Blood Rhythms – Civil War

Blood Rhythms – Civil War LP No Part Of It 2019

The Blood Rhythms project is primarily helmed by Arvo Zylo who also employs the collective inputs of a raft of other musicians. This collaborative process has led to a broadly power electronics defined expression, but which also flirts with varied experimental elements and musically tinged post-industrial sounds.

The first thing of note about Civil War is the packaging, with the beautifully designed, high gloss gate-fold cover and large 11” sized 16-page art booklet, also printed on weighty high gloss stock and containing a selection of darkly abstracted images. For the sonic side of proceedings (En) Closure (Heart’s On Fire) kicks off the album, and based on the layered atonal horn blasts it is immediately clear that Civil War is far from a ‘business as usual’ power electronics album. Embodying an abstracted dark experimental jazz-noir mood in the first section, by track’s end the jumbled vocals and scratching textures have gradually built into a heady noise piece. Onism (Sick Skin) follows and is very much an exercise in endurance given its high-pitched needling textures which are sustained throughout. With its raw unhinged vocals and overblown noise approach, as a comparison it reminds of some of the nastiest and rawest material to come from the Filth & Violence label in recent times. Locked Away provides some welcomed respite being far moodier with slow crumbling drones and muted melodies. Yet the elevating distortion, driving mechanical whine and slow drawled vocals places the track squarely within post-industrial spheres. Paris Window is the most atmospheric track on offer with sampled film-noir melody and windswept melodious drones, yet a fleeting vein of muted noise is also noted. The Face is perhaps the most song-oriented track of the album, where its digital squelching loop is reminiscent of late era Whitehouse, while the slow drawled/yelled vocals completely sets it apart. Mid track it launches into an atonal jazz saxophone freak-out (where the shrill layering verges on Penderecki style strings), before diverging off into a trial percussive rhythm and noise section. The album is rounded out with Alchemy & Grief (Part I & II). Part I features blown out noise, radio chatter, creaking junk metal and ritual styled gongs. On the other hand Part II is a concluding highlight featuring a sluggish pounding bass pulse, slow panning saxophone melody and roughly bellowed vocals, while detailed noise and general backing clatter fleshes out the throbbing post-industrial sound.

Far from being a power electronics ‘genre’ piece, this is a wildly varied and creative release, where Civil War manages to continually surprise despite its relatively short overall run time. If it is not already apparent, Civil War is a perfect album for those craving sonic diversity well beyond the expected norms of a more typical ‘power electronics’ offering.

Graustich – See You When You Get There

Graustich – See You When You Get There MC Cloister Recordings 2019

After 2018’s excellent Morality Ends album (reviewed here), Graustich return with a single instrumental track, issued on a home dubbed, single-sided cassette.

Clocking in at over 15 minutes, the approach follows the sound of the earlier album, which is an exercise in sustained industrial-noise, and in essence could have been lifted from the same recording session. Over its duration the multilayered deep shuddering distortion and bass addled textures give the impression of idling of factory machinery, with the overall sonics treated to have a raw and roughly blown out sound. Grim, crushing and laborious in tone and atmosphere, the noise-industrial atmospheres grind forwards incessantly, where total submission is the only effective choice (although in the later sections the oscillating tones increase in urgency, thus providing some variation).

A simple j-card design rounds out the presentation, while the project name has been carved into the tape with a blade, which when combined with the oppressive sonics all amounts to a solid underground obscurity.

Entre Vifs – Offranfe et Partage

Entre Vifs – Offranfe et Partage CD Aussaat 2019

Despite having releases extending back 30 years, I am less than familiar with Entre Vifs’ output, but I am aware they are an exponent of a ’bruitism’ approach to music – aka ‘the art of noise’. The material on this new album is derived from live recording sessions using a variety of homemade electronics and noise equipment (as pictured in the booklet), and recorded as a duo March and April, 2018.

Four tracks span 74 minutes of ‘bruitism’ focused sonics, with the longest piece being 23 minutes, and the shortest being nine. Despite what I assume is the improvisational nature of the recordings, the tracks have compositional flow where there is a real sense of ‘cause and effect’ between the presented sounds, which is indicative of interplay between the two members during the recording sessions. Sonically speaking the sound features raw blown out metallic textures, blended with moments of stilted rhythmic pummeling. Further variety comes in the form of creaking atonal junk clatter, slashes of random electronics sonics and wonky bowed springs. Recording wise the tone is textured and detailed and while ‘noise’ derived, it is not harsh noise by any stretch and fits more within a rough industrial noise frame of reference. Consequently this means there is space for the layered sounds to breath within the mix, while sounds rapidly panning between speakers functionally increases the disorientating effect of the mid-paced industrial noise maelstrom. Beyond my more pragmatic descriptions, the title of the third track is also quite an apt descriptor of the album overall, titled A Benevolent Storm Front.

Being sonically textured, highly detailed, chaotic and warped, yet somehow strangely soothing at the same time, Offranfe et Partage is an intriguing and enjoyable listen, even if I am I am not sure to how often I may revisit this. But in being both noisy and clearly artistic in approach, the agenda to functionally realise ‘bruitism’ has been achieved.

Contrastate ‎– An Exercise In Defascination

Contrastate An Exercise In Defascination 7”ep Black Rose Recordings, 2019

With their immediately recognisable darkly surreal soundscapes, which are further characterised by poetically metaphoric vocal narratives, Contrastate have always been an anomaly within the post-industrial underground. It has then been some time since 2012’s last full length A Breeding Ground For Flies, noting that 2016’s No Eden Without Annihilation was not an album proper, but rather a collection of live recordings. An Exercise In Defascination arrives as a precursor to the upcoming full length album, where the liner notes highlight that the two featured tracks: ‘are alternate mixes from our ongoing studio recordings for the next Contrastate album. The album concept is inspired by the Italian giallo films of 1970s’.

The instrumental title track arrives on the first side, and within the first minute manages to span cinematic synths, rolling percussion and pitch-shifted sonics. From there the surreal serpentine soundscape is derived from shimmering textures, abstracted guitars and a myriad of other sonic elements, while a shrill drone and rising strings through the later part of the tracks functions to create tensile and urgent tone. Spasmo takes up the flip side with more shimmering drones and abstracted guitars, but the mood is more stayed overall in a drugged miasma sort of way. Snippets of vocals are present but are sonically warped and fragmentary in presentation, rather than their usual focus of a central narrative based tool. Regardless, the resultant feel is a darkly surreal one.

With this 7”ep effectively being a short taster to the new album, but on their own form a welcomed slice of Contrastate experimental post-industrial eccentricity. It will then be equally interesting to see how these compositions will fit within the greater whole of the upcoming full length. As for this release it is limited to 250 copies.

Heretic Grail – Instruments of War / On The Heels Of Insignificance

Heretic Grail – Instruments of War 2xMC Slave Chandelier 2019

Heretic Grail – On The Heels Of Insignificance LP Breathing Problems Productions 2019

Instruments of War constitutes my introduction to Heretic Grail, yet it seems that as of April, 2019 the project may have already ceased activity. If that is the case the project was active for less than a year since mid-2018, but still managed to issue twelve releases in that time.

The six tracks featured on Instruments of War are spread across the two tapes, totalling around 37 minutes. With a strongly militant edge to the sound, the industrial/power electronics approach is based on loosely constructed and generally mid-paced compositions. As for the broad approach on display, the tracks feature windswept battlefield ambience based on blended layers of caustic electronics consisting of: idling static; trembling distortion; erupting fissures of noise; smatterings of dialogue samples; and rounded out with strained, echo-smeared vocals (which are ranted but unintelligible). To talk specifics, Tortured Lullaby stands out positively with its melodious synth drone and shuddering bass. Regrets Of Termination And Conquest also follows a similar sonic template, but is defined by a dialogue sample where a soldier recounts his first kill in combat (which is revealed to be civilian and in the telling is tinged with repent). Beyond the sonic side of things, specific mention also needs to be made of the packaging, where the two pro-printed tapes are housed in a black elongated paper envelope along with a myriad of collage-based inserts. But being limited to only 60 copies, this is already likely to be difficult to track down.

Although also issued in 2019 On The Heels Of Insignificance is not a current recording from the project, rather is a vinyl reissue of a 2018 tape issued on Fusty Cunt. Although it does inhabit the same general sound sphere as Instruments of War, this LP is also less refined and slightly more direct in sonic expression. In a general sense an elevated level of tension is evident, where the tracks are built around grimly grinding machine like loops and augmented with vocals and/or dialogue samples. Swine.Cleaner sitting at the centre of the album is particularly impacting, based on its searing distortion and grinding noise-based approach which elevates to wind-tunnel intensity.

For the chosen style and approach Heretic Grail have delivered releases which perhaps not necessarily rising to a ‘mandatory’ status, both releases remain strongly enjoyable for what they are in their chosen style. In then comparing the two Instruments of War is the more varied and refined release of the two, and perhaps also warrants a re-edition – hopefully on vinyl.

Murderous Vision – Abscission

Murderous Vision – Abscission MC Chthonic Streams 2019

Consistent longevity in the underground is no easy feat, yet 2019 is revealed as the 25th anniversary of Stephen Petrus’ solo project Murderous Vision. Having always been broadly defined by a murky death industrial style characteristic of the now classic 1990’s era, recent output has displayed a greater degree of experimentation. Yet of the four tracks which feature on Abscission, it harks back to the early era of the project.

Tape opener Breaking the Bonds of Light announces intent with horror synths, militant percussion and murky drones which border on choral chants, but things take a noted step up with the following track Echoed Voice. The first a section of darkly brooking cinematic ambience and spoken vocals, prior to the second half featuring chanted male vocals against rolling, echo processed percussion and rising tide of grim distortion. Autumn Black begs a partial comparison to the brooding, cinematically tinged and percussive death industrial of Megaptera. With an excellent display of restraint, the driving percussion only arrived in the later half of track to ratchet up the tensile mood. For the final of the four compositions, Open The Night Sky round out the tape as the heaviest and most direct track, featuring slow pummeling beat, grinding looped bass distortion and aggressive heavily processed vocal barrage.

At around 27 minutes of music, this is a short and to the point released, but also packs a major impact in that time, where each of the four track deliver a distinct and individual sound within a broader death industrial framework. Abscission is great tape and fitting celebration of a quarter century of activity. But with an extremely limited physical edition, this would also be a great candidate for a vinyl reissue.

Mists of Darkness – The Lightless Lands

Mists of Darkness – The Lightless Lands MC Trapdoor Tapes 2019

Well this is certainly a blast from the past. Originally self-released in 1995, Mists of Darkness were a one-man ‘dungeon synth’ project from Australia, and contextually speaking, The Lightless Lands was produced in an era well before ‘dungeon synth’ even existed as a descriptive genre tag. Yet at the time of its original release, material of this type was very much an offshoot of the underground black metal scene and the growing crossover into underground post-industrial music (via artists and labels such as Mortiis and Cold Meat Industry).

Noting that this tape can today be described as ‘dungeon synth’, some comments need to be made regarding the current micro-trend of this style. With the endless raft of new acts seemingly cropping up, of all the new material I have heard, the greater majority sounds over produced with a ‘jolly’ or ‘twee’ slant (i.e. in a ridiculous medieval way), where the end result sounds akin to poor man’s role-playing game/ computer game music. Equally the production of much of the current era ‘dungeon synth’ is often too clean and lacks a lofi charm that a murky production can bring. In short there seems to be a real lack of understanding of the obscure and atmospheric elements which should ideally underpin the sound. But enough of that rant. Obviously Mists of Darkness are one of the few projects of ‘dungeon synth’ that I can still appreciate.

The Lightless Lands features four tracks (or ‘acts’) with a run time around 33 minutes. The track titles themselves allude to creation and description of a world unique to Mists of Darkness (i.e.: Act 1 Journey To The Lightless Lands & Act 3 The First Vision Of The Lightless Lands), which places the concept in a dark fantasy type realm (also of note, the cover images gives a nod to Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 animated film version of The Lord of the Rings). From a listeners’ perspective, the first thing of note is the sound, which is crude and lofi to the point of making early Era 1 Mortiis recordings look decidedly high fidelity. Yet it is the crude sound which actually embellishes its dark and obscure atmosphere. Compositionally the tracks are generally composed with low bit-rate computer generated droning loops, which are further layered with singular toned melodies, programmed ritual percussive patterns and other sporadic computer-based sounds which emulate lightning, thunder, windstorms, waves lapping at shore and shrieks of unidentified beasts. The overall crude sound clearly shows the sonic limitations of the equipment this was composed and recorded on, but again the muffled sound of the recording on tape format functions to provide a grey hued atmosphere which adds rather than detracts. Thus, despite its clear limitations, there is still an ingrained level of darkly atmospheric charm.

If ‘crude’, ‘obscure’ and ‘lofi’ are descriptors for dungeon synth which spark interest, further investigation of The Lightless Lands is pretty much mandated. Although personally having owned the original tape since its original release way back in 1995, it is great to see Trapdoor Tapes have reissued this to give this underground obscurity greater prominence.