Hypnosmord – Thurnemanimprovisationerna / The Thurneman Improvisations

Hypnosmord – Thurnemanimprovisationerna / The Thurneman Improvisations MC Hypnosmord Förlag / Styggelse Tapes / The AJNA Offensive 2021

As alluded to by the title, this tape is inspired by Sigvard Thurneman who was a somewhat obscure Swedish occultist, serial killer, and leader of the criminal-esoteric society ‘Den Magiska Cirkeln’ during the 1930s. There are various oddities associated with the case (more than can be explained here), that warrant further exploration for the interested. It is worth noting that this tape is a companion of sorts to a book just released in English by The Ajna Offensive, Manhunter: The Story of the Swedish Occultist and Serial Killer Thurneman. As for the project Hypnosmord, this seems to be a collective of musicians where the main performer Hans K. Styggelsen is aided by Gammalsjul, Sten Röse, Hector Meinhof, Brynolf Ledung, and Siegfried Holst. The recordings on this tape features two 30-minute compositions, which function as sinister improvisational piano movements for the shadowy twilight hours.

Although the liner notes indicate that the hour runtime contains five suites, the material flows together continuously on each side of the tape. The overall atmosphere is distant, obscure, and forlorn; slow moving, minor keyed piano melodies float through the twilight ether, and on occasion devolve into sections where the playing becomes mere sparse atonal stabs at the ivory keys. Apart from the piano element there are scant backing elements of what sounds like the crackling of a gramophone needle, creaking wood, echoed bass thuds, passages of Swedish spoken vocals, unintelligible mournful wailings, distant vaguely rhythmic elements, and a variety of other unidentifiable haunting tones with a sinister-edged musique concrete sound. When all of these aspects are brought together with the spacious and reverb-tinged keys, it evokes a vision of a grand piano being played in a crumbling abandoned mansion, where the psychic barrier between the waking and spirit world is slowly dissolving in response to the improvised musical evocations.

Being very much music for late night solo appreciation and deep contemplation, this is an excellent underground obscurity of sinister spectral music. Limited to a mere 141 copies, a double-sided multi-panel insert rounds out the visual presentation.

Hollow Men ‎– Burial of the Unheard

Hollow Men ‎– Burial of the Unheard MC Styggelse ‎2021

Hollow Men will perhaps not be a recognized name, but this is the precursor of Memorandum, the tribal death industrial project of Petter Marklund, who was also behind the cult but short-lived label Mechanik Cassettes. As Memorandum’s early releases are considered classics that were instrumental in establishing the late 80s and early 90s sound of Cold Meat Industry, it was with significant intrigue that I approached these complete Hollow Men recordings compiled from material dating from the mid 1980s.

From the outset it becomes apparent that the sound of Hollow Men differs from that of Memorandum, given it has forgone any tribal/rhythmic elements, and functions at a more obscure and rudimentary level of early Nordic industrial experimentation. This is also evidenced by the shorter length of tracks which are mostly a couple of minutes each, except for the final track which is eight minutes. In many ways the overall approach constitutes the early building blocks of a sound which would later evolve into a recognisable Swedish Death Industrial, albeit here at a less refined level. As such, soot-soaked and deep analogue tones feature as loosely constructed mechanized structures and slow-paced rhythmic movements, while the treated apathetic spoken vocals evoke a morbid tone. Coupled with these sonics are sampled elements of film/documentary dialogue, choral vocals etc. which blend in with the general sonic muck. The early pairing of tracks Our Souls and Do You Hear Them? stands out from the rest due to their minimalist synth sound, and despite its simplicity the pulsating rhythm and two-note melody used in both tracks has quite an odd charm. The final title track is also notable as an excellent death ambient track of muffled droning tonality coupled with a slow ‘train on the tracks’ rhythmic element during the first phase, which later morphs into a prototype death industrial sound in the final section.

Clearly Burial of the Unheard is an important archival release given its heritage and pedigree, providing early context for what would later come from the Swedish industrial underground. But more importantly it contains ample no-frills charm and a certain obscure factor that makes for very enjoyable listening (and therefore more than simply a release to be collected and filed away by archivists).

Galme – Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande

Galme – Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande MC Styggelse 2019

Galme are a new and entirely obscure Swedish project. Clearly they are obsessed with the earliest expressions of what would become known as a death ambient/death industrial, but also features enough sinister obscurity to also be tagged with the ‘post-mortem’ descriptor. Likewise, the phase on the cover ‘spektral elektriks’ is a suitable descriptor of the atmospheric qualities of this tape

With what is effectively a singular long form track, Obducentens Hopplösa Sökande traverses through a myriad of interlinking movements. Slow pulsating emanations provides a forward drive, while sections of muted conveyor belt rhythms, stilted ritual beats, cryptic melodies, and dank tonal washes generate a sickly ethereal mood. Predominantly an instrumental affair, on occasion disembodied radio voice chatter flits in and out of sonic frame, much like EVP recordings cutting through the ether onto the magnetic tape. Production wise there is nothing remotely modern with the tone of the recording. Rather this embodies the atmosphere of the earliest 1980’s phase of industrial music which spawned the likes of Korpses Katatonik and what would follow. But thankfully this does not sound in any way purposefully retro or otherwise pastiche of what has come previously.

For the physical presentation, the austere colouring and visuals of the j-card, inserts and table label suits the sonics perfectly. Much like all of the material issues on Styggelse, this is purposefully obscure, is limited in edition and difficult to obtain due to lack of wide distribution. Likewise with no digital versions available, it only elevates the impact of the music when a post-industrial underground obscurity like this can be obtained. Yes – this is recommended.

Alfarmania & Proiekt Hat – Flugornas Herrar

Alfarmania & Proiekt Hat – Flugornas Herrar MC Styggelse 2017

The prolific collaboration between Alfarmania and Proiekt Hat rolls on with Flugornas Herrar released in time to coincide with their performance at Tesco 30th Anniversary Festival. This new album length tape follows on from 2016’s honed and rather short Mardrömd Dödsström LP (reviewed here), and shifts gears into a sprawling long form format spanning 16 tracks and over 80 minutes of material. The liner notes then reveal the material itself was recorded between 2010-2017, while the title appropriately translates to: ‘The Lord of the Flies’. As an initial general observation Flugornas Herrar pairs back on the more urgent sonic elements of prior collaborative material, the general mood of the album is one of slow stalking morbidity and controlled psychedelic angst. 

On side A (its subtitle translating to: “Though Enchanting Atmospheres”), an early track In the Dungeon of Solitude plays out as the duo’s interpretation of the early death ambient approach of Brighter Death Now (aka Great Death era), with its two note plodding bass, creaking metallic textures and garbled vocal chants. Then on Life-Extinguisher of Multitudes the wavering sonic tones, grinding synth lines, sparse symbol crashes and deep bass addled elements elevate the mood slightly, while the fantastically titled Soul Searching at Gunpoint, demonstrates how a darkly morbid tone can be generated with minimal of sonic elements. Rain of Oblivion round out the first side of the tape with a short piece based on a wonky synth line and myriad of looped elements. Effective and to the point.

Like the translated subtitle “Through Oppressive Atmospheres” of Side B suggests, the mood takes a downward turn on an already negative tangent. Featuring a collection of tracks with a heavier grinding approach, this includes Genom Förtryckande Atmosfärer with its grim tone which builds to heavy sonic intensity, and the invasive tonal shards and creaking metallic resonance of Abnormal Gestation Termination. Late album track  Magplask I Ett Bollhav Av Glödlampor rates a mention given its general sonic negativity, while another short track Soot Gruel focuses on pulsing and interweaving synth elements of queasy tonality.  To then conclude the tape, the suitably titled Exact Moment Of Death Prolonged A Thousand Times features a hypnotic vortex of spiralling mid-toned synth lines, creaking metal and a dour organ sounding element to create yet more top notch material.

It a general sense it would seem that the pairing of the minds or Mr Alfarmania and Mr Proiekt Hat and functions in such a way that high calibre material is generated with apparent ease, particularly given the wealth of material which has been issued in recent years.  While this tape functions as a collection of individual tracks, there is still distinct flow between each piece, where final track ordering would also appear to have been carefully planned. Packaging wise, it consists of an 8 panel fold out J-card with suitably grim artwork and layout courtesy of Mr Alfarmania. Without it being a case of Flugornas Herrar being ‘better’ or an ‘improvement’ on earlier material, this is simply on an equal level to what has come before, meaning it is another mandatory release from the duo.

Kommando RJF – untitled

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Kommando RJF – untitled MC Styggelse / Chefsideologens Bolag 2014

Originally released as part of super limited edition boxset of the ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’ album (reviewed here), a few copies have now been issues as a separate and standalone release.

Featuring material from the same album recording session, this tape contains a couple of unreleased tracks as well as alternative versions of main tracks, so it can very much be considered an an addendum ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’. So what this means in a sonic capacity, is it delivers crude analogue power electronics that wavers between the aggressive and the morbid.  Spitting static, dank analogue vibrations, sustained synth textures, agonized/ roared vocals and a heavy doses of reverb are the main elements of approach.  ‘Fuck Rehab’ leads off and is as strong as anything on ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’ where the wailing vocals given it a perfect unhinged edge, whilst on ‘Those About to Die’ draws its agonized tone out over a 9 minute stretch.

Given that ‘Sweet Slow Suicide’ should be an easier release to track down and is the main album, that should obviously be the first point of reference, but if that amounts to an obsessively positive listen (which it should), look no further than making the effort to locate a copy of this – a 6 track, 32 minute excursion into the depths of morbid Swedish underground power electronics.

Alfarmania – Vid Sömnens Sista Tråd

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Alfarmania – Vid Sömnens Sista Tråd MC Styggelse 2016

This is a less limited tape edition of the impossible to find 7”ep released by 8EMINIS in a ridiculous edition of 20 lathe cut copies (…I hear a second edition of 20 copies was issued, but I could not validate the truth of that). At least now the music is more widely available given Kristian of Alfarmania has issued another version on tape (with bonus material), via his own Styggelse imprint.

The first track ‘Vid Sömnens Sista Tråd’ features crumbling atonal modulated synth layers, an underbelly of cavernous junk metal chaos and rough vocals barks from the depths of the asylum.  Fantastic stuff.  ‘Kvick I Jord’ is the next track, and features a broadly metallic creaking resonance and interweaving mid to high range wailing/ droning tones, as stilted bass thumbs bed down the loose structure. ‘Lomsk’ is the last of the tracks featured on the 7”ep, consisting of radio channel scanning noise, sustained burrowing textures and spoken samples again pushing atmospheres of dread and unease to the fore.  The bonus material then consists of ‘En Otrampad Stig’, which was originally featured on compilation tape associated with the United Forces of Industrial II festival from 2015.  This track is more stalking in atmosphere, where it take its time in elevating the tone.  Atonal synth loop provides the backing for controlled yet squalling noise and the barked vocals of the mentally deranged, all wrapped up in deep mineshaft tone.  There is also an unlisted 5th tracks, which is evidently an outtake from an earlier ‘Slutstationen’ compilation tape recording session and brings more Alfarmania induced anxiety.

By now you should appreciate what might be expected from an Alfarmania release and this tape delivers as strong material from the project as you should by now expect, which ultimately amounts to classic Alfarmania ‘post-mortem’ paranoia.  Double sided fold out J card with suitable imagery rounds out the tape nicely, and the slogan of “No To New Support” is a nice attitude and sentiment.

Shocktilt Magazine – Issue 2#

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Shocktilt Magazine – Issue 2# Styggelse 2016

Back in 2006 the first issue of Shocktilt was published (spanning 2 separate volumes in A5 at 80 pages each), with a tagline of: “a publication devoted to the more extreme aspects of the 80s cassette-culture”.  For whatever reason at the time I initially snoozed on tracking down a copy, and then when I did, it had already sold-out and is now impossible to find (attention: if anyone has a copy lying around they want to get rid of, please drop me a line).  Having regretted this lapse of judgement ever since, I at least now have a copy of issue 2# – published a decade on from the first, which this time is published in A4 format and 64 pages in length.

To compare visual style, whereas noise receptor journal seeks for clean layout and design, Shocktilt skews this with its all-out underground ‘zine visual assault.  With its rough layout and cut and paste ‘artwar’ aesthetic, it harks back to the look and feel of the 80’s industrial underground (…and carries it design aesthetic as a badge of honor).  The design is of course ‘no-frills’ and the binding is no more than two staples along the spine, which again is in line with a ‘back to basics’ ‘zine feel.  Thus with rough layout and crude artwork aesthetic, the attitude of the writing and context is suitably course (…which is meant as a direct compliment).  Also containing of a scrap book mentality of sorts, issue 2# features multiple interviews along with a wealth of ‘archival’ content in the form of reproduced flyers/ artwork (dating through the years to the 80’s) and inserts taken from various releases, along with various previously published and unpublished live photos.

With the small scale of font and the reduced size of archival material, Shocktilt 2# is absolutely jammed packed with artwork, photos and articles from both known underground projects and entities, as well as providing a wealth of information on a range of far more obscure acts, which might otherwise be assigned to the dustbin of history. A selected list of content includes: Deviation Social (interview), Proiekt Hat/ Hatband (interview), Korpes Katatonik/ Zero Kama/ Nekrophile Rekords (archival material), Ulex Xane (interview), John Murphy tribute, Con-Dom (archival material), Genocide Organ (archival material), Grey Wolves (archival material), Thurneman (interview), Blood Ov Thee Christ/ Club Moral (live photos) (…noting there is still FAR more content than listed here).

As for the version I have, it the one released directly by Styggelse, but another version is to published as a part of split issue the French ‘Neons’ ‘zine (where I understand Shocktilt will be printed as a folded A3 to avoid the A4 spine staples).  But as a ‘bonus’ to the Styggelse edition, my copy came with an additional  A5 ‘addendum’ booklet, containing a further selection of flyers, artworks and related content.  Regardless of whichever edition you track down, don’t make the mistake I did with missing Shocktilt 1#. A mandatory printed underground industrial publication.

Various Artists – Slutstationen MC

Slutstationen

Various Artists – Slutstationen MC Styggelse 2014

This mammoth 90 minute compilation tape has been curated by the relatively obscure, staunchly underground and analogue focused Swedish label Styggelse which is helmed by Kristian Olsson of Survival Unit/ Alfarmania infamy. ‘Slutstationen’ functions as a varied and comprehensive collection of Nordic based sonic experimenters, who can broadly be filled under industrial noise and power electronics styles as general unifying descriptors. Featuring a total of 16 artists, this includes known artists, rising acts and other more obscure projects (to these ears at least).  Likewise noting that ‘Slutstationen’ translates to ‘The Endstation’, this is evidently the third and final compilation in a series and based on the quality and focus displayed here it is unfortunate that the first and second tapes in the series passed me by.

Side A features the largest number of contributions from recognised/ established projects (which can tends to increase the expectation somewhat), so on with the brief rundown of each.

  • Vit Fana – ‘Antoniuseld’: opens the tape where a mellow maudlin synth line (horror soundtrack style) give way to slightly metallic radio signal styled loops, where later on a pounding beat and sustained drone ratchets up the tension. A solid introduction to both the project and the compilation.
  • Puce Mary – ‘The Course’: delivers high pitched sustained tones which mix with an ominous mid-paced death industrial type beat, where added layers gradually build intensity (mostly loose loops and field type recordings). Late track vocals are presented in a heavy, commanding/ distorted yelled style, to complete a strong and solid offering (which also fosters Puce Mary’s rising profile).
  • Brighter Death Now – ‘Enough’: represents the long awaited return of Roger Karmanik who delivers a track which interestingly is neither of the all-encompassing darkness type or all out aggression style of what the project is known. This is something altogether different, with a fast paced pulsing rhythmic structure, mirroring plodding bass and squelching industrial noise. Probably it is only the subdued spoken vocals are a partially recognisable element. Good but certainly different to what might be expected.
  • Alfarmania – ‘Nåldyna’: is a hallucinogenic and caustic post-mortem offering, where sparse noise, dialogue samples and piano loops give way to muddied wall or of layered industrial noise filth. Solid stuff and on par with Alfarmania’s prior output.
  • Shift – ‘Wipe Them Out’: demonstrates the sheer excellence of Shift’s approach. Here the crushing wall of multi-layered industrial noise/ power electronics squall mirrors and matches the weight, heaviness, density and aggression of Shift’s latest full length album ‘Altamont Rising’. In other words this is simply crushing.
  • Händer Som Vårdar – ‘Jag Blev Stolt’: seeks a sonic route based on (what sounds like) abstract tape loop manipulations and scattered dialogue snippets, which gradually evolves within a loose structure (yet remaining minimalist and abstract throughout).
  • Theta – ‘Scopaesthesia’: features a cavernous industrial ‘wind tunnel’ aesthetic, where some shaper distortion manages to rise to the surface of the churning sonic mass. Overall the piece manages to stay on the industrial noise rather than HNW side.
  • Arv & Miljö – ‘Johnny’: rounds out the first side of the tape through micro-tonal exploration of metallic tones which gradually coalesce into a loosely composed structure and is completed with Swedish dialogue samples.

Flipping over to Side B it is noted to collect together a more obscure range of acts and whilst some are familiar by name, all are unknown within a sonic capacity.

  • Ochu – ‘Sopa’: opens the second side with slowly evolving ambient ritual drones, which are built up in layering to become far more forceful and animated, verging on death industrial towards the end.
  • Negative Climax – ‘Kaa Anta Ilahama’: opts for more post-industrial spheres, utilised layered heavily distorted drones, where chanted vocals and wooden flute providing a slight ritual edge.
  • Treriksröset – ‘Tillägnad Gubb (Vila I Frid)’: function in a capacity of a squalling, loose and chaotic noise approach. Here a rumbling undercurrent drives the lower end with high pitched noise sitting within the foreground.
  • Maniac Cop – ‘Fires Blanks’: delivers a relatively basic rugged industrial noise aesthetic, combining filth infused rumbling bass and shuddering mid ranged textures.
  • Teufelsdröckh – ‘Namnlös Och Odödlig’: with lethargic drones, factory styled field recordings and windswept ambience, creates a solid example of an experimental/ industrial ‘post-mortem’ type sound exploration.
  • Vårtgård – ‘Slåss’: delivers a more forceful industrial noise track, featuring a jagged, crumbling wall of distortion, offset with an scattered chaotic noise and aggressive vocals rendered indecipherable in distortion treatment.
  • Arkhe – ‘Vrakloge’: move back into subdued territory by presenting an excellent post-industrial soundscape, where a low distant rumble and oscillating textures – akin to the rotors of an approach helicopter – generate a slow building atmosphere. In effect the muffled and distant ambience and low toned rumble creates an engaging meditative aura.
  • A Feast For Vultures – ‘The Prodigal Returns’: constitutes the final compilation contribution, which is a loosely constructed and 80’s ‘old-school’ sounding industrial track. Contained a plodding rhythmic thump, scattered crackling noise and mid-toned atonal drones, it spans a partly composed and partly improvised style. However the track abruptly ends mid-way and seemingly not by choice but due to the limit of the tape’s length. A bit of a shame really.

My own personal barometer for assessing how well conceived a compilation is comes down to whether you get ‘lost’ along the way between various tracks, and clearly this can be more prone to happen with tapes due to the lack of track numbers to follow. Therefore to its credit ‘Slutstationen’ mostly avoids this pitfall, where I only became ‘lost’ at one point during this tape, which then had more to do with the lack of adequate space between the end of one song and the start of the next (between Treriksröset and Maniac Cop if it must be known). Overall I would say the first side is stronger than the second, but this is not to say that any of the contributions on Side B are sub-par. With a limitation of 250 copies and even a more limited distribution, this tape justifies the effort in tracking down a copy.