Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP & Septic

Himukalt – Between My Teeth LP Helen Scarsdale Agency ‎2021

Himukalt – Septic LP Malignant Records 2020

Straight off the mark, it is highlighted that Between My Teeth is not a new album from  Ester Kärkkäinen’s project Himukalt, rather is a welcomed vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape. Packaging is also immediately noteworthy given it comes with a full-sized 16-page booklet of Ester’s collage artwork, while the sonics have been duly given a remastered treatment. On the other hand Septic is one of Himukalt’s newer albums, and the second issued on Malignant Records.

Across the six cuts on Between My Teeth rudimentary yet fractured drum machine patterns eke out minimalist structures while spitting and fizzing fissures of distortion burst forth in chaotic and unexpected patterns. Vocals are then delivered in a laconic whispered to spoken style, but subject to further heavy echo and distortion smear treatment. I No Longer Belong is a particularly good track, based on a start/stop programmed rhythmic loop and cascading waves of bulldozing distortion, while the spoken vocals are relegated to the back of the mix. Mine, which opens Side B features a stilted and simplistic industrial techno thump, which is coupled with layered noise of jet engine proportions. In Every Stage Of This Oppression then offers a counter approach, with sustain tensile drones and spoken vocal passages which are obliterated with increasing jagged noise eruptions.

Septic does not significantly differ in approach, featuring a further five deep cuts of tonal angst. Although immediately notable is the sharpness and bulk of the recordings, as well as the power of the mastering (courtesy of Kris Lapke), where the whispered and low-spoken vocals have an immediate ‘upfront’ presence. Again the rudimentary drum machine patterns provide a basic structure to which static explosions and scrawled noise are framed. Yet with its layered mid-paced rhythmic loops, dive-bombing textures and sweeping noise The Drive Towards Oblivion charts a more straight down the power electronics sound than typical of the project, but the vocals bring an immediately recognisable tone. The title track opens Side B with a deep drone, low static loop, and spoken vocals, then using the tried-and-true method of slowly elevating intensity, which includes a stilted metallic oil barrel beat. The Gun In Her Mouth is the final track and feels to be the hit song of the album, based on its fast-paced programmed beat which when coupled with other looped elements gives it an anthemic type sway. A further sustained melodious synth line pushes the mood ever forwards, coupled with building static before peaking and collapsing at its conclusion.

To my mind, there is a thematic parallel to be drawn between the single-minded approach of Atrax Morgue and that of Himukalt. From Ester’s earliest cassette releases Himukalt arrived fully formed with a distinctly mature style and sound. Now that in excess of ten releases have been issued since 2016, there is a noted singularity of approach displayed across all of her releases, which is an element of consistency that also reminds of much of Atrax Morgue’s discography, despite the two projects sounding decidedly different. Given the sheer volume of material released in the underground these days, it is a difficult proposition to foster an individually recognisable approach and also to maintain an atmosphere of vitality over multiple releases. Yet both of these vinyl editions are equally strong testaments to Himukalt’s ability to do both with seeming ease.

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14

Cent Ans De Solitude ‎– En Concert – El Diablo, Lille, France 29.11.14 LP Force Majeure 2020

Cent Ans De Solitude is a somewhat obscure French experimental noise-industrial project of Jean-Yves Millet who has been active since the mid 1980’s. Yet the obscurity is perhaps explained by the limited output from the project over the years, which has mostly on compilations rather than his own albums. To speak of one compilation contribution, the project notably was featured on the now cult classic Zyklon B cassette compilation from 1994 which was collated and assembled by Les Joyaux De La Princesse (LJDLP).

To then talk of this recent release, the visually striking Russian Constructivism-inspired cover artwork draws immediate attention, while the title denotes this album as being a live recording from 2014. La-Bas is the short intro piece based on dour melodious elements, shimmering noise and smatterings of muted vocal chatter opens the album, which later shifts off into a lengthy experimental noise passage of drone, bowed metal shrieks and sampled radio dialogue which encapsulates a moodily atmospheric and hollowed out tone. Given the live flowing format of the recording, it is not immediately clear where one track concludes the next commences, but the later half of Side A sees jagged and metallic tonality offset against a drone of increasing intensity, and by side’s end the tone has risen into a cavernously echoed cacophony of sound. Paysages Industriels opens Side B resets the sonic approach with melodious (piano?) loop and distant creaking junk metal tones. The next track Des Visages Et Des Ruines with its layers radio chatter, rising orchestral style synths, slow pounding martial beat and muted industrial noise reminds strongly of the martial industrial approach of LJDLP, which is a high compliment from these quarters. The Unacceptable Face Of Beauty follows and charts yet further stylistic territory with prominent looped orchestral elements taking focus prior to rhythmically percussive elements being introduced later in the track. Ailleurs is the final piece and reverts to tonal noise experimentalism of the first side, featuring shimmering drones, sampled dialogue and the shrieking of bowed sheet metal, while muted dour melody and heartbeat pulse appears late in the piece.

Of note, this live recording was first issued in 2019 on CD via Jean-Yves Millet’s own label Les Nouvelles Propagandes and now been given the vinyl treatment on ‘rust’ coloured wax, which is housed in full colour screen-printed, foldout sleeve. Despite being from a lesser-known artist within the post-industrial underground this is a wonderful discovery of highly varied and atmospheric experimental noise-industrial soundscapes. Very worthy of further investigation.

Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain

Cryptophasia – World Of Illusory, World Of Pain LP Cloister Recordings 2021

Cryptophasia is an new American/ Russian duo, where the atypical imagery and design of the gatefold artwork, orange/gold vinyl pressing, and the translucent orange outer slip-sleeve provides a strong initial impression of this being different from typical underground fare. Likewise, despite having listen to this LP numerous times, there is an amorphous aspect to its sound and general sonic approach which defies easy genre classification within a broader post-industrial sound.

In general terms the album can be thought of in two sonics halves, where the track World of Illusory leads of Side A, which overall is moody and contemplative and of a sound and style of an earlier 80’s ritual industrial approach. As such vocal chants, filmic drones, organ melodies, muted horns, ritualised clatter, and wonky industrial textures abound, where the pacing is both slow and considered. Female spoken vocals also feature on I’m On The Inside, which are offset by a mid-toned droning loop and slowly repeated three note piano melody. As for the second sonic half, the lead off track on Side B is Word Of Pain and functions to indicate a more focused aggression displayed the back half of the album. Here the mood elevates towards a composed power electronics tone, where the ritual elements are paired back and the harder industrial textures and aggressive male vocals are brought to the fore. Condemn Me is a great example of this blends shuddering textures, queasy distortion, unintelligible dialogue and distant yet urgently yelled ‘megaphone’ vocals. As for the final track The Nightmare is a concluding highlight, which much like the album overall splits its sound between the moody ritual industrial approach with harder, aggressive and nauseating tones.

Although not an overly long album, given its variety of sonic ideas on display World Of Illusory, World Of Pain feels far longer than its relatively short runtime. Clearly rooted in post-industrial spheres, it draws equal influence from early ritual industrial soundscape experimentation as well as more modern power-electronics abrasion. But there is still a large individual streak at play here which makes this stand apart from many of its contemporaries, which is no easy feat within the current post-industrial underground.

Tone Generator & The Body Without Organs – Normalisation Of Response

Tone Generator & The Body Without Organs – Normalisation Of Response CD Inner City Uprising 2021

Tone Generator aka Dominic Guerin is a somewhat infamous key contributor to the early classic industrial/noise era of SPK (i.e. late 1970’s/early 1980’s). But apart from his sporadic involvement with another industrial group Last Dominion Lost, he has not been publicly active with music over the subsequent four decades. For this new project Dominic has teamed up with Scott Barnes (whom I am not familiar), while the experimental industrial tracks spanning 50 minutes have been recorded over the period of 2019/2020.

Each of the nine tracks function as standalone compositions, where wonky tripped out synths, convulsive rhythmic elements, squelching sonics and a general buzzing thrum abound, but also which evokes a darker hued atmospheric industrial/noise thread throughout. The overall production is specifically noteworthy given it is thick and forceful without being overblown or its tonal elements muddied through sonic overcrowding. The cover then provides short liner notes on each track to articulate specific conceptual underpinnings, but even so sonic appreciation of the album is not hampered without it.

Opening track Lost In Space (dedicated to the Soviet space program) features a deep space tonal drift, sweeping radiation tones and sparse radio voices, while Ballard of the BWO increases a wonky disorienting tone of sparse textures and generally unintelligible disembodied voices. Ne/H/il’s Back Room is the most obvious throwback to early SPK due to both its thematic content and the sampled rhythmic element (sample credited to James Pinker and originally featured on the track Day of Pigs from SPK’s second album Leichenschrei). Here the sampled and looped rhythmic beat has been welded onto a brooding industrial soundscape while Dominic narrates aspects of Ne/H/il’s personal sexual proclivities. The Wasteland stands then out substantially from the rest given the central focus on its fizzing and spitting mid-paced pulse, while treated vocals and a variety of other sonic smeared textures are relegated to the background. Flight of Ideas round out the album, being the longest track at eight minutes, which arcs off into various sonic directions over its course, given the choppy cut up dynamics keeps the sound ever shifting, yet retaining a general sense of forward pace and momentum.

If there was any question regarding the impact Tone Generator had on early SPK material (and specifically the Information Overload Unit album), this new material functions to significantly underline that fact. Yet far from being a mere retread of earlier sounds and sonic ideas, Normalisation of Response is playfully experimental without ever sounding dryly academic or forgoing its darker toned atmospherics. Consequently, Normalisation Of Response is an excellent album and comes with a very strong recommendation from these quarters.

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).

Streicher ‎– Genius Of Victory

Streicher ‎– Genius Of Victory LP ASRAR 2020

ASRAR’s vinyl reissue campaign of early Streicher material continues, with this being the third LP following Annihilism and Hammerskins. Although Genius Of Victory technically constitutes a new title within the Streicher discography, in actuality it is a compilation collection of three impossible to find early 1990s tapes, including Der Stürmer, Gnadelos, and Oi Terroristen.

Der Stürmer opens the album and is a track demonstrating the basic essence of industrial noise, being framed around coarse monotones and sustained synth static and crumbling textures. Streicher Skins follows with a more militaristic approach that very much embodies the self-described ‘tactical electronics’ descriptor, with upfront incessantly oscillating tones paired with a looser undercurrent of semi-rhythmic metallic loops. Des Stürmers Kampf differs through its use of a sampled orchestral nationalist militaristic song, before diverging into a bulldozing track of interweaving and pulsing bass tones and sampled crowd chanting; again, simplicity and directness is the order of the day and absolutely succeeds with the end result. Side B brings a further three tracks, where Purimfest 1946 stands out with its high-pitched needling texture offset against a lower-end idling machine tone and further crowd chanting, while the latter half of the track arcs back to another sampled orchestral nationalist militaristic song. While the crude and basic sonics of Boot Party retains the consistent ‘tactical electronics’ approach, this is coupled with the trademark gruff ‘skinhead thug’-style vocals of Ulex that makes Streicher so immediately recognisable. This approach also follows on final track Skragkraft,but is more sonically consistent with Streicher Skins given its framing around invasive high-pitched modulating tones against a shifting tide-scrabbling lower bass static, while Ulex spits gravelly vocals referencing “skinhead survival”.

Given the focus of the featured tracks, there is a singularity of approach which provides a surprising directness and immediacy that hangs together excellently as a standalone full length, rather than potentially being a disjointed compilation collection. The white vinyl pressing is of a thick 180g weight, as is the chosen card stock of the cover; this and a double-sided insert including reproductions of the original cassette artwork does this release suitable justice.

Sadio – Copycat Killer

Sadio – Copycat Killer MC Freak Animal Records 2020

When I first noted the title of this new Sadio release, it did not immediately click that it was a clever reference to the fact that this tape consists of cover tracks of the following legendary power electronics projects: Final Solution, Con-Dom, Intrinsic Action, Whitehouse, Grey Wolves, Atrax Morgue, Genocide Organ, and Taint. As Sadio is concerned with a sound and themes slanted towards the nastier end of power electronics, the chosen selection very much reflects this.

With the wide scope of sound of projects covered herein, it is noteworthy that the covers are faithful to the originals, and clearly recognisable as specific cover songs. Yet they also contain the particular sonic hallmarks of Sadio material; in this context the Finnish accent on the vocals certainly gives these covers a distinct Sadio slant. To talk specifics, the driving noise, backing loops, slow pounding beat, and ranted vocals of the cover of Con-Dom’s Moor Rapist hits its mark perfectly, while the covers of a Sutcliffe Jugend (Right to Kill) Whitehouse track (Tit Pulp) elevate the harsh needling and higher range ‘whistling’ sonics of the originals. Elsewhere the shuddering and crumbling loops of the cover of Grey Wolves’ Dominate Her features an aquatic squelch coupled with excellent heavily processed vocals. The cover of Dogday by Genocide Organ equally hits its mark with its militant bulldozing distortion and urgent and angst-filled vocals that are themselves heavily processed.

In the hands of lesser acts this sort of cover album concept would likely have fallen flat in hitting its intended mark. But in the hands of Sadio, it is completely successful in terms of concept, its varied track selection, and its final sonic execution. The packaging is a simple black and white J-card, featuring hand-scrawled text from a letter of David Richard Berkowitz aka Son of Sam (the text relating to the Genocide Organ track Dogday), and sketches by the lesser known suspected serial killer G.J. Schaefer (as documented in the long out of print book Killer Fiction).

Moral Order – The Empty Cross

Moral Order – The Empty Cross LP Tesco Organisation 2021

The Empty Cross is the fourth album since 2018 from Fernando O. Paino’s industrial blended heavy / power electronics project Moral Order. Thematically, this new album concerns itself with various philosophical works of Friedrich W. Nietzsche; as stated in the promo text: ‘God has died, and Western values must be reformed in a world dominated by chaos and crisis of principles. The cross is empty. The farce is over’.

For the nine tracks which make up The Empty Cross, the cold and grey-hued analogue electronics are framed as relatively straightforward, predominantly mid-paced, rhythmic song-focused compositions. Yet, there are some tracks such as Amnesia and OC that are brooding and soundscape-styled, thus reorienting their tone more towards that of dark ambient spheres. As noted in my reviews of other Moral Order releases, there is a particular strain in their sound that would sit quite comfortably on the Galakthorrö label. That impression equally applies here; the moody rhythm and beat of Tree of Words is one such perfect example. Opening track Demise stands out as a differing statement of intent based on a mid-paced driving tribal-esque beat, throbbing synths, and soot-smeared vocals. Blood Stains is another early highlight, involving a mid-paced rhythmic march and underpinning and pounding bass. Onslaught also stands apart with its clean beat and minimalist synth melody, yet the sonic-smeared vocals place the atmosphere clearly within underground spheres.

The Empty Cross could be said to be a continuation, but slight refinement and expansion of, the established sound of Moral Order. This means there is a lot to like here for established fans. The large cross die-cut in the main cover and separate insert visible below rounds out a very classy presentation, in a limited pressing of 300 copies.

Grunt – Spiritual Eugenics

Grunt – Spiritual Eugenics 2CD Freak Animal Records 2020

Following 2009’s sprawling album Petturien Rooli, Grunt slightly reoriented their approach to issue a series of albums based on distinct and individual tracks, including World Draped In A Camouflage (2012), Myth Of Blood (2015), and Castrate the Illusionist (2018). Spiritual Eugenics continues that approach, yet the number of tracks has increased to a length which here spans two 40-minute discs. Interestingly the CD cover lists the 20 tracks in four groups of five tracks, which replicates the track order as presented over the four sides of the 2xLP edition. Given that all tracks could have potentially been squeezed onto the one CD, this speaks volumes about the chosen physical presentation and the way the listener is expected to engage with the presented material.

In taking in the substantial volume of material here, Mikko Aspa yet again demonstrates beyond all question that he is a master craftsman when it comes to the production of power electronics, noise, and industrial-related material. Across the tracks the sound palette is forever varied, and despite its outwardly aggressive and angst-fuelled atmosphere, there are moments of more experimental and sonically spacious respite. Clearly every sonic element is focused and considered, and composition is key here. While base sonics may have been derived from various separate improvisational recording sessions, it is clear they have been specifically selected and combined to gain the end result. As perhaps expected, a myriad of sonics are presented including blustering bass tones, scrap metal abuse, granular noise, morse code distortion, wavering oscillations, looped metallic rhythms, and smattering of samples. The vocals are equally varied in sound treatment and delivery, ranging from deep bellows to angst-fuelled cries.

Lubricant Of The Rebirth stands out with its central conveyor belt loop, further fleshed out with thick droning bass, choir samples, and angst-ridden vocals. The instrumental Tehotuotettu Ihminenis notable for its hollowed-out sound which nudges Grunt’s sound towards the experimental end. Another instrumental track JOB 36:33 blends almost organ-like melodious drones with spitting static and clashing metallic noise, which can be considered in the context of the relevant bible quote: ‘The thunder announces his presence; the storm announces his indignant anger’. The opening track on second disc Inside the Walls is an excellent anxiety-inducing offering, framed around screeching metallic textures, raw junk metal tones, sustained bass drones, and aggressively spat vocals. For yet more variation the slow off-kilter loop of Eight O’Clock has a quite traditional European power electronics tone, with vocals and other flanged elements pushed into the background. Flesh Engine is also notable for its squelched idling loop, general scrap metal clatter, and unhinged shrieking vocals. Immeasurable also stands out by virtue of its fast-paced pulsing undercurrent, over which more unhinged noise is smeared.

To briefly mention the equally stunning physical presentation, this features a multi-panel digipack (including separate eight-panel booklet), pressed into thick matt card stock and containing various collages and artworks, which although uncredited are also from the hands of Mikko Aspa. Spiritual Eugenics is yet another excellent and mandatory album from Grunt, which is also available in a 2LP vinyl edition.