Grunt – Someone is Watching / Europe After Storm

Someone is Watching

Europe After Storm

Grunt – Someone Is Watching CD Force Majeure 2011

Grunt – Europe After Storm CD Force Majeure / Industrial Recollections 2012

These two albums are not new, instead are re-releases from the lengthy Grunt back catalogue.  Incidentally the combined material was recorded in 1998 with ‘Europe After Storm’ also containing some live tracks from 1999.  Whilst both albums clearly sit within the European power electronics genre, here there seems to be a general reliance on oscillating synth textures for a basis of the sound.  This aspect effectively highlights a clear difference between older and newer material, as recent Grunt albums appear to focus on self produced and specifically recorded sounds (sheet metal, effects units, homemade noise apparatus etc.).

In its original version ‘Someone Is Watching’ was first issued on tape in 1998 and given its limitation of 128 copies it clearly warrants this less limited CD repress of 500 copies.  Likewise as is suggested by the title, the album’s concept focuses on CCTV / video surveillance and the associated control that a faceless authority seeks to impose by such technological means.  Album opener ‘Watch Your Back’ feature a prominent synth drone, a crumbling mass of distortion and high pitched processed vocals which sweep and pan trough the mix over the extended 9 minute length.  Definitely a great start and with the track being heavy and noisy but at the same time structured and loosely composed, it establishes the prevailing theme throughout the album.  Interestingly ‘You Can’t Hide’ is quite reminiscent of Propergol’s ‘Cleanshaven’ album, due to the prominent use of movie dialogue samples and subdued ominous atmosphere, yet as ‘Cleanshaven’ was also released in 1998, the question is who might have influenced who, or are the similarities a mere coincidence?  Towards the middle of the album ‘Secrets Of Technology’ takes a much looser approach and is particularly heavy with an overloaded noise productions and metallic clatter, with the distorted vocals barely being able to break though the sonic mass.  Regarding the concluding arc of the album, the final three tracks each contain a notable controlled sweeping noise aesthetic, which evokes a stalking and threatening type mood that certainly suits the album’s concept.

Moving onto ‘Europe After Storm’ it has a slightly more storied history as it was first issued as four track cassette in 1998, before being reissued on CD in 2001 with three additional studio tracks and four live tracks.  This version contains the same material from the 2001 CD release but is packaged here is a standard jewel-case.  Although from the same era, from the outset it is evident that ‘Europe After Storm’ differs from ‘Someone Is Watching’, given it sonically it is more brutal and less atmospheric as a result.   ‘Project Eden’ opens ‘Europe After Storm’ and descends with an assemblage of rough loops, drilling synth elements and heavily processed vocals and a building mass of distortion and random clatter.   On the other hand ‘N-Force’ uses a sustained synth drone to provide a somewhat filmic quality to a backdrop of modulated noise, which is soon crushed by the following track ‘Blood On Concrete’ with squalled noise layers and prominent anger filled power electronics vocals.  Alternately ‘Peacekeepers’ stylistically shifts the sound towards a death industrial tone, due the heavy droning synth line and distant noise and sampled dialogue, although the later half of the track does morph into a proper power electronics blizzard.  ‘Cleansweep’ rounds out the collection of studio tracks, which loosely knits together layers of pulsing noise, dialogue loops and chaotic vocals. Of the four live tracks, these conceptually fit the studio tracks (two studio tracks from ‘Europe After Storm’ feature in live version), but within the live context there is a looser and heavier presentation, including the vocals that come across as more prominent and forceful.  Sonically it seems the live tracks may involve the  use of a backing track (…I could be wrong on this point), which are augmented with live noise and vocals.  Yet either way the live tracks are a solid live representation of studio material.

Clearly both of these older Grunt albums contain strong and focused material, which differ slightly in sound and style consistent with their differing themes.  Likewise both albums have stood the test of time positively and can hold their own within the context the current crop of newer power electronics releases.  Yet when these earlier albums are compared to the current Grunt album ‘World Draped in A Camouflage’, it only emphasises how far Mikko Aspa has pushed his project and the levels of sophistication he has achieved within his chosen power electronics framework.

Maison Close – Maison Close

Masion Close

Maison Close – Maison Close CD Force Majeure 2012

Maison Close is not a new project/ album, rather is a ten year anniversary repress which has been reissued in much the same presentation and content as the original release.

Regarding its genre Maison Close could be described as something like noise infused dark ambience, which verges on a windswept power electronics sound.  As such the sonic palette consists of sustained analogue drones, sweeping ominous textures and slow grinding loops which evokes a partial linage to the early Loki Foundation heavy electronics style – think Predominance, Dagda Mor, Ex.Order and early Inade.  The overall atmosphere generated by the heavy use of dialogue samples is also reminiscent of what Propergol would later do with the same concept, yet Maison Close generates a more consistent soundtrack type atmosphere due to the singular source which the movie dialogue is sampled from.

Regarding its usage of sampled dialogue, thematically the album focuses on the 1971’s motion picture ‘Johnny Got His Gun’ which makes for great conceptual fodder.  Although the movie is in effect an anti war tome told from the perspective of an severely wounded soldier, here Maison Close have focused on aspects which address the existential fear of being mentally cognisant, but trapped in a comatose and non-responsible body with the following panic and terror which would ensue.  Noting the albums visuals have also been lifted from the movie, the album very much plays out as an alternate experimental soundtrack to the source material.

Noting the calmer arc of the first half, things step up on mid album track ‘Tom-nihil-rec’ that contains the first use of prominent vocals, presented in an agonised power electronics style that soar above the sonic undercurrent of grinding and crumbling noise.   The track ‘Pain’ also utilised prominent vocals, which achieves an agonizing climax with its combination of swelling distortion and deranged vocal delivery.  ‘Interferences’ mines a similar vein to Brighter Death Now’s death ambient sound, which here combines a cavernous echo chamber ambience with a prominent singular mid range piecing tone that burrows deep into your psyche and making this track anything but easy listening.  A heavy noise squall and agonised vocals then reappear on ‘Eclats de vie’ before one final section of sampled movie dialogue to conclude the album (“SOS help me… SOS help me…” repeated…).

Given where others have taken this sort of sound in the years following the original release, I would not necessarily call this classic or ground-breaking.  Yet it is still a solid album all the same which had successfully merged its overall tone and atmosphere with its conceptual context.

Abre Ojos – Häxan

abre ojos

Abre Ojos – Häxan DVDr not on label (self released) 2012

Abre Ojos are a project that I have only been made aware of recently, but from their self-described tag line of “improvised sound and vision for dystopian meditation” it provides a strong indication that the project is concerned with more than just its audial aspects.  Further investigation reveals that Abre Ojos functions as a staunchly multi-media project where the visuals as a counterpoint to the music are considered an integral part of the overall whole.  Evidently ‘Häxan’ is their fifth release since 2009.

Conceptually the album has utilised a 1922 silent film titled ‘Häxan – Witchcraft Through the Ages’ as an initial inspiration source (…albeit with a intention of inverting the message of the film).  Likewise visual elements from the film have been sampled and in turn manipulated and processed beyond recognition.  The end result is a multi-media album containing specific visuals for six tracks (which incidentally span 66.6 minutes to obviously align with the conceptual content).

Given the multi-media nature of the project it would be remiss not to mention the visual aspects first which are certainly a visual feast of kaleidoscopic effects. Here the viewers’ retinas are treated to multi-coloured miasma of computer generated geometric shapes which are constantly shifting and morphing into new patterns and sequenced formations. During some sections the visuals are limited to a swirling mass at the centre of a black screen, whilst during others they extend across the entire visual frame.  Although it is somewhat difficult to describe the visuals in words*, they are most definitely hypnotic to watch and constitute the perfect visual backdrop for this type of music in a live setting – of which Abre Ojos do exactly that when playing live. (*Hint: the album covers gives a good indication of what to expect).

Coupled with the visuals the audio elements consist of some excellent archaic drones and cosmic dark ambience, where each of the six tracks follow a similar sound palate and sonic structure.  Effectively this is droning dark ambience done with a heavy dose of pulsing cosmic radiance, bass heavy rumblings and sections of jagged tonality that avoid becoming all out noise.  Likewise there is a heavily processed aspect to the sustained synth textures and cyclic drones, which are also occasionally underscored by slightly more animated pulsing rhythms and crystalline metallic elements.  Yet this is not to say that ‘Häxan’ is a totally alien soundscape bereft of human aspects, as ritual chimes and processed vocals (ranging from whispers to chanted choir like textures) are sporadically utilised, thus providing some earthly grounding to the material.  To give some more focused and comparative markers, ‘Häxan’ has a certain linage with the dark ambient material coming from the likes of Malignant Records or Loki Foundation – think Phelios, Phaenon, Sphäre Sechs, Blood Box etc and possibly the abstract elements of Inade for suitable reference.

From the liner notes evidently both the music and visuals are interactive and were performed and recorded live in the studio, which is surprising as both the music and visuals come across as far more considered and composed than a live studio recording might suggest.  However due to the similarity of the sound across the six tracks ‘Häxan’ is best approached as a singular metamorphosing and meditative composition.  Likewise despite being a multi-media project when approached from a mediative listening perspective the music is such that it can actually stand on its own as a pure audio piece.

Noting this is a self released production the overall packaging and presentation is slick and professional and although the physical release was limited to a mere 50 hand numbered copies, the full release is available for viewing or download via their website and bandcamp pages.  At this point Abre Ojos may be an obscure project to many, but based on ‘Häxan’ further attention is warranted.

http://abreojos.net/

http://abre-ojos.bandcamp.com/

Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism

EE

Various Artists – Epicurean Escapism MC / DVDr The Epicurean / Silken Tofu 2012

Not a typical compilation in the traditional sense, here we have a multi-media document that was issued as a companion release for a live festival of the same name (held in Berlin on 7th of July 2012).  This release features all artists who performed live, including:  IRM, Krank, Anemone Tube, Jarl, Human Larvae, as well as further contributions from Dissecting Table and Martin Bladh (who both presented video screenings at the festival).  Although festival compilations can often be somewhat uninspired, ‘Epicurean Escapism’ avoids this pitfall in term of both the artistic contributions and the packaging and presentation (silver bubble wrap pocket sleeve and pro-duplicated tape).

Krank (an old resurrected project of John Murphy) is first up, presenting a dose of ritual industrial sounds – multi-tracked vocals and myriad on tonal textures are the order the day here.  Anemone Tube follow with a remixed track from the excellent ‘Dream Landscape’ album, presenting a multi-dimensional dark ambient track constructed field recording and droning synth textures – great stuff as expected.  The next track is a devastating live attack from IRM, here presenting the title track from their last album ‘Order4’.  Built on a base of heavy droning distortion and crumbling static Martin Bladh’s vocals suitably unhinged, sounding if he is pushing himself to an absolute point of collapse.  Jarl rounds out the first side of the tape and present an animated yet meditative ambient track consisting of a multitude of clinical throbs and pulsing elements, and a looped bass line that is quite reminiscent of early Deutsch Nepal.

Flipping over to side two Human Larvae present two short tracks in quick succession. The first is a layered dark ambient / industrial track with an ominous droning atmosphere, whilst the second drives a more static riddled power electronics tone including obligatory yelled/ distorted vocals.  As my first introduction to Human Larvae both are solid and enjoyable tracks in their given styles.  Dissecting Table follows whose track is the longest of the compilation, but from my perspective is the weakest (…but to qualify this view I have never been a huge fan).  The track presented here is freeform noisy industrial, with cascading waves of distortion and heavy dose of digital clatter, rounded out with aggressive processed vocals in the dying minutes.  Anemone Tube return to conclude the music part of the release with a calm and melancholic track, built on a dour synth line and ‘composed’ field recording elements – again an excellent contribution.

In addition to the music, a short art film by Martin Bladh is presented entitled ‘Pig and Tomboy’.  Experimental filmmaking in its styling, the short video juxtaposes visual cuts ups of various disturbing scenes being acted out (…Martin Bladh and an accomplice in a pig mask).  These images play out seemingly in response to an audio collage of interview dialogue which has been collated and contributed by Peter Sotos (…dealing with a girl’s decent into drug use, prostitution and subsequent death by unknown means).  Interestingly in some sections the footage is filmed via the reflection of a mirror, where the tripod camera that has captured the scene is clearly visible in frame, which raises questions of whether the audience is a mere passive viewer, or perhaps an active voyeur just out of frame.  The video certainly warrants more analysis and dissection than can be provided here, but it is uncompromisingly executed by Martin Bladh, which should be no surprise at this point given his artistic endeavours to date.

From packing to the multiple formats of contributed material, it provides ‘Epicurean Escapism’ with a clear point of difference from the more ‘standard’ approach to a festival oriented compilation. Yes this is ludicrously limited at 100 copies, but worthy of investigation all the same.

Trepaneringsritualen – Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring

TxRxP

Trepaneringsritualen – Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring LP Strömkarlen / Verlautbarung 2012

Although not constituting a new album from T x R x P, this is a welcomed vinyl reissue of their debut cassette from 2008.  As the tape was issued in an almost unobtainable run of 75 copies it is a positive to be given the opportunity to obtain an insight into the early works of this project via this re-release.

From the commencement of the first track it is clearly evident that the sound of ‘Ritualer, Blot & Botgöring’ differs from the more composed and occult / ritualised sound of recent material.  Rather the sound presented here is of the lo-fi murky death industrial type, which draws parallels and comparisons with the more ambient works of Brighter Death Now.  As such the prevalent atmosphere could be hyperbolically described as ‘the creeping dread of the unknown’, or ‘the rising horror of what might be lurking in the basement’.

‘Bloodletting Ritual’ opens the album and delivers a cavernous echoed undercurrent offset with gritty, lo-fi grinding textures.  ‘Black Heaven/ White Hell’ follows with a sporadic knocking percussive element coupled with mid to high pitched noise squeals, before settling into a grinding bass loaded furrow (…the track bleeding out over an extended 13+ minutes).

‘Knife Play’ opens the second side and is slightly more animated with its bass percussive pulse again being partially buried by echoed lo-fi muck, before falling away into a muffled ambient segment with occasional rasping vocalisations.  Alternately ‘Bestraffning & Beloning’ is one of the more composed tracks of the album, with a slow pounding beat and oscillating noise frequencies providing the death industrial rhythm, and is one of the main contenders for the aforementioned Brighter Death Now compassion.

With the overall presentation, the design of the predominantly black LP sleeve is simple and classy, adorned with images of trephination (both medieval woodcuts and photographic examples).  Noting that this was issued with a print run of a mere 250 it is anticipated that copies won’t hang around for too long.

Mind &Flesh – Martyr Generation

Mind&Flesh

Mind & Flesh – Martyr Generation CD Force Majeure 2012

Although Norway might not be a highly recognised country for death industrial and power electronics music, this has done little to hamper the enthusiasm of Anders B with his Mind & Flesh project.  It also seems this is not Anders first release, as he has previously issued two albums under a separate moniker Babyflesh, before rebooting under the guise of this new project name.

Being the Mind & Flesh debut, ‘Martyr Generation’ consists of nine tracks recorded between 2005-2008 and by way of indicative sonic markers, this is musically in the vicinity of early Genocide Organ, early Haus Arafna, Brighter Death Now etc, yet does manage to evoke a sound of its own.  Overall the album follows a path of being loose and unpolished in delivery, being built on repeated looped structures to form the basis of each piece.  Likewise the tracks are structured enough to not appear improvised, but chaotic enough to suit its death industrial/ power electronics guise.

The roughly stilted loops and acerbic distorted vocals of ‘Walking Target’ introduce the album and include the dually consoling/ menacing lyrics of: “I will keep you safe. Nothing is going harm you. As long as you play my game”.  Yet things really kick in with full force on ‘From the Cradle to the Grave’ with fast, pulsing metallic loops and flanged vocals that hint at the vocal style delivery of the Grey Wolves. This track is blunt and to the point and all the more effective for it, and continues in a similar stylistic slant on ‘Alone Against All’ which also brings the mid era Brighter Death Now compassions to the fore.  The elongated length of ‘Blodskam’ evokes some great droning death industrial (complete with distant wailing chants), whilst ‘Destroyers’ achieves a more loose rhythmic sound with its various loops and decent amount of crisp and sharp distortion.  Noting that ‘Purgatorium’ is credited to both Mind & Flesh and Atrax Morgue (aka the late Marco Corbelli who regrettably committed suicide in 2007), there is no further information regarding this collaboration, but obviously this was composed before Marco’s untimely passing.  Here ‘Purgatorium’ presents a cavernous atmosphere built with a basic yet crushing beat and sermon like distortion treated vocals, being broadly characteristic of the minimalist approach of Atrax Morgue.  Alternately the final track ‘Clashing Icons’ bleeds out over an extended 10 minute length, evoking a cavernous death ambient soundscape of echoes, metallic textures and occasional vocal wails (…a commendable conclusion which is certainly a hell of a lot calmer than much of the material which precedes it).

With ‘Martyr Generation’ Mind & Flesh delivers a solid and no frills death industrial/ power electronics album.  Whilst it may display its influences fairly prominently, when armed with such conviction and delivered with such passion as displayed here, it provides Mind & Flesh with requisite individualistic flair, thus worthy of full attention.

En Nihil – The Approaching Dark

EnNihil

En Nihil – The Approaching Dark CD Eibon Records 2012

The long standing project En Nihil returns with a new album, which on face value stylistically fits with the current crop of American acts cultivating the grey areas between dark ambient, death industrial and power electronics genres.

Album opener ‘The Tomb of Empire’ acts as a relatively short intro piece, which has a tonal range spanning a low humming drone at the bottom end, coupled with blasting static at the forefront and upper ranges.  This piece then bleeds seamlessly into ‘Frozen Posture’, which with its rumbling mass and subtle textural elements shifts towards an isolationist ambient frame.  Alternately ‘The Hearts Relent’ is a total surprise (given the tracks which precede it), containing a melancholic fragility evoked though through a sparse orchestral melody and distant hummed vocals.  Although unexpected, it works exceptionally well in a restrained and cinematic dark ambient style.  ‘Futile Man – The Weight of Absolution’ is another stand out, with tonality quite akin to the fractured and digital filtered laptop sound of Fennesz – although this piece does move away from the summery electronica atmospheres of the aforementioned project to heavier distorted death industrial realms.

In covering yet more sonic territory ‘Souls to Cease’ delivers some buried factory ambience which builds in static intensity as the piece progresses.  Likewise ‘Vulture Reign’ pushes a heavier and more forceful power electronics sound with its rough loops and cascading noise and squalled distortion – excellent stuff.  Final album track ‘Darkfall’ provides another moment of listening respite, being a bleak and desolate slab of dark ambience built on a cyclic melody and muffled distant storm rumblings – a musical statement of relative calm and great concluding piece.

Although largely sitting at the heavier end of death industrial and power electronics genres, this is a varied and considered release with some excellent forays into dark ambient territory.  With the sound production En Nihil illustrates clear attention to detail with the separation of tonal elements, which only enhances the listening experience.  Gatefold digi-card sleeve with suitably dark imagery rounds out this tasty release.

Inade – Audio Mythology One

inade

Inade – Audio Mythology One LP/ CD Loki Foundation 2012

As is the case with the publication of any new release from Inade this is usually reason enough to celebrate, however with reference to the album’s title it is indicative of being the first in a series of archival material.  So given that subsequent releases are slated in the ‘Audio Mythology’ series, clearly this is additional reason to celebrate. Regarding ‘Audio Mythology One’, the album consists of eight tracks derived from 2001-2012, with the liner notes revealing that four tracks were released on various compilations, whilst the remaining four were previously unreleased until now.  It also seems that tracks have been further mixed, edited and in some cases reworked in bringing these tracks to fruition for this release.

Noting the span of years in which these tracks are derived it is appropriate to reflect on Inade’s modus operandi over their 21 year history. Upon such refection an evident characteristic has been Inade’s inclusion on a significant number of compilations, where submitted tracks have formed important parts of their sonic puzzle and vital stepping stones in the evolution of their music.  Ultimately this tells volumes of the commitment of Inade to their craft and is a far cry the attitude of many acts that seem comfortable with using compilations to off load second rate tracks.  Thus based on the above circumstances ‘Audio Mythology One’ contains fantastic material and through the further editing, mixing and mastering comes across as a release that is as strong as any of their main ‘official’ albums.

Referencing its scope and style, the collection of tracks which makes up ‘Audio Mythology One’ are very much rooted in the later era of the group and the sound of what Inade do best.  That is esoteric mysticism set to sound – emanations from the void which intertwine deep space cosmic tones with otherworldly and occasional orchestral elements.  Yet on a more bland descriptive level this can be defined as experimental music which combines aspects of abstract modern classical music with more traditional dark ambient material.  Variously the tracks are meticulously composed with sonic elements including: slow wailing of ceremonial horns, deep ritualistic percussive beats, melancholic orchestral elements (strings/ brass), multi-layered and interweaving drones, echoed and abstract metallic/ crystalline/ shimmering sonic textures, disembodied vocals and well-placed dialogue samples to flesh out thematic context.

Across the span of their career Inade have managed to reach spiralling heights through the refinement of the compositional skills and in the process have created a multi-dimensional aural world.  Their status is clearly evidenced by their ability to effortlessly evoke archaic and universal vistas of a monolithic scale, which effectively elevates the listener out of a limited human scale perspective.  As an overall experience ‘Audio Mythology One’ is exceedingly masterful – transcendent even – and in many ways trying to describe the album merely in context of the sum it its parts does not do it adequate justice.  Ultimately Inade’s ‘sonic sculptures’ need to be experienced via full audio immersion (…noting that ‘Audio Mythology One’ has been released in limited edition of 300 vinyl LP/ CD set and unlimited CD for such purposes). Without a doubt ‘Audio Mythology One’ is far more than a mere stop gap release and is another welcome addition to Inade’s discography.

IRM – Anthology

IRM – Anthology 2CD Autarkeia 2012

Is it really thirteen years since the then young upstarts IRM burst onto the power electronics scene with their debut ‘Red’ album?  I guess the answer is ‘yes’ as here we are with an ‘anthology’ released to celebrate the fifteen year anniversary of the formation of the group (…time certainly seems to pass quickly).  Starting in 1997 as a two piece and consisting of Erik Jarl on music and Martin Bladh on vocals, IRM issued a single demo ‘The Green Tape’ in 1998, before the debut vinyl only ‘Red’ album the following year.  Likewise in the intervening years they have since evolved into a trio, with Mikael Oretoft joining on bass on 2007 to further flesh out their powerful and oppressive industrial/ experimental/ power electronics soundscapes.

Although very much driven by a standard power electronics framework in their formative years, IRM’s sound was still varied and forceful, and by demonstrating an intelligent if not obsessive streak with their inspiration and conceptually varied themes they quickly garnered a loyal following.  Likewise over the subsequent passage of years IRM have further honed and refined their sound into something particularly unique and individual, consequentially elevating themselves into a league all their own (…refer to the last album ‘Order4’ as evidence in chief).  Referencing their style IRM evoke sound structures ranging from meticulous experimental/ industrial soundscapes (shimmering metallic drones, subterranean bass, echoed percussive elements and an array of other tonal textures), through to harder and harsher power electronics aspects.  One constant however has been the yelled and slightly treated vocals which have remained a trademark throughout.

‘Anthology’ itself is split into two halves, consisting of a collection of studio tracks (CD1), and another collection of live tracks recorded at various ‘live actions’ (CD2).  The studio material includes an unreleased piece in addition to a collation of tracks from various sources, including: ‘Sweetness Will Overcome’ comp, split 10”ep with Skin Area, ‘Four Studies For Crucifixion 10”ep, ‘Nihil’ 2LP comp and two tracks from the ‘The Green Tape’.  With the studio tracks presented here in reverse chronological order, it provides the listener with a clear perspective of the evolutionary arc of the group: from the hard and clinical earlier programmed sound, to the later more freeform framework with a greater reliance on organic sound textures and elements of real instrumentation (freeform bass, disharmonic strings, stilted piano notes, sparse percussion etc).

The first studio track on CD1 is the unreleased 2008 track ‘Order’ and appears it may have been recorded during the same recording sessions for the ‘Order4’ album.  Here the track is intense and domineering in its musical delivery, consisting of slow throbbing bass, seething industrial tones, experimental sound textures and dual tracked spoken and yelled vocals found on more recent IRM material.  Regarding the balance of the studio tracks, it is the ‘Four Studies For Crucifixion’ compositions which stand out as particularly focused, being constructed around pulsating industrial soundscapes, urgent, emotive vocals and disharmonic trombone wails.  These four tracks are also probably most representative of the transitional point between the earlier forceful sound approach of the group, and the burgeoning looser and more experimental focus of later material. However when referencing earlier IRM material, the five tracks from the ‘Nihil’ vinyl only compilation certainly hit hard (…clinical, throbbing, heavy and harsh power electronics on display here), and represent a clear document of why IRM garnered such high praise early in their career.

Moving onto the second disc the thirteen live tracks are derived from seven ‘live actions’ recorded between 2002 and 2011.  The live tracks however are not presented in any sort of chronological order, rather the listening experience has been enhanced by the re-ordering and further mixing of tracks to present a singular flowing set.  Although slightly looser in presentation, the sound is faithful and recognisable as live renditions of their studio counterparts, and in many instances the vocals appear more urgent and unhinged in their delivery.  Referencing a specific live track (and final album track at that) ‘Sebastian’ is a stunning example of live experimental minimalism, constructed with a nonstandard power electronics element of repetitive and sustained disharmonic piano notes, coupled with agonised flanged vocals – an exceptional end to an exceptional release.

Beyond the music, the packaging is stunning and has been given the special Autarkeia 2CD box set treatment, with distinctive embossed digi-pack / box cover, including colour booklet with lyrics and artwork courtesy of vocalist Martin Bladh.  Ultimately ‘Anthology’ is not a mere collection of scattered tracks, rather represents a strong document of the group’s history and as with all IRM’s outputs this is mandatory listening, made all the more essential by the stunning packaging.

Xiphoid Dementia – Secular Hymns

Xiphoid Dementia – Secular Hymns CD Malignant Records 2012

Xiphoid Dementia have been around for quite a few years it seems (…since 1999 accordingly to the promo blurb), yet this is my first introduction to the solo project of Egan Budd.  ‘Secular Hymns’ is evidently his second official album, yet based on the myriad of tonal aspects covered herein I am finding it rather difficult to pin down some words to describe it.  This comment however is not intended as a negative, as by ignoring genre ‘rules’ Xiphoid Dementia have effectively turned any preconceived expectations I might have had on their head and produced a complex and striking album in the process.  Likewise with the varied and multi-faceted sound of each composition which runs the gamut of multiple genres, it is akin to having multiple tracks within the lager compositional structure.  On the other hand to provide an overly clinical description, ‘Secular Hymns’ blends aspects of noise, industrial, dark ambient and power electronics across four tracks of extended length (10-14 minutes each).

Although the album commences calmly, the droning melodies and choir vocals of ‘Abortion Rites’, are soon enveloped by harsh, blasting, free-form noise (…let’s call this a positive pairing of dark ambient and industrial noise).  Yet the opening track does not remain solely in a noise guise, instead edges into a loose power electronics arrangement complete with heavily treated vocals.  Within its roughly hewn industrial soundscape the second composition ‘My Time Will Never Come’ presents a vague tribal / experimental character, which mid track falls away into a section of meditative synth melodies and further punctuated by metallic echoes and the tolling of a lone church bell.  In a further display of the album’s bipolar tendencies, ‘What We Believe’ heads off on a totally different tangent, starting as a loosely structured experimental / ambient track, gradually building into a harder edged industrial noise and pulsing power electronics piece.  Likewise based on its harsh overloaded bass/ noise production and further use of sampled dialogue, this track is not too far from the lauded sound of Propergol.  For the final of the four tracks ‘Breathe’ commences as a slab of droning, viscous dark ambience that gradually morphs towards death industrial aura through the introduction of sporadic jagged tonal aspects catatonic bass heavy beat and distortion scarred vocals, making this track a focused and passionate ending to a solid album.

With the variation in sound and strong disregard for established genre boundaries, this attitude (along with a few of the calmer dark ambient moments), brings to mind the early works of BJ Nilsen (aka the final Morthound album ‘The Goddess Who Could Make The Ugly World Beautiful’, and to a lesser degree the first Hazard album ‘Lech’), which is high praise from my perspective.  Likewise with its varied and complex scope and the finesse and confidence in which the material is delivered, Xiphoid Dementia is yet another excellent addition to the Malignant Records roster.