Spectrum Issue 2# Review Archive

Over time as Spectrum Magazine grew in scope and became more widely known, the number of reviews significantly increased.  As a necessity the font size within the review section was subsequently reduced.  This however had an unintended consequence of making the reviews more difficult to read.  Readability in later issues was also slightly hampered by my chosen design aesthetic to have text over a grayscale background image.

So, if anyone cares enough to read the reviews, either on screen or at a normal font size, I have provided all reviews below as single web-text page, as well as a downloadable plain text PDF.

Links to the PDF is provided below, followed by the web-text. All reviews by Richard Stevenson.




Alan Lamb (Aus) “Original Masters – Night Passage” CD 1998 Dorobo

After having the ‘re-mix’ CD ‘Night Passages’ released a few years prior to the original work, this had a lot to live up to given the sheer quality of the interpretations/ re-workings done by Lustmord and Thomas Konor (among others) on the former CD. On the first two tracks (of three) Alan Lamb has done little other than collating and compiling the sound sections into coherent pieces, letting his ‘wind organ’ do the rest.  And what is a ‘wind organ’ I hear you ask? Well in this case, during the mid 70’s Alan stumbled across a stand of old disused telegraph wire poles in the outback of Western Australia.  Discovering that the wires would ‘sing’ with the movement of the wind he proceeded to tap into the old wires with contact microphones and record their sound at various points from 1976 through to 1984.  All sounds created and recorded on this release are a direct ‘cause and effect’ of nature upon the wires.  From temperature fluctuations, wind & rain through to birds and insects coming into contact with the wire, have all shaped and created these evocative pieces.  The depth and breadth of sound is astounding, coming across as powerfully as any manipulated and composed dark ambient release.  From low flowing sections rising to clattering levels, the ambience of the wires takes on life of their own. The third track on the CD is taken from a recording of purpose built ‘wind organ’ in Kobe, Japan, as part of a festival held in October 1987.  Alan played a slightly more proactive role here where a vertical nylon wire was attached to the horizontal wires and then played with a bow, much like a giant instrument. Although on a different ‘wind organ’ the result has much the same sound and effect, although more subdued and crystalline with less sporadic moments. The sheer dynamics and intensity of this form or experimental wire music is testimony to the archaic forces of nature managing to manipulate and affect mans technological advances. This original ‘wind organ’ has long since collapsed but this final release remains as a legacy to the original instrument.  I sincerely hope that Alan Lamb will continue to explore the dynamics of wire music through purpose built facilities.  Get this!

Ataraxia (Ita) “Historiae” CD 1998 Cruel Moon International

Although I have been aware of this group for a number of years, this is the first time that I have had the opportunity to appreciate their music.  On the surface of both music & imagery this is similar to Arcana in its use of layered male/ female vocals, but overall it is less orchestral and more folk oriented in composition.  For those who have a background in doom metal music may be interested to know that the female vocalist of this group appeared on the Monumentum CD a few years back. The opening track uses the said layered vocals with guitars, harps, marching drums and various medieval styled instruments which results in a mildly rousing piece.  Track two is much more operatic in the presentation of the female vocals complimented by lute guitar, light percussion and flute all floating along with the vocals.  “Filava Melis” (third track) reminds me very much of the approach used by a band called Summoning (Black Metal) who produces epic Tolkein inspired hymns.  The lack of electric guitars and with the addition of female vocals sets this apart with epic horn sections and more folkish interludes. Another classical guitar and operatic (female) ballad is found in track 4 which runs the following composition which is a very traditional sounding celebration dance song. “Antinea” begins with overlaid male/ female chant styled vocals used in a foreboding manor.  Later a slow marching beat is introduced with a classical guitar following the vocal lines.  Before the track reverts back to the opening vocal chants late in the piece a mid paced section is used. The remainder of the tracks use the same sound aesthetic approach of the preceding compositions but are taken from a live recording (in a medieval court) during the Spring Equinox(whereas the studio tracks were recorded in the Autumn Equinox) As all songs are of high quality is hard to pick the difference from the former studio songs to the later live ones. Overall the music is showcased with a full and rich sound production, that is very authentic in the medieval age that it was inspired by.  Not really a disc for dark ambient fanatics but for those inspired by traditional European folk sounds.

Blood Axis (USA) “BLOT: Sacrifice in Sweden” CD 1998 Cold Meat Industry

One of the more controversial modern electronic/ industrial acts of our time present a live CD recorded at the CMI 10 year anniversary party held late in 1997.  Led by Michael Moynhan, many accusations have been leveled at the ideology behind the music, however I will leave this up to the individual to sift through the imagery and lyrical hints to work it out for themselves.  On a personal note, having read a non-fiction study of the Black Metal movement written by Mr Moynhan it is easier to dissect certain viewpoints from analyzing the editorial perspective. Well enough ideology and politics- what of the music?  Beginning at a funeral march pace, a slow organ hymn is presented with a spoken word overtone.  The organ continues into track two “Herjafather”, but now includes low vocal chants and a slow backing beats. Via the introduction of howling wolves an emotive and folk like guitar and violin are presented on the third track “Seeker” along with a half sung, half spoken vocal line.  The dynamics are again increased on “Electricity” with sampled operatic vocals and orchestral violins.  The vocals are presented in a totally spoken manor but always forceful and sometimes distorted.  The foreboding drum beat increase along with the anger of the vocal chanting “Heil Victory (x3)…..Electricity”. “Lord of Ages” again uses spoken vocals, violin and slow drums but midway explodes into a fist raising marching tune.  The well known “The March of Brian Boru” (played on the violin with traditional Irish drum percussion) is utilized well as a bridge to the more bombastic and forceful half of the live set. Continuing, the original version of “The Gospel of Inhumanity” is further filled out with the use of the violin, which is a good contest to the electronically produced samples and keyboards.  The electric guitars, keys and vocals are forceful and focused on “Eternal Soul” which are juxtaposed against the more sorrowful and poetic track “Between Birds of Prey”. “Reign I Forever” can not help but be a classic track, sampling the main musical theme from a Prokofiev piece, being also complimented by sermon like lyrics focusing on nordic mythology.  A newer track “The Hangman & the Papist” is highly anthemic with a more traditional guitar based structure, still retaining the marching folk feel. Rounding out the 60+ minute set is the bombastic “Storms of Steel” which again verges on topping the original version.

From listening to this, there is something definitely at work below the surface of the music, something which you can’t put your finger on immediately.  The most obvious is the focus to the strength of the European Archetype – or more subtly a spiritual summoning if you will. Again I will leave this to the individual to interpret as they see fit. For a live performance (and one of Blood Axis’s first major shows) this is a highly focused and skilled presentation of the past, present and future directions of the group. I’m not sure if any major re-mixing and or overdubbing was undertaken after the performance, but for a group to be able to eclipse a studio version of a song in a live setting is no easy task(which is achieved here on a number of the tracks). This is an album containing modern electronic elements and traditional orchestral structure, melded perfectly via a live medium, creating a stunning musical release.

Brighter Death Now (Swe) “No Salvation/ No Tomorrow” 10”ep 1998 Anarchy & Violence

Released on a new, yet very obscure side label of CMI comes a two track vinyl EP.  As you would expect the cover is a simple black sleeve with a black and white corpse picture, however the gimmick is that the cardboard sleeve has been intentionally scratched and damaged by Roger/BDN/Karmanik.  Talk about personalizing your work! Up first is a new track “No Salvation” which was reportedly recorded during 1996 (no liner notes exist on the cover).  This has quite a psychotic edge with it’s ranting vocal sermon (treated and processed to become indistinguishable).  The rolling marching beat has also undergone a extensive distortion treatment with other stabs of noise included.  Quite repetitive in structure it is still enjoyable over its 7-10 minute (approx.) length. Track two “No Tomorrow” was originally featured on the “Innerwar” release but has gone through a slight remix here, being a repetitive slow paced beat driven dirge with over the top processed vocal and piercing screeches – just the way I like it. Limited to 500 copies you can’t half tell that I am a bit of a BDN complete-ist!

Brighter Death Now (Swe) “Greatest Death” CD 1998 Cold Meat Industry

Containing no new music what so ever, Roger Karmanik continues on with his re-releases of BDN material for those of us unfortunate enough not to have obtained a copy of the real thing (don’t think for a minute that that includes me!).  For those who don’t know the story The Great Death Trilogy began when ‘Great Death I’ was re-released along with new recording of ‘Great Death II’ in 1995(delux cardboard box packaging with embossed tin logo & limited to 1500).  Those who obtained the box set, were then invited to order the exclusive third part of the trilogy.  Those then owning all three parts were further invited to vote for their favorite 5 tracks for inclusion on a best of compilation(& also purchase another exclusive 7” picture vinyl).  So, basically what this release ends up being is a ‘best of’ the complete works spanning the trilogy (let it be known that all five tracks that I voted for are included here).  As I already own all of the music included on this disc I really own obtained it to further complete the set.  However I must say I was surprised how well it worked as a compete body of work for an album as well as a great representation of the three CD’s.   Being compiled in the order that the tracks were voted for, it appears that the ultra heavy noisy death industrial was what which struck a chord with most voters.  Despite this tracks such as the cavernous industrial piece ‘Laudate Dominum I’ have found there way to the forth most popular in the play order.  With the music being recorded over a period of the first half of this decade it still remains timeless in it’s own haunting and deadly way.  For the new listener this release will only serve as a contemptuous twist of the rusty blade that they did not manage to obtain the complete work that this derived from. After a few years of silence on new full length BDN releases it finally looks as though that Karmanik is soon to be ready to unleash a brand new double CD entitled “May all be Dead”. May it be worth the wait!

Brighter Death Now (Swe) “May all be Dead” DLP 1998 Cold Meat Industry

Mr Karmanink must be commended for this release.  Limited to only 1000 copies, this heavy weight double vinyl set has been kept to the price of a single LP.  Having been waiting for a new full length BDN release for over two years, this is nothing but astounding with its giant fold out LP cover.  The sounds of this DLP are not really like any particular album that proceeds it but more of a mixture of elements.  Taking the repetitive droney elements of ‘the Great Death’ era and mixing it up with the harsher elements of ‘Innerwar’ you might get some idea.  Given that the DLP contains only 6 listed tracks, the cuts are mostly very lengthy and somewhat repetitive – not to say this is a bad element at all. With a brief electronic clatter the chugging/ surging tape loop of ‘I Hate You’ kicks in with considerable force containing also tape processed vocals and sporadic stabs of sound.  Repetition is in order and by the track hitting it’s plateau early, it is content with it’s position.  “I wish I was a little girl’ (formerly of the CMI 50# comp.) is included here and is a personal fav tracks of BDN, with it’s feverous vocals, incessant loops and pure aggression of the noise tones.  Side B of LP 1 brings the track ‘Behind Curtains’ which is atmospheric in tone with high end wavering sound and a mid ranged distorted rolling beat.  Spoken vocals are again included but have a more psychotic edge which becomes more noticeably aggressive as more layers of noise is introduced.  It would appear that there is a bonus track on this side of the vinyl with an unnamed/ unlisted track.  I’m yet to confirm if this is on all copies, but it is a good track that yet again manages to contain a different sound without forsaking the traditional BDN elements.  Here, there are no tape looped beats, just sustained noise tones & indecipherable vocal samples.  An interesting guitar solo also finds it’s way into the track. Side A of LP 2 is introduced with yet another vocal snipit before the apocalyptic waltz loop and industrial clatter of ‘Pay Day’ enters.  ‘Oh What a Night’ has a slower droning edge but does contain some more ear piercing elements, again using simple dynamics of increasing vocal and music intensity as it progresses.  The final side of the 2LP set comes with a very lengthy track ‘fourteen’.  A slow pounding beat compliments the more subdued electronics going on in the background.  The vocal and samples are distorted in such a manor that they simply become another layer of electronics within the whole track dynamic. For those unlucky enough to miss out on the bonus clear 7” EP (only in a limited number of the 1000 DLP sets) the tracks are two short pieces that only sweetens the whole feeling of this release.  One track is purely a high pitched squeal with only a distorted vocal ranting, while the other side has another mid to high pitched tone with an electronic stabbing beat.  All in all, the bonus 7” is quite distinct in sound to the 2 main LP’s. For the most part putting words to BDN’s sound is an arduous task.  Karmanik having been at this project for over 10 years now, and with no sign of letting up, this will again go down as another classic BDN release.

CazzoDio (Ita) “il tempo della locusta” CD 1998 Black Plagve

Here we have the first release on the mutation of Malignant Records, with the rise of the new side label Black Plagve (which promises to be as inventive and original as Malignant has proven to be). Opening with screeching samples and a rhythmic, metallic percussive affair, the tone of the album is laid down early.  Whilst some power electronic opt for a bass driven sludgy production, this is at the total opposite of the scale, being loud and crystalline (the emphasis on loud!).  The overpowered frequencies are pushed to the optimum fiery temperature where only the searing heat of sound can be felt by the listener.  The majority of vocal samples have been overloaded and processed beyond any reasonable recognition and is much the same when vocals are presented (on two tracks), in the form of a ranting lunatic warning of the coming plague. On the title track swarms of locusts have been sampled (or replicated immaculately!) over the factory rhythm clatter, giving a modern equivalent of a prediction of a pestilence to befall man. Amongst the metallic power electronic focus, this does not at any stage venture into the piecing noise territories of it’s counterparts.  The noise frequencies (although harsh & high pitched), are kept bearable in tone having been produced to their sonic capacity (with thanks to the production skills of Phil Easter aka Stone Glass Steel). One of the favorite tracks for myself comes late in the album with “among the corpses of the servants of drabness” which employs a darker bass edge but still retaining the rhythmic metallic percussion. In parts this can draw comparisons to the harshest moments of Decree and also to the non melodic/ percussive focus that Mental Destruction have perfected.  If grating, driving, surging power electronics is your weakness, bow to the new sonic master.

ConSono (Swe) “iGNOTO dEO” CD 1998 Crowd Control Activities

One of the very early CMI acts has finally returned with a new release and also signed to a new label.  Where they were previously a dark ambient styled group incorporating a few more composed elements (& vocals), this time around all songs are fully composed, complimented with gothic styled vocals.  I guess that since their first disc was a collection of early recordings and compilation appearances they did not really get to showcase their total musical vision, thus why the two discs seem quite apart in structure. The vocals being sung/ spoken in a low gothic fashion draw some comparison to Controlled Bleeding and/ or In Blind Embrace and the like. Unusual percussive sequences often form the background structure with pianos, keys, bells, chimes and other sampled sounds etc all used sporadically to certain effect.  Other real instruments such as guitar, bass and sitar are also utilized on a number of songs. None of the tracks really enter up-tempo territory preferring to stay sparse and minimally composed.  One of the standout tracks is “Winter Tale” with the haunting background tune before another unusual percussion sequence is introduced.  There is certainly an unusual aura and feel surround the songs and production which is both archaic and mysterious; akin to tapping into forgotten times and cultures. As this does not fit entirely into the dark ambient mold nor the pure gothic style, I gather there would be quite a overlap in the fans of this CD.  I suggest you get this if you enjoyed the first or if you are not afraid of vocals incorporated within darkly melodic tunes.  As the label who released this is slowly gaining momentum they are surely to go far if they keep up such quality.

Crepescule (USA) “Music for Decay:Part 1 metamorphais of life” CD 1998 Tegal Records

When I ordered this, (given the name of the project and the title of the CD) I was expected some death ambient or death industrial stuff, but I was quite wrong with this assumption.  It does have some of these said elements but overall it is much more subdued, intrinsic and mournful than I anticipated.  Track 1 (‘Created’) has a variety of static oriented frequencies with radio and keyboard modulations cutting in and out.  ‘Mother’ again takes a similar approach to the first but is a little more minimal in its longer flowing format.  Track 3 (‘love’) is a nice classical oriented passage that is melancholic in a way to twinge a element of unsubstantiated sorrow. The sound here has attempted to be full and rich but either due to specific purpose or the limitation of the mastering the sound tends to distort.  ‘Childhood theif’ is quite weird as it has the repetitive ‘phaser’ effect that tends to drown out the quite nice ambient manipulations floating underneath.  Track 5 although starts off quite subdued, with the inclusion of some light keyboards, it has some quite dark undercurrents of sludgy buried sound that gradually builds in intensity – somewhat akin to Vond’s last industrialized CD. The start of ‘Father’ is nothing less than a surreal listening experience with what seem to be farmyard samples of all things?!  As the track is quite long it meanders off into other territory soon enough, but the damn phaser effect makes another appearance. Luckily is disappears again from whence it came being replaced with some more just plain weird, noises, vocal samples and the like. The partial classical approach is again taken up in (tack 7) mixed in with more vocal samples and even a distorted guitar piece that is manipulated well enough to fit the concept sound. One of the better tracks on the CD is ‘matricide fantasy’ (track 8) with ominous sounds, engulfing wave like effects and the angry ranting of a woman. For the final track (‘matricide reality’) it is 9 seconds of silence which must have some relevance to the 9 tracks on the CD-but who knows?? Throughout the CD there is quite a heavy use of vocal snippets and samples, which help to flesh out the concepts of the release, but sometimes I find these misplaced and overloaded and taking way from the musical backdrop.  Also some of the musical ideas are there but do not come to full fruition or suffer from some of the scattered sounds techniques utilized. The cover includes a written passage from the individual behind this (incidentally a mortician) and is a nice piece of short literature looking at the ideals of childhood, love, innocence and human nature.  Given the ‘deathly’ nature of the title, it’s meaning is actually reflected in the written piece, in by death is described as a gradual process and not just a moment in time.  In fact the CD runs as if a narrative to the cycle of life from the womb to the grave, illustrated by the many vocal samples.  The packaging is only a card sleeve but is presentable enough not to be a detraction.

C17H19NO3 (USA) “1692/2092” CD 1998 Malignant Records

The eagerly anticipated new C17 CD has finally been unleashed after some talk of it originally to have been released on the Side Effects label.  Considering the great debut ‘Terra Damnata’ CD I was really looking forward to some powerful and bombastic neo-classical works, however this CD is much more subdued than I anticipated.  This being the first obvious change I also think due to the very full commercially oriented soundtrack styled sound, along with the inclusion of vocals on a number of tracks, many traditional dark ambient fans will take some adjusting in getting used to this.  As this CD is the soundscore for a non-existent motion picture, the music follows this format very closely and is quite convincing in portraying an actual movie to support it. The opener ‘the room of ice’ is a slow brooding piano piece that sees the low key vocals of Jarboe slip in well alongside the plucked strings and violins, as if being a storyteller setting the initial scene.  There is some hint of some more forceful work on track 2, however it is mildly let down with the sound that is a little too synthetic in places.  The clanging bells and horn sections give rise to visions of a chase scene with all the dynamics associated with such musical passages.  Some more dark ambient sections are employed at the start of ‘harvest of souls’ before consolidating into a mild cello, tympani and vocal choirs orchestral epic.  The final minutes uses a very nice and darkly dreamy classical guitar solo to send it into the next track – the lengthy romantic and bombastic sounding ‘metatron’.  This track melds together very well an undercurrent of a classical composition with an electronic focus on the beats drumming and sound effects.  As the electronic sounds fade into the distance, the classical components remain, before the electronics mount a second wave of attack in the latter half of the track.  A lowly dark ambient passage is the fair for ‘the burning of the black waters’ which is both atmospheric and evocative which has some very nice cavernous effects. ‘A spell for breaking an opening into the sky’ is another track that contains vocals, but here Bukeka uses her voice in a much more up front style which I personally feels detracts from some of the nice brooding musical backdrop.  There are other vocals in the form of background chanting and spoken passages which work fine, it is just the ‘stage show’ presentation of the main vocal that does not do it for me.  ‘Excision’ is very low in tonal sound that floats and meanders through caves and chasms on its slow sinister journey.  ‘Deep Flesh’ has a nice spooky echo beat effect over some more dark ambience, that soon explodes into quite a distorted industrial song with little hint of classical sounds.  As this track has more of a ‘song’ structure the vocals work really well, rather than sounding above and/or removed from the sound. ‘I cover the waterfront’ has a spoken (rhyming) poetry piece included at the start (which I am not too partial too), prior to a sorrowful orchestra rising forth over a slow heartbeat.  The vocals (when used again) are sung in a low fashion and work quite well until the more sung/ spoken style is utalised over what would have been a great dark ambient passage to finish the track(if the vocals in this part were dropped). The brooding and pounding of ‘my bones rise above’ set visions of a suspenseful scene while there is a more structured slow factory industrial sound to ‘breathe’.  ‘Electric Air’ holds a sound very familiar to the debut CD however in the guise of this CD the sound is much more fully produced and professional sounding.  ‘Broken Soul’ again uses the acoustic guitar to great effect with a backing of wind instruments and a rolling marching drum that uses sorrowful dynamics that gradually fade out into the abyss of ambience.  As with most soundscores these days that include a dance remix (as opposed to those soundtrack CD’s which are nothing more than compilation CD’s), a remix track can also be found here.  This is the final unlisted track which is a remix of ‘a spell….’ and I must say if vocals are to be used it is here in this format they work much better.  I’m sure this will have many fans jumping for the stop or skip button, however I do enjoy the contrast in the two versions of the song. Overall I think that the sung vocals on the CD have been somewhat overstated as they are only contained on 6 of the 13 tracks, with the remainder being instrumental (or with low key spoken male voices).  The select vocals that I initially had concerns with(not all of them), do present themselves better with subsequent listens, however I am still of the opinion that some passages would have been improved if the vocals had been dropped or reduced in the mix.  Other than that, while this may seem to be a challenging listen to some fans of this genre, I feel both the concept and fully produced professional sound make this a CD very worthy of you attention.

Daniel Menche (UK) “Vent” CD 1998 Hold

The first thing I will have to comment on about this CD is the packaging.  While a friend commented “that would have been cheap to produce” I found it more aesthetically interesting.  The case is the standard jewelcase with clear inlay, with a one sided circle (the same size as a CD) placed in the CD tray.  There is little if no graphics and minimal info provided (no titles or listings for the 7 tracks), however I find this as a simple yet ingenious take on CD presentation. Anyway, enough of my graphic design ramblings and onto the music.  Well Mr Menche has been at his organic noise releases for quite some time now, so if you have heard his stuff you should know what to expect.  I admittedly steered clear of his releases for far too long due to the ‘noise’ tag, but his works are much more sound technique/ manipulation oriented than the standards generally associated with noise.  Don’t be a fool like me and be swayed by such a description. The short 2 minute opener is quite obvious as a raw contact mic recording of a heartbeat and is a subtle introduction to the album.  Track 2 scared the sonic shit out of me on first listen with short but intense blast of static to introduce the track.  From there, the scratching/ scrapping sound taken on a boiling writhing form and layers of tones are effortlessly guided through various levels of sonic depth and intensity. Track three is less active in sound source, being content with slowing rising tones giving off the felling of the temperature rising from comfortable warmth to searing burning pain. An ‘itching/ picking’ organic sound opens track four that fades away into pure silence before a cavernous sounds rise from the depths.  The subtle dynamic are very impressive gradually building a sense of growing dread and the waves of sound rise and fall, forever increasing in strength as the seconds pass. The 20 second track 5 is a short prelude to track 6 which although uses the same composition esthetic still manages to come up with tones and sounds distinctive from the preceding tracks.  Here the sounds are not broad and deep, but more intense (yet somehow subdued) in a mid ranged sound frequency, akin to a fiery furnace. The final track is the first time I have heard the artist use a musical sample included (only at the intro).  The overall sound could be oriented to distant howling storm winds with some foreground heartbeats and wood knockings and other subtle scrapings and sounds. Towards the 4 minute halfway point the sounds is relatively clean with an almost sustained ‘keyboard’ like drone which sees both the track and the CD out. Even though Mr Menche is not really heading into uncharted waters, but staying in the harbour of his previous releases (still in the more subtle experimental vein), this is still a really good CD.  As there is little info on the sound sources utilized I’m not sure if this is still a purely somatically inspired release or that new sources have discovered, but either way this is still up to the same high standards.

Darrin Verhagen (Aus) “P3” 3”miniCD 1998 Dorobo

Coming from the mind behind Shinjuku Thief this is an intriguingly obscure release.  Looking more like a computer disc in its size and packaging we are treated to some of Darrin’s ‘cut up’ experimental collage ambient works.  The majority of this 21 minute work is highly minimal with a few sporadic noisier moments.  Glitches, crackles and bleeps are all included through/ and create part of the mix, giving the feeling of changing levels of electronic static with some more constant floating notes.  Parallels in the sound and structure can be made to another of Darrin’s solo works namely the ‘soft ash’ CD.  This is not something that works at all as background music but requires attention and focus whilst listening.  The liner notes are included as part of the blurred cover art, but what I can make out is that this appears to have been originally broadcast on Australian radio on 11 August, 1998 and has been reissued in a limited quantity of 500.  Surely not everyone’s taste due to it’s highly experimental edge but still very enjoyable in the field of artistic experimentation.

Dissecting Table (Jap) “Life” CD 1998 Release Records

This is the first time I have heard Dissecting Table, but if the reviews I’ve read are anything to go by it seems that Ichiro Isuji’s compositions have become more over the top with each release.  Listening to this CD I could assume he has done it again with this new recording. Opening “the needs of the body” with an upbeat industrialized bass riff and drums a looping squeal soon kicks in to then be disbanded just a quickly into an erratic noise composition (with a sampled bleating of a sheep??!!).  Just over three minutes in, the noise is cut back to a low tone and mild dub rhythm before a way out psychedelic beat and noise collage takes over.  There also seems to be an obsession with natural tones are sampled frogs and crickets make their way into the mix.  The opening passage is again re-introduced for another quick run before the tracks runs off on yet another tangent.  Industrialized apocalyptic machine like noise gets a look in as well which nearly rounds out track 1, prior to one final foray into a low-fi rhythm and beat. “I would like to be…” starts on a low frequency tone with a slow pounding drum beat Demonic howls which almost sear the speakers are introduced before a machine gun like drum and noise attack ambushes the listener.  The structure of the song reverts back to the low tone and slow beat before the noise attach (now in a different guise) reappears.  Things are slowed down yet again into a manipulated beat and tone to finish the track. The beginning of track three “past” reminds me of some of the noisier, live decomposition  tracks on ‘Decree’s’ “Wake of Devastation” CD, that later takes in the blast beats, noise distortion and growling vocals.  With this track I found it is strange that two totally different/ unrelated music styles could end up at pretty much the same result.  Here we have extreme noise music with hyper beats and screamed vocals which is not too far removed from the structure and sound of grindcore music. (Furthermore the main label behind Release (Relapse Records) were quite big on releasing Grindcore in the early ‘90’s.   Quite weird to think about actually!)  The more structured dark rhythms & beats also get their fare share on this track and is where I feel that ‘Dissecting Table’ works best.  The final track “no future”  low end bass rumblings and erratic noise distortion that gains its structure when the beat and rhythm kicks in.  The most forceful and extreme vocals of the CD are on here almost reaching self combustion temperature.  Again comparison’s between Decree are applicable but this is even more extreeme than the former act. At least this CD stands as testimony that not all noise music from Japan is Mezbow derivative noise.  As a final note, let it be said that between all the dark rhythms, noise and beats, this is very over the top in its quirky, original and strange way.

Dissecting Table (Jap) “Why” 7”ep 1998 Suggestion Records

Having heard this earlier 7” after the newer CD (reviewed above) I can say that Ichiro Tsuji has surely been a pioneer in his crazy over the top industrialized percussive affairs. Track one ‘Why’ starts with a grinding bass tone then blasts into hyper beats, fast paced mid ranged rhythms with the almost death metal styled vocals.  This track is forceful and focused and works really well an actual song. Track ‘Camouflage’ is more mid passed with the heavy drum machine beats, but the whole noise, rhythm, bass & guitar esthetic is retained.  With a few time changes and sound manipulations this comes across more as a band song than a music/ noise project, that is admittedly very enjoyable. Although it seems that Ichiro has gone more along the paths of erratic compositions with current releases, this 7” shows him in a very structured form with short focussed tracks, which I find much more to my liking.  With a glossy gatefold cover this is worth your effort in tracking down.

Endvra (Eng) “the Watcher” CD 1998 Old Europa Cafe

Endvra not being one to ever back themselves into a musical corner, have still admittedly managed to come up with a very unexpected release.  Now, they have had a habit of changing styles, sounds and focuses between releases but this is goes beyond all expectation.  Presenting only a single track with a play time of 49 minutes this is a journey that requires the right state of mind and a dose of undivided attention.  The actual music is slow evolving dark ambient pulses and drones, that in a few places flirts (ever so slightly) with some minimally composed elements.  Shifting tones and frequencies morph and evolve in a hypnosis enduing style.  Floating subtly on cloud like waves of sound, there is both light tones and more deep bass orientated tones, giving a cavernous and bottomless effect to the ambience.  As the various passages and sections effortlessly flow and evolve, the listener is left stranded wondering how they got to the particular musical point and where it is all heading from there on.  For a single track pushing 50 minutes it is as though time itself has been altered as the time passes in a blink on an eye.  Or maybe it is the music’s ability to draw the listener in and disorienting their perception of time via its engulfing hypnotic form.  Concluding the minimal review (for a minimal release), let it be said that I think that Endvra have managed to create their strongest piece of work to date, despite being totally different to the styles they have become known for.  Recommended for any dark ambient/ drone fan, but beware to the reader expecting anything like what was presented on the last CD Great God Pan.

Endvra (Eng) “Biomechanical Soul Journey” 10”ep Power and Steel 1998

Endvra are back again with yet another release!  A limited edition of 400 this 10”ep features two lengthy tracks from this group.  While one track is relatively new the other is an older track taken from a various artists cassette released in 1994.  Given that many would have missed the compilation track (‘Biomechanical Soul Journey’) it is good that it can be obtained on a more official and exclusive format.  The second newer track (‘Vestigial Horn’) was originally meant to be included in it’s entirety on the latest Misanthropy Records Compilation CD, however as the label did not like the full version (what!!!!) a measly 1 minute and 49 section excerpt was included.  Endvra not being one to allow one of their songs to be bastardized, the full version in all its glory is included here. Starting with the title track this is a nice piece of ominous and unnerving ambience with encompasses shifting clanging sounds and other sustained notes and tones.  One of the main features is a vocal/ text sample as if someone is recounting an alien abduction.  The introducing elements fade out after 5 minutes or so and when the vocals make a second appearance, a slow bass strobe, with shifting background sounds complete the track. ‘Vestigial Horn’ starts with a stirring piano tune and slow rousing horn section, however these composed elements are soon engulfed in the rising storm of flowing ambience.  The sounds are generally mid range and very cavernous, emphasizing the depth and breadth of sound.  Tortured vocal wails rise and fall periodically as if channeling spirits trapped within the walls of time.  This track treads a middle line somewhere between the sounds of ‘Black Eden’ and ‘Great God Pan’ which is to say it is nothing less then great. The gold and black packaging is quite impressive being simplistic and visually pleasing.  Another essential item for your collection.

Final (UK) “Urge/ Fail” 7”EP 1998 Fever Pitch Music

Although this was originally released in 1995 a second pressing of 400 has bee made so there still should be a few copies floating around (I got mine in September, 1998). Well, Final work with manipulated guitar distortion to create the ambient/ noise music on offer.  Quite similar to the improvised guitar compositions of KK Null, this however takes a slightly more subdued approach not reaching the intensity of noise of the above mentioned. Track 1 ‘Urge’ has a moving deep space void ambience low in the mix, juxtaposed with overlaid disharmonic noise movements.  Although quite short (due to the format) I imagine this would work extremely well over a longer drawn out space of time. Track 2 ‘Fail’ does not disguise the guitar distortion as well the first, with it being quite easy to visualize the artist recording the track(not such a good thing in ambient music).  Despite this it’s dredging & heavy bass guitar distortion is complimented with piercing frequencies swooping in on the listener.  Again it quite short at around 5 minutes. If this is of interest it would be worth the search.

Gruntsplatter (USA) / Slowvent (USA) “Split Release” CD 1998 Crionic Mind

It appears that the US is finally getting its act together in terms producing some good death industrial projects.  On this split CD Gruntsplatter is up first, opening with some damn heavy bass rumblings manipulations and slow keyboard tones, before exploring some noisier, semi-structured textures on the following track ‘Ascending Marrow’.  ‘Bloodsoil’ is slightly more atmospheric, holding a somewhat random sound held together again by the use of a slow keyboard passage, reminding me slightly of Vond’s ‘Green Eyed Demon’ CD.  ‘Gravemound’ has a more ominous sound that is gradually raised on a base of sound akin to a distant tornado.  Some deep factory sounds and manipulated electronics help to fully flesh out the track, however I feel the track is a little muddied overall because of the amount of sound sources used.  Despite this small criticism this is one of the best tracks Gruntsplatter have on offer.  The final track for Gruntsplatter is ‘the Prophetic Maw’ which again uses a basis of multi layered muddied sound that has comparison to the German project Drape Excrement. The second half of the 60 minute disc is by Slowvent and from the self titled explosive volcanic opener, it shows a great mixture of death industrial and more noise ambience.  Here the track is looped and repetitive over it’s 6 minutes.  ‘Spectral Violence’ has a random experimental noise edge, not unlike what Atrax Morgue is producing with his Morder Machine side project.  ‘The Cold Slugs’ uses a subdued repetitive death industrial basis while random factory clangs and rumbles appear sporadically.  Gradually the looped structure subsides leaving the sporadic tones, as another loop gradually rises up.  ‘Rust Resurrection’ is short and simple again using a straightforward repetitive guise.  The final track for both Slowvent and the CD is ‘Impaired Descent’ which chops and changes from noisy Atrax Morgue styled electronics to more death industrial moments. For a debut CD for this label the packaging is well presented and laid out, using the obligatory black and grey tones.  Given the promise that these two projects show, I will be interested to see what both of these projects come up with in future releases.

Hollow Earth (USA) “dog days of the holocaust’ CD 1998 Crowd Control Activities / Malsonus

This project is a collaboration between Michael J.V Hensley & Jonathan Canady of the groups Yen Pox and Deathpile respectively.  I do believe that this was meant to have been released a number of years ago on Malsonus but for whatever reason it has been delayed until now, where the musical collaboration has been released as a label collaboration!  As I have not had a chance to hear any of Deathpile’s music I can’t formulate any opinion on potential comparison’s in sound, however I am able to do this in terms of Yen Pox.  The opener ‘floor of hell’ has a manipulated vocal section before it kicks into some extremely dense and heavy death/dark ambience.  Within a couple of minutes there are definite comparisons to be made with Yen Pox (or Michael’s other project ‘Blood Box’ for that matter), however while Yen Pox have an atmospheric take on drone ambience, here the sound and tone seem all the more dense, heavy and overtly sinister.  There is also quite a bit more movement in the sound exploring more territory than the drawn out elements of Yen Pox.  ‘Scrawled in Blood’ stands out somewhat, as it opens with a multi layered accelerating tones that gradually level out but still containing quite a bit of force and movement. Of the 5 tracks totaling 63 minutes, this has resulted in all compositions being lengthy, spanning times of between 10 to 15 minutes.  The manipulated tones of this are not cavernous, as much as they are suffocating, being condensed to an extreme level within a mine shaft barely wide enough to give the listener unrestricted passage.  Given that there are many groups that have tried their hand dark ambience (as some with not more than average results) it is always instantly obvious when someone has come up with a good take on this style.  It is hard to become sick of this form of ambience when there are CD’s such as this being produced. As the title, text and selected pictures of the cover don’t leave much to the imagination, it will undoubtedly cause a stir with someone, who will make a judgement on the content without actually finding out what the members purpose is for using such themes.  I guess the antagonism of the politically correct mob is half the fun.  If I had got this CD prior to making my 1998 release picks, this would have definitely been one of them.  Lets call this a late inclusion.

Inade (Ger) “the Axxiam Plains” 7”EP 1998 Drone Records

Going for the simplistic packaging we are greeted with a plain white cover with reverse print writing within a large black rectangle.  The inner slip is much the same however features a picture of a solemn looking figure, which I assume may have some political significance.  The notes on the inner slip might have shed some light on this assumption, but alas as my German skills are not up to scratch I’m unable to formulate a clear idea.  And speaking of clear this edition is pressed on pristine clear vinyl, with three tracks being featured.  Opening with ‘Breaking the Walls’ (incidentally which is a collaboration with Dagda Mor) a guttural vocal sample pitch shifted beyond recognition leads the way into some spare tones and metallic clangs and sporadic factory noises.  Up next is ‘Above The Plains’ which is a more hypnotic ambient affair with floating tones and manipulated sounds that does not really have a starting point or clear direction, simply holding the same feel from the outset.   Side two only has a single track (‘Movement and Construction’) which is more noisy than the first side.  An electronic looped sample holds the forefront while the ambient backbone and waves of sampled static fill out the soundscape.  Given that this music was recorded back in 1994 and originally released in 1995 this 300 copy repress is a good document of the evolution and changing focus of Inade’s sound.

Kirchenkamph (USA) “Nebula/ Parasite” 7”EP 1997 Fever Pitch Music

Here is another older Fever Pitch 7” which is still kicking around if you are interested.  Track 1 ‘Nebula’ is a spacey type new age-ish piece (in a 2001 a Space Odyssey kind of way), which I find to be a bit of a strange listen.  Not quite keyboard inspired 70’s space music and not quite minimal enough to pass as ambience.  The keyboard predominantly high in the mix and sounds both improvised and composed, which also throws the focus off a little.  Track 2 ‘Parasite’ reflects its title in the slowly rising and evolving affair.  The washes of semi composed keyboards are still evident, however remain more subdued giving the track an overall darker aurora and is much more to my liking.  Comes packaged in a simple yet visually pleasing blue and silver card sleeve.

Manipura (Nor) “vessels for the infinite” 7” 1998 Spreading across my hemisphere

This is project of I have not heard of before, but who seem to subscribe to the space ambience esthetic.  The 7” contains 2 tracks being part 1 and part 2 of the title track, however as the 7” is not labeled it is anyone’s guess to which side is which….but no matter. Track 1 (the one I put on first anyway!) contains some light spacey keyboard tones at the high sound range while the lower sound range is taken up half organic/ half mechanised factory rhythmic drone. Track 2 starts with a mid paced drone while a semi composed keyboard tune does it’s bit.  This track is a bit more subdued overall and holds much more of a atmospheric floating ambient edge.  In the final seconds of this track there is a quick succession of bleeps as if to represent a satellite’s signals forging their way through the expanses of deep space.  I don’t think I would call this music typically dark, however it does have a nice atmospheric aura as if the listener is floating the vast empty void of the universe. The packaging complements the aural images given, with a fold out picture of the horsehead nebula and the outer images taking on a psychedelic edge with the manipulated colors.  All in all quite a nice product.

Megaptera (Swe) “Beautiful Chaos” MCD 1998 Fever Pitch Music

The long awaited Megaptera MCD finally sees its official release.  Originally meant to be a 10” vinyl EP, many delays were evident with it was finally being released in digipack CD format. As I mentioned last issue this MCD features the track which was solely responsible for turning my interest to Megaptera via the apocalyptic death industrial track “Final Day” (which is the opener of the 4 tracker). Low droning base incessantly rumbles, while minimalist monk type samples are interjected occasionally.  At about 2 minutes in, without so much as a hint, the track explodes into harsh yet rhythmic death industrial.  Factory sounds and beats pulsate with the heightened keyboard/ vocal sample rising and falling periodically over the structure and layout of the composition. The second track “Sleep” works with washes of keyboard drones and swirling wind type noise prior to veering off on another tangent with the trademark Magaptera industrial death rhythm vibes and keyboard frequencies.  Not so “terror inducing” than some of Peter’s other compositions this is quite a relaxing track with a sinister edge. Track three (Mass Murder Part II) holds the very early sound and style of Megaptera without the focus on subtleties of frequencies. Much less composed and more industrial factory sound oriented, indecipherable vocal samples are used along with a drawn out four note melody. The final track “The Passage” is a shorter remix of various sections taken from the “Disease” CD, and no matter how many times I hear the opening vocal sample it still has the same creepy effect(I think it is taken from The Exorcist III).  As I have said before this should be just one of a few recent releases of Megaptera that will see them prosper with the recognition they deserve.  With top notch packaging this is worth tracking down for any current or prospective Mepaptera fan.

Megaptera (Swe) “Live in Rostock” CD 1998 Bastet Recordings

As the title suggests this a live recording of one of the few live performances that Megaptera have undertaken.  This one dates back to late in 1996 from a show in Germany I believe.  With what would appear to be the use of background tapes and samplers, various improvised metallic clangs and tortured screaming vocals are included on the opener (obviously relate to the tracks title “Intro: the Squire goes insane part 1-warmer”).  From what I can see the majority of the tracks are live interpretations of existing tracks (ie: track 1, ‘Deep Inside’ & ‘The Passage’).  Despite this, there are no real standout tracks as they all tend to blend one into the next over the 40 recording.  The crew involved in the live performance is of course Peter Nystrom as well as the session input of Magnus Sundstrom (The Protagonist).  As Peter stated in his interview in Issue 1# (still plugging it!) his live performances are manly based on pre-recorded tapes with various other elements and sounds integrated during the show.  The overall sound is pretty raw and has that improvised element and sound throughout.   The final mix isn’t as bass heavy and loud as what I have come to expect from Megaptera, however this may relate to the recording quality and not the actual live mix.  With special cover packaging and limited to 200 hand numbered copies this is likely to become a well sought after  collectors item for fans.

Merzbow (Jpn) / Genesis P-Orridge (Eng) “a perfect pain” CD 1998 Cold Spring

Well, I’m note quite sure of the background and input into this disc, but on face value this is obviously a collaboration release between the above two artists.  The cover tends to allude to the point that Genesis P-Orridge have provided the text and spoken vocal passages, whilst Mezbow has simply done his thing over the top.  I could be totally wrong but this how it appears from my viewpoint. Of the five tracks, they range in length from a little over 3 minutes to up to 25 minutes totaling a full length of around 56 minutes.  All of these tracks feature spoken text and come across very much as a theatre or a spoken word performance.  There is also some light distortion placed over them giving their presentation a slight surrealistic edge.  The complimentary noise backing is overall more subdued than the searing electronics noise normally aquatinted with Masami aka Merzbow, but this is not to say that his compositions are not noise music.  The starting track ‘a perfect restraint’ is the shortest track at slightly over 3 minutes, containing mid pitched squeals and a looping noise manipulation.  Track two’s musical backing is quite low in the mix with the vocals forceful and up front.  Some scattered electronic beats and noise make up most of the experimental backing, leaving the spoken vocals to do their thing, but once the vocals are out of the way the noise manipulations gradually rise in intensity for the final 4 minutes. The 24 minute track ‘Source are Rare’ the pulsing noise is much higher in the mix adding an edge of intensity to the spoken vocals.  In some parts the vocals taking on searing tone becoming indistinguishable through the distortion.  Again once the vocal passage is complete the noise experimentation becomes more freeform and in part includes some structured backing beats.  Given that this track is so long, Masami manages to push the noise to all it’s searing glory, just to show us he has not lost any intensity.  The track entitled ‘Kreeme Horne’ is almost industrialized with the beats and drones, but balances on the knife blade between composition and unstructured noise.  ‘All beauty is our enemy’ is a great cacophony of high and low pitched noise manipulations to finish off the album and what is left of my inner ears. I can say that I have never been a Merzbow fanatic however increasingly I have been warming to his sounds.  This disc goes a long way to solidifying me as a fully fledged fan, and with the collaborative vocals of this CD adds a further dimension to Masami’s  sound.  The packaging and imagery is nothing short of brilliant, however in my opinion does not typically match the noise music of this CD.

Morder Machine {feat:Atrax Morgue} (Ita) “Death Show” CD 1998 Slaughter Productions

Coming from the mind behind Atrax Morgue and Slaughter Productions this is Marco’s foray in the territory of death industrial.  A slow rumbling beat opens the CD with cavernous background ambience with distorted, processed & treated vocals.  With the aura surrounding this track you could not ask for a stronger opening to the CD.  Track 2 keeps the vibe of the slow death industrial pounding, but has a more high pitched looping screech to compliment it.  Some points of the release tend to point towards Marco’s noisier efforts featured in Atrax Morgue, yet they do not become too prevalent.  The vocals when present, are always pushed well over the top for that extreme effect whilst some elements are more akin oppressive electronics than straight death industrial. The opening track “I’m So” gets a reworking in the middle of the album but apart from the vocals the remix is really a separate entity.  Track six with its lack of vocals and low vibe comes across very much like Brighter Death Now’s opening track to Great Death I. The final track “Music for Dead Brains” is a low fi trip down repetitive lane that is although interesting for the first few minutes, drags by the finishing 12 minute mark. The packaging of the CD comes with an A5 fold out card sleeve, which is simplistic but has a well designed layout. Given that this release was partly programmed & partly improvised (whilst Atrax Morgue has always been totally improvised) this manages to come of as more focused and sophisticated than Marco’s other project.  Common comparisons to Brighter Death Now are inevitable given the chosen style and production, yet this is a quality release and not some pale comparison. Recommended.

Mortar (Ita) “Emperor’s Return” CD 1998 Fuoco

Strange, Strange stuff this is indeed.  Demented, creepy and surreal are a few descriptions which first come to mind.  The sound is kept purposely lo-fi, flawed with static and under produced which all adds to its surreal charm.  And I quote from the sleeve “For best results, play loud on the worst audio equipment you can find”.  Certainly a different perspective in music and it’s presentation/ intended listening quality. The starter to the CD has an oddly disjointed looped piano and keyboard run and is the most ‘composed’(if you want to call it that) track on the CD.  ‘Dead fanfare’ uses a looped timpani beat with sustained horns notes and sounds that rise and fall out of the mix periodically giving off a slight militarist air.  As with a lot of the dark ambient stuff I have heard from Italy this has quite a cavernous sound that is common with quite a few groups from that country.  The comparison to this generalization is found in the depth of sound present within the track entitled “Crypts”, while the sounds on “Scream of undead” are more ritualistic with unearthly moans, bells and minimal percussion(with a wavelike layer of sound taking up the high end of the mix).  Track 5 “Labirinth” features what I think is a noise sample taken from MZ412, however slightly manipulated (or maybe the two groups used the same sound source).  The remainder of the sound is more wide in breath than depth which somehow has a lo fi orchestral sound to it.  ‘Lunar influence’ is a very creepy sounding dark ambient track extending over a 10 minute span that could have a possible comparison to “Amon” (also from Italy). The title track is a more lively dark ambient piece with gradually building sustained keyboard tones with the following song ‘Decadence’ using a sorrowful looped violin passage to good effect.  ‘The fall of the gods’ is a great mix of dark ambient and mild death industrial that works perfectly while the following track reminds me quite a bit of “Caul” flowing moments.  The finishing track is a mere 1 minute 32 seconds long back creates a decent slow keyboard aura within that time. Similar with the other Fuoco CD I have seen, the back panel is used for the main cover image, with the actual sleeve being plain white on the outer panels and info and images taking up the inner panels. As was mentioned earlier this has a very surreal and creepy charm to it that is hard to describe with words as it covers quite a bit of ground in its 71 minute length.  Nonetheless a very interesting and enjoyable release.

Mo*te (Jap) “Stash” CD 1998 Solipsism

Another 100 pressing limited CD (actually a burned recordable CD) released on the Self Abuse side label.  The packaging of the CD is not up to a professional standard, but it would seem that the spirit of this label has more to do with the tape label philosophy than relating to commercial success.  I imagine that tape labels will gradually disappear over the next few years to be replaced with labels and releases such as this one.  This CD is by an unknown (to me anyway) Japanese Noise Artist and is everything that you have come to expect from the connoisseurs of that scene.  Extreme in its attack and delivery with little let up or breathing space provided, only the most hardy of noise addicts will venture into the realms of this CD.   The slabs of distortion are kept middle to high range but without entering piercing territory.  Walls of screaming and wailing vocals are present but almost become fully obliterated with the remainder of distorted and swirling tones. Five minutes into track one (“borrowed bone”) the middle tone are removed to make way for a bass oriented cascading sound before….(you guessed it)…..back to the noise attack.  Track 2 “Equipment” works more with modulated harsh mid ranged tone with the same intensity as the preceding track.  Some sort of TV music/ voices are forced through the waves of noise.  “Bad Habit” has an annoying frequency as it’s intro while an scattered noise effect rises in the background up until the 5 minute mark where the harsh noise returns yet again.  However this time it is more intense, focussed and angry in its delivery.  Much of the same is explored over the remaining two tracks (5 tracks over 60 minutes).   By no means will this change your opinion of Japanese noise if you didn’t like it before, but will surely get those going who are fanatics of the scene.

Murder Corporation (Ita) “Death Files” CD 1998 Fuoco

Featuring 10 nameless ‘files’, we find ourselves in the executive suite of the corporate headquarters, trapped with the crazed chief executive, who is ready to inflict his will on the unsuspecting victims (namely us). If you hadn’t gathered the intent of this release, it should be obvious by now that this is harsh murderous noise……….. but done with focus and flair!  Although heavily harsh and abrasive I found the opening track is still bearable at high volumes as it avoids the high pitched tones rather opting for the ‘weight’ of sound(however later tracks do go for the ear piercing charm).  Much of the background and underneath sounds of each track appear to be specifically programmed with the more sporadic and scattered harsh and high pitched tones laid over the top. From a production perspective, the sound is sterile and clinically clean which only adds to the overall intensity.  The tracks span a length of between 3 to 10 minutes and move around within certain confines set down for each track(back to the point about the underlying programmed elements). File 4 has a very quiet start of a programmed sounds but there is always a low rumbling in the background akin to the sound of distant thunder alerting the individual of the chaos of the storm to come.  While the storm never actually blows our way, the faith in the power of the storm of noise is reinstated on the next file.   A low bass sound pulses while scattered and searing high pitched notes a introduced one by one until they merge into one huge noise feast. The remainder of the album does not stray from the noise pastures but all files are all distinct enough in sound to not merge into one unidentifiable mass of deceased humanity. Packaging wise the main focus for the ‘cover’ is directed to what is actually the back…..quite different from a design perspective.  And if the music’s intent was not easily understood before the sleeve pictures make sure nothing is left to doubt with assorted black & white morgue, skeletal and suicidal shots complimented with plain grey backgrounds. For the majority of the time when listening to this, it sounds as though the culprit planned each step, just as if was a calculated murder and not simply a bloodied frenzy.  When noise is produced this well I can’t but help appreciate is audile velocity.  Who knows, maybe I will become a fully fledged noise connoisseur after all?

MZ412 (Swe) “Nordik Battle Signs” LP 1998 Cold Meat Industry

When MZ412 were interviewed in issue 1 of this mag, they indicated that the next album was to be more of a crossover of black metal and industrial that had been explored on the ‘Burning the temple of God’ CD.   As I really thought the Black Metal elements they utalised on the last album were more of a low than high point, I was hesitant to what this album may have been.  Thankfully this is not the case at all as there are not traditional drum and guitar parts associated with the said scene.  It is even to the point that the LP has no band photo’s so I don’t even know if they still embrace the war paint concept(the answer to that may come when the CD version of this is released early this year).  Also it would appear that one of the members has left the group leaving this album credited to a three piece.  The intro to the album (‘MZ412/Introducktion’) is a very quick piece of loud and dirge like rumbling static with a buried vocal sample.  This track cuts out as quickly as it began moving into track two ‘Algiz-Konvergence of Life and Death’ that has an unusual choice of intro vocal sample before the dirgy electronics cut in again.  This track is credited to a collaboration between MZ and Ordo Equilibrio however from listening to this it would be fair to assume that MZ412 provided the musical backdrop whilst Thomas Petterson provides a poetic spoken vocal passage.  When Thomas’s vocals commence, there sound changes to a cavernous echoed tone with a tribal drum cacophony.  In-between these spoken moments the trademark harsh and grinding electronics and screamed vocals of MZ412 act as a bridge to the more subdued elements.  Toward the end of this track Tomas’s vocals join the extremes sounds with his vocals being manipulated and overlapped over themselves.  ‘Satan Jugend’ is a good track but it is the vocal sample that repetitively praises you know who, that for me detracts from an otherwise good track.  The rumbling industrial storm gradually increased in intensity and dynamics before abruptly cutting out.  ‘Der Kamph geht weiter’ sound quite militant with a very nice looped and distorted drum roll as vocal snippets and wavering tones rise in and out of the composition.  Some traditional excellent ‘factory’ sounding industrial sections are also used within this track before becoming much more focused and composed when all the elements come together with a slow marching styled beat.  Later some sampled chants are used as the musical backdrop gets much more atmospheric and ritualized with floating tones and somewhat sporadic beats.  This track merges well some of the best sounds to be found on the ‘In nomine….’ & ‘ Burning…’ CD’s.  ‘Tyranor’ being the first track on side two is sonically clear and loud with it’s electronic jugular attack that harks back to the deathly heavy sound on the ‘In nomine….’CD.  A nice high pitch droning tone is used over the top that delineates the sound from the early comparison and as great as this track is, it is just too damn short!  ‘NBS act 1: Begravning’ which was originally featured on the CMI 50# comp is a much stronger track here in its full form, alongside the other intended compositions.  Atmospherics’, factory clatter, deathly drones and repetitive German vocals make this a very sinister track indeed.  MZ412 have a knack of tracking seeming unrelated elements, used all together is a mass of sound and then in a blink of an eye miraculously merging them into rhythmic passage – as is the case in the above track.  The extended ending (not featured on the CMI comp version) when I first heard it, had me thinking the LP was scratched as it sound as if the needle is jumping within a groove.  The final track ‘NBS act II:14W’ begins as another nicely sinister atmospheric track again using all the trademark sound and a manipulated vocal passage talking about the beauty in death.

This album is far above what I expected due to the lack of any Black Metal elements and will surely go down well with any established MZ412 fan.  Having not timed the length of this release I tend to have the feeling that it is too short, but I guess that is more of a compliment, than being criticised for an album that drags due to it’s excessive length.  This LP is pressed on white vinyl (is that a bad joke on the ‘black industrial’ tag?) and limited to 412 copies.  The CD version is scheduled to be released early this year and is to included a bonus track that it to be recorded from source material sent to the group by fans.  Not a bad concept at all.

Negru Voda (Swe) “an impulse of fear” / third EYE (Swe) “raudive experiments” split CD 1998 Crowd Control Activities

A good introduction to this CD would be a bit of background info.  This was a split tape released a number of years back on Slaughter Productions and features works by Peter Nystrom/ Negru Voda (better known for Megaptera) and Magnus Sundstrom/ third EYE (now known as the Protagonist).  The tracks which make up the two spilt halves are also complimented by two bonus tracks from each artist. Negru Voda is up first with distorted poundings, clangs and factory loops (complimented by a mild tune) to be found on “Death in Your Eyes”.  The beat and drum poundings are a bit more forceful on “Hide your Face” while “Metal Feedback” starts with a quiet vocal sample only to explode into a fully clattering metallic composition.  The low beat vibe of “Tribes of Cannibals” is quite foreboding with more movie text sample being interwoven underneath.  The unnerving edge of the track is further exacerbated with the half audible background violins and horns.  “Incinerate” ups the sound level from more bass oriented tones to sustained low to mid range sounds.  About three minutes in the bass heavy keyboard tones return giving off a low claustrophobic vibe sounding quite a bit like Peter’s other work as Megaptera.  “Impulse of Fear” has a huge death industrial sound to begin with,  evolving it’s sound into tribal beat oriented death industrial.  The ‘Vodka Remix’ of “Psycho Voodoo Killer’ (one of the bonus tracks) is a little more harsh in sound and tone but retains a similar structure, while the final Negru Voda track “the Forth Coffin” is more crystalline and less sludgy in sound the preceding tracks. As an overview when listening to Negru Voda, on more than one occasion the tribal rhythms of the defunct Memorandum come to mind with the heavily doom laden beats and factory clatter, along with some tones and sounds baring similarities to Megaptera (I guess that is inevitable being the sole member in each project and utilizing the same equipment). Having not heard Magnus’s work other than as ‘the Protagonist’ I was not quite sure what to expect from his works under the ‘third EYE’ moniker.  This is quite different even to my initial assumptions and the closest descriptions I could think of was imagining the structure of ‘In Slaughter Native’s’ “Sacrosanct Bleed” CD without the bombastic neoclassical edge.  On the first third EYE track ‘Black Friday’ Structured beats and sounds are interwoven with scattered sounds, musical snippets, movie dialogues and buried vocals.  The somewhat ad hoc unstructured clatter of various sounds, samples and noises of “The Enigma of Death” gradually pulls itself together into another heavy rhythmic beat affair with the unstructured edge being audible underneath.  “Lucid Dreams” has a much darker focus on the undercurrent tone with tortured mid paced poundings of the drum machine.  Inaudible male and female vocals add to the hypnotic effect along with the wavering keyboard tune.  “Precognition” follows a similar darker path and even hints at what Magnus would go on to produce as ‘the Protagonist’ with the somewhat classical undercurrent (with the industrial sounds and beats overlaid).  “Hypnago State” is a huge departure in style and sound of the former tracks partly due to it being one of the bonus tracks recorded 2 years after the original tracks.  This has a very similar aura to raison d’être’s works which isn’t helped by the sampled manipulated tones, keyboard sounds and monk chanting vocals on the 7 minute 41 second track.  Despite the comparison this is very dark, being one of my favorite tracks on the CD. The final track for the album and Third EYE is ‘Insomnia’ and is a new track recorded during 1998 which is a low key death industrial droning sound which actually reminds me of Megaptera of all groups!(Magnus is an occasional session member of Megaptera). To finish up what has turned into a very long review I will say that overall this is a really good CD and is definitely worthy of your attention.

Negru Voda (Swe) “Dark Territory” CD 1998 Old Europa Café

Coming from reviewing Negru Voda’s earlier work above (from 1994), I’m now jumping forward to Peter’s newer works from 1998, being his first full length CD.  It seems that the focus of overall structure and sound has changing in the spanning years with this bearing little resemblance to the earlier works.  A much more harsher and aggressive focus has been taken forsaking much of the rhythmic death industrial sound.  Simple put if I was to hear some of these tracks without knowing the artists I would have had a tough time identifying the culprit. From the outset the new abrasive tone is evident, owing more to power electronics or structured noise.  The mid range ‘whitish’ frequency of ‘radio tronic’ is modulated into various levels of intensity over approximately 5 minutes.   ‘Silent Force Entry’ utilizes movie dialogue and subscribes to the same technique used on the first track but in a slightly less noisy guise.  The title track (also featured on the Death Odors II compilation) probably best mixes the old sound with the new with the high pitched frequency squeals and guttural bass poundings.  Gradually different clangs and beats are added into the rhythmic death industrial chaos. “Suction” is a very forcefully looped ‘factory machine’ track albeit very short at just over 2 minutes with the following track being a little under three minutes with a more experimental and improvised sound with its modulated noise. ‘The Institute’ brings to mind being in a cavernous insane asylum where electro shock therapy is administered to all unwilling patients via the high pitched noise frequencies, while “Please, don’t steal my head!” sounds like Stratvm Terror if they employed a very dirty sound production.  The final track (mono/ stereo) is much quieter than the rest of the disc being a straight forward tone modulation and manipulation to see the disc to its conclusion. Overall the music is quite straight forward retaining a reasonably simple structure or focus on each track which even gives rise to a partially improvised sound (maybe akin to some of Atrax Morgue’s work).  This is not to say that improvised sound is a letdown as here it done extremely well from a seasoned professional.  Although this is a very good CD for its style and focus, on a personal note I still think I prefer the earlier incantation of this group.  Packaging wise this is in an A5 cardboard slip cover with simple layout and graphics, hand numbered in a limited edition of 500.

Noxious Emotions (USA) “Symbols” CD 1998 ADSR Musicwerks

Here is a release from both a label and band I have not come across before (who incidentally got in contact with me).  This CD, encompassing a style I do not normally listen to nor buy, I still found this somewhat enjoyable.  The bio coins this as “Elektro-Body-Music and Dance Industrial” but I still find that this does not give a whole and clear perception of what this is about.  The music contains vocals in a semi aggressive spoken distorted guise while a background of electro sounds and beats make up the medium paced compositions.  While certainly this is much more commercially oriented than most industrial groups, there is a dark enough current flowing through for me to find value within.  The vocals and electronics bring to mind the standards set by NIN while there is some comparison to Rammstein’s sound – just without the guitars.  Other moments (although limited) of the disc lean more towards experimental industrial when the beats are not included and the random sounds are left to do their thing.  One of my flat mates stated that this sounded like “Lithuanian Step Aerobics Music” whilst singing “step one, two, your going to die”, however I only include this comment for it’s joke value and not as a detraction from the actual music.  In most part the vocals work well within the whole sound, however in some points, especially in track three when the dual, back and forth yelled chorus really lets the song down.  As the songs contain a traditional straight forward composition structure, with the use of a drum machine the sound comes across as very clinical and robotic.  At some points (such as in the track ‘Mass”) a terrible ‘hokey’ styled keyboard runs ruins the song and ultimately loosing some of it’s industrial credibility, but luckily these are fewer than more.  The cover with it’s use of contrasting colours (incidentally which reminds me of the cover of Sanctums debut CD) and traditional art is well presented.  Given that this is the fifth release of this group and the last CD is reputed to have sold over 5000 copies I’m sure both existing fans and other industrial goth types would really get into this.

Ontario Blue (Eng) “Shine” CD 1998 Fluttering Dragon

Having been quite a fan of Endvra for a number of years I was quite interested to hear the solo offerings of one of the members –  namely Stephen Pennick.   Whilst some of the trademark sounds and vocals of Endvra are here, the overall tracks are less dark & foreboding being more composed in both a tribal and romantic manor, depending on what track is on rotation. I was in total awe once the opening track “New Beginnings” burst into full flight with sorrowful yet uplifting piano melody with background synthesized string and wind orchestra.   “Chant of the Forgiven” uses the layered droney half sung vocals of Endvra with tribal middle eastern ethnic hand percussion. A quick dreamy keyboard interlude in the way of “Mara’s Daughter” floats forward before the track “Lost City” makes it foreboding entrance.  Here we have a merging of tribal percussion with a more classical keyboard melody and gothically chanted vocals which works to great effect. Introspective elements can be found on the track “Change” where the monotone vocal lines make statements such as “I often wonder how it would be, to change the word to my dreams” and “I often wonder if I am mad and those around me are in my head” this being complemented by a slow violin tune, slow beat and layers of light sound. Some of the chosen keyboard sounds and treatments at the beginning of “Shadows” are not totally to my liking, but this is a minor gripe are these sounds are soon eclipsed by the drum beat, piano melody and vocals once the track gets going. A painfully depressing acoustic guitar with sadly chanted and sung vocals commence “Don’t Weep for Me” to further build to a number of small crescendos with the synthesized backing orchestra. Other highlights include the slightly baroque influenced composition “This Mortal Coil”  which at first holds quite a similarity to the compositions on the Endvra “Great God Pan” album, however this track ends up even more up tempo and composed than any track of the former musical project.  The vocal lines stating “Living is easy, dying is hard….I want to live” comes across as a personal catharsis without a hint of cynicism. This CD being the forth release on a label I have never heard of before (Fluttering Dragon) has not stopped the packing being top notch with full coloured 8 page booklet and inlay tray image. A number of the enclosed paintings/ images are also credited to Stephen meaning he is talented in more areas than simply music.  It would appear that the next Ontario Blue CD will be released on Displeased Records so while waiting for the next release make sure you track down this gem.

The Protagonist (Swe) “A Rebours” CD 1998 Cold Meat Industry

The long awaited and highly anticipated debut CD of Magnus Sundstrom aka the Protagonist was finally released in the dying months of 1998.  And what is the foundation of this release?  Through the merging of art and literature set to a classical backdrop and having derived inspiration derived from Joseph Thorak, Percy Bysshe Shelly, Leni Riefenstahl & Edgar Allan Poe, this release could be seen as a modern interpretation of classical art, music and literature.  “The Eternal Abjectness of Life” opens the album with an ominous string section, soon fading out to a vocal passage recital, only to be introduced again with more forceful orchestration and tympani drumming at the conclusion of the spoken section.  Overall this track is somewhat subdued, but the true intentions of the album are better exposed on the second track “Kamphfende Pferde”.  With its more majestic and mildly bombastic composition the music could be said to convey an aura surrounding the progress in preparation for battle with it’s militaristic air of pounding drums and stirring horn sections.   Mark St.John Ellis (of Elijah’s Mantle) provides the spoken word guest appearance on “Mutability” where dynamics are used to their utmost.  Towards the middle of the track where the intensity is built via an angelic choir & plucked string section interlude, that blast back into the full flight of the orchestra.   “Zoroaster” originally featured on CMI’s the Absolute Supper, has undergone some minor changes,  but still showcases the underlying militaristic and bombastic nature of the compositions.  “Song of Innocence” is a somber affair with consisting of only slow voilin, cello and horns, accompanied by the sorrowful vocals of Peter Pettersson (of Arcana). The highlight for myself is encased in the track “The Puritan” purely on the sheer intensity of dynamics encased within.   Foreboding and ominous in its string opening gradually the whole orchestra is introduced, always retaining underlying feel that at any moment the could explode into war mongering anthem.  While this does not fully eventuate the rolling marching drums of the track preclude the inevitable battle that is presented on “Imitation” in its full bombastic glory.  The shrill violins, forceful trumpets and horns, incessant cello and pounding percussion increase in their intensity as the track surges forward.  Juxtaposed against the previous track the album has its fitting conclusion with a track entitled “The End”.   Featuring an acoustic guitar with the orchestral accompaniment, the tune picks up the listener sweeping the individual away from the battle field to a fitting resting place of serene calm and contemplation. The sound quality and production can not be faulted and had been layered and produced in way that it is not blatantly obvious that a keyboard is the main sound source.  Furthermore the sound has been enhanced with the use of real cello, acoustic guitar and vocals on a number of the tracks. On a different angle, when I first viewed the packaging I was surprised how much it resembled Dorobo’s releases.   Upon closer inspection the answer was revealed as it was in fact the design firm I+T=R that designed this along with many of the Dorobo titles.  Normally this would not even matter, but as Karmanik has always played a pivotal role in all his released it was interesting to see him handing over the mantle to another designer (on Magnus’s request).   This CD made my top 10 releases for 1998 and is surely destined to become a classic both within CMI’s roster of releases and the scene in general.

Raison D’etre (Swe) “Lost Fragments” CD 1998 Yantra Atmospheres

Now this is a gem that I’m damn glad I got my hand on.  Limited to a mere 100 and only available directly from Peter ‘raison d’être’ Anderson, it is assured that only the most astute of raison d’être fans will track this down. The premise for the limited nature of this CD is that it contains both rare and unreleased recordings that Peter deemed unsuitable for regular release(as he was unable to be rework or remix the tracks, ultimately being unsatisfied with the sound quality).  The strange thing was how moved I was by these tracks of supposed “unsatisfying sound quality”.   Given I have the ear of a fan and not of the artist I am not being as critical, however to me the sound is well balanced and not patchy or substandard at all.  To be honest if I had a label of my own I would be honored to officially release this. Most of the 13 tracks were recorded around the time the debut CD “Prospectus I” was recorded in 1992, with the general song structures being testimony to this.  Where as Peter’s compositions have become more and more minimal over time the basis here is generally beats, slow drum loops, disjointed factory noises, voices/ dialogue with overlaid keys and samples.  Given this is a compilation of tracks, the flow of the CD is slightly disjointed rather than having a specific flow or direction, but this is really a minor point and only points to the grandeur found on ‘true’ albums.  A couple of tracks here were originally featured on a rare “raison d’etre/Svasti-ayanam” split tape entitled “The ring of Isvarah”, released on Slaughter Productions from a few years back.  While the focus on industrialized catholic sounds have been Peter’s forte, it is unusual to hear on one track “Carnificina” the use of a more eastern oriental feel with the tune and sampled gong. In various sections there is also some early experimentation with the inclusion of chorale vocals which would become a main feature of later works. The artwork is nothing to get exited about, being printed out on a home computer and having the bare essentials of musical/ recording detail, however is stylish in its simplistic way.  Again this is not the point, as just having this collection of rarities is reward enough. Get this if you can!

Sian (Jap) “Still/ Act” 7” EP 1998 Fever Pitch Music

Fever Pitch of late have been quite big on the repressing of older 7” releases, with this receiving a second print run of 200 hand numbered copies on white vinyl.  Not being totally familiar with all aspects of the Japanese noise movement I do know that this release is a collaboration between the well known artist Aube and the lesser known Monde Bruits. Rather than going for the standard Japanese noise assault this is more akin to experimental ambience focusing on the ebb and flow of treated sound in a transcendental manor.  The two tracks follow a very similar feel and theme and the label description of trance/ ambience is right on the mark. With track 1 sounds gradually build with quite a hollow void feel akin to what Yen Pox is creating (this was before I realized I was playing it on 33 rpm and not 45rpm as required!).  Well anyway the track is a little more alive and forceful on the correct speed with not so much of a hollow sound (yet still very like Yen Pox), but as both speeds sound good you take your pick! Track two experiments slightly more with the composition of treated sounds and tones with less focus on the ambient flow.  Again a slightly more composed Yen Pox comes to mind. The cover consists of a well designed gloss over wrap sleeve with obscure yet interesting images in tones of black, grey and silver.

Skin Crime (USA) “Live” CD 1998 Solipsism

Skin Crime is the project of Patrick Oneil, the individual behind Self Abuse Records (and the smaller side label Solipsism).  This CD features three lengthy live tracks from Patrick in collaboration with other individuals on each live track that were recorded between June 1997 to November, 1998 (the Nov, 98 tracks is a live studio take).  The first track starts of quite subdued in a electronic ambient way that gradually increases in intensity as the layers of distortion gradually loop into the mix.  At a sudden point mid to high range squeals and static jump into the mix and the intensity is all go from this point on.  A destroying loud bass rumble later kicks in with oscillating frequencies scattered over the top.  Various phases of the music both static and loud and more soft and subdued are followed through the improvised technique.  However it does seem that the collaborators have a good knowledge of what they are doing and have the ability to push the distortion to certain effect and direction. Overall track one is tolerable in reference to the piercing sound elements meaning that one can sit and enjoy this at both loud and soft volumes. Track two starts off more intensely with mid ranged factory frequencies and higher pitch distortion.  There are some vocals or voice samples included but are barely at an audible range being buried in the mass or swirling factory static.   The basis of the track is quite repetitive with a pulsing undertone, where as the actual noise changes and alterations get lost in the mix.  The pulse of the track gradually evolves into a wavering tone and sets the composition off down a side alley (but not too far from the main road).   Later in the piece the mid range frequencies are fade out leaving the high and low end squeals and rumbles, only for the mid range sound to build again.  Heading towards the 18 minute mark things are qui down substantially with some sort of classical sample being fed into the light swirling noise loop over the next 6 minutes or so.  After some further general experimentation the track abruptly finished just shy of 30 minutes. Track three (the live studio track) has quite unusual opening with what sounds like a metal ball being rolled around in a ceramic bowl (continued at intervals through the track).  The tone set after the introduction is more akin to organic/ technological ambience of Alan Lamb or Daniel Menche.  Heavy metal clangs and scrapes with bass rumbles are the tone with not so mush as hint of harsh/ high toned frequencies.  A mid paces machine pulse enters the mix while some other more organic water sound and scratching noises are used.   I could even use the comparison of a less dark more free form of Brighter Death Now(in his early days).  Some oscillating tones make an appearance later down the track but remain somewhat subdued until they evolve into a full fledged noise frequency.   The intensity gradually builds in both layers and experimentation to conclude the track around the 23 minute mark.  By far this is my favorite composition on the CD which overall is quite an intense listen.  While this CD is essentially live noise music and does have an improvised sound quality (to an extent), it still manages to hold direction and focus.  Ordinarily lack of focus is a common complaint of mine regarding noise music, however I was able to appreciate the direction of these tracks.   This could be put down to the collaborators having a good knowledge of what they are doing and have the ability to push the distortion to certain effect and direction.  Furthermore the premise of the works seems to be more focusing on tones, sounds and frequencies then going for pure aggression and harshness.  The cover art is a collage of the live equipment utilized which appears to be a total maze of wires, feedback units and distortion pedals to create the cacophony of sound found on the CD.  Given that Solipsism was set up to release limited quantity items I believe that this is had a pressing of 100.

Slogun (USA) “The Pleasure of Death” CD 1998 Death Factory

As it now seems CMI’s side label is latching onto the current trend in power electronics/ noise we have a re-release of an older tape of Slogun from 1997.  This CD is billed as “True Crime Electronics” which is not a bad description I guess.  The packaging is white with black writing including various mug shots of criminals, overall looking somewhat like a scrap book. Despite being static oriented in mid to high frequencies it manages to retained an overall droning, highly intense edge that gives some focus and direction.  The vocal that are included on all tracks are not totally buried in the mix but are treated and distorted to a point where they are quite hard to follow.  Other snippets of news reports and the like are used further detailing various crimes and re-enforcing the CD’s themes.  The total of 8 tracks are generally around 7 minutes in length (total 58 minutes) and set a certain tone within a short time frame.  From there the tracks surge forward in a repetitive searing and noisy style where vocals, static and noise fade in and out sporadically. Given that this does have some direction I find it enjoyable in short sections however at extreme volume and over extended periods this is surly to incinerate more than your eardrums.  With no letup whatsoever for the total length, the defiant and monotonous white noise is incessant in its unbridled rage.  Definitely not a CD for the meek.

Sutcliffe Jugend (Eng) “When pornography is no longer enough” CD 1998 Death Factory

Now, before I have some noise fanatic coming after me for what I about to write I will let it be know again the noise music is not really my forte. Given that the members of this groups are almost cult figures because of their past recordings and involvement with other foundering groups of this genre, I was expecting something really extreme.  This is not to say that this is not extreme (as in places it is brutally shocking) but in other parts I found it hard to take seriously. Opening with a dirgy death industrial vibe an overloaded vocal piece rises in anger and screeching intensity over its two minute length (detailing the theme from the CD’s title). For me it was track two where this release fell down.  The modulating harsh frequencies are mid ranged to high pitched with a highly audible vocal which is presented as if taped during a murder taking place.  As intense as it is, it is a little too over the top and I can’t help but imagine Vivian from “the Young Ones” presenting the vocals.  During the first rotation of track two I was actually laughing which I guess was not the desired result, however as the disc moves on in a similar fashion the smile was quickly wiped from my face.  By the conclusion of the disc (including the last track with its supposed calm finish which explodes into harsh noise for the final minute), I was feeling utterly empty and browbeaten.  Not much new ground is covered here over the 34 minute length, but when it comes from one of the scenes founders what else do you expect.  Basically it is the standard extremely overloaded noise music/ power electronic with multi-layered stabbing static.  Aesthetically there are no shocking images to go with the ‘music’, but simply presented in a well laid out white digi-pack.  Even without my above review, if you are into this style you already know if you want it.

Svasti-ayanam (Swe) “sanklesa” CD 1998 Crowd Control Activities

As an artist such as Peter Anderson has too much creative vision to house under a single musical project, he has spawned offshoot projects from the main tree commonly referred to as ‘raison d’être’.  At last count Peter currently has six active musical projects!   Well for this release Peter has taken a spiritual journey (be that in body or just in spirit) to the regions of the Himalayan Alps to present us with composed tribal styled Tibetan Monk hymns.  Opening with low male vocal chanting the track evolves into a mid paced tribal drum affair that is repetitive and looping in structure.  Much of the sound of the slow ‘Varna-Sankara’ (track 2) is based around gongs, bells, synthesized chants and sampled and ‘found’ background sounds to fill out the picture. Track three ‘Ugra-Karma’ is a meditative affair with a more industrial approach with the  manipulation of a collage of sound, however this is used with a warm sound production tone to portray a spiritual state of mind over its 9 minute length. ‘Zar’ (track 4) sees a return to the repetitive ethnic styled drumming with sustained notes and samples filling out the structure.   The remainder of the tracks follow under similar descriptions of the above not straying too far the visions laid down early in the album. From an analytical breakdown of the album, the basis of music’s structure (as with most of Peter’s projects) is a backbone of industrialized sampled sounds.  What sets the sound of the projects apart is how the sounds are manipulated and overlaid with more composed elements – the case here being ethnic tribal drums/ beats, gongs, bells and sampled & synthesized chants.  The sound production never reaches cold or harsh territory giving a warm and meditative feels throughout. Of the 11 tracks presented I have been familiar with 6 of them for a number of years as they were included on Slaughter Productions split tape (also with ‘raison d’être’) entitled ‘The Ring of Isvarah’.   All tracks included have specially re-mixed for this release along with simple yet well designed jewel-case packaging. The relatively new label ‘Crowd Control Activities’ will no doubt be one to look out for in future if their products continue along with the same quality of releases such as this.

Turbund Sturmwerk (Ger) “Turbund Stermwerk” 1998 Cold Spring

Here is another group that I am not even going to begin to try and dissect the political content and inspiration.  Furthermore as my German skills are below par (OK non existent) it would only serve to further complicate the task. Anyway, this CD is a re-release of this groups debut LP that appeared on the L.O.K.I Foundation in 1995, however the opening track ‘Sic Transit’ is a newer track from 1997.  The music found on this release is in the industrialized neo-classical vein and ranges from passages of brilliance to moments of mediocrity. ‘Sic Transit – salvation through blood’ contains a slow beat with stabs and swirls of electric sound being overlaid with a low spoken German voice over the repetitive 7 minute length.  ‘Cupio Dissolvi -staying alive was your fault-now remain’ is longer at 17 minutes and interestingly uses the loading of cartridges and cocking of guns for the basis of it’s opening beat.  The atmosphere here is more rousing with slow clanging bells, ominous horn sections and buried vocals, however as the track goes through a number of stages and passages, it has the feel of a number of tracks than a single one.  It is when a more scattered high speed electronic beat keyboard run is introduced that this track looses me, but thankfully this section does not last too long and the horn and industrial passages return to my applause.  The closing minutes are quite impressive with a more slow anthemic keyboard passage and distorted vocals.  ‘Hagakure-what time will not heal-iron will’ is very impressive, beginning with a slow marching hymn with flute, rolling drums and chanted vocals, but when things hype up in a more electronic fashion including supremely sung/ distorted vocals this track can do no wrong.  Soon after the tracks reverts back to its starting intentions containing parts of both the first and second movements resulting in a solid third segment. ‘Styrmsal – what iron will not heal-fire will’ is by far the most bombastic and forceful track containing a looped marching snare roll, guttural brass horns, electronic keyboard passages and rising string sections, whilst scattered sounds and vocals writhe underneath.  At about the halfway mark of the 12 minute track it is stripped back to a totally new slow keyboard passage with sampled choir vocals.  In the final minutes all composed elements are removed leaving only the scattered sounds that have been lurking in the background for much of the track. The mid paced industrial rhythm of ‘Lichtschlag!-through fire into the light’ is contrasted against another passage of a sampled choir over a repetitive five minutes.  The final plodding keyboard track ‘Gloria Mundi’ would be alright if it was not for the awfully sung/ spoken vocal which are nothing but purely annoying. The packaging is encompassed in black, white and red containing runes, symbols war imagery & written text that gives some insight into the group but raises more questions than it answers.  Apart from a few select points of the album that I quite dislike, this is overall a very good release.  Certainly for those who have appreciated the certain sounds of Blood Axis and Puissance.

Valefor (USA) “Invokation of Forneus” CD 1998 Momento Mori

Being the second CD from this American duo it seems this time around they are aiming for a bit more credibility.  The corpse paint has been dropped and pseudonym names of Barron Drakkheim Abaddon & Drakat St LeJeune have been changed back to their real names of Michael Ford and Shanna LeJeune.  As for the music while last time it was basically death ambient drones (pretty impressive at that) here they have invested in and heavily utilized a drum machine/ sampler. Introducing the album is a mildly distorted track “Fenrir” (with a comparative B.D.N beat) which quickly hypes up into an a pretty harsh drum oriented affair including vocal snippets, looping frequencies and almost black metal styled harsh vocals.  This track alone set apart quite heavily the atmospheres presented on the first CD. “Progression of Aiwass” has a low deathly chant and ‘wet’ sounding ambient backing before a treated mid paced beat and female chanting makes their appearance.  A few sections are worked through were the beats temporarily fade to the back with new configurations and vocals to be introduced. The title track is more towards the former low key droning sound but still has more of a focus to the bass heavy pounding beats and the use of almost cheesy demonic voices. “Undead” quickly reverts to the repetitive ritual/ tribalized drumming at the forefront, again with the scattered background noise and deadpan vocal chanting,  Strangely this track is dedicated the English group Bauhaus. My favorite track on this collection is “Caverns of the Mind” and as the title suggests it is a droning death ambient hymn with no added percussive elements.  Over the remainder of the final two tracks much of the same sound (as described earlier) are explored. I’m still not entirely sure about Valefor’s new found direction and I think that their debut is more my preference given its heavy atmospheric, yet regressive low key tone. Throughout this CD the occultist/ ritualistic edge is evident in sound and structure and the imagery and text further reinforces this.  Overall I guess some common comparisons could be made to a noisier mix of both Archon Satani & No Festival of Light.  As for the label, this is another addition to growing roster of Dark Vinyl’s “black ambient” side label.

Various Artists (Wld) “the Book ov Shadows” LP 1998 Spectre Records

Certainly the thrill of limited vinyl was not forsaken on this release and featuring the best of the globes ‘death industrialists’ this promised to be an instant classic. The first chapter is presented by Dagda Mor with ‘the Voice of War’ being a strong and surging sermon which includes a rumbling distorted bass sample and overlaid rising/ falls noise tone.  Vocals make an appearance but are rendered indecipherable due to the production treatment. Stratvm Terror is featured next with ‘Worms’ which is quite a short track but is the nosiest and schizophrenic track produced from this group to date.  Abrasive, harsh and pulsating, this is certainly flesh sheering stuff.  The velocity of this track is partly explained but it being taken from a live performance from June 1998 and damn it, I wish I could have been there to witness this ear punishing performance! Pure power noise electronics at their best. Soldnergeist continue proceedings with ‘Hidden Powers of Nature’.  A variety of spoken samples are included over the monotone bass pulses and tones.  The basis of the track is set down early with the monotonous approach being the pick of the day.  Slight dynamics are utilized with layered sounds but true progression is kept minimal.  The track hits its peak late in the piece where a half remember tune rises into the mix and takes it to completion. Ah Cama-Sotz round out side A with a fantastic atmospheric yet extremely dirgey piece on ‘Till Death Do Us Part’.  The breadth of sound is truly amazing with bass tones so loud they threaten to jump the needle out of the groove.  Wind and wave like swirls take up the high sound range with a radio static voice ranting on about someone being executed.  The sustained keyboard notes don’t go as far as providing a tune, but do assist lightening the crushingly heavy slab of sound. Side B sees Megaptera going for a regressive sound on ‘Frozen Corpse’ which is reminiscent of the death industrial ‘factory’ sounds which were prevalent in the early ‘90’s.  Shattered tones, clangs, rumbles and stabs of sound are the order of the day, served up cold and bloody just the way we like it! Predominance certainly amaze with their track ‘Cathedral of Light, which is incidentally the most composed on the album.  Anthemic and militant the slow pace of the beat and rousing keyboard sections give an air of pride and strength.   The vocals are a wonder within themselves being presented in a commanding and monotone guise which are only enhanced with the pitch shifting effect (to slow the vocals down).  Themes of sprit, strength and pride are all touched upon and while not being blatantly obvious on stance, it will certainly have detractors scratching their heads trying to decipher what the music is actually advocating. Inade open with an ominous tone of unearthly vocal wails akin to the brilliant atmospheric work on the Alderbaran CD of 1997, however things take a change of direction when a Aztec tribalised drum beat is introduced into the sound collage.  This track (‘Tat Twam Asi Pt II’) is as strong as any of Inade’s past works and only goes to show that many styles and sounds can be explored without forsaking original intents. The finale of the LP is from Tortura with ‘Resistance is Futile’.  The sound quality is quite crisp which emphasizes the forceful intent of the track.  The style is quite reminiscent of the sounds that MZ412 have been producing on the last few releases.   A vocal sample is included and repeated throughout stating “this evil man came to our community and took all away from her” along with other ranting distorted vocals hidden in the static.  After the sheer quality of the music, the packaging is also superb with a full colour slip sleeve, two mini posters and various postcards, all containing stunning visuals….. supreme!  A classic release limited to only 500 copies which I’m certain would have lost some of its aura if it was pressed on normal CD format.  Congratulations to Spectre Records for keeping the vinyl spirit alive.  Oh did I mention that this is limited to 500!?

Various Artists (Wld) “Machines in the Garden:(part 1 of the Cataclysm Singles)” CD 1998 Blacklight Records

This CD was sent to me from a label I had not previously come across, with the disc itself featuring only one project that I am familiar with (the opening track presented by Caul). Now the compilation itself is quite diverse covering many styles from industrial, ambient and experimental sounds to more e.b.m, darkwave styles. One thing I can say is that the majority of sounds presented here are to my liking, even if I wouldn’t go out of my way to search out all or many of the projects other releases. A total of 16 tracks is included by 16 different acts (all appearing to be residents of the U. S of A).  Proceedings are keep formal and to the point with the tracks ranging in length from under three minutes to no longer than six.  This ensures that more tracks are featured and the tracks that a listener is not that interested in passes quickly.  Given there is too much music to individually review I will focus more on the tracks which caught my attention.

As stated Caul opens the disc with ‘Metempsychosis’ being a good manipulated electro-acoustic slab of dark ambience.  Signalbleed sound if they have taped a static inducing, malfunctioning machine hence the tracks title ‘Broken Transmitter’.  Red Rum Trance start with an ad hock composition(‘out of the ashes’) that gradually reduces to a slow plucked guitar tune.  Torn Skin are of the industrial band variety (ala NIN) and do not cover any ground that hasn’t already been heavily trampled.  A semi static manipulation by Autovoice evolves into more death industrial territory with a mildly pounding beat and some semi buried music and vocal snippets.  Thymikon’s track ‘Steel’ impressed me as it sounds as though a finished composed track was taken and forced through an effects unit creating a totally new version(whether this was actually the case is incidental when the manipulation sound this good).   Twitch are heavily into the distorted bass rumbling experimental ambience.  Cradle>Grave present a middle eastern tinged piece that gradually builds in sorrowful intensity via the introduction of compositional elements of percussion, keys and vocals. The darkwave’ish track ‘the Elven Moon’ by Evonica sounds similar to Atomine Elektrine with sampled choir vocals and real vocals.  Comparisons could also be made to those tunes featured in 80’s horror/ drama movies (this is used in a complimentary not derogatory sense).  Blackhouse are content with providing erratic experimental sound and vocal sample manipulation.  Bringing the CD to it’s conclusion is Dopple Hode that is a dark keyboard piece that has dub oriented undertones that make their intentions known towards the close of the track.

As an overview this CD is basically the first in a trilogy of compilation CD’s that are to form an independent international boxset of sub cultural styles of music.  The artwork is top notch and recognition to the label is deserved for putting together a compilation which will surely increase the knowledge and interest in non-main stream forms of music. (Note: I did receive the other two parts of the series, however they arrived too late to receive a full review within this issue.  From the brief listens I managed to have, they encompass a similar focus to the above CD however probably tend to have more a focus on the darkwave and traditional industrial bands than experimental sounds.  Still worthwhile none the less).

Various Artists (Wld) “Middle Pillar Presents – What is Eternal” CD 1998 Middle Pillar

Well, after having a well renowned mail order business for quite a number of years, Middle Pillar have branched out into starting their own label, with this being the first release off the ranks.  This is a stellar collection of neo-gothic, ethereal, classical, ambient type tracks from a variety of quite well known (and not so known) artists working within these fields.  Proceedings start with The Machine in the Garden (not to be confused with the V/A album of a similar name reviewed above) with a Dead Can Dance type track entitled ‘falling softly’.  A gothicially oriented piano tune is solemnly played with a angelic and operatic female vocal accompaniment.  Cello, violin and background percussion are utilized making this song a great introduction to the CD.  4th Sign of the Apocalypse have quite a ominous start (on ‘lady doe’) with a dark brooding violin and vocal (female) piece however things fall down when the male vocals are introduced late in the track(Try to imagine a gothic singer trying to yodel and you might be half there).  Unto Ashes have a very romantic baroque sounding song with spoken male/female vocals a bit like Ordo Equilibrio which later break into mild singing.  A similar feel is exuded from the following track by Mors Syphilitica however the female vocals are sweeter and more operatic.  A nice classical guitar tune is the basis for Quartet Noir’s song ‘petals from a rose’ which obtains quite a folky feel with the use of flute, harp and female vocals (with this group incidentally featuring Tony Wakeford). Loretta Doll start off very much like the vocal songs of Arcana before a movie dialogue is introduced along with a mild guitar tune that gets more technology oriented in sound as it progresses with processed percussion and sounds.  The Arcana like vocal melody is reduced a final time to see the track out. Dream into Dust have a more dark ambient feel with the ‘noises from the cellar’ background that fleshes out the picture with a classical piano/ guitar tune and orchestral violins.  This is a very good track being somewhat reminiscent of Caul’s works. The Changlings manage to capture a very eerie classical feel with a dub oriented ethnic mix with Portisehead like vocal accompaniment.  The sweetly sorrowful tune/ female vocals of The Mirror Reveals song ‘let all the poets sing’ is very radio friendly in sound, while still being a good song. A mild comparison could be made again to Ordo Equilbrio with the repetitive acoustic guitar of Backworld’s  ‘leaving the isles of the blest (remix)’ however the male vocals are vastly different  being both spoken and sung in a more lively manor (almost akin to David Bowie). Tony Wakeford appears again on a track with Tor Lundvall (who is better known for his macabre art) who have their track starting out with a pretty poor ‘chop sticks’ piano tune.  The track does add a bit more background instrumentation however the two finger piano playing still gets on my nerves.  Jarboe have a pretty average gothic type song which has a reasonable ‘witchy’ atmosphere due to the vocals.  Athanor on their track ‘for whom the bell tolls’ (….and no it is not a Metallica cover) start out with a dark ambient styling (including a repeated radio voice), that becomes more neo-classical in sound with the introduction of violins and piano and spoken lyrics. A great finisher to the CD is the track from Zoar that is if the backing was taped within a mad scientists abode with the musical component being dark guitar electronica with an almost In Slaughter Natives edge at times. In conclusion the packaging is also top notch with a three fold digi-pack with stunning complimentary visuals.  After the decent quality of this debut release I’m interested to see what this label will come up with in future.

Yen Pox (USA) “Deliver/Remove” 7”EP 1998 Drone Records

Now given I missed the first limited pressing of 250 (released in 1995) I have the ability of hindsight to make comparisons with their debut CD released also in 1995.  The demand for this was such that Drone Records were warranted in repressing a second edition of 300 copies (which I’m sure will sell as fast as the first).  I believe that the packaging is much the same as the original with a simple yet effective image gracing the cover and giving some hint to what musical slab is held within the wax.  Stylistically anyone familiar with Yen Pox’s sound will pick this sound straight away, however given the shorter format they are presented on has resulted in the tracks being more dense and dynamic.  On Side A ‘Deliver’ grasps the listener by the throat and slowly drags you into the dense engulfing void as the waves of droning layered sound build in intensity.  A few more dynamic mid range sound elements are utilized, giving rise to visions of unearthly orchestra in the throes of warming up for a final performance.  It is literally as if the air in the room has become stale further emphasizing the suffocating intensity. Side B delivers the track ‘Remove’ while although not an densely heavy, the atmospheres are however swirlingly dynamic with the tonal qualities being in the mid to high range. Gradually forcing upwards in twisting spiral the track levels out to again starts on its downward decent into the chasm and to its conclusion.   As much as I appreciate this release, it has done nothing but to leave me salivating for the new upcoming album scheduled for a 1999 release on Malignant!


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