhythms which are caked in layers of noise filth, as antagonistic echoed vocals deliver an unintelligible sermon. ‘Shankill Butchers’ sees Wertham functioning on their own, delivering intense cyclic, mid to low range rumbling distortion, with a heavily treated vocal attack.  Straight forward and to the point with it scathing layered noise approach, TV reporter dialogue samples are also used to flesh out thematic context.  ‘Rise Above the Flames’ then follows and is the first solo offering of Survival Instinct and based on this track they are a very promising act.  This piece takes a subdued and brooding approach which leans towards a death industrial sound.  Here the production is less based on overloaded distortion, rather opting for composed and echoed treated tribal/ mechanical rhythms mixed with atmospheric noise.  Certainly an excellent introduction to the project.

For the flip side of the vinyl Wertham in collusion with Survival Instinct deliver an instrumental track ‘Towards a Dark Horizon’ which charts a course of composed industrial factory rhythms and an undercurrent of generally subdued sweeping and crumbling clamour.  The Grey Wolves then appear again in solo guise on ‘Edging Ever Closer’, which is more atmospheric than typically grating, again with layered droning noise, scattered electronics and unhinged vocalisations.  ‘Friday Night Boot Party’ is another solo offering courtesy of Wertham, here looped conveyor belt sonics combine with atmospheric burrowing noise, which underscore the distortion infused vocals which are barked in delivery.  The album is then concluded by another solo track from Survival Instinct, where moody synth textures of ‘New Phase Dawns’ counterbalance mid paced jagged industrial loops and sporadic heavy bass tone blasts.  Another great moment from this new project.

Without sounding like a patchwork of various projects, the three contributing acts manage to find common and complimentary ground on ‘Ramraiding Thee Abyss’, be it on solo standalone tracks or in otherwise collaborative guise.  Likewise given the sheer number of years the Grey Wolves have been in existence as an active scene contributor (…28 years and counting), it is great to see that they have lost none of their urgency, antagonism and attitude.  Pressed in pristine black vinyl (THE perfect format for this type of release), and with a slick gatefold sleeve adorned with suitable ‘cultural terrorist manifesto’ type statements and imagery, this album is everything it was hoped it could be, and in fact delivers more, given the strength and distinctive sounds of the Survival Instinct solo cuts.