Spectrum Issue 3# 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 (unless otherwise noted).




Allerseelen (AUT) / Blood Axis (USA) “Kaferlied/ Brian Boru” split 7” 1998 StateArt

As this item was released to commemorate the groups European tour, it was interesting to read that the label who released this item was subjected to some incidents of violence/ aggression.  As it turned out, a certain ‘P.C’ faction had made assumptions on the ideology behind the label and groups and decided to partake in some rock hurling.  With all of this being an attempt to halt the live gigs, the police stepped in on the side of the bands to ensure the gigs went ahead, so certainly the actions of the instigators did not achieve their aims!  The Allerseelen track hurtles straight into a repetitive bass loop that is almost funky, however the background synth tune keep the mood down to a reflective somber feel.  Spoken vocals are included but are low in the mix with a mild echo effect.  Although I am not all that familiar with Allerseelen’s output, I can say that this is one of the best tracks I have heard from Kadom’s project. Blood Axis have taken the traditional Irish song ‘the march of Brian Boru’ (as featured on the live release ‘Blot: Sacrifice in Sweden’) and given it a going over with a bit of distortion.  The track still features percussion from a Bodhran and the standard violin part, but the backing is a distorted electric bass and some general feedback.  This may not the best song Blood Axis have ever covered, but it still fits well into the groups evolving neo-folk sound.

Antonio Testa (Ita) / Alio Die (Ita) “Healing Herb’s Spirit” CD 1999 Crowd Control Activities

Earthy and shamanic (organic), rich textures slither, coil around the ears (embrace), leading the listener into all the remote pockets of unexplored terrain, a full-bodied excursion, and yet the sound is not cluttered or overwhelming.  Quite the contrary, the fascinating collage of instruments (including Woodblock rototom, bone flute, rainstick, Tibetan bowls, water pumpkin,  bamboo… stones, shells and leaves…electronics, samples, etc.) helps to create a diverse canopy under which the mind fills with images of forests (trees sighing…), wind and sky, of the residual ambience of eons long dead but still infused with vitality.  The result is an expanding array of sounds enmeshed in the fabric of ritual, of sonically soothing spiritual diversions that lead to transcendence, peaceful and yet invigorating.  Ah, but within this framework, the heart of the disc grows quite dark, leery, more mysterious…it is a prismatic travelogue incorporating many sonic colors or lacks thereof (reds, yellows, grays…blacks…) in a haunting and sporadically time-resistant cocoon…time standing still…losing meaning.  A nice transition that keeps the listener always attentive.  Calm, though quite invigorating…–JC Smith

Asmorod (Fra) “Derelict” CD 1999 Tesco Organisation

Asmorod create dark sonicscapes with a power electronics radiance, a scintillating balance of ancient, cathedral ambience (quite cavernous) and tension-laced noise. “Suspended Motion” opens with looped female vocals of a foreign (to me, at least) disposition. The darkness resonates, low hum shadows, pierced by a light that slashes, the wound secreting radiation. The exquisite sonic clarity (I’m thinking Stratvm Terror–Pain Implantations, though the impact is of a more restrained, insidious design) heightens a plethora of sonic possibilities: dense, moody clouds that shroud one in futility; the fluttering wings of unknown beasts; skittish, elastic tones that split the sonic belly, the dull throb of blood and viscera spilling forth…The track is held together via the despairing, underlying synths; synths that carry immense, mood-altering weight-a cocoon of melancholy. “Vaporscreen” follows, another foreboding synth backdrop unveiled, this time augmented with a sound akin to the slo-mo smack of wood to the back of the head and mysterious, layered samples that lead into torturous desperation samples–something hideous is about to transpire…An ambience of unease is achieved, tension again (so much tension), taut and stretched to the tearing point, static voices threaded underneath, threatening to snap…The sound of a thunderclap as heard from some buried vantage point opens “”Glass No Kamen II: Vitreous Structures,” before sonar blips introduce one of the most hunkered down in the heart of darkness synth lines imaginable–this one is so despondent I can feel the itch of the razor against my wrist. Brittle bones are then crunched underfoot as the listener is led through moist terrain, the moisture seeping through my speakers, reeking of blood, urine and tears, so many tears. The scope of hopelessness conveyed by these sounds is beyond comprehension…and then, distorted vocals into distortion loops and more samples…This is such finely honed music, every iota helping to weave tale of impending doom and imminent defeat. Finally, the track ceases amidst static, the sonar blips gone spastic, screams of feedback, strange, haunted voices…Brilliant, worth the price of admission, go out and buy this disc NOW! “Anaesthetic Season” is a change of pace, a less tense endeavor (a downshifting of aural gears), afloat on a rickety boat, courting a watery (back to the womb), somber ambience that eventually grows a bit worrisome-hesitant, uncertain-toward the end, no comfort found in the gentle tide as enigmatic synths and a disturbing, repeated sample (“scandal, murder, insanity, suicide”) address the listener with tones of unease…The bonus track, “Glass No Kamen I: Collapse,” re-establishes the Asmorod mandate of overwhelming tension, no respite for the curious, amidst whining feedback, brooding synths, static and distorted noise that sounds like laughter…An astonishing release-what more can I say?! –JC Smith

Atartaxia (Ita) “Lost Atlantis” CD 1999 Cruel Moon International

On Atartaxia’s follow up CD to the last Cruel Moon offering, much the same musical territory is covered here, hence depending on you thoughts on the former album (and most probably the albums preceding that released on different labels) I imagine that you would come to the same conclusion here. Exploring all aspects of ethereal medieval styled folk song writing (or pagan opera as the band describe it), on this album the group delves into the mythos and mystery that surrounds the legend of the sunken city…Atlantis.  All in all 11 tracks are featured ranging in length from as short as 40 seconds up to 11 minutes, giving the CD an overall length of just over 50 minutes. Stand out tracks include the sorrowful acoustic tune and operatic soaring vocals of ‘Aperlae’ and again the acoustic guitar is used on ‘Agharti’ but now having a more classical/ folk approach and more richly scored background.  ‘Oduarpu’ has the sound of a doom metal type song minus the vocals & heavy guitars, yet arriving at a similar depressing emotion. On minor complaint is in relation to the occasional use of programmed drums and overly synthetic keyboards.  Given that the majority of the music is sung or played on real instruments it gives the overall pieces a rich organic flavour which is slightly diminished via the use of synthetic sounding programming.  This case is illustrated where the title track has the opportunity to be a powerfully sounding marching folk tune, however the programming simply lets it down with a weak drum sound. I personally am not going to say that I am totally enthralled with this group (or this style for that matter), but this is more to do with my slant on what music I myself appreciate.  In their favour the group is genuine and sincere in all aspects of their art being accomplished in writing, playing & singing departments.  Certainly seek this out if the above description is at all enticing.

Atomine Elektrine (Swe) “Archimetrical Universe” CD 1999 Yantra Atmospheres

Keeping up with all of Peter ”raison d’etre” Andersson’s outputs with all of his projects is almost becoming a bit of a challenge within itself, not that the results are not rewarding!  This is the second CD by this project but sadly I missed out on the first CD released on CMI which has now been long deleted (I can only hope for Mr Karmanik or someone else to furnish it with a repressing).  This disc being released on Peter’s own label could be broadly defined as space trance, electronic ambience, but can be further categorised into two types of tracks ie: those with simply a space ambient trance focus, or the others with electro/ techno beat styled focus.  While there are melodies tinged with elements of sorrow, mostly speaking the music is hypnotic and soothing lulling the listener in the womb of the vast cold void of space.  Track one sets the scene of the space trance focus gradually leading into “Sagitarius Cloud” which has second above mentioned characteristic of the album.  Although it may appear that the two described styles would be diametrically opposed, they do fashion themselves very well together to created a highly positive result.  Of the tracks with the more techno beat elements are not really fast enough to be categorised for dance floor use, however would be more suited to a ‘chill out room’ type setting.  Not much more to say, but if you know any of Peter Andersson’s work you will be well aware that whatever he touched musically, does indeed turn to gold.  Definitely one of the modern day alchemists…

Atomine Elektrine (Swe) “Atom Extension” CDR 1999 Yantra Atmospheres

Given that the title of this is “Atom Extension” this review is going to be essentially an extension of the review above.  Not being an official 3rd CD, this is a limited release (100 CDR copies) of a collection of tracks broadly composed under the Atomine Elektrine moniker.  As the cover specifies it is split into two section: the first being recording around the time of the first Atomine Elektrine CD and with the second half stated as not being specifically Atomine Elektrine compositions (rather that they are mostly suited to this project more than any other of Peter’s projects).  Further to the above review I have also since managed to track down a copy of the debut Atomine Elektrine CD, which obviously assists in providing a review from a more knowledgeable perspective.

The first section entitles “The Elementary Section” certainly has the overall aura of the debut CD with more groove trance and ambient beat driven moments than the more space ambient electronica of the second CD.  Mostly the programmed beats and rhythms take to the forefront with the layers of synth treatments filling out the underlying elements of the compositions.  The flow of the CD is also more based on the moment and mood of each track rather than a clear connection between one piece to the next, with this differing to the “Archimetrical Universe” CD which is almost the opposite on all of the above accounts.  One unusual element (or for Peter’s works anyway in one of the tracks (‘Shining’) is a distorted guitar riff, but is mixed very low in the mix along with plenty of keyboard, thus and does not become an obvious elements, whilst a vocal sample from the plays over throughout (where else but from the move ‘the Shining!).

‘Hyperion End Theme’ takes a slightly different angle with a looped Gregorian speech and vocals, with the backing being almost neo-classical in style.   “Earthly Delights in Eden of Rusty Shells” has plenty of subdued groove but composition wise it has a certain medieval, tribal, folk feelwhich again differs greatly from the more tech ambient feel of the following track ‘Hypotension’.  And it is the brief description of the above three tracks which characterised the quite eclectic nature of these recordings and the mildly changing style between compositions on the first half. “The Extended Section” as an overview tends to be more ambient dub with a trance strain, but tracks such as “Electrokinetic” go all out (or a least more up beat than any of the other tracks) with synth generated strings and a mid paced beat and rhythm.  ‘Core Meltdown’ works with heavy distortion to generate static driven beats and a phased out and manipulated backing which takes its time to meander through it allotted time – which in itself would be characteristic of the later half of the disc.  The tracks are generally longer and more drawn out in introducing each element, whilst the earlier compositions usually get straight into it and obviously concludes more quickly.  With a total play time of around 73 minutes there is quite a bit to explore but mostly this will be one for the Peter Anderson complete-ist fan who is willing to take the time to track a copy down.

Atom Infant Incubator (Ita) “Quantum Leaps Lost Soundtracks” CD 1999 Slaughter Productions

First off, this disc has nothing to do with actually being lost soundtracks for any television show or movie or what-have-you; according to Marco (head of Slaughter Productions), it was just a title they (the band) decided on. Weird?  Yes, it is.  But the music does carry a distinctive soundtrack quality that I would like to hear more in movies; it also incorporates the pristine production and overwhelming sense of peripheral shadows subtly moving about that some of Nightmare Lodge’s work embodies.  “Escape” rides wood pounding against steel barrel echoed percussion and ominous synths, before it all disintegrates, stumbling into a fit of cluttered ricochet percussion.  The dense, fallen angel synths of “To Burn Away” lead us into a world that is beautiful and mysterious; the nervous slingshot cadences are most alluring.  “Spacewalker” orbits the earth, skittering beats tethered to a satellite, the tether eventually snapping, the skittish beats subsiding as the spacewalker drifts helplessly off into the cold void of the universe.  The crisp, delicate piano line of “Timeless Sonata” opens a doorway to an exotic locale cloaked in mystery, but the cloak is open for one’s observation, the sounds drawing one in…Stark, anxious synths decorated with fluttering sounds grow dense in the brief, compelling landscape of “Incedere Maestoso.”  “The Jewel Case” contains dripping icicle synths, freeing frozen insects in the process, upon which lovely, brooding synths are layered.  The whole CD is not so much dark as mysterious, a collection of compact soundtracks that trigger the brain, allowing the grey matter celluloid to unravel, images embracing emotions on the bone white cranial screen within us all. –JC Smith

Aube (Jap) “108” CD 1998 Old Europa Café

Of the Japanese noise/ experimental movement it is good to see not all groups are obsessed with S&M fetish subjects.  With Aube their concept is quite simple – use a different sound source material on every release.  While other Aube releases have used somatic sounds, lava lamps, steel wire etc, this release uses only sounds generated from bells. Figuring from the sound source you could wrongly assume a fairly organic sound palette, however given the electro acoustic treatments the sounds are more clinical in execution. ‘Gen-Shiki’ opens the CD using a resonating bleep like sound as the sound rises and falls rather than being specifically flowing.  Minimal and repetitive in approach the aesthetic of adding and subtracting sound elements it the main technique utilised. Apart from the low throbbing texture ‘Ni-Shou’ has a spacious glacial air prior to elements of a looped reverberating gong leaping in and out of the mix.

The overall sound production has avoided being loud and attacking to the ear (as Japanese noise is most notorious for) and while some tones verge on being ear piercing, have been reduced in capacity to better suit the more subtle background sound textures. ‘Zetsu-Mi’ contains quite a warm textural flowing piece of ambience that ever so slightly gains moment over its 9 minute length, with the following track ‘Shin-Soku’ being similar yet containing less warmth and more looped (subdued) structures. An eastern spiritual edge is alluded to via the cover with Japanese letters and an pair of hands in prayer with the music certainly suiting (in most part) a meditative state.

Beefcake (Ger) “polycontrale contra punkte” 1998 Hymen

With only my recent discovery of Ant-Zen and sub labels (probably discovery is the wrong word– more that I decided to start obtaining some of their items) this is one brilliant gem that I have had an extremely hard time prying out the CD player. Also for a note, forget the name and don’t let it turn you off, as I’m sure this group chose it for reasons other than related to a certain cartoon as any images conjured up from the name are probably far removed from cinematic break beat and cut up techno tunes on offer.  Much of the music works on dual levels with a relaxing drone and flow with sometimes moody beats but more often in the cut up, sporadic, scatter gun approach.  Scathing noise also make sporadic appearance but are always well placed and by no means overused.  Angelic vocal flow through the backing of ‘enjoy the silence’ over the base of static beats, with the track ‘beefcake’ taking things up a notch in energetic stakes with the hyped beats accentuated by the light keyboard tune plucks underneath.  ‘In uns-hope’ uses a well placed female vocal sample and brooding keyboard tune, over what is probably the most standard and retro beat on the disc, but the phaser and echo make it far from cliché.  On one track (phenylethylamin) mixes superbly a classical violin passage (which I know but can’t quite pick), along with a no frills lounge beat.  A total orchestral sample is used for the opener of ‘sein’ complete with a classical piano solo with not a hint of a beat in sight throughout the whole track – a cinematic piece at its best (although I get the feeling it might have been totally sampled).  Break beats are again on the menu in the next track being morphed through a variety of treatments and the flow string orchestra plays out a suspenseful piece with German radio voices entering the mix at radon. ‘Wake up and believe’ is a calling to all who have not been awakened to the brilliance of this DJ duo, containing a schizoid & rabid beat again over low keyboard washes, with the remaining tracks of the CD playing out in various combinations of the above described elements.   While the beats in contain within the music do give it a techno edge they are by no means constant repetitive base kicks of the derivative kind and in fact in most cases don’t have enough flowing passages that would make this close to danceable.  These compositions are much more suited to lounging around where they can hype the mood from an otherwise stagnant morbid trance and likewise clearly demonstrates that techno can be done brilliantly without having any association with the rave type culture. There is one last thing to say about Beefcake and that is that they keep a constant focus on how they produce the compositions but the wide array of samples, sound sources and beats utilised, means each track as a very distinct sound with a crystal clear studio production. Although a release from last year this has quickly become a stable favourite of this one.

Beyond Dawn (Nor) “in reverie” CD 1999 Eibon Records

The third release by Norway’s Beyond Dawn (though recorded in 1996, so it actually qualifies as their second endeavor) is a refreshingly somber affair, the music stripped down to an acoustic foundation upon which the (now familiar) trombone as well as violin and other assorted sonic accoutrements decorate.  Add to that the restrained, gothic-tinged vocals and the groundwork is laid.  Opening with “Need,” the feel is somehow reminiscent of early 70’s Bowie, not the glam eccentricities, but the acoustic dalliances, the clear, weary vocals nudged by the insistent trombone drone and sporadic guitar.  The piano of the resigned “Rendezvous” paces the slow strummed guitar, a melancholic violin that feigns joy, crying over the trombone. Squiggly electronics nervously tickle the despondent guitar of “Prey.”  The cold, droning atmospherics of Joy Division’s “Atmosphere” are heightened by the processional call of the trombone (I tell you, it’s a strange, unfamiliar addition-the ubiquitous trombone-but it works, somehow, within the realm of what Beyond Dawn creates), a doubling or more of the vocals adding to the cold…atmosphere. The off-kilter “Chameleon” contains processed vocals that mingle with the scrub/jangly guitars, building dramatically, the more regular vocals moaning in response, injured, uncertain (and maybe a little Michael Gira inspired).  Forget genre, here is a band that is, quite simply, trying to construct songs in an original manner, no matter what it takes.  I can’t tell you where they are going, I can only venture that whatever creative path they take, the results should be most interesting. –JC Smith

Black Lung (Aus)/ Xingu Hill (Ger) “The Andronechron Incident” 10” ep 1999 Ant-Zen

Stated to contain selected tracks from an upcoming movie, I’m not sure of the exact details of this flick, but essentially the release contains two long tracks, one for each side of the vinyl.  Having not heard any of the outputs of Xingu Hill before I’m not sure how relevant this release is to his normal sound, but the dark atmospheres of Black Lung are still evident, albeit with a bit more of a focus on the beats & groove. Starting with some gliched noise the first track (‘crimson skies and vapour trails’) soon finds its elements in the mid paced dub/ techno/ beat and the groove laden backing.  Easily accessible the polished sheen of the beats works on one level, while there remains an extensive underlying layers of sounds & noise to be explored on subsequent listens.  The beat remains the constant in the lengthy & flowing track, with the various layers added and subtracted, gradually morphing & evolving the overall atmosphere.  The glitched opening element makes another (late) appearance before the dark grooving beats and atmospheres kick in for one last round. Side two contains ‘spiders web end theme’ that starts with a clawing and droning sequence before the uptempo bass heavy techo kicks in.  About 3-4 layers of bass lines, breakbeats and the like are used to make a complex structure, again utalising layers of background textures.  Later in the track the dark cavernous background atmospheres rise to the foreground (as the beats are gradually removed), leading the track into its ultimate conclusion.  Dark, trancelike beats and grooves and uptempo techno break beats ensure a great listen complimented by obscure cover art that suits the music very well.  Recommended.

Brume {feat: Vrischika} (Ita) “S/T” CD 1998 Old Europa Café

Admittedly I don’t know anything at all about this group, other than I am slightly familiar with the name ‘Brume’ (but not likewise with ‘Vrischika’).  From first listens, the overall impression appears to be a CD within the ethnic/ esoteric realms that Old Europa Cafe have had a penchant for over recent times. Mystical elements of low distant chants, hazy background textures, traditional tribal type flute passages and chimes make up some of the many elements of these experimental and somewhat improvised sound collages.  Radio cut up voices are also spliced into the textural weave along with bangs and clatters of struck and manipulated (sporadic) percussion. The first track is a 19 minute meandering sprawl through the netherworld of sound that becomes more forced in certain passages which reveal scattered guitar plucks and wails (which to my ear jolts me out of a dream/ meditative state up until this section – not the best of things in my opinion).  The general mild guitar sound, noise, and random percussion clatter continues well into the midst of it before returned to more ambiental pastures, where the guitar is still quite audible but retains more of a flow into the last gasping minutes. The second offering takes an approach of a more traction tribal percussive backing, intermixed with again radio voices, a much more floating backing of washes of Indian type guitars giving off an aura of a peaceful drug soaked haze. Heavy ethno rhythm influences are abound in ‘Huescha’ containing various tape loops and found sounds with the following track taking a similar yet stripped back stance, containing a more menacing undercurrent. ‘Lost in Molecular Electronic’ might indicate a sound palette quite removed from the other tracks, and rightly so being solely based on charged static loops that is manipulations.  This more electronics type sound is continued into ‘Fanehuset’ while ‘An Introduction to Stability” gets an almost cut up techno feel (without the ‘doof’ beats) much like some the backing noise sections of Beefcake’s music. The final track chooses to take a more introspective feel with the haunting tune and folding and overlapping backing, ending what is a diverse and varied journey in music exploration and experimentalism. Black A5 card sleeve and limited to 500 means your will have to search via the normal suspects for this one.

Canaan (Ita) “Walk into my open womb” DCD 1998 Eibon Records

The second release by Italy’s Canaan expands on the style (darkened, pristine doom) and format of their exquisite first release, Blue Fire, an expansion presented on two discs: The Apathy Manifesto Chapter 1: Slavery, and Chapter 2: Deception.  The finger-picked, crystals on black ice guitar-lines may be the distinguishing element here, but it’s the instrumentals (almost every other song on each disc) that raise Canaan above the abyss of which most doomsayers reside, and I don’t mean just some little filler link between songs: these are fully sculpted excursions down different dark sonicscape paths that pack depth, power and mood-altering despair–they are of a quality most creators of black ambience would envy.  Slavery is highlighted by the cavern scoured eeriness of “The Glass Shield” and the restrained power and majesty of the title track, a power accentuated by  vocalist Mauro’s (he’s also the head of Eibon Records) varied, assertive yet somber approach.  Deception opens with Mauro in melancholic disillusionment while tombstone caressing waves of thick guitars fill the “Codex Void”; further in, “The Rite Of Humiliation” features the bloodless timbres of shadows sliced by glass. Throughout, the clarity and focus–be it sung or sonically whispered—are most alluring to the connoisseur of richly conceived doom and darkness; an essential release for anyone truly willing to taste the night’s foreboding, sonic elixir.  –JC Smith

Cataclyst (Swe) “Monuments of a Rubicund Age” CD 1999 Yantra Atmospheres

Another collectable CDR from Yantra Atmospheres limited to a mere 100 copies (mine is number 2 don’t you know!). and yet another side project to rasion d’etre, although this does not really count as it is a defunct collaboration project from a few years back (the other member being Johanna Rosenqvist who is now part of the power electronics project Institute). Almost tribal EBM the first track contains manipulated female vocals keyboard washes over a slow beat pulse, drawing a fleeting comparison to certain tracks of Atomine Elektrine’s first CD.  The tribal beat focus continues with ‘The Verge of Mortal Ground’ now being is the main focus with only looped sound & vocals as the backing. ‘Elwes in Sheeting Wind’ slightly resemble early raison d’etre works with layers of looped factory noise, synth generated vocals and minimally sorrowful atmospheric keyboards.  More dark and depressing keyboards are used on ‘Rubicund Age’ but are complimented by slightly forceful tribal percussive beats. ‘Rubicund Cloister’ is quite busy piece with many looped layered elements, including looped vocal snippets, choirs, beats and drones, being totally repetitious (not a bad thing though).  Predominantly noisier textures and beats are utilised on ‘The Serpent’s Fang’ almost stepping into noise territory, but held in check with some sporadic keyboard drones. The opening tracks makes a second appearance with a slight remix (in the beat and backing texture departments), yet it manages to remain faithful to the first version. The final track of the CD is the lengthy, 19 minutes ‘Dwarves in Hidden Realm’, which is a little disappointing given a shoddy and very repetitive beat.  Things barely pick up in the backing department with barely audible keyboards and a treated and looped vocal snippet (not in English).  This as the ending track is a shame given the nice atmospheres evoked on the preceding tracks. This CD is not really a place to start with being introduced to Peter Andersson’s music, rather for the completist fanatic.  Obtain a copy if you can……

Catharsis (Fra) / Drape Excrement (Ger) “homo homini lupus” CD 1999 Black Plagve

I’ve always been a little sceptical of split releases, but possibly this is due to the affiliation that these have had within the metal scene(by where two shitty demos would be slotted on the CD format for the label to make a few bucks).  Luckily this is not the case here as both, sections of music were specifically recorded for this release and compliment each other pretty well.  To start with a general overview, the sounds comprise of monstrous death industrial vibes tinged with elements of mild power electronics.  Many tracks form both groups brought to mind the works of Megaptera and now seeing that that project is defunct these two are left to duke it out for the title.

Catharsis take to the stage first with the track ‘Holywar’, consisting of low machine drones prior to a slow crushing beat sequence and other manipulated noise textures.  Far off in the background some tortured wails and synth tones are evident as the composition is gradually thickened with various layers of sound.  Non distinguishable vocals are also presented in a wailing voice akin to BDN as the monotonous textures take the track across a 7 minute span.  “…and silent sins” gives some respite with a more prominent synth passage and a swirling rhythmic backing prior to heading back into the factory driven, machine like pulse of “XI-nihil”.  Catharsis put the title track to sound, and while begins very distant and minimal, this is short lived as a mid ranged sustained squeal and pounding beasts enter the mix and become incessantly angrier as the track unfolds.  The final track for Catharsis (‘fire wind’) is a mid ranged swirling factory drone, again using the overlaid/ overlapped layers in the make up of the composition – no melodic moments to be found here and probably the most simplistic track on offer from the project.

Drape Excrement (who are reported to be a Soldnergeist side project) take up the second half of the disc, with a rather mixed take on the death industrial vibe.  Mind you they have come along way since the muddied death industrial tunes of the ‘Born Dead’ LP.  Here the sound have a much better clarity adding to the atmospheric of the production.  ‘Dark Skies’ has wealth of depth and breadth to the sound as it slowly rises and falls in circular drones gradually bringing new elements into the mix.  A heavily treated (slowed & echoed) vocal sample remind me slightly of Inade, and with the musical backing seems indicative of some of the awesome sounds coming from the German scene at the moment.  ‘birds, only birds?’ is more straightforward containing mildy forceful drones and a typically repeated ‘true crime’ type narrative snippet (which is nicely placed at various levels & points within the sound collage).  Underneath the cavernous textures of ‘lullaby for a society’ the track becomes somewhat orchestral with a half-played tune, symbolising the fate of the damned that it is dedicated to.  Both elements of the mix become more urgent toward the finally, where chimes and church bells solidify the prophecy of the musical damnation. ‘Sudden Death’ is a atmospheric calamity, composed by a multitude of layers of writhing sonic waves while ‘Engramm’ has chosen to plunder a monastery, taking hostage a lone vocalist, as the serene moment of his singing is gradually it crushed under an increasing factory drone.  The power electronics element is at the fore on ‘anger, remember to my words’ where a scathing processed voice spews forth a sermon of hatred as the static looping vibe acts as amplifying sound board – but as quickly as it starts it is over, being just over a minute in length.  The final two tracks that Drape Excrement have on offer mix it up with medium dosed tones, half rhythmic beats and a distant underbelly of synth and noise treatments (being much the same as Catharsis’s last track) where the tracks are more stripped back to basics for the final moments. To conclude grab this disc in the commemoration of the passing of Megaptera and bask in the darkness of the groups that are destined to rise to fulfil the legacy left behind.

Caul (USA) “Light from many Lamps” CD 1999 Malignant Records

Arriving at the forth CD from Caul, the music finds itself in its most complete and composed form.  The emphasis on dark layers has been somewhat minimised whereby they have been pushed to the background, letting the minimal and slow evolving sorrowful keyboard melodies take charge. Distant chimes and howling winds usurer in the first track as void like drones & angelic wails engulf the background and eventually the fore with the pinnacle reached with a single thunderous rumbling mass of sound dragging all down with it as it fades away.  String and wind sections replicated on a keyboard are mainly used as the basis for the compositional structure, (but are not derivative or in any way cheap sounding) along with piano and percussive elements. ‘The Blood Within the Veil’ takes a simplistic yet effective piano tune intermixed with a solo violin and oboe creating a suitable atmosphere.  ‘Thine Is The Day, Thine is the Night’ uses deep percussive structure with angelic vocals, completed with distant and minimal strings which becomes more tribal in beat someway in.  The following track has a more sinister tone and can be attributed to the darker drone elements allowed to make up the majority of the structure.  Bleak vocal textures and noises add to the rising tension. ‘By the Breath of God, All the Stars’ is a mildly rousing slow classical piece based on deep horns and shrill string melody.  ‘Midnight’s Tongue’ features from memory the first spoken vocals of Brett Smith within a Caul composition.  The music contains minimal backing with mainly acoustic guitar and keys, however in terms of the vocals I don’t feel that they sit all that well in the mix and would have been better left out. The cavernous darkly glistening tones reappear on ‘A Tapestry of Bone’ prior to an extremely bleak organ hymn taking over, further continuing into ‘The Twelth Golden Swan’ that is introduced and completed with shrill, unnerving tones.  Just as the CD is introduced with distant howling winds, thus they returns to conclude the disc and bring the work full circle. Overall this is certainly the class of CD Caul has been threatening to make given the rate of progression between previous releases, but although I still guess some fans will be disappointed in the move away from the darker droning elements. Nonetheless a fantastic body of work and in common with past Caul CD’s it is quite lengthy at over 70 minutes.

Chiron (Aus) “Eve” CD 1999 Energeia

To write a band off on one sweeping comparison is not fare to any group and lazy on a reviewer’s part, but yet I am compelled to do it regardless and particularly for good reason.  The comparison to be made with the music presented would be to ‘the Cure’ especially around the ‘Disintegration’ period (however I don’t use this is a negative comparison I use it as a benchmark of quality a musicianship).  Delving more into the sound, this is high class gothic rock with enough pop sentiments to be highly accessible coming across as fresh and catchy, being far removed from the standard goth groups wallowing in there self imposed misery and depression….all for the sake of image.  Also not being overly versed in this genre this has caught and held my attention over numerous listens which is very complimentary in itself and making another distinction the vocals are none similar to Robert Smith, rather that they range from commanding low, half sung sections to higher melodic parts. The second track on the disc “Ascent” accentuates the catchy motion of the song writing in the elements of drums, guitar and bass while the keys meander through the background.  “Point of no return” has an almost middle eastern edge to the guitar tune giving an exotic sound which also seems to be a trademark of the guitarist as it exemplifies quite a large portion of his style.  “Screaming” is slower and more of a progressive rock guise which an experimental tinge while “Night in Cairo” has a catchy bass riff as the main basis with layers of clean guitar floating lightly above and a flowing up tempo beat.   The title track “Eve” contains a nice dark atmospheric guitar, bass and keyboard layered track flowing into “Burn” that has a subdued swinging dub beat and melody and swirling guitar and keyboard treatments. A late track in the album “Into Sin” uses a heavy focus on both a quick programmed beat and keyboard, with guitars playing a minimal role rather being used to flesh out the sound scape.  All in all there are 12 tracks over a play time of just over 50 minutes, which only falters slightly on a couple of tracks were a mild case of gothic pretentiousness gets the better of them. As a last note I believe that members of this group used to be part of another band by the name of Ikon, which should give some of you a bit better idea of the genre this inhabits.  Even is this is not a style you would normally listen to check this out anyway as you might be surprised.

Chod (Fra) “Ishtar aux Enfers” 7” 1999 Athanor

Chod is a fairly new project of which I was first made aware on the exceptional ‘Lucifer Rising’ compilation CD.  While simplistically you could call Chod a death ambient group, that would not do them justice as they hold quite a complex sound.  Probably ‘archaic ambient’ would be a much better term by the atmospheres they present as there is nothing ‘modern’ sounding in any of their works. Track 1 (title track) starts with a sampled female choral vocal and throbbing undertone, prior to chime percussion and roaring, fiery tones being presented in a very primal/ ritualistic guise. Track 2 (‘le deluge Babylonien’) uses slow and heavy tribal drums, braying of wolves and a flute tune over what sounds like a field recording backdrop (which certainly adds to the breadth and scope of the soundscape).  Towards the conclusion of the piece some more rhythmic hand percussion is used along with a looped foreign vocal sample. Pressed on clear brown vinyl and with a nicely designed card cover these two tracks are exclusive to this 7”, with a debut full length CD on Athanor planned for imminent release.   Seemingly coming from nowhere, I’m sure Chod will become a well known name soon enough.

Compulsion Magazine Issue 3# (Eng) 1998

Another fine publication which has no linkage to the standard ‘fan-zine’, other than in concept & philosophy.  Having the appearance of a handbook rather than magazine  it is a professionally printed with gloss cover and glued/ bound spine.  The visuals, layout and presentation are simplistic yet effective with the main brilliance of this coming in the form of the interviews, articles and reviews.  With a sub-title of “surveying the Heretical’ it gives an idea of the slant, maintaining a non-censored forum for the expression of ideals and concepts.  I found the interviews to be particularly well informed and the answers to often be very thought provoking especially the one with R.N Taylor (of the band Changes).  The review section is jam packed and gives a snapshot of what has being going on over the past few years (with older reviews mixed with newer ones). While there is allot of music & subjects covered that I am well informed on, it also covers a wide array of topics which I am not so versed with, adding to the reading experience.  To give an idea of content it features: Blood Axis, Somewhere in Europe, James Manson’s Universal Order, Jim Rose Circus Sideshow and many others.  All in all a great read that will keep you engrossed for many hours on end.

Converter (USA) “shock front” CD 1999 Ant-Zen

Converter is the noisy, rhythmically annihilating half-brother to the doused in darkness industrial disarray of Pain Station, both fathered by Scott Sturgis.  Opening with the seething rumble and squeal of angry machines, “Conqueror” is then stomped under the heavy percussive footsteps of giants; once the percussion kicks in, an exercise in slingshot rhythm dynamics overlaid with a coat of fuzzy distortion, the relentless assault is on and there is no mercy to be had.  “Cannibals” devours the speakers via a rabid steel-brush scouring of an unknown machine upon which raw metallic rhythms continue to chomp and grind, chewing, digesting and excreting in cannibalistic glee.  “Sacrifice” gnaws in a subtly abrasive mode, rhythms multiplying as the track progresses, joined by hacking static and an exhalation loop, as if the machines are alive-so much of this incorporates the machines as a sentient entity, as if they really are alive! (And then there is the humming beehive towards the end of the track, an image of bees the size of dogs, adorned in metallic armor, fervently buzzing, attack impending…)  “Memory Trace” resides in a vacant alley, the ambience of acid rain corroding iron fire escapes and steel garbage dumpsters.  “Deadman (Perdition)” scalds the senses with catastrophic eruptions of noise lubricated with machine oil and sweat, fuel-injected adrenaline and blood pulsing through the metal pipe tunnels of the post-apocalyptic wasteland. The percussive typhoon presented here fits perfectly into the harsh Ant-Zen sonic mindset, seeping into power electronics, but with purpose and a rhythmic foundation.  Comes in a metal ‘booklet’ (two slabs o’ metal, my friends) encased in a standard jewel-case, most appealing; the weight feels good in my hands, and perfectly compliments the enclosed music. –JC Smith

Dagda Mor (Ger) “Agent Provocateur” LP 1999 Tesco Organisation

Having heard any of Dagda Mor’s earlier material (other than a compilation track) I must say that they have come up with a very good blend of death industrial and power electronics which is definitively German is sound. “You will not ridicule, you will not argue with me, you will not be friendly, you will be aloof…watch me suspiciously” is the repeated vocal sample of ‘Kollaboroator’ with low throbbing textures that introduces the first side of the heavy weight vinyl.  Next up ‘Filled with Hatred’ takes a power electronics aesthetic with agitated processed vocals and mid ranged yet slightly subdued sound attack.  Scraping narcissistic sounds and drones encompass a total aura of disdain on ‘G.M.R’, again utalising processed vocals and sample drowning in the sound mix. Incessant pounding beats and gradually tweaked noise/ drone layers & echoed/ processed vocals illustrate the themes of ‘we observe and we kill’ however this is purely from a sound perspective as there is little if no opportunity to follow the lyrics given their presentation. ‘E-D-O-M’ is both cavernous and atmospheric with most tones being presented in the ‘distance’ of the mix.  Cascading waves and warped sounds fill out the breadth of sound yet never becoming to overpowering, making it a classy slab of pure death industrial. The title track and opener to side two is nothing short of brilliant being a very militant sounding industrial anthem due to the percussive/ marching basis, as slabs of sound are thrown in for good measure, all whilst a lone voice informs us “you have 15 seconds to comply”.  Static overlapped and overdriven noise makes up much of the sound of ‘Night’, with much the same being found on ‘Mind Scan’ except for a bit more of a storming/ whip lashing structure and distorted vocal snippets. ‘Sturmruf’ takes yet another sound approach using a slow repetitive neo-classical type key tune, low spoken German vocals, scattered crowd cheering, vocal samples and underlying deep atmospheric tones (mind you it is a very good track if I didn’t already mention it).  The final offering on the wax (‘The Coming Race’) is an attacking noise loop & processed vocals which brings the sound of the LP full circle, showing a great mix of the earlier mentioned power and death elements. Another solid quality release in all aspects from the hands of the Tesco Organisation.

Deca (Ita) “Phantom” CD 1998 Old Europa Café

This is another Italian project I know little of apart from the name and I am at odds to how to describe this music.  The opener is literally all over the place being entitles “Extraterrestrial” and split into for parts.  Synth generated low key noise gradually breaks into flight with a space inspired keyboard run and programmed up beat drums which seems to remind me of a Mortiis side project Fata Morgana (I’m not sure yet if this is a good or bad thing).  Part two reveals more textural sound manipulation prior to another composed keyboard tune/ drum sequence which is not really dark in terms of ambient styled music as it is almost like listening to only the keyboard & drum machine section of a goth metal band.  The distant and discordant piano tune of part 3 work better to my ear as does the keyboard drones of part 4.  ‘Vision of Faith’ has drawn out sinister edge but the obvious synth generated noise textures and again the programmed beats, this time with vocals tends to give visions of a guy in a studio rather then painting a picture for the mind. While the title ‘Vision of Flesh’ of one of the tracks conjures up some dark imagery, this composition is far from dark, being unfortunately quite cheesy in the style of a keyboard goth band.  The final two tracks do a little better with some dark sound manipulations and an understated keyboard tuneNeither fantastic nor downright awful, this CD falls somewhere in between.

Descent Magazine Volume 5 The Death Issue (USA) 1999

Just flicking through the pages of this mag has me wondering what exactly I am doing with this thing! Descent 5# has a pristine and immaculate layout with stunning images and background textures, the majority in dark shades of grey and hearty serving of black.  The size has slightly altered from previous efforts in more of a square than rectangular size, with the cover presented in shades of blue and silver print and the whole lot printed on quality heavy weight paper (and card for the cover). In terms of content I have watched this magazine over the past few issues shift focus from death and black metal to more a euro-centric slant by including ambient, industrial, neo classical/ apocalyptic folk sounds coming from those territories.  While there still a handful of metal bands featured the main interest for people into Spectrum would be the featured artists such as: Blood Axis, Coil, Der Blutharsch, Dream into Dust, Ernte, Genocide Organ, Turbund Sturmwerk, Valefor, Boyd Rice among others.  This is filled to capacity with information and reviews, to the point where it only gives rise on one criticism….and that is in relation to that the majority of the text has been reduced to such an extent it sometimes becomes difficult to read, especially when overlaid over changing background textures.  However given the magazine is still 64 pages in length I gather the text reduction would have been a necessity to retain all interviews and keep printing costs in check. Also really a minor point in the grand scale of things.  Both angles of music and philosophy are contained in the line of questioning and come across as extremely well informed and thought out.  The abundance of contributors likewise assists in providing different styles of focus between interviews and reviews. This is a supreme issue beyond any comparison to fanzines and likewise to a swag of other ‘professional’ magazines out there.

Der Blutharsch (Aut) “Der Sieg des Lichtes ist des Lebens Heil” CD 1998 WKN

After gaining quite a bit of notoriety in his last (now defunct) duo project “..the moon lay hidden beneath a cloud”, Albin Julius has gained quite a bit of respect with his new solo formation ‘Der Blutharsch’.  For those unfamiliar, Der Blutharsch are essentially one of the main rising acts in the neo-classical/ apocalyptic folk movement, which has been gaining rising recognition of late. This CD is not Der Blutharsch’s first release as there has been a 10” ep, 7” ep and 5×7” box set, however as these items were ridiculously limited (between 2-300 copies each) this will be most easily obtainable item for a new listener.  I believe that this CD contains most of the tracks off the 5 x 7”ep box set with reworked version and other songs not featured on that set. The music itself is very varied in tone and composition ranging from rousing marching hymns juxtaposed against more brooding classical/ folk moments, even to the point that the CD opens with an original recording of a traditional German folk type song.  On a whole, the compositions consist of a varied mix of synthesised sounds, sampled & looped classical pieces, pounding marching drumming, Germanic voice samples and monotone spoken vocals.  Overall I don’t think the music could be described as anything other than ‘historic’ in feel, with the sound and aura being highly convincing in production particularly heightened with the use of era recordings. Almost no information is provided about the disc whatsoever, with no title details, track listings, or recording information being printed (other than a label address).  All I can really tell you (other than not much!) is that the disc contains16 tracks over a 66 minute length. The artwork of the cover is printed in silver on high quality stark black card, detailing a historic battle illustration.  Over this image the Der Blutharsch logo is cleverly printed in clear gloss and can only be viewed from certain lighting angles. Although the CD is varied in sound and theme, it is brought together in such a way that it has an impeccable flow, engulfing the listener in a celebration of elements of past European history.  For those who already know the music of Albin’s previous project, this will not disappoint, and for the rest this is a great place to start with his current musical direction.

Der Blutharsch (Aut) “Gold Gab Iac Fur Eisen” Video/MCD 1999 WKN

Seems as though the neo-classical/ neo-folk movement is constantly trying to outdo itself with packaging and presentation (with the fan ultimately paying for these indulgences).  This little number is housed in a military green leather replica, silver and black embossed box, containing green slip cases for both the video and CD and booklet of live images.  All items are immaculate in presentation and featuring such images as spear endowed warriors, sigal runes and an iron cross. Opening the CD is a shrill whistle and someone announcing “Actung…Der Blutharsch” in a commanding yell (which is credited to being Boyd Rice).  The first actual track is the era recording track (which also opened the “Der Seig….” CD), then it is onto the real live section which consists of a DAT background recording of samples, keys and vocal snippets, overlayed with live militant drumming and live deadpan spoken vocals.  Most of these tracks I seem to remember from when I saw Der Blutharsch live (see the gig review elsewhere) but obviously not all of them as this live recording only spans 26 minutes. The CD does include two tracks of ‘Der Sieg…’ CD and the anthemic reworking of a couple of ‘TMLHBAC’ tracks (but now with more vocals than the original), however I am not sure if the other tracks are renditions of new or older compositions. In terms of sound production, while the following in not really a major complaint, there does seems to be separation in the sound with the live drumming and vocals tending to stay loud and high in the mix while the DAT recordings get somewhat buried.  The set list on the video features the same tracks as the CD but being complimented with footage shot throughout the Der Blutharsch 1998 European tour.  The visuals for the opening track (the era recording) take on somewhat of a ‘holiday shoot’ with various shots of Der Blutharsch and Co. (which includes Douglas P, Boyd Rice and others) in various cities and locations.  With the actual live stuff it is filmed from many angles and heavily bathed in dark glowing lights to add to the atmosphere.  Post production has then spliced and overlaid the footage, finally finishing it with a grainy presentation.  For the live shows it features John Murphy on percussion and both Albin Julius and Klaus on vocals and again with Albin contributing some additional percussion (This slightly differs to when I saw them live as only Albin was present out front with vocals).  Again the separate gig review elsewhere will give a good idea of the groups stage presence and presentation. Overall this is quite a very pricey item but I’m glad all the same that I purchased a copy.

Deutsch Nepal (Swe) “erosion” CD 1999 Staalsplaat

After signing something like a 4 or 5 CD deal with Staalsplaat, Lina Baby Doll has finally got the first of these CD ‘s off the ranks after quite a lengthy break from his last release on CMI. This does vary quite a bit from the established Deutsch Nepal sound however still holds a distinctive style inherent in Lina’s work.  While I would dearly like Lina to pursue a style like the sounds on an earlier track entitled “Gouge Free Market” it would appear that he is both developing as an artist an is willing to explore a lot more territory with his works. The opener (and incidentally the title track) uses a creepy distorted horn and keyboard sound with low deathly wailing type vocals which are very much like what Roger K has used in BDN works.  Never to fail with providing totally weird and indescribable vocal snippet samples, “Surgery II” features one such vocal snippet over a background of a slow heartbeat pounding and scattered hypnotic sounds. “Collapsing Surface” spans over 13 minutes and on face value is straightforward and repetitive, but on closer audile scrutiny it shows the lightly composed clanging sounds are gradually overlaying and shifted to create a myriad of shifting rhythms as elements are gradually introduced and subtracted. We are treated to some crooning by Lina himself on “How Low…” and while not a true singer by any means it does result in a nice atmosphere with the undertow of keyboard treatments and vocal chants. “Your Just a Toy” is nothing but a totally off the wall sample of a 1930’s-40’s musical complete with a dreamy orchestra and male/ female duet.  With absolutely no treatments or alterations this just has me scratching my head in disbelief at the reasoning behind it inclusion, but I guess that is Lina for you?!  “Static” is featured as a highly repetitive yet rousing rhythmic track, which is much more akin to Deutsch Nepal’s earlier works than the remainder of this album.  The final track “Faint Retard” somehow manages to portray its title very, very well, with a dark yet slightly off centre composition of sounds, pounding beats and quirky rhythm. The packaging is definitely homage to Lina’s statements that there is not content in the music other than artistic merit, as the CD photos do not point to any established look or themes prevalent in so much of post industrial/ ambient culture.  No doubt with future releases Lina will again take us on an weird journey into his avant-garde world of music.

Death in June (Eng) “Take Care and Control” CD 1998 NEROZ

Well, DIJ have certainly taken off on quite a different and interesting tangent with their latest release.  On this album Douglas P has enlisting the services of Albin Julius from Der Blutharsch, with this certainly shows in the direction change.  While much of the trademark DIJ sound has been brought about via acoustic guitars and understated half sung vocals, this is much more in the neo-classical/ apocalyptic folk guise.  The vocals however are still present in most of the tracks and as always poetic and insightful. “Smashed to Bits (in the Peace of the Night)” opens with a searing noise loop before distant horns usher in an orchestral string section, setting the classical tone of much of the album. “Little Blue Butterfly” is still very DIJ in flow with a chorus/ verse/ chorus of morose vocals, but instead of a main acoustic guitar it is substituted with pound of a tympani heartbeat, folk percussion and synth generated tune.  A heavy basis on the lower ranged stringed instruments of the orchestra, only lightly filled out with samples, vocals and piano repetition “the Bunker” is quite a slow track, more ambient than aggressive and incidentally is featured twice on the album, one with and one without vocals. “Kameradschaft” simply by virtue of a full and rich production has taken the traditional DIJ acoustic guitar based track to new heights, overlaid with various layers of vocals, bells, chimes and keyboard generated instruments, being both tragic and sinister in subtle anger. Both romantic and militant in morose celebration, “Frost Flowers” has both a low industrial vibe and classical flow and kettle drums and floor toms pound away somewhere in the distant background alongside samples and choir like vocals.  The militant sentiments of the proceeding track are fully realised on “A Slaughter of Roses” with the heavy martial percussive basis, provocative samples, scattered industrial noises and poetic vocal sermon.  “The November Men” is a surreal ambient and somewhat experimental passage with both vocals and backing being purposefully subdued.  Other gems that contain the classical/ apocalyptic sounds are to be found on tracks “Power has a Fragrance”, The Odin Hour” and “Despair” with the later being a supreme orchestral number with soaring female vocals with the forever present martial percussion.  Classic DIJ, complimented with a new direction……

Dream into Dust (USA) “The World we have Lost” CD 1999 Elfenblut

This CD is quite hard to put into words…..the sound seems to be constantly changing & evolving, yet at the same time has the perception of being a photo that has frozen a moment in time forever (as if to represent a forlorn image of the past).  Probably much of this perception comes from both the mix of style contained in the music and the images of the cover which are although early wartime shots, don’t seem to be celebrating or condemning the concept of war, rather illustrating its pure reality.  (Or alternatively maybe they are a symbolic representation of the philosophy behind the CD’s title?). On with the music…“Maelstrom” (the opener) is a swirl of plucked & bowed violins, menacing horns and a creepy undercurrent of industrial chaos, prior to flowing into the cleanly strummed guitar, cold half sung vocals of “Cross the Abyss” which then gradually morphs into an industrialised gothic/ doom type song (but which is not derivative of either of the said scenes).  And there you have it within the first two tracks…..it is this said intermixing of styles (be those from ambient, industrial, slight goth and doom tinges to subdued neo-classical/ apocalyptic folk) makes for almost new genre in which I can’t really compare this to much at all.  It is as if you took away half of any of the compositions makeup it would could potentially be placed into any of the above categories, yet when overlaid together makes appropriate descriptive terminally quite elusive. Poetic vocals are included in many of the compositions, but never being overstated, rather acting as a minimalist narrator with the words being spoken or at other times half sung.  Such an example is “Mercury Falling” with a marching drone sequence, drudging bass that seeps into the plucked & strummed acoustics and myriad of overlapping sound textures of “Nothing but Blood”.  Crescendo type moments are attained on  “Farewell to Eden” which has a heightening effect to the more somber mood of the other compositions and particularly in this instance sounding off the factory industrialized sinister tones of the preceding track “Enemy at the Gates”. Overall I would characterize the mood of this CD to be bleak and introspective yet it still remaining a challenging and always an interesting listen that is definitely worthy of your time.

Ex. Order (Ger) “The Infernal Age” CD 1999 Power and Steel

“Don’t speak.  Don’t move.  I kill you.”  The Infernal Age is a collection of subtly sinister sonicscapes that unfold like an interrogation.  The first track, “Force 77,” opens with swirling, fluttering electronics upon which the sample in quotations above is barked; other samples are interlaced, all amidst an ambience that takes us into the callused heart of war, below the shrapnel sprays and reek of blood, and into the heart of cruelty, of pure evil.  “Under Command” follows, radio static vocals, a plodding, dirge-like beat, and electronics spiraling into the brain like a corkscrew-a slow digging descent into complete disarray.  (I can feel the wire digging into my wrists, I can feel the rusted nail tearing at my scrotum as I squirm-there is no escape.)  “Logic Bomb” devours logic, a looped wall of crackling distortion over which bombs are dropped, repetitious by design, a Chinese water torture put to sound.  The whole CD courts this venomous strategy, unrelenting and mind-numbing.  The pure mental corruption of “Kemper Ballad” signals that all hope is nullified: a menacing low hum is augmented with samples of one who speaks of the power and confusion and perverse enlightenment of premeditated murder; the story unravels, cold and dead (think Illusion Of Safety, circa Historical), the sounds growing more prominent as the track progresses, yet never reaching critical mass. Unnerving and brilliant, a masterpiece of psychological depravity, an audiocumentary of lucid insanity.  “Test Area L.A.” is constructed around surging waves of simmering, hostile ambience, just on the brink of power electronics; the ending speaks of God and violence and the melding of both.  “Pain Amplifier” pulses with neuro-inflammatory insistence, the controlled, calculated design forged by the samples and sounds, rendering the listener hostage.  Eight tracks of psychologically incendiary ministrations cluttered with devious samples.   (Of course, as this is a side-project from Rene and Knut of Inade, one would expect nothing less than the absolutely mesmerizing presentation here.)  –JC Smith

Exotoendo (Fra) “S/T” CD 1998 Old Europa Cafe

Seems as though France is stating to generate a few class acts for this scene with the above being one such group. Containing both a mystical and esoteric edge this is sinister dark ambience done with original flair. Roaring out of the abyss, the CD envelopes the room in bleak sound textures having a depth of sound seemingly stretching from the infinite point of origin to the earthly realms of listener’s ear.  In amongst the subdued chaos and catacomb depths, a lone male vocalist chants for redemption being gradually blanketed by waves of sound. Pan pipes and wood flutes seem to make up the start of track two underscored with a light tribalised beat and distant vocalisations as the thunderous layers pound their way into consciousness.  Version 3 of ‘inner picture’ uses chimes and layers of vocal chants and voices being both serene and sinister, somewhere between salvation and damnation.  Maybe a comparison to a less bleak early Achon Satani would be fitting for this composition. ‘Between’ marks the mid point of the CD being you guessed it being in between the two parts of the disc, the earlier three versions of ‘inner picture’ and the later three versions of ‘outer picture’.  Playing out like a suspenseful tolling chime, it gives the perception of something being evoked and the inevitable change to follow. Version 1 of ‘outer picture’ is less dark than proceeding tracks being more tribalised with vocals hand percussive beats, chimes rattles and wind pipes.  This is probably the most evident change between sections, in that the former tracks contain more dark elements while the later more tribal, however it is good to see on the last track it takes a 14 minute spiralling journey back into the silent depths. Parallels could be drawn to the likes of the spiritual minimalist ambience of raison d’etre’s last CD and to other pioneers such as Lustmord, however this is yet another interpretation that intermixes various sounds to good and original effect.

Five Thousand Spirits (Ita) “Mesmeric Revelation” CD 1999 Crowd Control Activities

Five untitled tracks, no guidelines for perception (no tracks entitled, say, “Into The Mystical Valley Of Petrified Dreams,” or some such concoction, which could possibly influence one’s perception of the sounds incorporated therein, as opposed to the bungee drop approach of untitled tracks) except in the ears of the individual listener.  Raffaele Serra and Stefano Musso (Alio Die) specialize in rich, full-bodied sonicscapes that swirl and surround, tethered to crevices in the void, whether via chips of plastic crumbling off of the drone-chiseled facing of a radiant sonic plateau (track three), or sailing on obsidian waters, the horns of night extinguished by wooden mallet on steel thunder strikes (track five), or simply capturing within the layered synth net, the cadences of resolute, comforting solitude (track four).  A subtly powerful journey into synth augmented silence made palpable that opens one’s ears to the vast unexplored landscape within the mind…–JC Smith

Frozen Faces (Swe) “Religion of Hate” 7” ep 1999 Entartete Musikk

The first LP from the project came about by Lina of Deutsch Nepal creating a number of compositions that were too noisy for his main project, thus this side project was born.  While the tracks on “Broken Sounds for a Dying Culture” were reasonable noisy industrial type tracks, the title track of this 7” is pure unadulterated power electronics.  High end modulated static and drudging clatter ring out with proceeded and looped vocals sitting mid region, spewing forth words of hateful condemnation, being more threatening in intent than hell bent of delivering an all out assault. The second track on offer on the wax is a track that I guess only Lina could get away with, and it is an understatement to say that the track is far removed from the power electronics moment found on side A.  Highly experimental looped rhymic beat clatter this is far more playful than it is dark with Lina’s processed voice (being barely audible) ordering us to go “over the barricades” (hence the tracks title). Comes with a simple slip case, adorned with images of bullet and blade weapons just to be nice and ambiguous.  Worth it for the title track alone.

Genitor Lvminis (Swe) Deam Adessa 10” ep 1999 StateArt

This new group which I know next to nothing of has been billed as an extension to the groups like Der Blutharsch.  While I agree with this to an extent (and mainly due to the homage paid to a neo-classical style) the two groups are quite removed with this not being in the slightest a cheap copy of the former mentioned group. The packing of this is very nice, housed in a olive military green slip sleeve and nicely sized booklet inset, which is only really provided for aesthetic value than to provide information about the recording.  That aside the music itself is mournful and sinister classical compositions, using the obligatory marching snare, deep horns, stringed sections and occasional distant choirs.  The compositions choose to mostly stay low key and understated rather than revealing an all out bombastic marching attack (although one track does choose this strategy).   Of the four tracks presented (no titles provided) repetition is the main basis laying down the theme and gradually building on it over somewhat lengthy passages, becoming gradually more stated in overall atmosphere. It seems from the short passage provided on the insert that this release has drawn inspiration from studies in the field of esoteric European history, coming up with a nice musical result in the process.

Hazard (Swe) “North” CD 1999 Ash

With this CD I just happened across it in a store (that incidentally I rarely visit) a week after its release.  To say that finding it was a surprise is an understatement, as I had not even caught wind of its imminent release.   Benny has this CD scheduled as his fourth Hazard CD after two upcoming releases on both Malignant Records and Cold Spring, but it seemed these other two were pushed back in favour of getting this CD out first.  For those not up to speed with this project it is the new musical face of Benny Neilson of Morthound fame (who has released one CD under the Hazard moniker on Malignant Records). Again Benny has shown with all of his musical projects he is willing to change focus and direction as he sees fit.  From the outset of viewing the bleak grey packaging with writing almost indistinguishable through colour and font size, it gives an indication of the cold and bleak atmospheres held within. It is if Benny has trapped the temperature of the Antarctic within the sounds presented.  Gone is the emphasis on liquidous flow of sound rather replaced by slowly creeping and unnerving tones intermixed with random low level noises and mild clatter giving off an overall atmosphere of if you were listening an impending snow storm far off in the distance or visualising a baron lake freeze with the onset of winter. Seven lengthy tracks are presented and on initial listens appears to cover a lot less ground than the debut Hazard disc, but on repeated rotations this is where the ingenuity lies giving off a hypnotic trance like effect.  Between the backbone tones, subtle noise & clatter some tracks use more composed slowly repeating bass rhythms such as on “Tangled mass” while the  track “The vibrating room” uses both a low vocal sample (not in English) and a ‘dubbish’ type beat towards its conclusion. The other two upcoming Hazard CD’s are meant to again vary quite differently from this CD with one including mostly live material.  I for one will be interested in whatever Hazard comes up with given the quality of the first two releases thus far.

Holocaust Theory (USA) “Inception of Eradication” CD 1998 Possessive Blindfold Recordings

A powerful release from America’s premier purveyors of doom industrial cum apocalyptic fury cum pummeling ferocity, Holocaust Theory.  The veil has been removed: the soul-wrenching darkness of their first release, Proclaimed Visions, has been modified, mutated, and grown quite aggressive on their sophomore release, Inception Of Eradication.  A more noisy ambience is present, infiltrating everything from the prevalent, looped, militaristic machinery percussion; to the blood-soaked synths; to the distinctly distorted, uniquely enunciated (though sparse) vocals.  “Rain Phase 5 (The Six Stages Of Holocaust)” sets the stage, a turbulent downpour of torrential electronics, both beautiful and fierce.  “As Death Approaches” comes in the standard, ominous stomp and clattering electronics version, and the shattered glass sheen of the completely manipulated into indistinguishability “vacuum mix” by Gridlock.  The “Man Vs. Machine” trilogy (“1A,” “2A,” and “3A”) portends an epic, futuristic playground/battleground in which man and machine duel for supremacy; the caustic electronics and shellshock percussion of this masterpiece renders the listener weary from the audacious onslaught.  That’s only a sampling of the 13 tracks to be perused on this outstanding disc, easily one of the finest examples of American industrial with European flair (specifically, the agro-noise found on Ant-Zen–in fact, there is a great, spitting bullets remix of “Cig” by one of A-Z’s favorite noisemeisters, Noisex’s Raoul Roucka); most American bands do not have the testicles to chew up this much shrapnel splattered noise, spit it out and chew it up again.  Holocaust Theory bare their canines and demand more…–JC Smith

I-Burn (Ita) “Ipertermia” 10” EP 1999 StateArt

This is the second release of this very promising project from Italy, after the release of their debut CD (which was incidentally in two different versions on two different labels). The material presented here are tracks of nicely dark and foreboding layers of death industrial/ manipulated noise (derived from guitars, samples and PC’s) that gradually rises to elements of overloaded intensity.  While this does get quite noisy in parts I would not say that it gets forceful enough to be passed off as power electronics. The first side of the 10” (which contains the title track) commences with building pulsating and throbbing tones complimented with mild static frequencies.  A guttural pounding beat towards the middle of the track takes to the fore before the second wave of more forceful static noise kicks in to lead the tracks to its conclusion. Side B opts for three shorter tracks and the first track ‘HCE’ has more of a cold glacial sound that is not a static driven as the opener.  ‘Corticate’ being a little over three minutes consists of a number of simplistic noise loops (overlapped at various points) and again static interludes.  The last track to be featured (‘Re-Prophesyng Non-Motion’) takes a slightly different take on I-Burn’s sound via the inclusion of a mid paced pounding rhythmic beat over the gradually boiling background tones. This release is quite a bit louder than the debut CD and gone are any initial comparisons initially made between I-Burn and Brighter Death Now.  With a number of CD’s and collaborations in the pipeline I look forward to future output.

Imminent Starvation (Ger) “Nord” CD 1999 Ant-Zen

There was a hell of lot of hype that surrounded the metamorphosis of Imminent Starvation’s sound from their debut CD to this, the second release, and while I have not yet heard the debut CD ‘Human Dislocation’ I have nothing but praise for this disc. Starting with the packaging it suits the music perfectly, presented in tones of silver and blue, and might I add that only S.Alt has the ability to use pictures of river reeds and to fit them perfectly into the overall look of a CD such as this.  For those unaware of the music Imminent Starvation producecorrosive, over driven, energetically structured, industrial strength technoise.  The albums opener ‘Nor’ starts as more of an alarm bleep than an actual track, but more than anything this track is representative of why Imminent Starvation works so well.  Using one noise sample on it own may be nothing of consequence but aligning it into a gradually building, overall rhythmic beat driven soundscape makes it part of the exceptional whole.  Also on face value it is the overdriven rhythmic beats that grab you at first, but more so it the underlying cold oppressive soundscapes that gradually weave their way into your subconscious after repeated listens.   Furthermore it is the length and repetition of the track that achieves an almost trancelike, cinematic feel even with the harshest of beats and loops. While all tracks are of a extremely high calibre, standouts even above these would have to be ‘tentack one’, ‘lost highway (exit)’, ‘vni’, ‘arles’, ‘ire’ & ‘parle’ (hey, wait a minute I just picked over half the album as highlights…sheeez…..the more I think about this the better a release I realise it is!). While there will is no doubt that this will have a crossover appeal to dance floor types who are into harder, heavier edged techno, but this also contains core elements of dark industrial music to appeal to a wide spectrum to those both in the scene and those not affiliated with it.  Without a doubt one of the highlights of 1999! (note: since reviewing this I tracked down the debut  CD and while in itself is a great release it is only a taster of what excellence that is found on this album).

Inade (Ger) V.I.T.R.I.O.L  7” EP 1999 Loki Foundation

Inade do it yet again, managing to attain some of the darkest atmospheres through the use of a huge variety of sounds and styles from release to release.  Having used a more death industrial and dark ambient focus on past compositions, the two tracks presented delve much more into ethnic and occult sounds. Track 1 opens with a Tibetan monk chant and an underlying metallic clatter that has the ability to creep up on the unaware listener by the dynamics being kept simple with the sounds and tones gradually looped and overlapped to create the echoed and rising feel. Track 2 is again foreign to any sounds I have heard from Inade before, being very occult in feel and would not be out of place on a soundtrack to a horror movie (and by that I don’t mean cheesy b-grade schlock).  Discordant shrill strings set the unnerving tone as the background gradually metamorphosis’s to the fore of weighty throbbing and droning percussion.  Despite the eventual focus on the percussion the orchestral string feel is not lost, rather that it tends to lurk in the background as the other elements take over.  Although a short track it is probably the most intense tracks Inade have created thus far.  This is one release you should not miss….

Jaalportit (Fin) “Kauan koskematon” MC 1999 Noitavasara Distro

Probably a project know only by a few at this point but this is likely to change with the quality of this debut tape release (however in which musical scene it becomes popular remains to be seen). I tend to get the feeling that this project has strong links to the black metal scene given a number of factors.  Firstly the cover and logo look very black metal in style and concept (including a silhouetted corpse painted face), secondly the music is very much like those intros or keyboard segments black metal bands compose (even to the point it is written like symphonic black metal without the guitars) and thirdly it is very much in the league of other crossover groups such as Mortiis, Penitent & Cernunnos Woods.  In terms of these comparisons it is not intended to give a bad impression of the tape, but rather give a perspective of what to expect. Back to the comment in the opening sentence, surely most black metal fans would find little of complaint as this contains all the necessary dark medieval sound structure, however how much the ambient/ industrial scene embraces this is the real question (given an evident dislike for such projects as Mortiis). The overall music is flowing, well structured classical/ medieval music composed solely on a keyboard.  While it does result in a synthetic sound, the production is decent giving a rich, multi layered sound.  Usually a central theme is picked and built upon with representations of the various elements of an orchestra, all slighter differing in approach giving a good breath of sound.  Compositions are kept at a mid to slow pace with each track meandering through various passages but ultimately arriving back at the main structure.  The composer does have a good grasp of the instruments (or be it keyboard) and playing is above one finger playing.  The overall feel is majestic yet mournful rather than being overly bombastic. All in all the tracks presented are of a high quality caliber, running for a total length of around 30 minutes, complimented with a pro-printed cover.  The overall result is a more than commendable effort for a debut cassette.  It is a bit of a shame that the CD format could not have been used (or even CDR) as quite a few people these days can no longer be bothered with tapes.

Janitor (Swe) “ritchie” LP 1999 Entartete Musikk

Janitor is the collaboration of two of Sweden’s premier dark sound manipulators, being Lina of Deutch Nepal and Benny of Hazard.  The four tracks which make up this LP (or more of a MLP with its overall length) take a pretty straight path, then for me only to realise that the path is running through collective weirdness created by this collaboration. “Skinned Knees” takes a middle line between the two projects intermixing somewhat recognisable soundsources from each – being the more low key dark ambient elements.  In this I would attribute the minimal quirky looped beat to Deutsch Nepal and the creeping atmospheres to Hazard.  With the elements of the dark throbbing beat and serpentine undercurrent it makes for a strong opening cut.  In part, interview vocal samples are included seeming to refer to the title of the LP. Rather then being content in producing many tracks of this ilk, the next track is a cover of a Nico song “all that is my own”.  Having not heard any of this groups works it is a bit hard for me to comment on the effectiveness of this rendition, however the beginning section had me quite fooled.  A number of mild sonic layers are built up having me think that Nico might have also been ambient music but that incorrect assumption was soon to be shattered when the more programmed song structure made its entrance.  Chimes, beats and percussive sounds are produced into a darkened mix with dual vocals of Benny/ Lina being a deadpan singing style really throwing this track out there in the quirky stakes.    While neither of the artists are fantastic vocalists they make a commendable effort which suits the overall weird atmosphere the track manages to create. Side B offers up a slightly driven dark ambient piece on “Like an Angel” which is much noisier than the proceeding ones as it contains a overtone of power electronics via a hefty slab of looped and manipulated static.  Vocals attempt to rise out of the swirling molten mass but are quickly drowned and rendered indecipherable through the noise element – all the while the pulse beat gradually become angrier to match the writhing loops. The final track “Traktor” takes more interview/ movie samples to illustrate the title theme and inspiration with the music back to a focus on dark ambient/ industrial driven manipulations of the more factory/ cavernous kind – with there being no real need to point out that it is done extremely well. The tracks on this are indicated that they have been record over a period of three years from 1996-1999 making quite a bit of sense when related to the shifting style and sound of the tracks.  The record itself is pressed in black vinyl housed in a grey/ white slip sleeve complimented by a nice cover image.

Jilat (Eng) “Jilat9902” CD 1999 Jilat

“A long drone-like piece of music made with synthesizers, samplers and digital delays which attempts in its minimalism to be a thing in itself without external reference, having an analogue in certain states of consciousness where being in experienced also as a thing in itself and not a contingent on meaning or purpose”.  There you have it, the statement printed both on the promo document and the back of the CD slip sleeve describes the release in a nutshell.  Sounds interesting? It did to me it did when the CD arrived unexpectedly in the mail one day.  As I placed the disc into the player it revealed itself to be one single track with a playtime of 70 minutes ….thus far staying true to the intentions of the above statement. Atmospheric, synthetic yet somehow containing an organic edge, the sound make up sits in the mid to high range, with a flowing, mildly droning, yet slightly wavering edge to the notes explored.  As much as it enthralled me on initial listens,  I soon found my mind wandering away from the music rather than into it…which is not really a positive.  Giving this some thought I found the answer was simply due to the shear repetition and non movement of the overall sound work. Part of the problem is that piece is not minimal enough to get away with being so repetitious.  The recording level and sound tone tends to give the hint that at any moment it will soar off into the horizon, bus as this never eventuates it dashes the obvious expectation, causing subsequent disappointment, soon followed by boredom.  A shame really as if this was say a 10-15 minute piece it would certainly be a pearl. With move movement and sound exploration I’m sure this group could come up with something quite interesting (as I have not heard earlier CD’s I can’t compare) but unfortunately this disc falls a little flat.

Kerovnian (Lit) “Far Beyond, Before the Time” CD 1999 Cold Spring

The nature of weird (occult-laden, Lovecraftian…) darkness is explored on the first release by Croatia’s Kerovnian.  The darkness here is vast, a shroud stretched taut along the heavy wings of eternity,  and eerie, never comforting, always uncommon and mysterious, suggesting demonic conspiracies and appalling resolutions.  The vocals are uncanny, sometimes highly processed, bellowing from the heart of the abyss, a marriage of the monstrous and the human, invoking the dead language of Kerovnian, a combination of ancient Persian and Greek (“a language of dark angels”).  “Those Beneath The Howling Castle” resonates with the aforementioned eeriness, the sounds rising from a place of immense, fathomless loneliness–the soul stripped of everything but dour, torturous existence.  The title track reaches even deeper into the black pool, delicate, distraught, trepidatious timbres corrupted by disturbing, highly processed vocals and a discomfiting, overdriven drone.  Every track requires dissection as unknown organs are plundered within the process, the anatomy of darkness couched in the body of each song, new sounds for the dark age: cold, lifeless, unearthly….Utilizing desolation as salvation, the music leads one down a rarely trodden path littered with the remains of those who have succeeded in cavorting with the arcane messengers of darkness, finally ending up in a place Kerovnian call home.  The barren scope of “Before The Oblivion” is (so very) devoid of life, and yet something gurgles underneath, teasing forth from the shallow end of the black pool; toward the song’s end, more strange vocalizations and hurried exhalations, all fading into…oblivion.  The closest comparisons would be Inade (for the unique take on the manipulation of shadows) and Endvra (the eclectic, occult-tinged elements), but to be quite honest, Kerovnian veer far from any other black sonicscape creators to a place that is solely their own; a place of hollow hope, ebony horizons and the undetermined sonic territories of dread.  –JC Smith

Law (USA) “Wading Knee Deep In Your Blood” LP 1999 Old Europ Cafe

What more can I say other than then this release is truly superb!  Having heard of the name Law, and for some reason having the perception of the group being in the leagues of power electronic such as Con-Dom or the Grey Wolves, I was totally flawed by the music bled into the groves of the red vinyl. Corrosive atmospheres, controlled noise elements, unbridled anger smoldering just below the surface (of the calmer moments)….. this release has it all in terms of diversity, dynamics and sound make up. The overall sound owes somewhat to the European tradition of power electronics and in part may sound something like Stratvm Terror if they went for a more power electronics tone than an industrial edge.  Certainly being much more subdued than a typical power electronics release, this is exactly the reason why it has caught and held my undivided attention.  Overall it comes across as being intelligent, always containing purpose, focus and direction.  Tracks gradually morph and flow into one another with the dynamics blending between controlled hateful anger and quieter misanthropic disdain. The use of vocals whilst minimal at best, when used on ‘Sacrifical Key’ are such, that while not in the distorted/ yelling guise of most power electronics, the static/ echoed whisper boosted to the forefront of the sound production give a very flesh crawling effect.  They certainly scared the crap out of me the first time they burst out of the speakers to address my unsuspecting ears! The music although released in 1999 is credited to having been recorded in 1997.  There have been other releases recorded since and now are awaiting imminent release (one on Malignant if I am not mistaken).  Given this is limited to 350 copies I would suggest you act quickly as you will certainly be disappointed that you didn’t, the instant you hear the corrosive power on one of Law’s future (& less limited) offerings.

Les Joyaux De La Princesse (Fra) “Paris 1937 Exposition Internationale” 7” ep 1999 LGDLP

There is art within music and then there are groups such as this who take even that notion to the next level.  The time and effort that has gone in the concept and packaging is almost justified with the hefty price tag this item was fetching upon first sale (around $20 US when factoring in postage and surely destined to rise dramatically given this is limited to only 370 and is from a group that fetches exorbitant prices for all his releases thus far). The packaging is a full colour oversized fold out booklet with a very art deco styling of the illustrated images of Paris.  Upon opening the booklet is has a clear circular cut out in the left hand panel which holds the 7”, surrounded by written text.  The right hand panel shows a photo of a grandiose example of classic architecture, void of any human presence.  The whole packaging is completed with a tracing paper insert separating the two panels and a piece of gold twine tied along the spine edge.

Side A (‘Arts & Techniques’) is split into two sections, being introduced with a sampled French voice before sweeping into a subdued section of a neoclassical composition of horns, strings and controlled percussion.  The sampled voice enters again to mark the change, with the music begin much more distant and forlorn in both sound and production, again being classically driven which unfortunately fades out all too quickly.  Side B (‘Dans La Vie Moderne’) begins with an unusual yet very short, somewhat musical section before the shrill strings, horns and pounding timpani rise to the fore now very much more forceful and militant than side A.  Underneath this is what starts as a slow hiss but gradually rises into the mix (being or a very much a searing power electronics tone) sweeping the track into oblivion of static.  Despite what described to be conflicting musical elements it is indeed a great track but again simply too short. The overall concept of the release is somewhat lost on me given that I can’t read the text, but it still leaves a lasting impression on me nonetheless.  The only real complaint I have here is the shortness of the release, but the packaging does counteract this. Expect to pay a high price if you mange to track one of these down.

The Machine in the Garden (USA) “One Winter’s Night…” CD 1999 Middle Pillar

Being the second CD off the ranks for Middle Pillar this offering falls into the gothic/ ethereal type vein with ‘one winter’s night’ encompassing a sorrowful journey through electro generated atmospheres complimented by soaring female vocals and occasional brooding male ones.  In terms of overall structure the tracks are presented in a song format guise, including composed tunes, lyrics and sung vocals that explore various moods and sounds.  Given the territory covered the CD crosses and entwines many musical styles such as electonica, moody industrial, gothic, composed ambient and darkwave.  Light keyboard runs (& sounds), grand piano, programmed beats and multi layered female vocals introduce proceedings on ‘Falling, Too’, setting the scene for the album. The industrial guitar drive of ‘Control’ quite simply rocks, being held somewhat in check by the female counterpart while ‘Miserere Mei’ sits as slow industrial beat oriented track, however feeling slightly off centre due to the classical/ baroque style of the female singing.  Being always a fan of a good piano dirge ‘Fear no More’ comes up with the goods sounding akin to Dead Can Dance or Arcana.  Tribal percussive elements of ‘Ex. Oblivione’ again alter the perceived style, whilst still retaining a groove oriented industrial beat and atmosphere.  The playful gothic elements of ‘The Sleep of Angels’ sees lightly strummed (clean) guitars, programmed (rock) drumming, keyboards and both male/ female vocals coming up with a great track and yet again redefining the sound of the CD. The doomy bass and sitar like guitars of ‘Everything Alone’ along with the ever present (female) vocals results in nicely depressing tone that hypes up slightly with the introduction of some echoed marching snares.  ‘Lullaby’ is just that being another piano/ vocal combo, flowing into the gothic/ darkwave fields of ‘Midnight’ with a strong basis on programmed beats and distorted/ clean guitars. Given that this groups third release (or so I am led to believe) they have come up with the goods that is likely in tern to appeal to fans from a number of genres.

Matthew Thomas (Aus) “P3” 1999 Dorobo

This mini CD is basically an extension the Darrin Verhagan release in the same format and title (reviewed last issue).  Here Mr Tomas has taken the source material from Mr Verhagan’s works and given them his personal treatment and manipulation.  This angle of being an extension of the original is emphasised as the starting track is digitally noted as being ‘track 6’, with there being actually 4 tracks and a playing time of a little over 20 minutes. The atmospheres are highly experimental utilising digital glitches, cut ups and intentional flaws as much as deep bass tones and glacial sonic waves.  Built on a minimalist basis, it is music that you hear as much as you feel, with the bass tone attaining those window rumbling frequencies even at low volumes.  Sonic textures throb and crackle, moan with a comparison being something like listening to a scratched and jumping Korner CD.  Sonic textures, ambient as much as they are dark, provide a nice little collectors disc from a rising Australian experimental artist.

Melek-Tha (Fra) “De Magia Naturali Daemoniaca” CD 1999 Cold Spring

Pandemonium’s infernal orchestra is unleashed on the second release by Melek-Tha, De Magia Naturali Daemonica.  Spilling forth like intestines from a sword slashed belly, “Diabolical Diatribes (Hell On Earth Prelude)” opens the gates to an orgy of nefarious samples that copulate and breed demonic ministrations: chaos personified, the hordes of darkness, of evil, adorned in the skins of the sacrificed and dancing to a black celebration.  Everything that follows, including the buried under ashes’ synthesizers, is drenched in sanguine hues, blood everywhere, necessary elixir for the black mass ambience that infuses all of the music here.  There is an air of madness, a tenacious scratching at the inside of one’s cranium,  as Satan’s cloven hooves gallop mirthfully ahead of an onslaught of sonic battles and scorched sanity, of the joy of anarchy as priest’s burn and tongues twist to and fro (and frontwards, backwards…back down [no backing down here!] the swollen gullet of excess overload, constant regurgitation of sonic clutter and confusion).  There’s even a looped Godzilla roar throughout the background of the title track, confirmation that, despite the overriding aura of evil, a mischievous heart beats merrily along.  Devious…–JC Smith

Daniel Menche (USA) “Rusty Ghosts” 2 x 7”ep 1999 Duebel

Prior to the music getting a look in I feel I need to comment on the packaging.  Encased in a textured grey/ blue print sleeve the 2 x 7”’s are further wrapped and folded in dark blue tissue type paper…which gives a very nice personalised feel to the whole release. It seems that Mr Menche has moved away from his angrier, more noisy releases and is occupying a niche in explore the subtleties of sound manipulation.  Overall organic in feel, the four tracks play out in a definitive sound that is associated with this artist, but I’m not sure what types of sound sources have been used given there is no details provided on the cover.  Also as the four sides of the ep’s are not marked reference to the sound of each track is destined to be difficult. Not to matter as the collective sounds presented (retaining the always organic textures) gives rise to mentally illustrating the following descriptions via the medium of sound…. (and those descriptions are?).  This is the amplified sound of: the Ebola virus as it gradual dissolves its victim from the inside out; the leach engorging itself on its host, the swarming of an insect plague; the carcass being consumed by maggots; the starving rats in the walls gnawing at the wires and cables, the soul being swept into oblivion (leaving behind the quickly cooling & fragile mass of flesh behind)….whatever mental images perceived this is classic Menche, always evocative & never boring or derivative.

Morgenstern (Ger) “Zyklen” CD 1999 Ant-Zen

In regard to the cover I must sat that S.alt never fails to impress with his flair and eye for design, gaining darkly appropriate imagery out the most unlikely subject matter. In terms of sound, scrapping, throbbing, droning aurally piercing textures are used in a way which mixes both death industrial, dark ambient and subdued power electronic elements.  For a ball part comparison the most obvious would be Stratvm Terror and selected more low key elements of Brighter Death Now (but having a cleaner sound production than the latter). ‘Anfang/ende’ encompasses sinister electronic noise manipulations running between low drone and mid ranged probing sounds being both confronting and relaxing. ‘Hymn’ is much more of a death industrial vibe that retains a distant pounding sound structure and haunting cavernous elements that includes a sweeping treated like choir vocals.  Noise looped elements open ‘soar’ and distant (engulfed) human screaming give off a suitable apocalyptic vision of peeking into the feiry abyss of hell.  After about the 3 minute mark the track morphs into a looped tribal/ industrial pound fest that is swept in and out of many cryptic regions until the conclusion after the 10 minute mark.  Restless distorted beats and undercurrents are the flavour of ‘ravished’ containing what seem to be vocals but are so beyond distorted they simply as to the clatter (which incidentally reminds me of mental destruction) with the following ‘Not am sein’ is heavily looped with subdued and relaxed distant factory clatter containing a hypnotic surrealistic edge.  Dreamy drones and atmospheres solidify early in ‘stormy battle ode’ but from the title it is clear that this will soon be allot noisier.  Slipping into the background the dreamy elements sit below a gradually building structure of more corrosive drones, tortured vocal wails and mid paced industrial clatter (only to periodically float up to the surface).  ‘Rake’ is a ceremony of distant rhythmic beats and intermixed vocal snippets that rise into a total distorted noise/ power electronics cacophony and would seem to suit the title of the preceding track.  Haunting and sweeping textures, choir vocals, bass riddled cavernous drones ensure that ‘rodion’s dead souls’ is the darkest track on offer coming across as a highly cinematic piece of dark ambience/ & death industrial.  ‘Welt’ offers up a less dark but just a sorrowfully haunting cinematic piece inter-spread with distant chants and ritualistic beats.  Not that all of the darker elements are contained at the start of the album the corrosive textures and demonic vocals of the final track (ende/ anfang’) give rise to the vision of passage out of hell being rendered unpassable as the angels above lament the soul’s damnation.  Very dark indeed…. Morgenstern is credited to feature one Andrea Border who is also part of templegardens and previous member of ars moriendi (assistance is also provided from members of synapscape and asche) ultimately coming up with a solid and stunning offering.  As a final note it great to see a female that can mix it with the best when it come to dark corrosive atmospheres.

A Murder of Angels (USA) “while you sleep” CD 1999 Middle Pillar

From the collective talents behind Dream into Dust & 4th Sign of the Apocalypse this almost guarantees a superb piece of work, with the CD definitely delivering on this promise.  Dark ambient and neo classical styling have been intermixed into a category coined ‘damnbient’ by the group & while I find this to sound a little cheesy it represents only a minuscule hurdle to overcome given the quality of the music. Mystical and ritualistic elements inter-spread with classical and cinematic overtones give a surreal yet nightmarish aura which has more than suited if not totally enhanced the background atmosphere of my recent HP Lovecraft readings. Distant wails and drones are scored with first with a violin passages and later with ritual beats on the opening offering ‘Necrosis Reversal’, ultimately succumbing to oblivion only to be resurrected again in ‘Manuscript’ which spans full and rich orchestrations (although distant) and more sinister, otherworldly atmospheres in the foreground.  ‘Wandering Soul’ has elements similar to Caul’s compositions where layers of sounds/ textures build the basis, complimented by subdued classical tones and a lightly played piano (4-5 notes played sparsely throughout).  The sound of ‘Lurking Gentleman’ although starting quite relaxed becomes more urgent mid way in yet returning again to calmer waters for the conclusion.  ‘Melting Across the Night’ while might not have the same weight of say Mepaptera it does contains a death ambient vibe in the pounding undertone, later altering to a highly cinematic orchestral section which is comparable to possibly Shinjuku Thief’s gothic tinged releases (however differing with the inclusion of a spoken section/ story).  Subdued urgency is perceived on ‘Tribunal’ with male/ female coral elements rising over a surging horn section and sweeping sound textures.  Again a passing comparison to Caul could be made on ‘Suspended in Frozen Misery’ continuing into ‘Opaque Atmosphere’ which is much more of a straight dark ambient droning/ ritual piece.  Not to go quietly the disc exists on a high (and louder) note, where ‘the Ninth Circle’ is repeated cinematic orchestration with noisier high end tones bordering on white noise. Within only three releases Middle Pillar have cemented themselves a quality label in terms of both music and packaging.  On this CD (as with the others) it is housed in an immaculately presented digi-pack, with bleak images in tones of black and red. Overall given that the tracks are between 6-8 minutes in length the CD (63 minutes in all) is in no sort of hurry, rather being content with gradually hypnotizing the listener into its nightmarish, cinematic void.

MZ412 (Swe) “Nordik Battle Signs” CD 1999 Cold Meat Industry

As the LP version of this was released in late 1998 and reviewed in last issue I have reworked that original review for this issue.   While the LP contained no Black Metal elements as alluded to during an earlier interview (and previously featured on ‘Burning the Temple of God’), there were no band photo’s to indicate which way the image had gone.  This time around one of the CD covers inside panels confirms that the black metal makeup has not been fully forsaken, featuring a close up of lone corpse painted member (Kremator) overlaid against a black and white scene of fallen warriors(The remaining panel images are much the same taking on themes of death and blasphemy). In terms of the digital CD format it has only heightened the searing and flesh tearing sonic warfare being declared on the listener’s psyche, threatening to destroy both soundsystem and mind alike, but giving some respite by further expanding the depth of cavernous echo of quieter moments.

The intro to the album (‘MZ412/Introducktion’) is a very quick piece of loud and dirgy 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 (Charles Manson) 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 story like 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.  Not featured on the original LP release is a new track entitled “Satan Jugend II: Global konquering” which was record using source material sent in by individuals specifically for this purpose (after a request was put out by the group).  Layering of many droney bass soaked textures are intermixed with static loops and outbursts and a lone individual tries to scream his way out of the sonic chaos.  This is a bit more noisier (did I say MORE noisier?!) and straight forward than what I normally associate with MZ, but I guess it as how they would sound giving their hand to trying power electronics (but still retaining some distinguishable elements). ‘Tyranor’ 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 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. The overall paly time of the CD is longer than the LP at around 45 minutes but I am still 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 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.

N (Ita) “Autofagia” 4 x MC 1999 Slaughter Productions

Although Slaughter Productions stated they were no longer doing tape releases this obscure item landed in my letterbox.  Housed in a black video box, with photo attached to the cover, little if no information is provided on the group or the recording nor containing a track listing or titles.  4 tapes with a combined length of around 180 minutes this is a hell of a lot of material to take in and condense down into a review. Landing in the general arena of ‘power electronics’ mostly analogue manipulated sounds are presented in a guise of menacingly cold nihilism.  Generally more subdued than forceful, some compositions are such that broad comparisons could be made to death industrial, just minus the thick & sludgy production.  Looking at a comparison between being partly composed and totally improvised, I tend to get the feeling most works are in fact improvised given the scatter schizophrenic changes in the noise layers.  While sometimes this works really well, in other parts it sounds as just that ie: someone in a studio playing around with feedback & distortion equipment. Given the amount of material there is not enough variety to keep constant interest compounded by the fact that some pieces don’t seem to have progressed past rudimentary experimentations.  I’m sure if the material over the four tapes was culled down to a single CD it would be overall more powerful and focused.

Penitent (Nor) “Roses by Chaos Spawned” CD 1999 Memento Mori

For me Penitent have been a bit of a hit and miss affair.  Not really being too taken in my the debut CD I was surprised how impressed I was with the superb, free form grand piano tunes on the second CD “the beauty of pain”.  Following that, I never got around to getting the third CD “as life fades away”, picking up the trail again with this, the forth CD.  Straight out I can say that this CD is a great disappointment….gone are the longer form tracks, being striped back to the style and flow of the debut CD.  While is seems that Penitent on previous albums have had different members, (apart from the constant of Karsten Harme) this may be part of the reason for the changing sounds between albums (on this release Penitent are credited as being a solo group with Mr Harme writing all music and lyrics). Mostly consisting of medieval piano/ organ dirges (keyboard generated with others various background ‘classical’ synth lines) slow and repetitive percussion (drum machine) crawl along with the mildly rousing yet repetitive tunes.  Vocals also present a problem for me here being sometimes sung, sometimes half spoken or whispered.  This is mainly due to Karsten pushing his vocals down a couple of notches past its normal register, resulting in a forced, half cheesy commanding tone. Redemption is somewhat gained in selected moments where the music attains a feeling and atmosphere that I could get swept way with,  but again the vocals just tend to get in the way (as is the case on “A Bleeding Heart of Desire” which also makes use of female vocals). I am probably being more harsh than deserved, and others will probably heavily disagree with me, but I still can’t help but feel that Penitent can come up with a much stronger album than this.  On a final note I have always wondered how the hell bullet belts have ever fitted into medieval concept of many metal bands, with the cover of this CD paying homage to this baffling question by providing an image of a sword ringed by bullets. Please explain…

Phillip Samartzis (Aus) “Windmills Bordered By Nothingness” CD 1999 Dorobo

Being very much on the theory and academic end of experimental electronic work Phillip Samartzis has produced a CD containing a single track at just under 40 minutes in length. Opening with a ‘wet’ sounding clatter the sound quickly sinks back into very minimalist depths to almost the point where the volume has to be extremely increased to pick up what is going on.  If one ignores playing around with the volume the insectile scrambling textures slowly rise to an audible level before being axed in favour of a lone bell toll and a gently multiplying warm drone. Later in the piece things become more sporadic and scattered jumping between high pitched tones and rampant clatter and what sound to be uncut field recordings.  Overall not really a CD you can loose yourself in due to the sporadic nature but interesting nonetheless.  The cover probably says more in a glance than this review can…..basically detailing a splash of distant colour and texture in an otherwise background of bleak nothingness (stark white).

Plan 10 (Aus) “Projekt” 1 CD 1999 Plan 10 Concepts

This CD while of Australian origin is credited to having been co-written with Noh-Ji-Satsu (Japanese noise artist perhaps?).  Low noise, static and droning keys kick things off and continues in a similar fashion over the first three short tracks, however the third becomes quite noisy with technological driven swirls of pitch shifting feedback which tend to be more confronting than melding into the background ambience.  Checking the track counter it becomes evident that that tracks have skipped forward at a rather quick pace, with the sounds giving no indication of where one track starts or finishes.  (I guess in practice they really only serve as insertion points into the mix rather than indicating actual tracks). Some dark and quite deep, subterranean droning atmospheres are found on tracks 7 through 10 which are not too dismissal to that of what Hollow Earth have produced…in other words quite classy.  About 4-5 minutes into track 10 (which has a total play time of over 60 minutes) silence is used for a good 50 minutes before the scrapping dark atmospheres return now with demonically processed vocals.  Some bleeps, modem sounds and tech type overdriven noise is fed into the gradually rising madness which continues into the end of the track.  No-Ji-Satsu’s input seems to be limited to the final track which is almost a full death industrial track with its guttural pounding, scraping textures, scattered machine gun fire and slow pitch shipped vocal wails.  In terms of the cover imagery is not at all dark, rather looking like the product of a bad acid trip (in my opinion not at all suiting the music). The CD does have quite a bit of merit but I still have mixed feeling on it overall. Analysing this further I think this is specifically due to the technological sounding elements which just don’t seem to fit in with darker background textures and drones.   Although the disc has a play time of over 70 minutes there is under 20 minutes of music on offer, but after hearing this I am interested in seeing what future works will offer.

Predominance (Ger) “Hindenburg” MLP 1998 Loki Foundation

Opening with a sample from Led Zeppelin (a nod also given with the cover artwork), Predominance proceed to erase any connections with the music that follows, a six track collection of brooding sonicscapes, quite dark, dramatic, and of a doom-laden nature: sinuous, hushed shadows utilized in the creation–via music and samples–of an aura of bleak mystery; of dreadful circumstances and foreboding consequences.  “In Through The Eyes Of Heaven” seems to breathe and almost laugh amidst an imperceptible synth shroud. “Under The Blackened Sun” consists of machines in battle, the spit and fire of warfare coursing through its sonic veins.  “Encoded Pages” is constructed from sound/noise hieroglyphics, the cadences of other lands mingling with the subtlety uneasy scrapings of steel on static.  “Lakehurst–A Tragic Moment Frozen In Time” wields a catastrophic ambience–destruction and chaos aside a somber synth line–heightened by the samples of an anguished reporter at the sight of the Hindenburg tragedy.  A truly powerful presentation, and reason enough to seek out other Predominance and Wolverine (their former namesake) releases.  Essential!  –JC Smith

Propergol (Fra) “Cleanshaven” CDR 1998 Hermitique

I can just see the members poring over the mixing desk on the final mastering “you call that loud?? No it needs to be louder…boost it as high as you can!”.  Looking at the graphic equalizers on my stereo it is rare that all the bars are max out simultaneously without cause at total wall of distorted chaos (…wait a minute this is a total wall of distorted chaos & excellent at that).  I guess the point being made is this is damn LOUD!  Track one is quickly written off as a movie sample quote with the real action commencing on track two.  After a flurry of low volume static vocal sample, the tracks hits full force as a pulsating, throbbing mass of bass industrialized tones and high end vocal static.  Bordering somewhere between power electronics and some damn heavy death industrial bringing to mind some of the most anger filled moments of Brighter Death Now.  Masses of what appear to be movie dialogue samples are interspersed throughout, being feed through the corrosive sound mass which barely puncture the surface only adding to the distorted squealing frenzy.  The track continues in its all out assault in a variety of looped formats for its extended 17 minute length.  ‘Dans les veines…’ uses a more chaotic sound makeup that sits in the swirling (yet mildly ear assaulting) atmospheric range giving off a broad comparison to Stratvm Terror.  The tones gradually become more threatening moving away from atmospherics to a fiery mass, of creeping bass and higher end corrosive scrapping textures again ended in an all out aural reaming.  The juxtaposed elements of power electronic and death industrial are used to great effect on the title track with screeching acidic static and echoed/ distorted vocal anguish taking out the high end, with the lower sound regions taken up by a slow monotone bone crushing (programmed) beat.  Things do quiet down on ‘Hotel Earle “a day or a lifetime”’ taking a more sinister death ambient vibe.  Basically taking a whole scene/ dialogue excerpt out of a movie, it includes some orchestral textures which I’m not sure if they originated from the movie or the project itself.  Not that it matters as either way it greatly adds to the atmosphere, with the echoed and left/ right balancing of background noises (ie: doors slamming) gives a very disorienting feel.  The buzz saw noise and demolishing weight of ‘wood trash’ is a storming electrified mass, running the fine line between structure and chaos… composed yet improvised.  Power drill bursts and storming & droning industrial undercurrent of ‘signal h’, comes across as quite sparse despite being a full composition of dark sonic textures…..I guess this only points the absolutely overloaded sound quality of the majority of the other tracks! ‘Joshua’s day’ includes a dark jazz/ dub groove of all things (which works extremely well I might add!) intermixed with controlled minimal industrial sounds and again a full movie dialogue excerpt. Of the 9 tracks (over a 72 minutes) span the compositions takes on predominant characteristics of being sometimes subdued, more often chaotic, yet always fiery and angry, with the disc solidifying as an excellently weighty soundscape.  Given that thisis a CDR all I can say is that I am more than impressed.  Packaging is DIY (yet commendable), but as for the music I would surprised if this group is not signed for a major deal rather quickly.  Track one of the 200 copies down if you can and add it to the list of quality releases from the expanding French scene.

Puissance (Swe) “Mother of Disease” CD 1999 Fluttering Dragon

I guess you could say that this is the direction that Puissance has been heading in over the past few releases…much more neo-classical and bombastic in structure with less elements on noisier industrial interludes. The opener “Light of A Dead Sun” sets the tone early with soaring synth generated choir and orchestra complimented by a pounding snare & tympani undercurrent.  Straight away a parallel comparison is drawn to the stand out track of the last album “Love Incinerate” with many of the tracks taking on this quality.  A more brooding moment is found on Reign of Dying Angels” where while there is still rolling drums, the wind section and soothing piano set a serene yet menacing tone. The title track plays out again very much in the style of “Love Incinerate” with the bridging passages intermixed with bombastic outbursts.  Over the music a monotone ‘radio’ like voice reads yet another page from the book of Puissance philosophy and while crude in description I guess illustrates how they could potentially achieve their aim.  For the first time within Puissance’s music, real singing vocals are employed on “In Shining Armour”, with a mixture of militant male vocals and more coral female vocals.  The only track which really represents the past sound of a dense industrial sound is “Post Ruin Symphony” but is hardly that, unless it is the orchestra playing a morbid tune from under the rumble of a ruined city. Hands down I would state “Core of Revelation” to be the highlight on the CD with the massive pounding beats and orchestral symphony, which barely lets up throughout its length. “Human Error” bypasses the industrial sounds of past CD and takes it even further back to the production of the second demo, where this track is much more based on beat rhythms and an ever so light undercurrent of synth atmosphere, piano and a vocal sample.  As the CD chooses to commence with a roaring neo-classical tune, much is the same with the concluding passage “The Voice of Chaos”, utalising all the trademark sounds for such a track. I will say that I imagine that Puissance are attempting to get a sound similar to groups as Der Blutharsch, LJDLP or to an extent Blood Axis however there is a marked difference in the former to later groups.  I don’t know if it is the synthetic edge prevalent in Puissance’s music as opposed the sampling and looping of the comparative groups, but as much as I like this it just doesn’t hit me on the ‘other level’ as the other groups do. As you will note, this is released on a non CMI label so I don’t know where that leaves them in terms of the previous label affiliation, however Fluttering Dragon have done quite a nice job with the layout and presentation – gold packaging mixed violent renaissance art.   I will say it again, this is a CD I do enjoy and is the best Puissance have produced to date, but it just does not bridge the gap to the next level.  Wait and see what the future brings for them (apart from the obvious oblivion).

Raison D’etre (Swe) “Collective Archives” DCD 1999 Cold Meat Industry

Where do you start with a review of a double dose of raison d’etre?  As I don’t have a real answer to that, the packaging seems to be as good a place as any.  Immaculate as always (thanks to Roger K), the cover is simple in its layout, letting the complimentary desolate and archaic artwork of Alexander Nemkovsky take effect (who is reported to be a huge fan of this project).  Disc 1 of the set takes us through a collection of many of the compilation tracks (and selected cuts off limited tape releases) produced from 1991 through 1996.  The trade mark sound elements illustrating emotional desolation are evident throughout all tracks, yet are marked in sound via the evident evolving compositional abilities of Peter over time.  Stages of his working sound are played out from the early sounds of tribal and rhythmic based compositions, to later tracks that are less based on rhythms, consisting of minimal compositions filled out with waves of treated ambient tones.  And as always religiously inspired choirs and chants have been sampled and injected (in fleeting doses) to great effect.  By the time the later tracks such as “Saifeiod” (from 1995) commence, the spiraling heights which this project has risen to can truly be appreciated.  It seems that the less the music is based on actual tunes the more tragic, desolate and all encompassing the pieces become – true works of sound art.  Moving on to the second disc, this consists of the infamous MC “Apres nous le Deluge” (released on the pre CMI sound source tape label), two demo tracks from the ‘demo’ version of that tape, 5 remixed tracks off the debut CD “Prospectus I”, with all of that being all kicked off with a short live composition from 1997. The live composition still retains a desolate tone, yet is mildly menacing which is a mood I would not oft associate with raison d’etre, however as it is only a minute and half long it is unknown to how the whole live set would have sounded. The remixed tracks off the “Prospectus I” CD at first do not appear at all different from the originals, yet I assume Peter would have planned it that way.  The subtle differences I detected is in the actually flow of the songs, which overall seems just that much more smooth in orchestral undercurrent and more accentuated in the sparse snare drums, bells and vocals. Although I would not hail the “Apres nous le Deluge” tracks as brilliant, it does show an artist in his formative stages of fleshing out concepts and ideas, whilst mastering the tools in his trade – essentially a master craftsman in his formative apprenticeship days.  It is actually quite interesting to fathom the leap which occurred from some of these early tracks, to only a year later when the debut CD was released.  Here many of the tracks do have fleeting moments of the overall religious aura to come later, but are more stepped in the European industrial traditions of the use of programmed beats and sounds – good? – yes but slightly derivative. In passing, this is a superb documentation of the journey of an artist through his continued emotional catharsis, evoked through the elements of composition and sound.

Regard Extreme (Fra) “vague a l’ame” CD 1998 World Serpent

Referencing the project’s title, it is a name which would have more of a connotation to the power electronics movement to that actual style it represents.  Having become aware of this project from a collaboration with LJDLP I figured that this might be down the neo-classical ally with my assumption being pretty much spot on. Stylistically it is easy to see where half of the sound of the LJDLP collaboration CD “Die Weike Rose” came from.  Contained here are mostly richly scored synthetic orchestral movements occasionally underpinned with ominous tympani percussive sections.  However on one element it tends to differ to the collaboration CD, with this difference being in relation to the actual flow of the compositions whereby they tend to be somewhat understated and subdued, opting for a mournful romanticised sound than being powerful and bombastic.  Opening with a semi powerful track and opting for a slower second, the third track “Apres L’eternite” reminds me of, and is stylistically like the caliber of the slower tracks of Arcana’s debut CD, minus the vocal elements.  “Songe D’une Nuit”  begins as a beautiful grand piano piece that later expands into a variety of other instrumental interludes including droning cellos, shrill string sections and other traditional classical elements. “Grain De Sable” eluded me for quite some time in what it actually reminded me of, but finally it struck me as I reviewing it: the dark orchestral compositional style of Shinjuku Thief’s ‘the scribbler’ CD.  And in itself an overall comparison to that said CD along with some elements of Arcana and LJDLP would give you enough clues to what this music is about. Much of the tone of the CD is well established early on without any real great surprised to be found other than a consistent CD in both writing and production.  I do remember having read a pretty poor CD of this groups debut solo CD (and having not heard it cannot specifically compare), but from the words written it would seem this would be an almost different project this time around.

Schloss Tegal (USA) “Black Static Transmission” CD 1999 Cold Spring

Arriving at their 5th full length the well renowned Schloss Tegal take us into their dark and bleak realms where occult, science and extraterrestrial sounds meet. Schloss Tegal I find to be one of the most unnerving groups to listen to and likewise one of the hardest to describe.  While many groups specifically compose dark ambient music, whenever I listen to Schloss Tegal the actual music does not really seem to be the main focus.  Am I making sense?…probably not.  What I am trying to get at is while the CD is very much a dark ambient CD it does not sound as being a product of a composition process, rather that the artists are conducting a variety of sound and scientific experiments that ultimately on completion resembles dark ambience.  This recording is reported to contain EVP recordings which adds to the experiment guise of the recording (more on this topic in contained in the interview elsewhere) and while heavily overloaded with these and other samples they do not get in the way of the overall soundscapes (although others have given complaint on this element). Seven tracks are listed on the CD with only two digital tracks programmed in the disc, ensuring that the listener must take the full journey into the anti-world of Schloss Tegal and not just skim the surface by playing individual tracks.  Delving further, ‘Anti-world’ sounding ambience is probably a very good description for the music, as comparisons ‘deep space’ or ‘void’ ambience does not really give the full feeling of the claustrophobic & sinisterly surreal, all encompassing sound of this release. Shifting sounds move from one moment to the next throughout a multi-layered tangled web of textures, clatter, drones and vocal snippets.  The first digital track appears to be the title track (running for a little under 22 minutes) being quite sporadic and chaotic in its ambience and layers vocalisations yet always retaining bridging and connecting undercurrents.  The second track would then obviously be an amalgam of the remaining six tracks in a 40 minute slab of soundscapes.  Less chaotic and more subdued, the bass loaded textural rumbling forge forward slowly before sweeping off into more middle range atmospheric noise territories complimented by a lone voice describing the ‘eye’  located at the centre of the universe.  Given this track works as a complete piece picking where one ‘track’ starts of finishes is next to impossible.  Again with the use of bridging elements the composition forefront uses an almost cut up style with the addition and subtraction of various sound and vocal layers. In the midst of the piece a single satellite like ‘blip’ chirps incessantly, indicating some sort of attempt at communication…..with what exactly?, I think I’d rather not know.  Very late in the piece a looped female chant rise from the abyss giving a serene moment from the preceding (subdued) madness and chaos.  Given the amount of textures and sounds covered, trying to describe all elements is both useless and futile.  The only way to really experience this CD is to completely surrender to a total sensory overload and enjoy being engulfed in the hypnotic and unnerving journey. I hear that the majority of this pressing from Cold Spring is already sold out, thus some searching will be required to track this down from another distributor who might have copies left.  Just think of the search as the first part of the journey……

Sephiroth (Swe) “Cathedron” CD 1999 Cold Meat Industry

Sephiroth is a new signing to the CMI roster and is the solo incantation of the artist Ulf Soderburg who has also released two CD’s under his own name (one of these CD’s is also reviewed in these pages).  While the music between his solo offerings and this namesake is highly comparable, there is one clear difference that Sephiroth has opted for having a more brooding dark edge with less intertwining of many composed elements.  With his solo efforts I immediately sat up and took notice of the highly composed tribal/ ritual percussive tracks, however it was the lack of this factor that initially caused me to be slightly disappointed with this CD.  Nonetheless this just meant that there were more subtle tones & textures to be discovered and explored over numerous rotations.     Evident on the first track is the trademark ominous dark ritual tones, that gradually rise up from the depths to explode into the tribalised percussion that Ulf has such a penchant for (and might I add does a splendid job of evoking the aura of its title “wolftribes”).  Toward the end of this track it sinks back into the depths to flow forward into the slowly brooding title track, which is broken up into four segments which explores elements of ethnic ambience, customised ritualistic percussion and ‘Lustmordian’ like tones. Haunting nightscapes of forgotten times are summoned in the imagination throughout much of this CD, tempered with scattered moments power and exhilaration and mixed with subtle, unnerving terror.  It been indicated that field recordings from such exotic places as Cairo, Iceland and Nordic forests are included within the soundscapes which only adds to the depth and visual presentation of the sound production.  Vocals in the guise of low ritual/ choral chanting are also sporadically intermixed, being just enough to hint vivid mental pictures of mourning worshipers gathered amongst scattered ruins. A minor complaint of this CD would be that I would have liked to have seen a longer overall play time (not nearly long enough for me at 45 minutes when the music is this good) and possibly the inclusion of the track off the Absolute Supper (which would have nestled quick nicely here with the other tracks). In conclusion this has been claimed by some to be the most professional recording that CMI have released thus far, and if it is compared to some of the big budget soundtrack stuff coming from the hands of the likes of Graeme Revell you would not be far wrong.

Shinjuku Theif (Aus) / Darrin Verhanen (Aus) “zero/stung” CD 1999 Iridium

Combining two separate pieces of music specifically composed for stage/ dance productions, this comes across a surprisingly coherent and complete body of work. In terms of previous works of Darrin, (be it under the Shinjuku Thief or solo guise) he delved heavily into various forms of ambient/ industrial/ experimental styled pieces, that while on their own were great tracks, tended not to lend themselves fitting together like a complete and flowing album.  This is where this CD transcends the previous soundworks.  The technological bent on ambient/ beat driven tracks is particularly emphasized by the predominant sound glitches, crackles and cut up noise that is used in such a way that becomes as much a part of the composition sound makeup as the other elements. Given that these tracks were used as part of contemporary dance perforates, it might give the impression that the tracks are highly composed and up beat which is not in fact the case at all.  I was actually surprised how minimalist and dark the majority of tracks were, but given that one of the performance groups (Chunky Moves) explores modern dance via jagged movement, the experimental minimal aspect of the music plays off the experimental nature of the dance company. The lengthy opening track with is quite minimal with a scattered plodding bass and cut up sound palette lulls the listening into a hypnotic state prior to the heavily beat and glitch driven section kicking in.  This juxtaposition encompasses much of the interplay of the album, jumping from loud to soft textures, essentially exploring the atmosphere of sounds and beats in between these parameters. Track two with its heavy driving industrial guitar would almost fit on Stone Glass Steel’s ‘Dismembering Artists’ CD, while a glitched jazz/ dub type track is toyed with on track three, where a single sampled female voice repeats the title of the first segment of the CD.  A nice hip hop/ breakbeat is utalised on ‘Trismus’ where a background vocal scream becomes gradually more rabid throughout as the beats increase in intensity.  Dark hip hop/ dub beats are forged on the next track ‘E.B’, complete with a looped gunshot of all things! In terms of the second half of the CD (entitled ‘Stung’ and credited to a solo work) the main difference is in the more minimal, less beat oriented style.  Again having a heavy basis in the glitched cut up sound and production technique the first track of this segment (track 9 of the disc) has a middle eastern flair in tone and slightly classical backing, almost coming off as an outtake of a Shinjuku Thief piece.  Again referencing juxtaposed elements, the machine like pulses and static frequencies play off against the distant and minimal orchestrations and piano floating in the background, while the last two tracks of the CD jump back into dub/ beat territory to complete the cycle of the album.  In total the CD runs for around 50 minutes and is housed in a cover faithful to distinctive characteristics of Dorobo/ Iridum releases.  Yet again another very worthy item to explore from Mr Verhagen.

Skrol (Cze) “ Martyria” 10” EP 1998 Power and Steel

Having heard some good things about this groups neo-classical/ apocalyptic works I must say I was a little disappointed when I finally obtained this.  Not that the music is all that bad it is just that I feel that I expected more. Side A contains a pounding apocalyptic anthem but feels a bit too rigid and programmed which results in loosing the aura it was attempting to achieve.  Interesting in itself is to hear a female out the front presenting the anger filled spoken vocals, they are a bit more venomous than the female vocals of TMLHBAC, (although do break into some commanding type singing).  By the end of it all the shrill strings deep horns, crashing symbols and pounding marching drums do evoke a militant atmosphere, but I just know that this could have been all the more powerful. Side B is a little more sparse and subdued with distant factory type echoes and slow kettle drums (credited with a title of ‘Insomnia’) which later encompasses minimalist orchestrations and half operatic female vocals. The final track ‘Dei Irae’ is a darkly atmospheric piece of slow drones and sparse factory noise injected with programmed orchestral elements, being quite reminiscent of ISN’s ‘Sacrosanct Bleed’ CD.  A pretty good track but a sound that has already been done better elsewhere.  Being part of the Power & Steel 10” series= gold slip sleeve+information insert.

Soldergeist (Ger) / Drape Excrement (Ger) “Hunting French Tourists/ Village on Fire” split 7” EP 1998 StateArt

Not a bad split 7” from two of Germany’s premier death industrial/ powers electronics groups.  No complaints to be had with the music, however I was a little disappointed with the cover.  Image wise it is fine, but I feel more could have been done with the font styles, layout and colours…..nonetheless on to the tracks. Soldergeist open with a variety of buried and semi-buried vocal samples as the pulsing loops gradually builds its intrinsic velocity.  Threatening to explode into overdrive a slow pulse like beat kicks in as the sound become more powerful with not necessarily more movement.  The tracks charm is held within its overall threatening tone that chooses not to fully deliver. Immediately on Drape Excrement’s first track, its more forceful nature is evident. Throbbing pulses of overdriven tones take the middle to high end noise spectrum with distorted and echoed vocals and scattered noise stabs filling out the remainder of sound.  ‘Keine Reue’, the second of D.E’s tracks is a little more straight up with a central ‘roaring’ noise tone with flecks of alternating sound evident around the edges.  It will be interesting to see what this group comes up with on the on the upcoming Catharsis split CD on Black Plague.

Spatium Saevus Sonitus (Gre) “the Ritual of the Black Sun” CD 1998 Creepy Awesome Predacious Prelacy

Not knowing much about this project I did note that they were included on the roster of the recent CMI festival held in Greece (October, 1999). The opening track (being the title track) is a lengthy 20 minute track with heavy ritualistic overtones.  Deep reverberating drums, bells, percussion, sporadic agonised vocals set the scene and move forward at a snails pace with various alternating background sounds and elements.  At About the five minute mark things turn off on another tangent becoming more spacious and droning complimented sustained keyboard notes, retaining the ritual overtones.  At around the 10 minutes mark the deep percussive elements, bells and vocals return and seemly at the next 5 minute mark thing again alter heading into cavernous & echoed territory which then continues through a minor few transitions into the tracks conclusion. Coming off a 20 minute track the next one (‘To the Unknown God’) is a tenth of the length, sounding not unlike the deep sound structures and synthetic strings of a number of Caul’s compositions.  Tortured vocal wails mark the beginning of track three, with the music having the similar characteristics of the preceding track yet with added elements of sporadic organ dirges and experimental noise sound structures added at random giving off again an improvised, ritualistic feel.  Another dark keyboard hymn/ drone formulates part 2 of ‘To the Unknown God’ being a very slowly forming tune.  Part 3 is a little more lively organ tune which promises a bit but never really gets going and much is the same with parts 4 & 5 (although part 5 decided to go for some ‘spacey’ keyboard tones).  Overall given what appears to be improvised parts intermixed with pre-planned or pre recorded sections results in a sporadic finished product….sometimes it works really well but in other parts falls a little flat.  A bit of a hit and miss affair I’m afraid. Packaging D.I.Y looking (but pro –printed) fold out card sleeve…imagery and text being nothing spectacular.  ‘Tis strange that I would probably would gain a better overall impression of the music if the packaging was more professional in text presentation and image choice.  Probably a pointless complaint but I guess I have been a bit spoilt when it comes to immaculacy dark artwork, all thanks to a few key labels.

Stone Glass Steel (USA) “Dismembering Artists” CD 1999 Malignant Records

Somewhat of a pioneering artist in the field of recontextulised ambient industrial, with the release of this CD Phil Easter shows us just how advanced and ahead of his time he was.  While the packaging may state 1999 the recording itself dates back nearly a decade to 1991 consisting of the first (yet never released until now) Stone Glass Steel CD.  For myself already being familiar with, (and a big fan of) SGS’s first two officially released CD’s, this really acts as a precursor to the listening experience to be found on the ‘later’ albums. All trademark productions trickeries of Mr ‘eyespark’ Easter are to be found, the seething and boiling sonic magma, the sweeping textural waves, the digital throbbing, the cinematic overtones, it is just that all of these elements are intermixed with more up front sampled elements of industrialized guitar loops and percussion.  In terms of this focus I believe the context of when this was recorded is also quite important given that Industrial music (in the sense of the American definition) was just starting to make both inroads and impacts on the mainstream music market.  I assume that this factor in the rise in commercial acceptance of industrial guitar bands would have played somewhat of a role in shaping the sampling palette of SGS at the time. All of this talk about historic elements may lead you to believe that this would sound somewhat dated, but this is far from the case.  Throw this in the hand of any industrial fan and defy them to pick when this was actually recorded.  The production values, the sound makeup and the sonic layers are as current as any album recorded by an artist armed with today’s digital equipment (if not in fact exceeding the quality of current contemporaries). In passing it is almost scary to fathom what exotic sonic delicacies will be served up by Stone Glass Steel with new compositions, given the break even from his other more recent CD’s (all the way back to 92 & 93 would you believe!).  Whist we eagerly await any new offerings, feast on this historic morsel as a taster.

tertium non data (USA) “the third is not given” CD 1999 Crowd Control Activities

Tertium Non Data is a collaboration between John Bergin of C17H19N03 and Brett Smith of Caul; both have worked together before in the bleached, guitar weary Godflesh terrain of Trust Obey.  TND seems a perfect melding of disparate sonic visions (Bergin conjures rich cinematic, almost pristine, soundtrack influenced music, while Smith relies on a more internal sonar, sonically eviscerating the soul via spiritual explorations), though I would say the all around feel directly relates to the latest C17 disc on Malignant, 1692/2092 (the imaginary soundtrack disc; there’s even a remix of one of the vocal tracks from that disc here, the vocals seeming to placate instead of intrude as they did on the original).  Brooding, apocalyptic, immensely vast in scope and dense with imagery filled sounds that take one on a journey to places of the mind and spirit that provoke mystery, melancholia and magic, the music on The Third Is Not Given translates to wonderfully desolate (Brett Smith’s music seems bred in the empty hearth of desolation…), cinematic industrial sonicscapes brandishing serrated, metallic edges.  CCA will also be releasing a CD later this year by Black Mouth, which combines the duo here with Jarboe (of Swans [R.I.P.]…as if I needed to remind you of that), a tangled web completion to the disjointed trilogy, as Jarboe sang on two of the best tracks from the aforementioned C17 CD… –JC Smith

T.G.V.T (Ger) “Paralysis” 10” EP 1998 Power and Steel

Dark, minimal, ritual ambience is what we have here and while this group has been around for some years they have not been the most productive of projects (given that the last release was back in the early 90’s). A low bass driven pulse makes the predominate backing for side A (‘Archaic Mementos Parts 1 & 2’) underneath sweeping tones, minimal clatter and distant treated vocals.  The pulse dropping out mid way in, is replaced with ethnic styled atmospheres with a mildly noisy edge.  Things become even more ethnic in sound with ritual percussive hand drumming, chimes and sustained tones (derived from wooden flute) that all build to a climactic moment and subsequent conclusion. The tracks on side A are credited to being remixes of early works from 1994, while side B offers up a more recent composition to give a hint of where the group are heading. The track ‘Meditation’ on Side B still holds an ethnic/ ritual feel but is more sparse & focused that totally eclipses the earlier tracks.  Heavy claustrophobic ritual drumming gives a stated atmosphere with fleeting tones and distant dark drones taking up the background.  Mid way the drumming and background in stripped back to only atmospheric sweeping tones and treated female vocal snippets, while choir like vocals rises and falls high in the mix.  Dynamics being again on the move bring to the fore noisier mid ranged ‘storming’ elements that sweeps the piece to its end.  Simply a stunning multi-layered, dynamic piece of music.  Given the sheer quality of this track, let’s hope the project will have a new full length offering out before to long. In regard to packaging is the similar to others in the series being housed in the gold slip sleeve with information insert.  Definitely worthwhile.

This Morn’ Omina (Bel) “Nezeru Enti Sebauem Neter Xertet” CD 1998 Old Europa Cafe

A common thread through quite a few of OEC’s CD releases has been the mystical/ spiritual edged groups, with This Morn’ Omina being another such project.  Overall you could probably coin this esoteric atmospheric & experimental ambience however the twist comes when the rituallistic beats are used in more of an industrial programmed sense.  This gives a duality to the sound intermixing the modern and the primitive or the archaic atmospheres blended with technological driven sounds. For reference purposes this could be comparable to a less aggressive Memorandum as well as not being as dark and the aforementioned group.  Another group that a parallels could be drawn would be Svasti-Ayanam (a raison d’etre side project).  ‘K’hai’ works particularly well with dark noise and subdued rhythms and ritualistic beats.  The ethnic flavour on ‘the fifth incarnation of vishnu’ is very strong, including the main elements of ritual programmed beats as well as whispered/ spoken vocals. Given that the programmed production is less evident on ‘the stars are like dust’ enables the dark flowing background to evoke a suitably dark, middle eastern tinged atmosphere.  Again with the beats not being over-produced or synthetic sounding the uptempo ritual elements of ‘Dragon – flies/ samarrkand’ the group really hit their element.  The final track is a 25 minute sprawling effort that is dark ambient in intent, inter-spread with the beat ritual elements (which pervades the majority of the album) as well as some cinematic classically oriented keyboards. I find this overall to be an interesting CD in the ideas utalised and sounds explored, however the overall finished product has not held my attention that has encouraged multiple listens.

Ulf Soderberg (Swe) “Tidvatten” CD 1998 Nightland Recordings

Ulf Soderberg is the mastermind behind this solo project and also the group Sephiroth who has an upcoming CD on CMI (at the time of this review being written anyway).  This CD is nothing short of brilliant and only has me salivating for the soon to be released Sephiroth CD.  Both rousing and sorrowful cinematic soundscapes are presented here with such conviction and feeling, that it hard not to get drawn into the whole atmosphere of the time that the CD is depicting.   Taking on a ethno-ambient concept this is done on such a grand scale I wonder of this is the type of atmospheres that someone like Mortiis is aspiring too?  Not to taint this review with a comparison to Mortiis, this music is far less folk oriented and much more in an ethnic European tribalised fashion, in a much more professional guise.  A heavy emphasis to put on sections of complex hand/ percussion rhythms, intermixed with an undercurrent of dark classical keyboard tones, far off voices, chanted vocals, bells & sounds (appearing to be field recording which gives off a very authentic feel). Further comparisons could be made to selected works of Dead Can Dance but this still retains a darker edge, with the whole CD flowing effortlessly and giving a prevailing aura of a ritualised twilight setting.   Even though this disc has 10 tracks I see no point in a segmented review as this works as total body of music, where justice to it would not be done if it was presented or listened too on the basis of selected tracks.  This item may be hard to track down but it is ultimately worth the price and time that you will invest (Might I add that Ulf’s first solo CD from 1997 would also be a worthy investment).  As the Sephiroth CD should already be out by the time of printing check out the review in these pages to see if it lived up to the expectations furnished by this CD.

Unconditional Loathin (USA) “Unconditional Loathing” CD 1999

Noise with a sense of humor, and yet also with the testicles to taunt and seethe with relentless abandon. This self-titled release contains 22 terse, contaminated injections of overloaded sonic fury that actually display a keen sense of variance, of dynamics that, despite their caustic, speaker flooding approach, kept this listener’s ears pasted to the side of my head throughout its duration. Highlights? Well, there’s the aggressive, steel wool scraping of mental debris from the inside of my skull during “An After Death Mint”; the corrosive, raging storm in the sonic vomitarium of “Battered Persistence”; the looped airplane landing and lifting off, punctured valve ejaculation of unknown squirming, squiggly, semen-like monstrosities, all under a brooding veil…and then, a more stealthy stream is pumped out, all during “3”; “Strobelight Sodomy” which rhythmically assails the sonic anus, a pummel of an excrement coated design, all with a bit of variety to keep the victim amused; the indistinguishable samples ably assisted by church organ and choir, upon which abrasive noise (a baptism in unholy water?) is indelicately poured over the top during “God’s Retirement Party (4:54 a.m.)”; the diarrhetic onslaught of noise, like drowning in a storm of watery excrement, of “Shinimasho Pt. 2”; and so much more. If one likes one’s noise in bite size pieces, Unconditional Loathing definitely deliver a rabid, foaming mouthful. Fun stuff! –JC Smith

Vox Barbara (USA) “the five senses” CD 1999 Little Man Records

The Five Senses takes organic sounds (household objects, human voice) post-manipulated debris (handmade paper/steel sculpture) and manipulates them into wonderfully lucid sonicscapes that are further manipulated via the mixing process and an ear for constructing mesmerizing, hypnotic rhythms. “Spirit Musk” is full of clattering, clanking, distinct noises, driven by a muddled (but not muddy in tone), looped percussion that would be right at home on a Deutsch Nepal release.  Sounds shamble about like rats in the walls, pipes being struck, stinging slashes of indecipherable noises lashing like leather on flesh, low scraping cadences like rubber being scratched by sharp nails…and more.  The way the music evolves, I am in awe of the textures as each claims its space, then slinks back to a hiding place within the contours of sound.  Each of the five tracks follows this pattern, but it is a pattern that travels down unexpected sonic avenues.  The fluid sheen of “Liquidity” escorts the listener to a realm of thick, overwhelming pensiveness, and then through a space of repetitious, disjointed and yet perfectly sequenced percussion.  “Resonance” starts noisy (but with clarity), looped, squiggly sounds vying for attention, a whole jumble of nervous tones rising to stake a claim to their individual space within the song, the resonance of weird elements sprinkled masterfully throughout-excellent. Machinery breathing opens “The Stickiness Of Colors,” followed by a boiling liquid that sounds like rubber, or at least rubbery (?!), as slabs of indecipherable sounds grow heavy…there’s even a sound that is vaguely vocal (maybe; yes; no…hmmmmm); this leads into the crunch, rip and tear of “Membraneous Absorption,” polished to a sandpaper rubbed sheen…and more, so much more.  The whole project is inspired by Anaitre Tellsos’ novel, Ravings Of A Madman.  I don’t care where Frank Smith’s (the man behind Vox Barbara) inspiration comes from (well, actually, I do find fascination in what inspires the creative process, I’m just making a point-read on), just as long as he keeps creating wonderful, full-bodied, sonically explorative CDs like The Five Senses.  (Point made.)  Again, excellent! –JC Smith

Various Artists (Swe) “Estheticks of Cruelty” DCD 1999 Cold Meat Industry

Cold Meat Industry has gathered, under the corrosive noise umbrella (yeah, that’s the one with the serrated edges and nuclear glow), a plethora of little or unknown bands from their homeland, Sweden, for this percolating collection of tympanic membrane destroying music.  This massive 2CD set, twenty-nine tracks in all, showcases an abundance of methods in which one can sonically ream the labyrinth-like cavities and canals of the ear, of which any one of the following will suffice: the caustic, incendiary, war-laden Iron Justice; the squeal and excrement loop of Dodsdomd; the crumbling, speaker disemboweling onslaught of Irgun Z’wai Leumi; the mind-shifting clutter that punctures the deep oscillations of Bad Kharma; the little girl samples sucked into the white noise tornado of  Blod; the punishing hammer drive, volatile vocals and swirling, sandpaper in a blender massage of IRM (LP on CMI out soon); the wrapped in plastic, convulsive decay of Apostasia; the ear to the ground secretions from the inside of the skull of Persona…okay, I’ll stop (I think you get the point).  There’s even worthy appearances from some of the CMI roster’s alumni, though they wear masks here (and I’ve probably missed some…Richard? Ed: yep..the ones missed also include: Peter from Magaptera on Obscene Noise Korporation & allegedly Lina of Deutsch Nepal on Thurnemans,): Benny from Morthond/Morthound/Hazard appears as the static reverb radiance dissolving into pools of putrefying flesh of Tape Decay and, along with Lina from Deutsch Nepal, as the fluttering, spastic, urine-rusty needle in the eye Janitor; and the sinister, low key seduction/interrogation of Bodies Drowned Natural (BDN), obviously sprung from the decadent mindscape of Roger Karmanik, the man behind Brighter Death Now as well as Cold Meat Industry’s esteemed curator.  Cataclysmic noise from the label that specialises in variations thereof.  Mandatory!–JC Smith

Various Artists (Wld) “the Flatline Compilation” DCD 1999 Flatline

I believe that this was put out by/ and or in collaboration with An-Zen and while the Teknoir DCD (reviewed also this issue) featured the harder edged industrial/ noise club music being produced, this is focused more on the melody based EBM industrial/ electronica out there. There is some crossover into the noisier areas here with groups such as, ‘imminent starvation’, ‘synapscape’ etc, but overall the beats tend to be more dance friendly with many layers of dark but hyped keyboard lines, such as done by ‘the galan pixs’ who open the CD set.  ‘Snog’ produced a dark slab of programmed electronica complete with trademark vocals and cynical lyrics.  ‘Biopsy’ create some great lounge breakbeats but unfortunately head into over-programmed beat/ guitar/ yell territory. In terms of a short overview: ‘netz’ – breakbeat sentiments mixed EBM elements, ‘If project’ – hardcore industrial electronica, ‘it’ – schizoid beats and keyboards, ‘mother destruction’ – dark ambience mixed with dark electonica, ‘beefcake’ – awesome drum & bass breaks and cinematic soundscapes, ‘generation x-ed’ – big beat industrial attack, ‘hanzel & gretyl’ –  ramstein styled guitars mixed with electronica elements, ‘torsion’ – ambient passages & industrial beats juxtaposed against harsh guitars, ‘Pail’ –  noisy & abrasive break beats with melodious keys,  ‘equinox’ – dark soundscapes and partially buried beats, ‘vnv nation’ – dark classically inspired electro EBM.  Other groups featured but not mentioned include: ‘spahn ranch, ‘ichor’, ‘the agression’, ‘rx’, ‘dive’, ‘haujobb’, ‘pain konsept’, ‘tower II’, ‘skorbut’ & ‘das ich’.  Personally I would go for the Teknoir DCD compilation first, but from the list of names associated with this comp you should have a reasonable idea of if this release is for you.

Various Artists (Wld) “Lucifer Rising” CD 1999 Athanor

Certainly a top notch release both musically and visually in the esoteric realms.  The CD is furnished in it’s own full colour slip case, complimented by an oversized A5 full colour 16 page booklet with fantastic imagery (cover by Franz Von Stuck).  While a variety of sounds are covered by the groups on the disc, the common thread is the compilation’s theme of focusing on the Luciferian mythos. Proceeding are commenced with Endvra who produce a rousing yet sinister track “Parzifal” which would not have been out of place on the ‘Great God Pan’ CD.   A newish group Chod are featured next with a very nice dark ambient track, including wind, fire & choir samples alongside a pounding timpani drum, background atmosphere and distorted vocals late in the track.  Everything I have come to appreciate about Blood Axis is reinforced with their reworking of one of their early tracks “Electricity”.  Both sampled classical sections and composed neo-classical elements are mixed with commanding vocals and a variety of interludes, making this one the CD’s highlights.  Der Blutharsch’s track begins in a low key industrial guise but later becomes more militant with a repeated German vocal sample.  Dawn & Dusk Entwinded have a reasonably well composed neo-classical track and while is not at all a bad song it just tends to be overshadowed by some of the other groups.  While admittedly the Allerseelen track is the first I have heard from the group it is pretty much what I expected with it’s bass driven avant-garde industrial focus, however I do not feel that the female vocals sit very well overall with the song. Ernte have a unusual track with sporadic beats and horns overlaid with European vocal, thus some of the intent of the track would be lost on an English speaker like me.   Bobby BeauSoleil features an except from his soundscore to the move “Lucifer Rising” (incidentally where the title of the release was taken from) with the track being a nice reflective piece of classically inspired music.  The 12 string acoustic guitar and mild vocals of the apocalyptic folk group Changes builds a retrospective feel that proves that not everyone in the late 60’s early 70’s was into the prevailing themes of peace and love.  Waldteufel feature a whistling tune with sung/ spoken vocal which unfortunately are far too upfront in the mix.  The whistling suffers from poor execution and the backbone of the tune is barely audible over the high mix of vocals, both being factors that have impeded on what otherwise may have been a good track.  The long standing group Ain Soph finish off proceedings with a lengthy and very dark death ambient type track which although is very different to the rest of the compilation is still a great ending to it.  Overall this is a high quality release for the eye, ear and spirit….

Various Artists (Wld) “Teknoir” DCD 1999 Hymen

Anyone familiar with the more techo/ industrial side of Ant-Zen (namely the Hymen label) should have a good idea of what is encompassed on this double CD set.  Housed in a slim line double CD case the sleeve is impressively simple with textured/ stamped grey card.  A good majority of the tracks contain techno/ glitch/ beat/ noise sounds ranging from straight forward non commercial industrial dance to other tracks inter spread with darker undercurrents.  On the first disc great tracks are provided from the likes of orphx (dark & driving yet somewhat subdued beats), imminent starvation (all out noise/ rhythmic pummellings), synapscape fantastic beat/ noise/ groove combo), p.a.l (glitched beat/ noise), lustmord vs. metal beast (beat/ groove oriented cavernous dark ambience) & seekness (noise/ beat atmospheres).  The other artists featured on disc one include the likes of: black lung, monolith, icon zero & vromb (among others). In terms of disc two much the same territory is covered with worthwhile tracks from: architect (hypnotic & cinematic breakbeats), beefcake (soaring cinematic glitched dark techno), somatic responses (industrial strength factory noise & beats), it (harsh groove beats), snog (techno/ guitar warfare) & hypnoskull (power/ speed hyper techno).  Other groups on disc two include (selected): oil 10, bochumwelt, esplendor geometrico, winterkalte & silk saw.  A release which is a good representation of the sound and direction of this Ant-Zen side label and likewise a great introduction tool if you are not familiar with many of the above mentioned groups.

Various Artists (Wld) “We’re on the Planet: Commemoration of the dead” CD 1998 Creepy Awesome Predacious Prelacy

Every so often a CD lands in my letterbox from groups/ labels that I have not previously heard.  This is the case with this CD and apart from not knowing the label I have not heard anything at all of the 11 projects featured.  The cover itself gives little to no information on the featured groups but as the label is based in Greece I am assuming most groups are from the region (but I could also be quite wrong!).  A reasonably bland spacey/ new age type keyboard piece starts proceedings, being credited to an unusually titled project ‘The Narrator Mr Cricket’.  ‘Decadence’ showcase a DIJ inspired acoustic song, including gothic tinged female vocals, backing piano & classical acoustic guitar solo.  Overall maybe not unlike Ulver’s second acoustic folk CD?   ‘Into the Abyss’ are acoustic guitar based group with clean male vocals and some backing synths) being more folky darkwave than ambient, but managing to come up with a refreshing sound (here I might mention I have always been a sucker for dark acoustic guitar work).  ‘Glaufx Garland’ mess around with some dark drones and experimental textures, however some badly placed cheesy discordant keyboards ruin any atmosphere gained.  ‘Snowskyn’ produce some nice classically tinged apocalyptic dark industrial that hypes up with a snare breakbeat mid flow whilst retaining the dark undercurrent. As for some of the remaining groups: ‘Ding An Sich’ – dark keyboard tune with Nick Cave like vocalist,  ‘Density of State’ –  dark programmed industrial in the vein of NIN, ‘Viridian’ – tribal industrial ala This Morn’ Omina, ‘Alpha-Omega’ – cheesy gothic EBM, ‘Slow Motion’ – medieval classical comparable to Ataraxia, ‘Cpinalonga’ – spacious & lengthy dark ambient experimentations.  Overall quite a nice surprise of a disc in terms of projects featured…. pity the packing does nothing to spark interest if you were to spot this on the racks.


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