Profane Grace – Nocturnal Omniscience

Profane

Profane Grace – Nocturnal Omniscience CD Ewers Tonkunst 2010

Profane Grace are a project I have known of for many, many years, but only previously having heard their 5th album ‘Epitaph Of Shattered Dreams’ from 1999.  Likewise up until now I had not delved into their biography to see exactly who was behind the project, although did have an impression they were linked to the underground metal scene.  This perception was duly confirmed following a little bit of recent background investigation, where it seems Profane Grace have been around since 1992 and have direct linage to the American black metal band Demoncy.  ‘Nocturnal Omniscience’ is their 7th and latest album (…but already near a half decade old).

Stylistically Profane Grace evoke dark ambient music which very much fits in with the ‘Cold Meat Industry’ sound of the mid to late 90’s, meaning gloomy, sub-orchestral soundscapes and horror soundtrack type atmospheres are the prevalent focus.  Likewise with their connection to the black metal scene, Profane Grace could be slotted under either the ‘black ambient’ and/ or ‘dungeon synth’ banners, noting other similar ‘black ambient’/ ‘dungeon synth’ projects include: Mortiis (era 1), Darkness Enshroud, Valefor, Aghast, Cernunnos Woods, Æva etc.

Of the 9 albums tracks which span an hour’s length, each composition is catatonic in pace and broadly embodies the atmosphere of a dank crypt, which evokes further visions of narrow passages and cavernous spaces lit only by light emitted from a lone flickering candle.  Musically the sound is achieved predominantly with synthetic means, to generate abstract droning textures and deep mine shaft echoes, which are augmented by the droll tolling of funeral bells, occasional organ dirges, dragging chains, rasping unintelligible vocalisations, low monastic chants (unclear whether sampled or synth generated), scrapping metallic textures, sparse ritual chimes etc.  Whilst many tracks are quite sparse and abstract, others such as ‘Trilogy of the Unangled Plain III’ are structured around a central maudlin quasi-orchestral synth melody, or in the case of ‘Hymns to Selket’ are driven by slow booming tympani percussion.

To its credit ‘Nocturnal Omniscience’ achieves a depth and complexity much greater than ‘Epitaph Of Shattered Dreams’, which although played with a very similar sound palate, came across as more simplistic and one dimensional and a tad cheesy on some tracks as the synthetic means of music production simply did not match the pomp and majesty of the attempted medieval/ orchestral melodies.  Although there is clearly nothing new or unique about what Profane Grace do that is not really the point, as ‘Nocturnal Omniscience’ achieves a particular occult infused dark ambient sound with absolute ease.  A cardboard slip sleeve with spot varnished images completes the packaging in simple and stylish means.

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K100 – The Vault of Apparitions

K100

K100 – The Vault of Apparitions CD Neuropa Records/ Unreality 2010

To introduce K100 to the unfamiliar, it is an obscure project operating within the field of dark ambience, although sole project member Kim Solve is likely to be better recognised for his other industrial act Blitzkrieg Baby.  With K100 Kim has opted to focus on the more subtle and abstract side of musical expression, which nicely counterbalances the militant industrial bombast of Blitzkrieg Baby.

Although ‘The Vault of Apparitions’ contains 12 compositions (spanning 51 minutes), as is often the case with this type of music it is best appreciated as a singular composition / body of work.  Thus from the album’s opening moments the atmosphere is hollow, distant and ominous, where low mechanised humming textures merge with sub orchestral drones.  As the album progresses it becomes entirely apparent that this is also dark ambience of the deep shafts and subterranean caverns typology.  Here the tonal reverberations of cavernous spaces mingle with other textures that sonically articulate the low distant rumble of far of thunder (…or perhaps some other far worse nameless entity lurking in the depths).  But far from being all drone and drift, there are occasional vague metallic rhythmic tones intermixed with the yawning catacomb bass tones.  Likewise further sonic variety is achieved through other tonal elements such as ritual gongs / chimes and a Tibetan thigh bone horn, where the drawling horn note of the later instrument bleeds out into widescreen textural drones.

Broadly subtle in texture – like a dank fog which slowly creeps over the landscape – ‘The Vault of Apparitions’ sits within stalking and suspenseful soundtrack territory.  Also with the organic feel imbedded within the deep bass drones, the result has a partial affinity with the ritual drone works of the Aural Hypnox label collective.  Given its abstract and subtle nuances ‘The Vault of Apparitions’ is not an album of immediate impact.  Rather it is an understated slow burner, where the key to unlocking its rewards are patience and detailed attention.

The Vomit Arsonist – Reason

Vomit Arsonist Reason

The Vomit Arsonist – Reason MC Nil By Mouth Recordings 2010

Given this tape obviously predates the excellent ‘Go Without’ album from 2012, it illustrates sole project member Andrew Grant in slightly less refined form, but still resulting in an interesting and solid release.

‘Lifeless’ opens the tape with a grinding pulse and loosely constructed metallic factory clatter all wrapped up in a cavernous tonal aesthetic, upon which the aggressive, echoed distorted vocals are spewed forth.  ‘Environment’ plays with similar sound, but comes across as more aggressive in the vocal department (“GIve me one reason. Give me one fucking reason”), whilst also evoking a melancholic tone due to some some depressive synth lines.  The highlight track of the tape is found in the form of ‘Existence’, which features layered ominous descending synth drones and distortion drenched vocals, which although simple in construction absolutely hits the mark.  Alternately ‘Purpose’ opts to deliver an aggressive and loosely looped power electronics piece, which makes way for the final track ‘Ten Suicides’ which is a cover of a Bloodyminded song.  Although less bleak than the original, it does manage to match the intensity within the frame of The Vomit Arsonists’ sound.

Packaging is suitably DIY for the tape format, including black spray painted case and photocopied card inserts which are housed in a sealed mini ‘garbage bag’ style sleeve.