Concrete Mascara – Decay Sequence MC Unrest Productions 2018
Any new material from Concrete Mascara is a welcome prospect, with this EP length tape featuring six new tracks. On the last full length, Perennial Disappointment (reviewed here), the boosted mastering did not really capture the essence of Concrete Mascara’s sound but this has thankfully been reinstated here. Their trademark raw and sonically overblown distortion features heavily, hewn into rough pulsating loops and broader structural movements. The agonizingly howled vocals are also present, being partially hollowed out and flitting between being semi-buried to roared upfront.
Pleasingly, the tape contains that particular raw and ripping sound of thick chaotic distortion, where atonal and overblown synth lines are blended with higher pitched ‘whistling’ feedback textures. With an at times deep and hollowed-out aesthetic, it partially evokes a live-in-studio-type method of recording, but certainly allows for space and the separation of sonic elements within the mix. There are select moments present that are perhaps unexpectedly minimalist and restrained, which function to elevate the mood when things really let loose. Blood Discipline is one particular track which pulls back on sonic intensity in a more controlled manner, but being structured around a throbbing atonal synth line and other minimalist elements, it only functions to highlight the fierceness and aggression of other barely controlled tracks.
Limited to 123 hand-numbered copies, it has been issued on professionally duplicated tapes and features a minimalist and understated design, which gives no hint of the agonized harshness contained within.
Am Not – Unpunished : Appendix 10” EP Unrest Productions 2018
In its first version Unpunished : Appendix was issued in an extremely limited edition of 24 deluxe cassette box-sets. Only being available at a live performance in Paris, needless to say it sold out immediately, so having a repress of the four tracks on 10” vinyl is certainly welcome. Although the title refers to this being an ‘appendix’ I don’t get the impression that this is leftover material, rather new material which builds upon the themes and concepts explored on 2015’s exceptional album Unpunished (reviewed here).
Sonically speaking, the four tracks follow the now recognisable sound of Am Not, which, while being meticulously composed power/heavy electronics, does not forgo a suitably rough and raw industrial sonic edge. Opening track And Then We Shall Know commences relatively calmly with two intertwining loops (deep throbbing bass and higher modulated tone), which soon gives way to heavy and raw pounding industrial structures, and the proclamation-style rough vocals, achieving the typical blending of Am Not’s sound. Dark Star Kinshara follows and is another track of rough industrial-tinged heavy electronics that ups the intensity slightly and is also underscored by a dour organ-style drone. Intriguingly this track is: ‘dedicated to the ongoing Congolese space program’, which it turns out is an actual thing, but one with a lengthy and chequered history with alleged links to Nazi scientists and the Soviet Union during the Cold War era. Side B offers another two distinct tracks, with Extremophilia II being a mass of thick pulsing loops and swirling mid-toned textures, with prominent dialogue samples and a rough vocal barrage framing the lyrical theme. The final of the four tracks, the instrumental State Funeral, is the most surprising of the lot, blending rough junk metal timbres with highly cinematic, neo-classical elements. With its stoic martial industrial percussive leanings and central dour organ melody, this on first listen is not immediately recognisable as Am Not, yet is a stunningly great track all the same.
As for presentation, the packaging is as slick and considered as the music, including four postcard inserts and four-panel booklet with mini interview to provide further information on the group and its thematic/lyrical preoccupations. Another mandatory release from Am Not and Unrest Productions.
Kontinent – Pornography of Power MC Unrest Productions 2018
As an initial comment I am not sure if Kontinent should be referred to as a ‘side project’ of Kevlar, however putting such designations aside, Kontinent is the solo project of one of the duo behind Kevlar. In then noting that Kontinent’s past releases have broadly been within a modern post-industrial/ power electronics style, this is no different to what is displayed on Pornography of Power, albeit there is a noted increase in aggression and sonic fieriness.
This new release follows relatively quickly on the back of 2017’s album Statis, where Pornography of Power is another expertly crafted release, featuring eight brisk and focused tracks within an industrial meets heavy/ power electronics framework. On the thematic front, song titles such as Pure Power, Bring Back The Violence and Higher Civilisation provide a hint at preoccupations, given the vocals can only be deciphered in a fragmentary fashion due to sonic treatment. Yet the cover imagery provides further context, which of note includes an image of Anders Breivik and a quote appearing to be attributed to him, being: “violence is the mother of change”. As for the sonic content, the detailing and layering of the tracks provided variation and complexity throughout, where looped elements converge and intertwine, while gradually falling in and out of sync to disorientating effect. The distorted and echo treated vocals make them a standout element in their anger infused, proclamation styled delivery.
To some degree there is a certain blurring of lines between the sound, style and approach between Kontinent and Kevlar, which is be expected given who is involved. Yet there is simply no complaint on this point if the high calibre material such as this continues to be issued from both projects. With Pornography of Power being limited to 123 pro-duplicated tapes, I suspect this may get a re-issue on vinyl at some point, which would be a welcomed prospect.
Serration – Machine Survival MC Unsound Recordings 2018
Via the sub-label Unsound Recordings, Unrest Productions have signing yet another new and strong project to the roster, this time being Serration from Detroit, Michigan (based on information listed on Bandcamp).
Seven tracks of focused and controlled industrial/ power electronics tracks feature on Machine Survival, ranging from three to six minutes each. Looped distortion and grinding drones are used in relatively straight forward formations, while the vocals as perhaps expected are processed into a layer of echoed distortion that bleeds across the middle of the sonic spectrum. The mood of the tape broadly one of ominous dread than overt aggression, although the pulsing distortion of Sacrifical Deployment and air raid siren noise of The Inevitable Desolation are certainly tensile and anything but relaxed. Thematically speaking the song titles and imagery allude to a focus on the military/ industrial complex, and while the utilised samples might have provided more context, their message alludes detection due to being buried deep in the mix.
If any criticism is to be leveled at this tape, it would be that it aligns too closely with the sound, feel and direction of other releases on issued on Unsound Recordings/ Unrest Productions. While this does deliver in terms of sound and approach, it perhaps suffers by not having significant differentiating elements to make it stand apart. Yet even with that said, this is a completely minor observation, particularly if both the project ad label continues to maintain this sort of standard. Limitation of 80 copies, so you know what to do.
Augure Concret – An Act Of Desperation MC Fall Of Nature 2017
Augure Concret – Cephalophore MC Unrest Productions 2018
Augure Concret are a new industrial / power electronics project from the UK who have issued two tapes in relative quick succession (in November, 2017 and February, 2018 respectively), however I have no idea as to the time-frames over which the material on these two tapes were composed and recorded. Regardless of this, An Act Of Desperation is the debut release, featuring eight compact and to the point tracks which are framed around an ominously aggressive mood. Compositionally the track feature layering of caustic loops, deeps slow percussive thuds, raw junk metal type noise, semi-melodious loops and somewhat distant vocals which are still decipherable in their yelled presentation with slight echo treatment. The overall sonic tone is thick and hefty, where the slow plodding motion of the tracks gradually elevates in intensity. Some tracks specifically bring to mind Grunt of Human Larvae and their penchant for using creaking junk metal sound sources as a central part of their sonic framework. Therefore such comparisons should give an indication of the detailed compositional approach and rawer and ripping noise infused edge of the material found on An Act Of Desperation.
Cephalophore is the second follow up tape and demonstrates a clear evolution in sound and approach, given it features four untitled longer form tracks which sprawl out over greater length. Thick and spitting distortion open the album as a backing to a dialogue sample discussing schizophrenia, before launching into a chaotic noise infused ‘rocks in a cement mixer’ loops, while a melancholic synth line cuts through strongly and the vocals are rendered unintelligible through their distortion treatment. The second track is split into two halves, where the first segment incorporates whistling noise, mid-toned tensile drones and roared vocals, while the later section is instrumental in scope and shows a willingness of the project to explore controlled and atmospheric spheres through the use of looped and layered orchestral strings which are underpinned by a plodding bass hum and muted mid-toned static. Excellent stuff. The first track on Side B is a particular standout with its shuddering cascading loops, distant underpinning synth line and semi-buried gruff vocals, with gradually elevating momentum and mid pitched noise. For the final track it is controlled rather than outwardly aggressive, being subdued and sparse overall, vocals are cavernous and distant and mid-toned, chattering noise.
Clearly both of these tapes demonstrate Augure Concret to have definite level of skill and a wealth of compositional ideas. However in comparing the two Cephalophore stands above An Act Of Desperation, as it is more varied overall in style and approach and willingness to pair back on overt aggression and bodes well for Augure Concret caving out their own niche sound and approach within a power electronics infused industrial style. Best be quick if interested in these as both of these professionally duplicated tapes are extremely limited – 60 copies for An Act Of Desperation and 121 copies for Cephalophore.
Abscheu – Pretense LP Unrest Productions 2017
Although knowing virtually nothing about this project (including even the country of origin), it is again a case of Unrest Productions showcasing young projects who are effectively the new guard of the post-industrial underground. Pretense is the second release from the group, following 2016’ Breviary Of Chaos tape, and while having missed out on the debut, this functions as my introduction to Abscheu and can be quickly heralded as a stellar release.
Although billed as power electronics, the sound of Pretense sits in the militant tinged and industrial infused end of the genre’s sonic spectrum. Six tracks feature on the LP, where the material is framed around a clean and defined mix of scrabbling and unsettled loops, sustained noise, heaving bass thumps and spoken, sonic treated vocal proclamations. Broadly the sound is stalking and controlled rather than pushing towards unbridled aggression, although the material does build up toward the final title track, which also includes some strong dialogue samples to flesh out the album’s concept *. Given its thematic focus and militant/ tactical sound, an oblique comparison could be made to Genocide Organ’s Under Kontrakt album, albeit here in a more streamlined and direct style. Either way this is a clear indication of the strength of Abscheu’s sound.
Visually speaking, the clean design of the cover illustrates cultural conflict and societal unrest from differing angles, but without lyrics of further detail being presented the listener must engage in detail with the release to better appreciate the themes on display. Without question this is another outstanding release from the Unrest Productions stables and again highlights the label as the current leading underground outlet for uncompromising and expertly executed material.
* – the promo blurb further expands on the concept: “From Europe to Middle East via Sub-Saharan Africa, Abscheu have been watching some of the most determined acts of violence. Studying how bloodthirsty groups wash their hands by adorning their motivation with divine command. Seeing zealots justify murderous wrath by invoking their favorite sacred book whenever necessary. A self-proclaimed court where justice is selectively rendered. A confusing purgatory where hatred is given a legitimacy. A sneaky trickery designed to mislead one’s enemies in the maze of one’s lies. «Pretense» is the exploration of that system from various perspectives. «Pretense» is an unquestionable judgment before men – definitely not before that thing they call god”.
Kevlar – New Fears New Fights LP Unrest Productions 2017
Since 2014 Kevlar have issued two full lengths and a cassette EP, with New Fears New Fights constituting their third full album. In then making a perhaps obvious comparison to earlier output, while I do like Kevlar’s prior albums (Alpha Strife and Criteria), at the same time I found they tended to not stay in rotation long in favour of other listening choices. But it is from this perspective where New Fears New Fights standard apart, given there is an immediate sense of urgency, increased aggression and overt antagonism to this which elevates it to the next level.
To then comment on a projects within an industrial/ power electronics style, clearly there is no shame in reflecting inspiration, but this is also on the proviso that the end result needs to be more than a mere copyist project. Although direct comparisons can be drawn here to now classic elements from German and UK scenes (i.e. simple shuddering synth lines, layered loops, cascading distortion and antagonistic flanged vocals), with their focused and honed style Kevlar absolutely achieve a personal and most importantly a current take on this sound. 8 tracks feature on the album, with each spanning 4-6 minutes each, which should give an appreciation of the direct focus on display.
With a battle cry sample of “we must not be afraid to define our enemy”, Triumph Of Fear kicks in hard with driving loops buzzing distortion and crowd and alarm field recording adding to the overall tension. A great start. With Power To Act feeling as if a lengthy bridging piece to the more focused Power Of Blade, with the later being a standout track of burrowing distortion, layered loops and flange treated if the attacking and antagonistic vocals which are mixed prominently upfront in the mix (…and which partly reminds of The Grey Wolves classic track Victory Through Violence). The title track then rounds out Side A with a stuttering rhythm, bulldozing drones and proclamation styled vocals. Another excellent track. Mechanism opens Side B, and another example of simplicity creating fist pumping and blood boiling impact, achieved via urgent cascading loops, a general buzzing and queasy tonality (…and while a number of vocal samples are employed the main decipherable element is repeated word “incompatible”). Martyrs Crown with its brooding and atmospheric tone and looped method of construction reminds of German styled heavy electronics/ power electronics approach not too far from that of Ex.Order or early Anenzephalia. Despite is forceful tone, blown out oscillating noise and jagged tonal outbursts, Barbed Wire is entrenched with a morbid by aggressive tone to round out the album.
Based on Unrest Productions’ current roster, the label is shining a spotlight on the UK underground which from the outside looking in appears to be the strongest and most active underground scene currently operating, with Kevlar’s New Fears New Fights being a pinnacle example. Packaging wise the simple greyscale cover and insert features only basic information and functions to hammer home its direct impact. Although not reinventing the wheel Kevlar have issued an extremely impressive industrial/ power electronics LP and which is absolutely representative of the best of what the underground has to offer right now.