Heretic Grail – Instruments of War / On The Heels Of Insignificance

Heretic Grail – Instruments of War 2xMC Slave Chandelier 2019

Heretic Grail – On The Heels Of Insignificance LP Breathing Problems Productions 2019

Instruments of War constitutes my introduction to Heretic Grail, yet it seems that as of April, 2019 the project may have already ceased activity. If that is the case the project was active for less than a year since mid-2018, but still managed to issue twelve releases in that time.

The six tracks featured on Instruments of War are spread across the two tapes, totalling around 37 minutes. With a strongly militant edge to the sound, the industrial/power electronics approach is based on loosely constructed and generally mid-paced compositions. As for the broad approach on display, the tracks feature windswept battlefield ambience based on blended layers of caustic electronics consisting of: idling static; trembling distortion; erupting fissures of noise; smatterings of dialogue samples; and rounded out with strained, echo-smeared vocals (which are ranted but unintelligible). To talk specifics, Tortured Lullaby stands out positively with its melodious synth drone and shuddering bass. Regrets Of Termination And Conquest also follows a similar sonic template, but is defined by a dialogue sample where a soldier recounts his first kill in combat (which is revealed to be civilian and in the telling is tinged with repent). Beyond the sonic side of things, specific mention also needs to be made of the packaging, where the two pro-printed tapes are housed in a black elongated paper envelope along with a myriad of collage-based inserts. But being limited to only 60 copies, this is already likely to be difficult to track down.

Although also issued in 2019 On The Heels Of Insignificance is not a current recording from the project, rather is a vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape issued on Fusty Cunt. Although it does inhabit the same general sound sphere as Instruments of War, this LP is also less refined and slightly more direct in sonic expression. In a general sense an elevated level of tension is evident, where the tracks are built around grimly grinding machine like loops and augmented with vocals and/or dialogue samples. Swine.Cleaner sitting at the centre of the album is particularly impacting, based on its searing distortion and grinding noise-based approach which elevates to wind-tunnel intensity.

For the chosen style and approach Heretic Grail have delivered releases which perhaps not necessarily rising to a ‘mandatory’ status, both releases remain strongly enjoyable for what they are in their chosen style. In then comparing the two Instruments of War is the more varied and refined release of the two, and perhaps also warrants a re-edition – hopefully on vinyl.

Sarin Snow – Incurring Wisdom / Deus Vult

Sarin Snow – Incurring Wisdom MC Slave Chandelier 2019

Sarin Snow – Deus Vult LP Breathing Problems Productions 2019

I have only recently come across Sarin Snow, which is a relatively new American project with a clutch of releases since 2016. The majority of those has been issued on Slave Chandelier, which as I understand it is helmed by the same individual behind Sarin Snow.

The latest cassette Incurring Wisdom functioned as my proper introduction to the project, which although broadly billed as being an industrial/power electronics project, to my impression there is far greater degree of sonic linage of the militant noise-industrial/heavy electronics prevalent in the Europe territories in the mid-1990’s. Given it is far more subdued overall and with a decidedly more ‘European’ angle to sound and approach, this means Sarin Snow feels to be a bit of an anomaly when compared to the majority of material to come out of north America.

Incurring Wisdom features four tracks over around 27 minutes – pressed on a gold cassette, with fold out artwork/ lyric insert. Ecclesia Unveiled kicks things off with grimly droning oscillations, while the heavily rasped vocals are muted with distorted echo and sit semi-buried within the mix. So, while the vocals are clearly discernible as a vocal texture, the actual lyrics are not, meaning the voice is effectively presented are as another sonic element. With the general sonic premises established on the first track, the balance of the three tracks play out as variations on this theme, where the resultant grimly laborious yet tensile sound is a strongly engaging one. On Side B, Iron Cross is a particularly good example of an effective sound despite a straightforward approach, where layered loops and vocals ratchet up tension.

Moving onto Deus Vult, it is another recent 2019 release, but which embodies an ever so slightly different tone and approach. The same sort of grim, laborious tone of the oscillating drones (synth?) remains, as do the raspingly yelled but muted vocals. Yet the overall atmosphere feels to be a heavier and more direct, which becomes quite crushing on a number of tracks due to the greater reliance of junk-metal/factory floor derived sonic elements. This tonal rawness of slabs of metal dragged across a factory floor and metal bars dropped on concrete etc. provides a cavernous echoed depth to the generated atmosphere. Saint Longinus is a track which stands out from the rest, with its generally sedate tone, by featuring a maudlin melody, watery textures and dour spoken vocals which are blended with junk metal sonics. That mood bleeds into the final album track Saint Michael follows suit, where the simple by effective synth melody carries a dour melancholy atmosphere against an elevating cascade of junk metal tones. Of note, the title of Deus Vult is a Latin phrase for “God wills it”, and while the track titles give a religious nod, the lyrics themselves remain abstracted, but rather than giving the impression of pious worship and devotion, it appears more to articulate strength and spiritual mysticism.

On both releases Sarin Snow display strong ideas and solid execution where both releases embody a laborious, menacing yet melancholic approach. Likewise, with track titles and chosen imagery being presented in an abstracted/ non-linear way, meaning the theme and message remains obscured and allows the listener to piece together their own impression of meaning. From these initial impressions Sarin Snow are clearly worthy of attention and investigation.