Spectrum Issue 4# 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).




Ah Cama-Sotz (Bel) “Poison” 10”ep 1999 Old Europa Cafe

Topics covered on this blue vinyl include the legacy of political assassinations under Stalin’s rule including the poisoning experimentations undertaken by Lavrenti P. Beria (lovingly referred to as Stalin’s butcher), presented as versions 1 and 2 of the EP’s title.  Side A presents abrasive sweeping noise inter-spread with ominous treated keyboard sounds and treated/ echoed radio voices, creating a juxtaposition of deep atmospheres and intense sounds.  Retaining the same sound throughout, layers of the sounds and intensity of tones are explored over the lengthy piece.  This track reminds me to an extent of the noisier tracks that Predominance have created (just minus the vocals) on the Hindenburg 12”ep.  More subdued overall Poison II works on the same dual sound principle yet has a more drawn out drone production and less abrasive sound textures explored over its likewise lengthy course.  Lastly, the cover is nothing really to get exited about, with reasonably plain visuals printed on blue card.

Ah Cama-Sotz (Bel) vs. Frames a Second (Bel) “Ankh-Deceptive Rate” 7” ep 2000 Nocturnus

Another release by this Spectre side label that sees the collaboration of two artists, where each providing the other with source material, from which a track then recorded. Ah Cama-Sotz is up first, with ‘Ankh’ being a mid paced noise and beat fest, containing a certain groove to the static and programming.  Sounds waiver in the mid to high sonic spectrum, acting as a backing to the increasingly overlapped beat and rhythm layers being created.   Pulsating drum sequences and non-harsh static make what could certainly be an industrial dance floor number.  Hitting its peak at the midway point, this continues in this hyper fashion for the remainder of the 6 minute piece.  Frames a Second’s track (‘Deceptive Rate’) is instantly more harsh and grating, static noise outbursts and scattered vocals popping in and out randomly, with a faint hint of a beat sequence in the background.  This beat element gradually claws its way to the fore, presenting as a mid to fast paced segment that is constantly built upon with more sound, static and voice samples.  Running a ragged line between beat and noise, neither element ever gets the upper hand, both threatening a takeover at any point.  Printed on heavy weight vinyl, complimented by sepia colored cover and three insert cards and limited to a mere 399 copies this will surely sell fast.

Ah Cama-Sotz (Bel) “The House of the Lordh” LP 2000 Ant-Zen

This new LP encompasses the style in which I most appreciate Ah-Cama-Sotz – that being the solemn death industrial sounds void of beat programming etc (not that to say his beat oriented tracks are at all bad, rather that this is his sound that I tend to prefer).  Slow and massive orchestral sentiments are quickly laid down with track 1 and being rife with movie samples and deep catacomb atmospheres the horrific nightmare aura is soon established.  Scattered chiming bells, orchestral string layers and smatterings of vocals and noise layer embellishments, create another tense track on ‘the gathering’. Things really hit the mark on ‘crucifixion of the flesh ‘ with a track that is quite comparable to In Slaughter Natives.  Slow pounding percussion and deep horns are the main musical elements, also containing the obvious sinister industrial backing sounds.  Atmospheres morph in intensity, shrill and warlike in intent…and I ask does it get better than this?!  The last track on side A  (‘bleeding crosses‘) despite being a quite mid to fast paced composed keyboard number, does retain a dark stylistic approach to the tune, and sparse backing of noise elements.  Side B accommodating only two tracks, the first one ‘prophetic vision’ being an extremely lengthy piece.  Dense and heavy in sound production, the dark ambience structure sees the sporadic use of percussive sounds and orchestral elements all thick and resonating with cavernous darkness.  Extremely distorted and treated vocals that arrive mid way through sound as if they are being spoken by the dark lord himself adding quite a bleak touch.  Towards the end of the track a programmed keyboard rhythm injects some urgency to the proceedings, leading into the finally with ‘i:believe’.  There is certainly no disappointment either with a track a massive sweeping death industrial qualities.  More vocal samples abound sit amongst scattered segments of dark orchestral melody that puncture the otherwise barren and desolate sonic landscape.  With Salt always going that bit further with packaging and despite this being housed in a simple slip sleeve the presentation is impeccable as always.  Limited to 500 I’m sure most have already missed this one.

Amoeba (USA) “watchful” CD 2000 Release Entertainment

With the involvement of Robert Rich in this project (along with Rick Davis) I was expecting some excellent organic drone soundscape works, but boy was I wrong being completely off the mark altogether.  This CD still has a very organic/ earthen feel (and dare a say it slightly ‘new age’ tinged), however this aura is evoked via traditional song structure, and use of steel/ acoustic guitars, percussion, vocals, synth etc.  The use of these elements on most of the tracks see the layers swirling in dreamy unison as the far off and fragile echo of the vocals resonate throughout the sphere of sound, all creating a sound production that is embracing and enveloping in warmth.  The cello accompaniment to ‘Skin’ works particularly well, solidifying the real organic vibe of wood and bow against that of plastic and steel.  The mood of ‘Origami’ although quite wrought with sorrow has a certain prog rock tone to the guitar without ever being a fast or up-tempo song, rather being a short interlude to the more straight forward acoustics and highly atmospheric drumkit percussion of ‘Footless’.  This progressive rock sound surfaces again on the lengthy ‘Ignoring Gravity’ relying much more on bass, guitar and light drumming (created from the use of brushes).  ‘Desolation’ is introduced with drones akin to Robert’s main works, here mixed with guitar and mournful vocals while ‘Big Clouds’ is void of any guitars, rather containing deep drones, scattered hand percussion, outbursts of sounds and treated vocals being the closest to an experimental tracks on display.  ‘Saragossa’ is both the most up-tempo and folk oriented piece with flutes, tribal hand percussion and that special crisp resonance that can only come from a steel guitar, all collated in the very warm, dreamy, atmospheric sound production.  One comparison I could definitely make would be to the beautiful works of the group “the 3rd and Mortal”, and while this lacks the soaring female vocals of the said group the aura evoked is quite similar in that the songs are totally focused on capturing and portraying selected moods.  Although this is somewhat different than I expect to see coming from the ranks of Release given their past noise/ industrial offerings, this is still a great listen.

Amon (Ita) “The Legacy” CD 1999 Eibon

Andrea Marutti’s third venture as Amon (he also navigates through darkened  territories as Never Known) is, unquestionably, his finest, most complete work to date.  A passageway carved from humming drones opens “Sandstones.”  Brittle, clamoring machinery ambience patiently moves to the forefront, as the humming drones grow more tonally rich.  The track furtively shifts from  its brittle beginnings, to being almost boisterous, a leviathan of unwavering sonic audacity.  There is a thickness to these tones, as layers congeal amidst a murky, all-enveloping fog.  The following four tracks constitute the four chapters of The Legacy cycle, exploring different facets of the drone territories.   The darkness shimmers, grows more prominent during “The Legacy I: Enter Darkness,” as low rumbles are massaged by aching winds that sink deep into the landscape of soft gray matter.  Desolation of mind is featured here, midnight in the desert of decaying dreams, erosion that leads to isolation.  “The Legacy II: Machinery” really escalates the tension, as the multi-layered engines of the drone machinery grow more kinetic, tightly wound motion of a foreboding origin.  The murky fog thickens to malleability, seductive in its blindfolding embrace, hinting at melodies buried way, way underneath, breathing ominously, a stentorian resonance.  Pure undulating darkness, the darkness from the earth’s core (or, at least, the core of the most oppressive nightmare), full-bodied, dense, and yet spacious, as sounds skitter underneath, scampering toward the furthest horizon, toward oblivion.   “The Legacy III: Domes/Colonies” is bathed in crystals whose luster is radiant, offsetting the darkness, but not the inherent solitude.  It gives the solitude a chilling companion, a mocking hope awash in false light and promises unfulfilled.  The crystals carve a serrated edged cavity into the drones.  “The Legacy IV: Exit Light” leads one back to the light, but this is not a comforting ascent, rather alien to be quite honest.  A distinctive, piercing drone seems reminiscent of a like-minded, somber drone from The Day The Earth Stood Still, or some such science fiction movie that I cannot quite place, but it’s there…I know it’s there… The final track, seeking refuge beyond the Legacy quartet,  “Amunhaptra,” is not a peaceful finale.  The ambience seems haunted, as jittery tones reflect off of abandoned machinery, all the while swelling and mutating, rising like defiant shadows in a warehouse graveyard (mysterious, hinting at deception and discomfort)… With The Legacy, Amon solidify their status as one of the finest purveyors of drone-infested darkness, the magnitude of which can shatter souls… An awesome display!  –JC Smith

Anima Mundi (Pra) “Another World II” CD 1999 Old Europa Cafe

Fitting somewhere in the ‘esoteric’ sound category of a bit of Old Europa Café’s output, this release takes that baggage, updating it with sounds of more modern studio production.   A treated classical sample (commanding violins) introduces the album only to slip into the mystical middle eastern atmospheres and sampled vocal mantras of track two.  The third piece ‘conquest of paradise’ again turns the album on its head, as here groovy drum and bass beats are found intermixed with sweeping exotic sounds, backing percussion and the odd chant.  ‘Forgotten soul’ takes a similar path with vocal chants, sweeping strings, harp tune and groovy lounge beats of ‘forgotten soul’ creating a significant comparison to Atomine Elektrine (which is by no means a bad thing anyway!).  ‘Automation’ strangely includes a sampled conversation taken from 2001: a space odyssey, referencing exchanges between the computer Hal and one of the astronaut crew (in which Hal turns against him), the conversation placed over a heavily treated sounds and hyper tribal beats.  ‘New Horizon’ is a fantastic fusion of old world tribal beats and sound, mixed with trance inducing electronica, the following tracks ‘crusade’ reverting to complex fast paced hand percussion and Gregorian type chants.  ‘Truce’ starting very traditional in sound containing the continuance of the segment of prior vocals, and deep percussion and tense atmosphere, suddenly jumps a few thousand years ahead by bursting headlong into programmed break beats & classical inspired keyboard layers (strangely enough it works not stilting the atmosphere one iota!). Textures and sounds of middle eastern flair are explored throughout the remaining tracks both traditional and modernist in sound alike.  Despite the diversity of sounds the album of 17 tracks has been produced to play out as one flowing filmic and atmospheric piece, which is very visual in sound (drug hazed images of a vibrant trading town of bustling noise located on the edge of desert oasis certainly come to mind).  Nodding towards the sounds of Atomine Elektrine (more in regard to the first album) and somewhat towards Raison D’etre, Anima Mundi have taken these influences on a vibrant exotic middle eastern journey, ultimately infusing this with its own character and sound.  Recommended.

Antony & the Johnsons (USA) “Antony and the Johnsons” CD 2000 Durtro

When I reviewed the introductory split single (with Current 93) of this group I made mention of the melodrama contained within the vocalist’s voice, which makes more sense when looking at the pale white androgynous figure of the cover (Antony himself).  Being very different to any album I really own (likewise very different to what most would expect from World Serpent), this has still grasped a special place in my collection with these dark emotive cabaret type songs.  Consisting of main elements of vocals and piano with complimenting violin, cello, flute, clarinet, saxophone, drums, bass may give you some inclining of the types of tracks that would be produced with such instrumentation.  Vocals of mid to falsetto range heighten is the real vehicle driving these songs often striking a sorrowful chord.  ‘The atrocities’ is one number that particularly stands out with a sweeping cinematic feel of piano and violins with remains throughout despite quite heavy progressive drumming and bass sounds in the middle section.    Mostly I am at a loss for descriptive words here, and as this is likely to appeal to only a select audience of this magazine, I will leave it up to the individual to determine if this is for you.

Apoptose (Ger) “Nordland” CD 2000 Tesco Organisation

With elements of dark ambience and martial neo-classical, Apoptose infuse inspiration from both into their own sound, subsequently creating a great album in the process.  To describe further, their would be no tracks that could really be considered neo-classical in their own right, yet it is the use of ritual/ martial percussion and a solemn classical tunes that give this in part a similar aura.  Crowd noise, mid paced pounding martial beats and solumn keyboard layers are found on the opener ‘Uter Bewusstsein’ while the sorrowful yet rousing atmospheres of ‘Abschied Von Der Sonne’ are accentuated by selected outbursts of sharp drum rolls (that become more prominent mid way through to take the main focus).  The sampled female choir vocals of ‘Nidstang’ give a broad comparison to raison d’etre (at his most composed), with the backing music containing shifting bass soaked noise and classically inspired keyboard layers.  The classical type movement continues into ‘Horizont’ with a deep cello being the most discernable element of the melody.  Mid-way in, heavy martial drumming pounds into contention creating a much more aggressive aura over the unchanging musical backing.  The drawn out concluding track ‘Erntewod’ is content with slowly forging forward with a repeating tune and fluctuating backing consolidating the pieces focus.  The only thing left to mention is the fold out digi-pack that compliments the music perfectly – a great merging of visuals and sound. A release that is definitely recommended.

Arcana (Swe) “Isabel” CDS 2000 Cold Meat Industry

Isabel is the barest sliver of music, three short tracks, a teaser for the latest full-length CD, “…The Last Embrace.”  What it is meant to do is create anticipation, as the three tracks showcase Arcana, circa 2000…which is very much like previous Arcana, but the astute listener can discern stylistic refinement.  What Arcana create is beautiful, majestic music full of sweeping tonalities and rich, textural vocals.  In refining their work, the sound has grown denser, more concentrated, the focus unwavering.  My only criticism would be that, as with most of Arcana’s music, the tracks sometimes feel incomplete, as if Arcana have honed each song down to its prime structural impetus.  That said, Isabel has succeeded in its purpose, as the barest sliver of music here leaves me anxiously awaiting more.  -JC Smith

Arcana (Swe) “…the Last Embrace” CD 2000 Cold Meat Industry

One of the brightest stars of the CMI roster shines even brighter on this, their third release of sweet sorrowful medieval neo-classics of the highest order.  In the culmination of the themes explored on all tracks thus far, the style may not have changed drastically but the sound now soars upwards to spiraling heights, the summit barely visible to mere mortals who remain at the mercy of these emotional hymns. The opening title track lulls the listener into thinking it is less then three minutes in length (with a deceiving 13 seconds of silence) only to burst back into contention more commanding then ever before stretching out to close to six minutes, male and female choirs complimenting each other perfectly as always over a backing of rolling tympani’s and orchestral sentiments.  The slow brooding string sections and church bell chimes, whispered & sung vocals have never sounded better as when presented on ‘Diadema’ which in part nods to the track which introduced Arcana to the world – namely ‘a song of mourning’ (which caused such a stir as the opening track on the “.. and even wolves hid their teeth” compilation of 1995).   ‘Love Eternal’ formerly from ‘the Absolute Supper’ DCD compilation set is even more glowing alongside its brethren, shining magnificently with Ida’s solo vocals weaving their magic.  ‘March of Loss’ starts very subdued with light notes strung together, prior to sharp rolling percussion commencing the epic passage of french horns and deeper brass instrumentation, hitting the peak with chimes and chanted male vocals.  ‘The Ascending of a New Dawn’ sees the introduction of an acoustic guitar, ritual chimes and an absolutely massive resonating drum sound, again set against the obviously brilliant vocals.  The morose piano piece of ‘Sono La Salva’ is slightly more subdued then many of the other tracks, but no less epic in medieval classical feel.  Not content to go quietly the marching hymn of ‘Lorica Vite’ sees the album to its ultimate conclusion, Ida & Peter chanting words in a vein attempt to appease the elder gods.  It would appear the increased use of real instrumentation such as cello, percussion, the occasional guitar and an additional male backing vocalist has helped bolster the massive sound, yet the immaculate layering of the orchestral keyboards has always ensured (and most evident on this album) that the sound is as close to a real orchestra as you are likely to achieve via synthetic means.  The disc containing 10 tracks in all, (two off the previous CD single and the track from ‘the Absolute Supper’ compilation) is a little short at 45 minutes but is still another amazing CD from this group.

Asia Nova (USA) “Burning the Blue Sky Black” CD 2000 Influx Communications

With no cover and no details on the CD itself all I can say is that this is great swelling, bloated atmospheres of massive drone proportions slanted toward a tribal aura. Regarding track 1, tribal flutes processed through reverb and delay add to the slow drone backing with a deep mid paced monotone (and monotonous) beat adds a slight urgency to an otherwise content slowly evolving piece.  Elements build, direction is focused, results are stunning.  When concentrating quite hard on detail tones of guitar and resonance of female vocals can be detected, but mostly are disguised within the drawn out drone process.  Vocals again used as an instrument (or drone element) ushers in track 2, mixing drone, tribal and classical atmospheres superbly.  The tribal hand percussion on a bed of dark orchestral drones this transcends any mere drone categorization. Over the lengthy third piece deep fog horn drone atmospheres and disembodied voices make for tense yet ambient listen of Lustmordian quality.  Tribalised elements again add the urgency of the drone textures of track 4, firstly starting somewhere off in the distance of the listening plain, slowly accelerating to the fore of the speakers.  Here the swirling non verbal vocals ensure that this piece offers an excellent mix dark ambience and drone sentiments.  Having the feel of being more composed than ‘droned’ the last track reveals the use of slow orchestral atmospheres, quick percussive wood textures and vocalistations not sung nor drawn out, rather reciting unintelligible sounds.  Other orchestral atmospheres when slowly introduced added to the knife edge of relaxed/ urgent sound.  With significant additional ground covered in the remainder of the piece, sections of more subdued dark ambience appear (which is by no means a disappointment by the way!), cavernous in its textures of reverberation.  I hear that there is involvement in this from Ure Thrall (also member of Smooth Quality Excrement) thus reference to the reviews of these other outputs in these pages will reveal that there is a definitive high standard at work here and likewise very worthwhile.

Baal (USA) “Selections for Biblical Studies and Multiple Orgasms” LP 1999 Troniks

With a cover image that I would more expect from the likes of Cradle of Filth, the packaging further aligns itself to the picture of fetish wear clad females on the back cover by it being encased in a black plastic sleeve.  With the release being ridiculously limited to 80 copies mean if you don’t already have this chances are you will have difficulty in tracking one down.  As for the music side of things, this is a good slab of industrial noise.  Abrasive mid ranged static opens proceedings (‘Free Dom’), infused with what sounds like porn dialogue/ scenarios (which incidentally continues throughout the album).  The sound texture sits a mid ranged grinding pace acting a vehicle for the sexual conversations playing out, varying only slightly in intensity, before becoming maddeningly chaotic and frantic with obliterated mid to high end static.  ‘Pretty Pink Swastikas’ has a doom laden atmosphere of low end industrial sound, drones and intensifying noise, again acting as a basis for the conversations.  The third and last track on side A mixes the elements of noise and deep drones quite well, having a searing edge to the monotonous wavering static at the high end, with deep ominous sounds taking up the low end.  Becoming more freeform to the middle of the track dialogue takes the main focus (referencing domination and submission) as slow synth programming gradually solidifies, along with what sounds like a looped bass tune.  This section has a very nice subdued atmosphere, only made tense by the included voices (but better for it!).  Side 2 offers up massive grinding noise with mid paced distorted beat that partly reminds me of Brighter Death Now on the ‘may all be dead’ release.  The incessant noise and forceful pounding beats makes the opening segment a highlight.  The track soon moves off into more brooding noise territory maintaining an ominous atmosphere over the lengthy format.  The last track (‘underneath hot wax’) starts with a weirdly treated repeated vocal samples, and break beat of all things, with the only noise sitting within the background.  This format is retained for the whole piece, making it an unusual conclusion to the album.  From the initial misconceptions when I first viewing the cover, this is a surprising solid and impressive release.  If you want this have fun trying to obtain a copy!

Backworld (USA) “The Tide / A Vagrant Thought” 7” pic disc 2000 World Serpent Distribution

Quite a beautiful looking picture disc to which I’m not sure how many copies this is limited to.  A complex and emotive acoustic folk ballad is what we have with the track ‘the tide’’.  Deep cellos reverberate against the acoustic guitar’s warmth and understated sung male vocals.  A lone violin is added sporadically to likewise accentuate the mid ranged classical sounds.  Quite a sense of celebratory sorrow to be found here… Side 2 brings a darkly folk acoustic guitar and keyboard/ flute piece with spoken male vocals.  The sung females vocals add another level of depth to the sound over the repetitive guitar tune and meandering flute.  Both being very pleasing songs they are simply too short, leaving me wanting more from the group.

Backworld (USA) “The Orchids” CD EP 2000 World Serpent Distribution

A two track CD ep is what we have here, that was originally meant to only be available at the Wave Gotik Treffen 2000 festival (or so the press release goes).  The title track is billed to be a cover of a Psychic TV number, yet myself not having heard the original I can’t provide any sort of real comparison.  Anyway, it is a very uplifting celebratory folk oriented track with beautiful cello accompaniment with the intricate acoustic guitar work and multi layered, clean and softly accentuated male vocals of Joseph Bundenholzer (the song revolves around the spiritual joys of genital piercing).  The second track ‘Flowers in Flame’ is a re-mix of a track off a previous album, but yet again my review suffers from lack of a comparison.  Working more as a soundscape than song, drawn out layered female choir vocals and distant chimes shimmer in unison never gaining or loosing pace over the four odd minutes.  Nice psychedelic colours and patterns adorn the cover of the card slip sleeve.

Bad Sector (Ita) “Dolmen Factory” CD 1999 Membrum Debile Propaganda

Kinetic radiating energy oozes from these darkly composed, ambient yet experimental pieces which incidentally were previously released on tape back in 1997.  From sub bass pulses, static induced sounds, brooding keyboard melody treatments, when expertly combined make for eclectic moving soundscapes.  Discordant drones, sustained noise texture of mid level velocity (avoiding piercing range) leaves ‘Ivan 1810’ as a solid piece of dark ambience, minus any ominous synth elements.  Flickering reverberations of multi textural samples (some vocals, keyboard elements etc) make the core and direction of ‘Carla 1977’ an embracing one.  ‘Alvin 1953’ has most likely the most composed piece on offer here, with a plodding keyboard beat/ rhythm, hazy elements and some whispered vocals awash with computer treatment.  Alien vocal, and sit amongst orchestral drones and condemning slow beats spawn an urgent atmosphere on ‘Nara 1630’ with a similar deep orchestral type melody flowing through to ‘Pierre 1902’ (although the other main keyboard section gives a vast universal vibe).   ‘Brigitte 1872’ goes even further in the exploration of a classical sound mixed in a more sterile cutting edge sound production (very much a si-fi computer sound to what is essentially a classical composition).  The short piece ‘Exit B’ which finishes the album is quite a subdued drone piece of cold astral qualities, which could be said to be characteristic of much of the overall feel.  I am really surprised that Bad Sector are not more highly regarded, as everything I have heard from them warrants praise and attention. With what M. Magrini has created here, this is akin to listening to the experimentations of a modern alchemist shaping stunning compositions from elements of sound that by themselves have little consequence.  Recommended.

Band of Pain (Eng) “Sacred Flesh: soundtrack” CD 2000 Cold Spring Records

Being a soundtrack to a recent motion picture I don’t know how differently this differs from the group’s previous works, yet some tracks seem to have been re-badged as new versions of older songs.  Slow profound pulsations, moody orchestral layers, and brooding dark intensity mark slow moving soundscapes of (surprise, surprise) cinematic proportions.  Tonal elements of mid to deep bass range make for a very dark ambient styled recording that works very well as an album in its own right and not just as a musical counterpart to selected visuals.  Bleak organic sounds, and scattered human vocalizations of pain and ecstasy likewise heighten the mood (and themes encompassed in the motion picture) appropriately.  ‘Strength to resist’ has a bite to its subdued intensity, the distant backing sounds and vocals being unnervingly chaotic, while the title track being the discs opener, is repeated mid way though, and at an extended length does full justice to its orchestral bleakness.  ‘Beat out Desire’ is certainly the noisiest piece with mid paced dark percussion over a deep sonic bed with choral samples and complimentary sounds of pain and pleasure sound. Sweeping, almost electronic sounding elements invade the aura of ‘Sister Ann’ creating a shrill textural piece.  The overall slow movement and evolution of the compositions sees one piece meld into the next to create a drawn out whole, whereby the album really gains nothing by being dissected in to selected ‘scenes’.  Comparisons for the uninitiated would certainly have to be made to selected works of Caul given the overt religious aura to the compositions.  Yet while Caul may have been lifting the veil to let more light into his recent works, these tracks of Band of Pain stay deeply entrenched in darkness and shadow.  In presentation this looks is a little different in look to other Cold Spring items, however this is mainly due to cover and layout being aimed squarely at the soundtrack styled cover.  Containing images from the movie covering themes of forbidden sexuality within a convent there is a certain element of a ‘cradle of filth’ style photo shoot, but without the blatant tackiness.  Lastly is great to see selected artists slowly and insidiously weaving their way into wider public consciousness by being given the opportunity to work on motion picture soundtracks.  The question is could members of the public comprehend such a fantastic bleak sonic tapestry?

Baradelan (Ger) “The 3rd and the Final” CD 2000 Quatuor Coronati 762

Another relatively unknown group (well for the moment) hailing from Germany with this self released item that I was very impressed with from the first listen.  Much of the disc is based on drawn out electronic and organic sounding drones, sequenced in a very spacious (and ‘space’ oriented) guise seemingly illustrating an intrinsic universal order.  A quality comparison could be made to INADE’s Alderbaran CD with its murky, sinister and alien like atmospheres, with this comparison going even further (or is it a strange coincidence?) with the name Baradelan equaling an anagram of Alderbaran.  Some sort of unusual choir sample introduces the CD followed by kinetic & pulsating drones mixed with static nuisances to create the basis of sound.  The track also utilises a repeated vocal sample (which references the CD’s title) that is positively placed throughout the composition, shifting from speaker to speaker, intertwining perfectly to enhance the overall vibe.  At 14 minutes things are slow going but this is exactly where the charm lies as the track slowly unfolds and refolds a multitude of layers, creating a shifting mass of (sub)conscious oscillations.  Containing less width and depth to the sound, the second track is louder and more sweeping with low, quickly grinding drones and windswept textures, changing pace with a commandingly slow keyboard passage taking the foreground in the last quarter of the song.  ‘Bunsoh’ has a slight industrial tinge to it with the use of select factory type textures that by being placed well back in the mix emphasize the depth of production.  Juxtaposed against this is a deathly slow drone pulse that is repeated throughout the track, containing a certain physical element in the sound (or in its low penetrating frequency), making it quite uncomfortable to listen to for the total 15 minutes – essentially creating a physical response.  The alien sounding textures are again abundant on the following piece (‘Mortician’s Sough’), using much the same techniques as already displayed, yet creating drones and sounds distinguishable from the preceding tracks.  Containing a certain accelerating feel in the composition the tension quickly builds holding this atmosphere throughout.  ‘Dinas Bran’ introduced with signal bleeps, sporadic layering of sounds and speaker shattering sub-bass textures is the most experimental and minimalist piece on offer, whilst rounding out the disc is a short three minute piece of sampled era vocals and voice textures paying homage to silent movies of the 1920’s.  I’m not sure how widely available this release is, given it may be only be a promo release but it couldn’t hurt to inquire through <schwerttau@cityweb.de>. Lastly as the inscription on the cover states “Ambient is silence: HEAR IT LOUD!”.  Sound advice Indeed (no pun intended!).

Beefcake (Ger) “coincidentia oppositorum” CD 2000 Hymen

With cover art very similar to the first CD, I could make some comment between the metamorphosis of the sound of the albums in compassion to the cockroach to moth insignia of the cover art – yet I won’t (but then again did I just do it anyway?).  Regardless, anyone who heard the first CD will not be disappointed here, likewise anyone who hasn’t should still not pass this by.  In short Beefcake have a highly distinctive sound of sweeping cinematic melodies and classical inspired backings, infused with obliterated break beats, vocals and text samples.  The first album was quite dark yet had playful elements, and while much the same here, is still overall a slower gloomier affair.  The breadth of soundscapes can sometimes be mistaken for sparseness, which would actually be quite incorrect as it is the volume of the beats in the mix that tends to subdue the sections where they are not included.  The third track works on three levels: that of slow melodies, chaotic break beats (that are messed up beyond simple sequencing) and a full female vocal sample.  This dual or tri levels of layered sound is where the genius of Beekcake lies – part classical musical theory part cutting edge studio composition.  A true merging of past and present sounds as is perfectly illustrated on track 8 with the drum and bass beat enhanced chamber string orchestral, additionally the harp & flute melody adding that nice extra touch. At its most playful, track 9 is based on multi layered cut up beats and light quirky melodies. Regardless of the shear variance of tempo of beats and modulation of sound textures, one track still merges seamlessly into the next, this being another trait that makes the album play out as a stunning whole. Of the 16 tracks Beefcake have opted to not title any of the pieces, letting the listener decipher their own meanings.  My translation is unanimously ‘brilliant’!

Beefcake (Ger) “in medias res” 12”ep 2000 Hymen

In a continuance of the review above this vinyl in another in the 12” series that acts as a counterpart to the main album.  Here we are treated to four unnamed pieces not on the album proper, which just goes to show how productive this group is considering the main album is over 60 minutes in length.  On obvious difference regarding these tracks is that a more beat oriented focus is solidly infused throughout.  Even on the first track the beats are much less scattered and cut-up which makes for brooding groovy ambience with the same sparse sweeping background of solemn melodies.  Track 2 has a flurry of mid paced beats that are quite forceful in a way that that could be described as ‘big beat’ if one was so inclined.  The backing of this track is content with remaining a sparse collage of scattered drones with limited if any tune being shown.  Cut up hip hop inspired beats of track three (side b) makes for a moody listen when transposed over the trademark cinematic keyboard layers in perfect Beefcake style.  Bittersweet beauty is in order for the final of the four tracks with slow beats consisting of kick drum, snare and high hat that assist in focusing the classically inspired keyboard lines.  Overall yet another piece of Beefcake brilliance.

Belborn (Ger) “Belborn” CD 2000 World Serpent Distribution

Belborn are a group to add to the growing list of neo-folk groups creating rousing volkish hymns and marching tunes.  Being German in origin and consisting of Holger F. and Susanne H. with vocals presented in their native tongue (mostly containing male vocals commandingly spoken/ sung in low to mid range – the female vocals when present of higher range or whispers and acting mostly as backing). Despite being clearly composed on a keyboard (except for acoustic guitars and bass when used) the sound does not come across as being weak, rather containing enough layers of organs, grand piano, flutes, classical orchestral elements, marching percussion etc to create a full and rich sound production, so as the slight synthetic edge not detract too greatly.  On selected tracks (ie: track 5 ‘Undertan’ & ‘Wegbereit’) a weird almost pop vibe is presented due to the programmed mid tempo drum machine beats which in my opinion is much less successful than the more traditionally focused tracks that precede it.  ‘Weint Keine Trane’ is a beautiful yet tragic and melancholic acoustic ballad of delicate tunes and strummed riffs, with this feel and aesthetic being also present on a later track ‘Lichtreich’.  The last listed track ‘Ruckmarrsch Nach Vorn’ with the meandering piano melody actually reminds me of the sound and feel of a CD by Fata Morgana (an old Mortiis side project) by transcends this compassion with a more soaring musical backing complimented with marching beats and sounds of an epic battle in progress.  As a bonus the track ‘All Unser Blut’ is repeated with English vocals (translating to ‘All Our Blood’) showing this track to be a great blending of a grand piano melody with marching snare, clarinet and organ dirge. The cover is a simplistically presented digipack containing imagery of runes, runic alphabet and woodcut pictures (one detailing priests being burst at the stake) that suits the vibe and sound of the CD.  A lyrically sheets also accompanies the cover, with lyrics printed in both English and German, being odes and laments to times past and ways forgotten.  Quite a good album overall.

Blackmouth (USA) “Blackmouth” CD 2000 Crowd Control Activities

This album is billed as being comparative to what two members Brett Smith and John Bergin create with another of their collaborative projects ‘Tertium Non Data’, except here there are vocal contributions of Jarboe.  On this front I don’t think I entirely agree as the music tends to be fused many music elements that would never really fit under the guise of ‘Tertuim Non Data’, and for this reason of the mixed focus I feel that some tracks work really well while others not so.  The intro track is one such good example, low haunting melodies and emotive snarled vocals of the enigma which is Jarboe.  Track 2 being the title track is a short bridging piece of slow gloomy beats and partly tuneful backing that runs into ‘the black pulse grain’.  This piece is one such good example of a diversion from T.N.D’s sound with its dark trip hop/ drum’n’bass sound, female vocals ranging from sung to spoken, likewise another similar dark yet more up tempo track of trip hop/ electronica being featured on ‘risen’.  The yet again trip hop styled backing of ‘the burn’ IMO is marred by sections of grating guitars, however here Jaboe seized the opportunity to experiment with the tone and range her voice.  The slow evocative piano and rasping soundscape of ‘inner alien’ on the other hands highlight the beauty of Jarboe’s voice when she chooses to use her vocals in a clean styling, likewise similarly presented on ‘Smother’ over a backdrop of sub-orchestral melody, slow bass and harpsichord tune of all things.  ‘Surrender for his heart’ is a particularly good track with the main trip hop beats, and short disjointed orchestral breaks, giving Jarboe the opportunity for a narrative piece.  ‘Seduce and Destroy’ is another track IMO that does not work due to the industrial rock guitars, making the track come off like a bloated overindulgent experiment.  With the remix of ‘risen’ (bloodless remix) included late on the album it is rendered slightly more friendly on the ears, with thick bass sound, low distant piano lines and other assorted break beats, (as is the same with first track reintroduced as the outro with a different break beat musical from).  Despite some not so fantastic diversions in sound (on selected tracks) this is still quite a strong album overall, and now that I revaluate my position, could be compared to T.N.D, but only on the proviso that you expect quite strong elements of vocals, trip hop and electronica.

Black Lung (Aus) “The Great Architect” CD 1999 Kk Records

David Thrussell, who also does time as the logo battering industrial cynicist/realist, Snog, and the projectionist for the inner cinema treats of Soma, continues his patented, spring-loaded percussive experimental techno excursions, on the latest unraveling of sonic disarray from the International Mind Control Corporation, The Great Architect.  The slippery, deft execution is in prime cut and splice mode, as David gleefully manipulates an assortment of choppy samples into sonicscapes that adhere to nonsensical rhythmic patterns.  Though I detect rhythms throughout that seem more straightforward (I was going to say familiar, maybe normal, but nothing here could be qualified as normal…), this development cannot be looked upon as laziness.  As the multi-layered, multi-faceted approach to construction, to assembling the disparate sounds and textures has advanced, David has honed his skills in such as way as needing, at times, a more (ahem) familiar base for the chaotic melange of sounds.  The sonic patchwork is vast, including everything from vacuum-packed, squiggly electronics, to deep-fried razors, to flatulent, squished bleats, to internet connecting mutilations, to contorted, between the dial radio transmissions, to eye-blurring ejaculations of noise, to a thousand other snippets… It’s a crazy quilt stitched together with dexterity and a subversive sense of humor, as witnessed by the brow furrowing song titles (“Unorthodox Abnormality Broadcast,” “Gizmo Prediction Fallout,” “Surreal Opinion Simulator,”), and the covert thread woven throughout the whole presentation.  (Did I mention the satirical gibberish channeled by David as one opens the digipack…?).  The Great Architect is David hisownself, a true master of kinetic electronics and deceitfully ambiguous psychological motivations that might just be construed as genius.  Or the sonic manipulations of the mischievous… –JC Smith

Brighter Death Now (Swe) “Untitled” 7″ 1999 Xn Recordings

The latest 7″ from the sonic malignancy, Brighter Death Now, relinquishes no information (kinda sounds like an extension of the May All Be Dead mindset only, quite possibly, more chaotic…).  There is nothing to go on but the music…but what more does one need?  The A side opens with the wail of a siren from an operating room in the pit of Hell, a pummeling beat tattooing the souls in torment (unwilling patients to a sadistic fate), scalpels wielded with negligible glee: dissection, imminent; anesthesia, questionable (non-existent…).  Don’t know what the guttural vocals intone as they are garbled, chewing on distortion.  The brain is filleted, that damn siren’s wail signaling…what?  (Another victim for grim experimentation?)  Another soul destroyed for the sonic cause?  Did I say this was brilliant?!  The B side overflows with blood as sticky crimson bubbles from my speakers.  We, humble listeners all, embrace the repetitious annihilation, Roger’s vocals crawling underneath, belly to the blood soaked floor.  Cluttered, confusing-like a storm on the horizon, THE storm, bringing black clouds and a rain that consists of the broken bones of those who believed in something (…someone-GOD?), and now that the millennium is upon them, all belief has been abruptly discarded… Like a trapdoor swinging open and the instant it swings, the thoughts are as follows: a.) Try to catch oneself on the rim and persevere amidst the hailstorm of bones that invalidate all hope or b.) Let yourself drop DOWN, because there is nothing to look up to the heavens for anymore… Comes in a very appealing, simple yet heavy cardboard foldout sleeve.  -JC Smith  (Reprinted by permission from Side-Line magazine: http://www.side-line.com)

Brighter Death Now (Swe) “May all be Dead” CD 2000 Cold Meat Industry

The first edition of this as a DLP was no less than an infuriating lottery game due to the random additional tracks and bonus single or double sided 7”s.  At least everyone is guaranteed the same tracks with this CD re-release although in ‘feel’ it really does pale in comparison to the original vinyl version.  Housed in a similar yet shrunken fold out poster cover, here the CD comes also encased in a colour slip sleeve of the main cover image of a massive pile of skulls being set upon by scavenging crows (just minus the text and superimposed ‘necrose’ symbol).  All the main tracks off the LP are here, likewise introduced via a short and remixed version of an untitled tracks off one of the bonus 7”, crammed to the capacity of the disc given its overall 74 minute running time.  Still, those holding the DLP version may retain additional elements not on this CD in the way of a track or three (depending on which LP’s/ bonus 7” combo they got).  The sounds of this release are not really like any particular album that precedes it, rather a mixture of elements packaged in an early punk anarchistic delivery and DIY aesthetic.  Taking the repetitive droning elements of ‘the great Death’ era and mixing it up with the harsher elements of ‘Innerwar’ you might get some idea.  Given that this contains only 6 listed tracks, the cuts are bone scraping deep and long, inflicted from a knowing soul who has mastered the art of delivering and sustaining pain.  With an abridged nameless intro remix track of pure cathartic aggression, the chugging/ surging tape loop of ‘I Hate You’ kicks in with considerable force containing also tape processed vocals and sporadic stabs of sound.  Repetition is in order and by the track hitting its plateau early, it is content with it position of extolling hatred for everything – including you as the listener.  ‘I wish I was a little girl’ is a personal favorite track of BDN with its feverous vocals, incessant loops and pure aggression of the noise tones.  ‘Behind Curtains’ which is atmospheric in tone with high end wavering sound and a mid ranged distorted rolling beat.  Spoken vocals are again included but have a more psychotic edge which becomes more noticeably aggressive as more layers of noise are included.  ‘Pay Day’ enters with yet another vocal snipit before the apocalyptic waltz loop industrial clatter stomps on everything in sight, while ‘Oh what a night’ uses a slower droning edge containing some ear piercing elements, again using the simple dynamics of increasing vocal and music intensity as it progresses.  The final track comes as a very lengthy track ‘fourteen’ – a slow pounding beat complimenting the electronics fluctuating in the background with vocals and samples distorted in such a way they simply become another layer of electronics within the whole track dynamic.  For the most part putting words to BDN’s sound is an arduous task yet Karmanik having been at this project for well over 10 years now (and with no sign of letting up), this will again go down as another classic chapter in the BDN bible.

Carrion (USA) / Crepescule (USA) “Crypotomnesia” CDR 2000 Louis Productions

This CDR is basically a non-commercial pre release of a side project of Crepescule along with a bonus track from the main project, however there is talk of this being officially released via Slaughter Productions (and who knows, by the time this review is published this may have eventuated).  While Crepescule takes a skewed angle on the death industrial genre, Carrion more inhabits the power noise scene associated with Ant-Zen label but likewise taking a (very) left of centre approach.  The tracks here represent a relentless mix of beats, corrosive sounds, vocal samples etc, oft appearing to be working on two levels – that of the beat/ programmed layer and that remaining of the multitude of bolstering sound layers, vocal samples and random keyboard layers used more for effect than tune.  Even on the slower tracks the sound collage is just as full and forceful due to the make up of grinding electronic machinery and studio manipulations creating a dark ‘beat/ noise’ type manifesto.  However to think that these ‘tunes’ are straight forward enough to every be ‘danceable’ would be clearly wrong, as even when sections of groove or rhythm appear to solidify, other random generated elements leap into the mix throwing things completely off.  Carrion’s focus is more akin to cutting edge studio trickery with the random-ness of the compositions simply being a by product of the main intention.  Nonetheless I have taken quite a liking to groups of this ilk of late including both the new Ultra Milkmaids CD and new Squaremeter CD (both reviewed in these pages).  Also as I am such a music packaging/ presentation junkie (and that this CDR is without cover), I am intrigued to see how this item will get packaged on official release.  The bonus Crepuscule number and the closer of the disc is entitled ‘a voice from nothing’ and was specifically utilised as source material on the title track of Schloss Tegal’s latest CD “Black Static Transmissions”.  More interestingly both this track and Schloss Tegal’s version supposedly contain samples of Electronic Voice Phenomenon (E.V.P or otherwise known as voices of the dead).  I will say that this is by far the best Crepescule track I have heard yet and likewise one of the downright creepiest when played loud late at night (given the implications of content).  Much of the scattered sounds, documentary narration and just plain weird noises and voices are (sporadically) recognisable from the Schloss Tegal version, yet retaining the trademarks of a Crepescule piece.  There is minimal if any actual recognisable keyboard tunes, rather deep clinical otherworldly drones, interlinking sections of sampled voices, EVP examples and poltergeist like clatter – and if didn’t already mention this is certainly a very intriguing (and entrancing) listen.  I don’t know if this track will be included on the official Carrion release (or later Crepescule CD for that matter), but I am damn glad I have a copy of this on this CDR to fully appreciate!

Chthonic Force (USA) “Chthonic Force” CD 2000 Zos Kia Sounds

This one is quite hard to review given the variety of genres this transverses over its short length (just under 40 minutes).  The main person behind this is Tim Madison, however guest appearance come from the likes of Monte Cazazza, Boyd Rice and Thomas Thorn among others (mostly as vocalists).  Acoustic guitars, swirling textures and low spoken/ sung vocals of the opener give the perception of an apocalyptic folk type release, however the noise elements and screeching feedback (in amongst a spoken word piece by Monte Cazazza) on track 2 certainly makes you thinking twice about pigeonholing this.  The neo classic elements of “in and out of sin” (even though a short piece) again further defines the distant boundaries of the amount of ground covered in sound and style.  Short pieces of spoken word (the one by Boyd Rice covers a comparison of society to the S&M scene – just without the role-play), noise experiments, droning guitar riffs and doom laden keys really only give a short description of what to expect.  The overall vibe of the compositions (regardless of styles) have a very old school sound and this would seem to be much the product of the caliber of collaborators present.  From calm to grating, harsh noise to industrial etc might seem to present as a jagged whole, is still an interesting listen.

Coil (ENG) “Astral Disaster” CD 2000 World Serpent Distribution

Forming some sort of re-mix/ re-working of an earlier album, this CD contains also new material not on one of 99 copies of the original 12” vinyl.  After toying with a short moog generated, scattered sound treatment piece (‘the Avatars’) the slow ritual percussion and fleeting synth treatments of ‘the Mothership & the Fatherland’ commence the real section of the album.  Melding hazy electronic treatments the 22 minute piece seeps out the speakers, slowly coving the floor, filling the empty vessel of the room drowning everything in the thick, dreary atmospheres.  Subdued angelic voices chant slow wordless prayers, along with the tonal drones and intentional sporadic clutter as if being true relics of forgotten sound.  Enticing and utterly engulfing….  ‘2nd. Sun Syndrome’ continues as a simmering liquidous mass of sound, complete with the consistency of tar throughout the rise and fall of the quirky rhythm.  Back to the epic length format, ‘The Sea Priestess’ takes again the mantle of exploring subterranean depths, this time more commanding with drawn out male vocal drones/ chants. Set alongside various radiating keyboards treatments & chimes are the smooth echoed spoken vocals of John Balance (which reference the CD’s title late in the track) results in no less than great psychedelic ambience and fable narration.  Containing a more solid song structure, with classically driven elements of cello, violin amongst synths and vocals, ‘I Don’t Want to be the One’ tends to jolt the passive possessed out of their haze, yet still embracing enough to offer comfort, later becoming tensile with increasing lunacy of the vocalist.  The last on offer (‘MU-UR’) returns the depths of the second track again with ritual percussion and darkly haunting tonal soundscapes sprawling past the 20 minute mark.  The spoken vocals when introduced are again in narration form, yet so heavily treated that they sound almost feminine or childlike as the backing becomes occasionally jarred with eruptions of experimental tones and keyboard tunes.  Towards the mid to late segment the experimental elements take over to quite schizoid effect, evolving back to the opening soundscape in the concluding stretch.  Finally, the notation of recording location seems to indicate that it had a major influence the atmospheres created here given that the album was allegedly recorded under the water level of the river Thames.

Coil (Eng) “Queens of the Circulating Library” CD 2000 Eskaton

CD encased in a clear pink shell with next to in info, (other than listing the title track and collaborators) here we have a one, track 50 minute journey into slow drone territory.  Early in the piece Dorothy Lewis (Thighpaulsandra’s mother) is guest vocalist speaking lyrics written by John Balance.  Some slight reverb and surreal vocal treatments are utilised blending the words as if some form of electronic cipher.  Below the vocals the hazy warm drones slowly fold and overlap in a circular fashion not really having a clear direction rather rising and falling in a sonorous fashion.  Over the remainder of the disc not a hell of a lot happens other then slight shifts in the alignment, level and number of the drones, yet still inhabiting much the same sound texture territory throughout.  Consequently this is probably my main gripe with the track in the lack of direction and pacing of the piece given it is close to an hour.  Anyway, I believe that this item was released both as a mothers day tribute and to celebrate a live performance of the group and while not my favorite Coil piece, no doubt this will mean little to the hardcore collectors of the group.

Coil (Eng) “music to play in the dark2” CD 2000 Chalice

Vocal mantra consisting of the single word “something” sits in amongst swirling winds and lone keyboard drone, acting as an unusual opener of the disc (the CD being a follow to ‘music to play in the dark volume 1’).  Nominating ‘Something’ as somewhat of an intro the following track (‘Tiny Golden Books’) would not be out of place on a computer of space type documentary given the playful programming of the tune.  The dark traditional piano playing of ‘Ether’ catches my ear rather favorably, yet the weird scattered sounds and vocal treatments making this not entirely straight forward listen.  Computer programmed cut up beats and a baroque type tune of ‘paranoid inlay’ is another weird listen, while the short middle track ‘An Emergency’ featuring Rose McDowall on vocals.  Built around a rhythm of static glitches, and middle eastern type tune my favorite track comes in the form of ‘Where are You?’ exuding some of the fantastic atmospheres of the ‘Astral Disaster CD with both John and Rose handling vocals.  The final piece ‘Batwings (a Limnal Hymn) fronts with an organ tune and wavering electronic/ astral computer noise, (again with spoken vocals of John) in a track of slow movement and progress, with final minutes of this seeing the use of some quite beautifully sung vocal harmonies.

Column One (Ber) “Sad Finger” 7”ep 2000 StateArt

This being my first introduction to this quite prolific group I can say that I have been more than pleasantly surprised.  Side A offers up the title track, which is in fact a live recording from a 1999 Polish show.  Sparse symbol percussion and fluctuating backing noise start things off, with a morose bass/ piano tune and low sung/ spoken vocals later becoming apparent.  The gentle depressive aura of this is fantastic, which is sustained with only minimal change throughout (some increased use of tape loops and noise) on what is really a composition of part song & part experimental ambience.  Flipping over the nicely weighted vinyl, the two tracks on side B represent studio recordings.  The first of the two tracks is ‘Silent’ and is reminiscent of the feel of side A, mostly due to the slow bass tune & later utilised vocals, piano and symbol percussion.  This track sounds somewhat ‘artsy’ but it is again the depressive mood evoked via the beautiful piano tune and accompanying distant guitar that has me utterly floored.  The third track ‘with a cry’ again achieves the same feel (& ultimate result) of the preceding track, yet is done via a treated guitar tune and a myriad of backing loops, noises, sound treatments and field recordings.  The packaging while of the standard slip sleeve variety is printed on textured card (& contains another card insert) with unusual pictures to illustrate the ep’s title. I certainly want to seek out more from the group on the strength of this (although I do hear that the sound of the group does change drastically between releases).

Con-Dom (Eng) “Rome Songs” 10”ep 1999 Old Europa Cafe

Three tracks of Con-Dom vitriol pressed into blood red vinyl, one side 45 rpm the other 33 rpm just for interests sake.  Without even referencing the musical attack this is worth it for the cover alone – an era photo of Pope Pius IIX shaking hands with Hitler.  This image of religious hypocrisy has obviously fueled the project into yet another, never ending anger filled analysis of the control domination concept.  ‘Rome song’ comes as a typical hot bed of white hot noise, with mid ranged static, squealing feedback and the obligatory ranted vocals which in most part is singular in its approach throughout it length. ‘Pro-Judas’ is more subdued than normal and therefore the most interesting.  More bass heavy in sound it contains a mid paced beat which is another non standard element for the group.  Vocals are still yelled and with slight reverb but the beats, audible sound depth and move away from an all out attack this project is mostly know for.  ‘Papal Bull’ the last track on display has a slow feedback loop which doubles as a lurching rhythm, which again is slightly more subdued for the likes of what Con-Dom is mostly know for.  Layers of static do enter the mix but really add to the breath of sound rather than taking over completely.  A large written passage on the inside cover (detailing the concept of religious ordainment of war) forms the lyrics of this piece that are repeated a number or times over the lengthy format.  Here the vocals are not yelled in anger, rather spoken as a declaration, which with a mild sound treatment present as highly emotive.  The length of this piece allows the tracks dynamic to play out slowly, noise and static gaining momentum and volume throughout, creating power via a more subversive means.  For a Con-Dom release this is actually highly listen able and not just an anger venting tool, showing that the group just keep getting better with age.

Contrastate (Eng) “Todesmelodie” CD 1999 Noise Museum

So the new Contrastate album has finally arrived which unfortunately also encompasses their swansong.  And in the fields of electro acoustic soundscapes inter-dispersed with poetic spoken word segments none have ever really challenged the distinctive sound of this group.  ‘Third rock’n’roll session’ arrives with semi melodious guitar derived drones and organic sounding clutter, with the layered segments ebbing and flowing in confined forward motion.  Spooky sepulchral voices and lone telephone ring precede a fractured echoed beat segment that ushers in the first spoken word section of the album which contains almost a full structure with beat, tune and voice (I said almost).  The ever increasing and pulsating beat/ rhythm under a miasma of treated sound samples and voices make for an urgent piece on the unusually titled ‘the sardines have finished knitting’.  Here as the pace increases the backing becomes likewise sparse yet more emotive with its tense semi-classical aura.  When ‘cutting the cancer’ commences with its beautifully dark melody and sung vocals it appears as if we are to get a real song format out the group but this notion is quickly dispelled in the flurry of semi martial drumming and sporadic sound (although we do get a second taster of the vocal/ melody mid way through).  And what would you make of the vocal line “you are blamed for avoiding the truth”?.  Gregorian chants carry the epic 24 minute piece ‘the suitcase or the coffin’ to the alter of the inner ear, offering up a subtle and engulfing soundscape punctured by other snippets of subdued classical tune, choral vocals and vocal mantras.  More guitar drones and sparse percussion resurrect the piece sweeping it off in weightless spatial soundscape territory, yet by no means is this heaven as the aura takes a sinister twist being articulated slow plodding piano notes, hand percussion and writhing drones (The last 7 odd minutes of this piece arriving as a partly disjointed mix of sung spoken vocal drones/ harmonies and other straight electro-acoustic segments).  While I don’t think this could be considered the ultimate Contrastate album it is still leagues ahead of most and a great testimony to their legacy.

CTI (Eng) “Electronic Ambient Remixes” CD 2000 conspiracy international

This CD is by the infamous Chris Carter, who has extensively remixed and reworked one of his analogue synth albums called ‘the space between’ released way back in 1980.  I can say that I really did not have any expectation nor any real idea of what this was to sound like, but after numerous rotations have been more than pleasantly surprised.  While billed as ‘dark ambient remixes’ there however are faint traces of trance inducing electronica, that in fleeting moments bring to mind Atomine Elektrine’s ‘Archimetrical Universe’ with its sweeping galactic (occasionally beat laced) soundscapes.  There are never really any real beats per se, but the programming does come in the form of very subtle rhythms, pulses and tunes (as is shown on the fantastic ‘interloop’).  Much of the aura is akin to drifting through the endless expanses of space (likewise drifting effortlessly between the ambience of each track), stretching the concept of time and space in its wake.  The underlying sound of course is analogue given the main source material, but other than that this presents itself as a very current sounding experimental electronica/ dark ambient release.

Current 93 (ENG) “ I have a special plan for this world” MCD 2000 Durtro

Given that I don’t have an overall grasp of the sounds produced on Current 93’s numerous albums over the years, I will avoid acting like I do – rather will present a straight up description and those more versed fans can decipher what other albums this is most comparable to!  One track at a touch over twenty minutes seems much longer as it engulfs you in both a poetically tinged hypnotic state.  Words written by Thomas Ligotti and spoken by David Tibet are both desperate and tragic in content, with delivery conveying a feeling of total emptiness and loneliness.  After getting the rambling’s of a madman set against a clock ticking out of the way, David’s first vocal passage present themselves as if random thoughts recorded and played back on a dicta-phone.  Soon after the shimmering, wavering organic waves flow forth, yet strangely containing a somewhat metallic resonance.  Vocals cut back and forth from sections of indecipherable treatments to tragic story telling, segmented by the intentional nuisance of an on/ off switch, all the while with a half played melody ebbing throughout.  Limited additional ground is covered other then the above sound treatment, but this is where the magic is most evident, stretching the essence of the time fabric, focus held with the progression of the narration of the surreal story, full of confusion and ambiguity.  The primary coloured art of the digi-pack cover are yet another facet of Tibet’s talent, which on face value misrepresent the music but on the other being totally appropriate in surreal depiction.

Current 93 (ENG) / Antony and the Johnsons Orchestra (USA) “Immortal Bird / Cripple and the Starfish” CDS 2000 Durtro

Two tracks, 11 minutes including a new track off the upcoming Current 93 album and an introduction to this unusually titled new group, that David Tibet incidentally brought to the attention of World Serpent.  Although listed with Current 93 as the first artist, the play order shows otherwise with the lengthy titled group Anthony and the Johnsons Orchestra up first.  Being quite melodramatic is somewhat of an understatement, topping even Nick Cave in vocal delivery.  Being an octave or two higher than the former mentioned, the accentuation of vocalisations give them a very distinctive sound, set against a backing band containing violins, cello, piano, harp and clarinet, later including standard drumming and saxophone solo.  Different to what I normally would listen yet remaining an intriguing listen.  Reasonably straight forward in song construction, the Current 93 ‘Immortal Bird’ is a subdued guitar, organ, xylophone, and sung/ spoken vocals piece that and a nice ambient air.  Heavy in radiating warmth the production is akin to dozing before a warm open flame.  Quite removed in sound from the previous MCD but still has sparked my interest for the new release.  As much as this is an introduction to a new group and new album respectively, its real purpose is being an appetiser for both.

Current 93 (ENG) “Sleep Has His House” CD 2000 Durtro

Taking the words and description of the above Current 93 track (from this album from which it was taken) stands as a broad description, yet I find the aura all the more tragic and desolate when a similar sound is played out over 9 tracks.  The instrumental opener of sparse bass tune, lightly strummed guitar and droning organ (liner notes state it is actually a harmonium) sets this mood precisely.  Each song uses mostly this same instrumentation, writing similar songs around this depressive mood, yet rather than being boring or one dimensional it sets of an emotional vortex that you can’t help but revel in.  The vocals of David Tibet are sung/ spoken in such a manner that it is not what is being said, but rather in the way, that evokes this tragic air.  This would seem to have a lot to do with the album being in the memory of his recently passed father, with songs and artwork revolving around this theme.  Mild electronic minimalist studio treatments are employed on the later half of ‘the magical bird in the magical woods’, but do not detract from the emotive framework being weaved.  ‘Red Hawthorn Tree’ sees the odd shrill trumpets blasts included in a track that is the closest equivalent to what would constitute a smile for the album (but barely that in all honesty).  It is funny how a track can take on a whole new perspective when heard either within the confines of an album to when being unfettered as a single, yet the above reviewed ‘Immortal Bird’ single weaves more magic as part of a collective whole than an lone crusader.  The vocals on ‘Niemandswasser’ sound as if being presented by a man on the verge of total collapse only adding to the depressive dimensions explored, the soul swept away in by the swirling winds that mark the tracks end.  The only drawback I could possibly find is in the 24 minute title track (specifically dedicated to the memory of his father), as the harmonium drones become too repetitive without the assistance of other instrumentation (except for spoken vocals).  While the last piece ‘The God of Sleep Has Made His House’ does not change the basic framework of sound, strangely a hint of Pink Floyd can be detected here (and not in a disparaging way either).  Between the two Current 93 albums reviewed, two very different facets of their sound are explored.  Take your pick as either are great.

Cyclotimia (Rus) “New Death Order” CD 2000 StateArt

This is somewhat different to what I was expecting, however this has much to do with the previous track I had heard from the group (a track on the “Edge of the Night: Russian Gothic Compilation” where the group presented a new aged/classically influenced trance/techno piece). Overall the sound here is quite a bit darker than this particular track and likewise contains far less trance/ beat oriented sections.  ‘Miserere’ (the first track) has extremely tense sub orchestral drones and is yet another of many groups that have used that now infamous sample from the movie “Jacob’s Ladder”.  Half way in the sound changes completely with Gregorian vocal chants that are partly uplifting and partly sorrowful, complimented with underlying synth layers and factory clatter type noise.  Such is track two in representing the title track, it is introduced with hard snare drums and rising noise layers with sampled choir vocals adding a sense of morose despair in amongst multiplying (relatively) non musical sound layers.  There is a certain sound here comparable to early rasion d’etre but here is generally a harsher vibe.  Lush (synth) strings & choir vocals commences ‘cursed ground’, yet things take a turn to harder atmospheric territory with shrill treated synth layers and other assorted noise voice samples.  The final two pieces ‘Manifest Destiny’ (parts I & II) are mid paced synth layered percussive type sound works with smatterings of sampled talking the cover topics relating to the title and cover image (depicting three surly looking high flying business types).  An unnamed bonus track is also included and manages to solidify a soundscape that cuts across the modern and arcane via the use of religious chanting and low syth pulses and drones.  The overall vibe is fantastic and a great conclusional piece.  I somehow think Cyclotimia will become a quickly know name on the strength of this MCD.

Dawn & Dusk Entwined (Fra) “Forever War” CD 2000 World Serpent Distribution

My first introduction to the group was on Anthanor’s ’Lucifer Rising’ compilation and even though the track was a reasonable effort, for me it acted more as a marker hinting at what was to come from the group in future.  And while I may not have heard the first CD (released last year also on WSD), this second CD is nonetheless quite stunning.  Deep, morose, neo-classical is what is at hand here, even with a certain similarity to the distant forlorn sounds encompassed in LJDLP’s works – in other words very damn good.  The prominence of a heavily accented European voice is shown on the opener ‘Heading towards the west’ – the music a combination of deep percussion and slow classical string melodies.  While the main piano line on ‘To the fallen ones (Eternal two)’ is quite simplistic (over drawn out orchestral sounds) it holds a particularly evocative aura with distant rumblings become more evident in the foreground.  Again the piano lines on ‘Shades and shadows’ draw heavily on what could be described as a trademark LJDLP element, complete with speech samples and scarred sweeping textures shifting in the background.  Segments of trumpet blasts and distorted martial percussion sets ‘Wyrd’ as a much less melodic track resulting in it being mainly a vehicle from crowd noise vocals samples far off bomb blasts etc.  The sorrowful choir samples at the start of ‘Skies of Belgrade’ convey a feeling of unspoken misery, prior to the shrill whistle of an air raid siren puncturing the subdued backing atmosphere (from here distant echoed percussion, spoken vocals and a slow organ tune enters the composition).  ‘Enter Ashland’ is yet another example where the group excel by taking what is essentially a simplistic melody but creating a more than effective aura by embellishing with organ sounds and heavy pounding percussion.  After hearing the calibre of the tracks on this second album I will have to see what I can do about tracking down their first effort.  Recommended.

Death in June (Eng) “Heilige” CD 1999 NEROZ

When referencing my show report of the Death in June performance in last issue, one might consider this would get an instant thumbs up given this live CD release was recorded at the aforementioned show.  Sadly this is not the case, mostly due to the live recording lacking much of the power and punch of actually being there.  The overall martial aura in the live sense came via the pounding drumming, which on this recording is mixed far too low.  Likewise the recorded vocals have taken much more of a central focus which I feel there being too much emphasis on these then the underlying music.  Taping of the show straight from the mixing board (I assume) has removed any hint of crowd applause which further tends to turn the listeners’ ear way from appreciating the music as a live rendition, rather sounding like a live studio take.  Now that I have aired these grievances, in balance I will add that the sound production is crystalline in clarity and full bodied in breadth, with no complaints with the actual sound – more so to do with the mixing.  As with the previous description of the show, the CD showcases much of the newer material in the first half with the later half reverting to the standard acoustics of the early to middle eira of DI6.  Aces in the first half certainly are provided with live renditions of the some of the tracks off the ‘Take Care and Control’ album, including ‘Despair’, ‘Little Blue Butterfly’ and ‘Frost Flowers’ being definite stand outs, complimented by the use of orchestral and vocal samples.  Both ‘Bring in the Night’ & ‘Only Europa Know’ are presented in full percussive guise with the later being a very aggressive rendition complete with full vocal snarls.  ‘Death of the West’ marks the changeover to the acoustic format followed in quick succession by ‘Heaven Street’ and ‘Little Black Angel’.  ‘Kameradschaft’ comes across stunningly live, merging the acoustic strains of the guitar perfectly with the more martial percussion of recent DI6 albums.  Later acoustic stand outs also come with ‘Giddy Giddy Carousel’, ‘Rose Clouds of Holocaust’, ‘Hullo Angel’, ‘Leper Lord’ & ‘Fall Apart’.  After lulling the listener in a somewhat relaxing state due to the acoustic segment, DI6 up the anger level for the pounding conclusional track ‘C’est Un Reve’. Overall it is a good musical document of the last show of DI6 for the 20th Century (incidentally 20 tracks in all), but sadly it does not quite match up the sound of actually being there.  The talent of the musicians and clarity of recording is still a testimony to this long standing group and any fan who has followed DI6 for a number of years will have no doubt want to obtain this.

Death in June (Eng) “Operation Humingbird” MCD 2000 NER

Playing out as a sister album to the new direction DI6 toyed with on “Take Care & Control”, Douglas P (assisted by Albin Julius of Der Blutharsch) returns with 7 tracks, likewise on a new label after departing from the World Serpent ranks.  This time around even any hint of the traditional DI6 element of acoustic guitars has been removed, instead again playing with martial themes of sampled classical loops, keyboard treatments, vocals and drumming. The opening cut “Gorilla Tactics”(sic) contains savvy dry humour yet is also a venomous attack on Switzerland for being banned from playing there on the 1998/ 1999 tour (pointing out some utmost hypocrisy of the said country’s banking regime) completing with the chiming of cuckoo-clocks to drive the message home.  Here Douglas cuts a straight path through all emotive argument against the group squarely turning the mirror back at the accusers.  ‘Flieger’ is one track that just has to be heard to be believed sounding like a swinging 60’s number (but with obvious DI6 slant) with an untempo beat, driving bass and meandering keyboard accompaniments.  By all accounts this should not work but manages to be one of the most surprising and engaging tracks of the CD. Other tracks continue with the verse/ chorus/ verse format of the preceding acoustic faze of DI6 compositions but here using a totally different framework of orchestral/ classical driven sound ranging from shrill to brooding string sections, commanding horn movements, marching beats etc depending on which track is being played out.  All are done superbly creating both calm and rousingly inspired atmospheres.  Also with track titles such as “Hand Grenades and Olympic Flames” and “Let the Wind Catch a Rainbow on Fire” you are assured poetic yet ambiguous lyrics throughout. Douglas P having been recording as DI6 for nearly 2 decades, there still seems to be no sign of slowing down, instead sounding refreshed and revitalised with new direction on this MCD (and the last CD), ready to continue unrepentant for years to come.  Even if you have not been aquatinted with DI6 before, this would be a great place to start given the new found direction and vitality.

Death in June (Eng) “Discriminate” 2CD 2000 NER

Being a re-released item, this double CD set has written in gold embossed writing on the back cover stating “a compilation of personal choice”, which quickly sums up this release.  All in all 33 tracks are included spanning songs from DI6’s albums released through the years 1981 to 1997.  Not having seen the original version I don’t know if the packaging has changed, but with this the two CD’s are housed in slip sleeves further housed inside a larger card outer cover (similar to that of the ‘Operation Hummingbird’ cover), additionally with a standard cover insert.  Simplistic but aesthetically well presented.  I guess there is little point in specifically reviewing the music as so many of the tracks have become classics within the DI6 camp and thus have no requirement for further comment.  This is a great release to capture a broad overview of what DI6 have been and subsequently become over the years, and even for an avid fan it is akin to have a large portion of the back catalogue on multi-disc rotation.

Der Blutharsch (Aut) “The pleasures received in pain” CD 1999 WKN

This is the second full length CD of Der Blutharsch and incidentally the last via World Serpent now that WKN are to be distributed by Tesco Organistation.  A reasonably simplistic brown card slip cover is the packaging, a knight on horseback in the midst of battle adorning the cover and picture of Albin on the inside. The slow ritual neo-classics of chiming bells, massively deep horns & slow strings of the first (of thirteen) untitled tracks set the underlying mood of the CD, while the second and third pieces sets the overall martial marching tone that is slightly tinged with volkish sentiments.  Massive orchestrations and mid paced pounding beats are immaculately presented, both tracks showing the more frequent use of main vocals in a commanding sung/ spoken guise.  Some people have stated they are not enthralled by the increased use of vocals, yet I feel they compliment the atmosphere of the shorter tracks of this album.  The darker ritual/ industrial undercurrent momentarily surfaces on the slow soundscape of the sixth track, with the muffled sound actually adding to the mysterious atmospheres, in amongst which spoken vocals, sampled choirs and deep horns reverberate.  Track 7 is simply amazing in the urgent strains of the beats and tunes, resplendent with rousing chanted vocals, as is the warlike strains of the uptempo track 8 with its mantra of “patria et libertas”.  Track 9 has sampled quotes pertaining to a conversation between Boyd Rice with his Son, while musically sees the introduction of an acoustic guitar into the Der Blutharsch sound creating a slow folk/ ritual feel.  The shrill cry of distant bagpipes and anthemic martial drumming give way to one of the most powerful tracks on the album (track 12) that only multiplies in stature over its five minute span, the tune segmented somewhere between ritual and deep brass orchestral, complete with commanding dual vocals throughout (chanting “we never give up” towards the end).  The last lengthy track has a subdued trench warfare sound (a visual picture consisting of barren fields in the dead of night with the unnerving quiet between combat).  Some of the backing noise sounds appear to have been sampled from a couple of tracks off Brighter Death Now’s ‘Innerwar’ album, with distant air raid sirens, slow horns and sampled text vocals making up the remainder of sound. Whereby the first album played out as a whole piece from subdued to commanding orchestral atmospheres, this album slightly differs in that is has feel of the collection of songs under the guise of an album.  This brings also a compassion to the feel of selected albums of ‘TMLHBAC’ (Albin’s previous project) with the emphasis on individual songs under the guise of an album.  While the debut full length might have overall been a cinematic vision, this album is a refocused view of subdued, rousing and celebratory marching tunes.  If you are yet to discover the power of Der Blutharsch musical works do not wait any longer.

Der Blutharsch (Aut) / Ain Soph (Ita) “Roter Berg/ Baltikum” 7” ep 1999 WKN

The packing on this one is not much to get exited about….simple brown/ yellow slip sleeve with next to no information (other than it appears both tracks were recorded live at different performances).  Far off orchestral strains and subdued pulse foundation get things off the mark for Der Blutharsch, being quite ritualistic in feel compared to the much more folkish neo-classical strains associated with Albin’s compositions.  In a instant (after a few minutes of the introduction have elapsed) the martial implications burst forth with mid to high range quick percussive beats, shrill orchestral strains and commanding sung/ spoken vocals undercut with higher range (sampled?) choir like vocals (all done to a high standard).  This lasting for another few minutes this passage abruptly finishes to the sound of rapturous applause, followed by a very eccentrically weird and hokey “western” piano dirge.  This has me scratching my head somewhat, however it really only acts and the ending segment… Ain Soph is much harder to get exited about even to the point that I would call this track openly embarrassing.  This sounds like a very bad jam session of a couple of drugged up and washed out muso’s… complete with keyboard runs, strummed guitars, up tempo rock beats and bland vocals.  My distaste for this track goes as far as that I feel it taints the quality of the Der Blutharsch segment.  While Ain Soph has gone through various stages of musical composition I still can’t believe this is the same group that produced the totally encompassing dark ambient (concluding) track on the fantastic “Lucifer Rising” compilation.  I would say this is worth it for the Der Blutharsch track alone but also it depends how much you can get it for given WKN releases are generally pretty pricey and highly collectable.

Der Blutharsch (Aut) “The track of the Hunted” CD 2000 WKN

The ever productive Albin Julius has quickly returned with his third full length declaration under the Der Blutharsch banner. As with the last album, this is likewise built around a format of shorter songs, and while the neo-classic sound has certainly not been removed, there is less focus on martial and marching themes, with slightly more exploration of the ritual and industrial sides to the Der Blutharsch.  This is not to say that there has been a change in direction, rather an exploration of a different facet of the projects sounds. Here 10 untitled tracks are presented with the opener containing sampled choir vocals and air raid sirens, creating a mix of beautiful and alarming sounds.  Slow strings, more sampled female choir vocals and a slow undercurrent of industrial sounds embodies track 2, being a good example of the mix of neo-classical and ritual industrial.  Track 4 as with a track in the last album uses again the acoustic guitar within the sound, creating a folk oriented feel within the chanted vocals, slow tunes, drones etc.  Track 5 contains probably the best use of martial percussion that I have heard from Der Blutharsch thus far.  The brilliance of the multi layered percussion is in its anthemic proportions that have additionally avoided being simply a marching beat.  This rousing number is one of the highlights of this disc with a perfect blend of echoed spoken vocals, deep horns and xylophone tune.  Track 7, that being a piece of mid paced ritual beats, weird accordion tune and overt darkly, muffled atmosphere (also including a Charles Manson sample) is another example of the diversion of this album, while the following track 8 is of the dark neo-classical martial percussion style – another highlight of the album. Sampled voices, spoken vocals, incessant percussive beats and brass horns and mournful bag pipe tunes intensify until its ultimate conclusion.  An up tempo era recording in the form of German accordion song is sampled in its entirety without any modification as track 9  (Ah yes Albin certainly enjoys these heritage recordings!) before the move towards the closing passage is made.  The sound of the last track is much more cinematic in its orchestral sound more along the lines of the first CD than the remainder of this album (or the last album for that matter). There is a free from flow evident here with the massive orchestral sound, which does not seem to have emphasized throughout the shorter compositions.  Within this track is a hidden 11 piece, again seeing the exploration of martial and ritual sounds creating a dark soundscape void of any tune (apart from the occasional tune held in the sampled chanted vocals). The embossed digi-pack this is packaged in particularly stunning, consisting of brown card with images of statues and classic art printed in silver.  Overall another successful and victories battle won for Der Blutharsch (but it seems that Albin already knew this considering the very first sound of the album was that of a celebratory glass of wine being poured).

Dissecting Table (Jap) “Power out of Control” CD 2000 Triumvirate

Of the outputs by Ichiro Tsuji under the above name, he has constantly forged ahead the exploration of over the top power industrial rhythms and noise structures, with ‘Power out of Control’ representing an album recorded in 1998, only now released in 2000. A muffled bass intoned section starts the album (‘uncontrollable’) only lasting for a minute or so until the trademark elements of squealing feedback noise, ridged programmed beats, grinding bass runs and over the top electronic growls that were once vocals. The palpitations of both beats and bass give an sense of urgency, yet the track does calm down into a groove, sub bass and beat segment at the six minute mark with an almost neo-classical feel to the slow keyboard tune recreating the sound of deep horns (not that this lasts for all that long before heading back to cerebral damage territory).  More trademark bass/ rhythm structures are found on ‘bottom’ as an introduction to the machine gun pulse, noise and obliterated vocals.  Later things calm down again (not in relation to speed but noise attack) and it is here when the high end squeals are shelved that I find D.T most engaging, as it gives the opportunity to appreciate the complexities of bass and programming being presented. This track also contains a great section of semi structured deep sub noise and slow dark pounding industrial beats, morphing into what could essentially be drum and bass (but with a sound only Ichiro could create).  Reasonably composed beats and bass in a mid paced dark groove oriented style embodies ‘Naturalism’, vocals gargled in an almost death metal guise.  With no overt noise attacks on this track I would have to coin it as my favorite here.  With a title like ‘go beyond the limit’ it is not hard to envisage the noise/ grind machinery being kicked back into full swing, yet still retaining a complexity of approach between segments of the composition – the use of composed/ noise, loud/ soft format is the key here. With only 4 tracks this still has a play time of over 40 minutes, I guess this would be a good place to start as an introduction to D.T, as much as it will also appeal to those already taken by the insane style of the group.

Sally Doherty (Eng) “Empire of Death” CD 2000 Tiger Records

This beautifully powerful release certainly has the winds time permeating every aspect, sweeping the listener back to an epoch of human civilisation long past.  The music on this release was originally composed for a BBC documentary of the same title, focusing on the discovery of the pyramids of a Black African Empire located in Sudan in the 1930’s.  This being quite interesting in the musical illustration of such subject matter, I however found it a little odd that the cover is adorned with images of Egyptian stone artifacts rather than that of the real subject matter.  Anyway, turning to the actual music, comparisons could be made to selected moments of Dead Can Dance (particularly where Lisa Gerrard presented solo chanted vocals) or even Sephiroth. A classical structure of flute, cello, violin. clarinet and oboe intertwined with female vocals used predominantly as an instrument itself, is the basis of the sound of the reasonably short compositions (16 in all & a little short of 40 minutes).  Even though programming and keyboards are also noted in the instrumentation listing, there are no elements that hint at a synthetic sound production, which greatly assists in the timelessness of the music (the synth and programming seem mostly related to the dark percussive sections).  An Arabic flavour is likewise fused into much the song writing and despite the length of the tracks being around 2-3 minutes they do contain an impeccable flow, appearing rather as segments of one drawn out composition.  While typically movie or documentary soundtracks can have some parallels with the dark ambient genre, in most cases they fall well short in one regard or another.  However here the evocation of a subdued mysterious air throughout this music (in my humble opinion!) allows this release to transcend any barriers of simply being deemed a soundtrack piece, containing the ability to work extremely well as a dark ambient work.

Dreams in Exile (USA) “Since Long Before CD 2000 Crowd Control Activities

Like the Amoeba release also reviewed in these pages, Dreams in Exile follow a similar path.  Gentle guitar works of both acoustic and electric format encompasses a hazy mood, the male vocals likewise being gentle & mournful in delivery.  Also, interestingly the majority of tracks have been embellished and enhanced by drone artist Vidna Obmana, these deep swirling drone atmospherics adding a distinctive breadth of sound.  Elements of rock, folk and tinges of subdued gothic influence are all evident, but never really totally subscribing to any of the genres in entirety.  Some tracks being instrumental are barely noticed as being as such given the low vibe the vocals create when are present.  Despite have traditional elements of guitars, drums and vocals, all are processed in such a warm resonating manner it is quite easy to be engulfed in the music similar to how you would listen to drone ambient works.  This is sort of a release that transcends genre boundaries in its individual artistic pursuit.

Droneament (Ger) “Wassermond” 7”ep 2000 Drone Records

Calming textures and digital drones give way to a slow evolving atmosphere based loosely around a water sample (the liquidous feel is evident yet remains to the backing).  Without being forceful side A offers up a multi dimensional piece of layered sounds, (some hazy some mildly rhythmic) all the while the bubbling and gurgling water textures creating an amazing drone piece.  Side B (‘wassertank’) starts slower yet has an inherent forcefulness not evident on the first track.  The main textures are more urgent consisting of a multiple drones, sound pulsations and full bodied water samples.  Less actual sound distance is covered but this is made up in the departments of sound depth and dynamic.  The cover consists of green card, with silk screen printed image to match the clear green vinyl.  Another superb release from Drone Records.

Dual (Eng) “Klanik/ 4 t H” 7”ep 1999 Drone Records

When guitar layers are presented as treated drones I could not be happier, with Dual making me quite ecstatic!  ‘Klanik’ contains sounds of both low and mid ranged frequency sitting alongside a slow percussive beats, creating atmospheres that surge off on multiple tangents.  The texture and volume remove this from a simple derivative drones, likewise when infused with sparse melodious sounds creates an engaging slow morphing song.  ‘4 t H’ embodies a sparser experimental guise with solid crumbling and fractured textures, deep feedback, sporadic clatter etc, all underpinned by elements of drawn out guitar drones.  The level of volume and intensity of feedback again ensures that the track transcends any simplistic drone categorization.  There could be a broad compassion to Contrastate indicating the sheer brilliance of this.  Definitely worthwhile.

Elijah’s Mantle (Eng) “Legacy of Corruption” CD 2000 De Nova Da Capo

Elijah’s Mantle a group I have heard quite a bit about was actually unknown in sound to me be until this album.  Know that the man behind the project Mark St John Ellis is both an artistic and poetic fellow, this actually quite along the lines of what I was anticipating. Toying with rigid romantic (if not baroque) neo classical framework, spoken vocals are unique if nothing else in presentation – each word meticulously pronounced to give an air of pomp and ceremony.  The neo classics of the pieces use the expected sounds of horns, strings, deep percussion and likewise harps, flutes, clarinets, organs, pianos etc which results in a framework that is less militaristic than most others in the genre. One other instrumentation element is the electric bass used within a number of the tracks, which to my ears does not sit all that well, given it isn’t the most expected instrument to hear alongside an orchestral sound.  Another point that on initial listens has been slightly off putting, are the spoken vocals.  It is not that they are at all bad within themselves, rather I think the ‘less is more’ principle would work here.  Particularly when Mark St John Ellis was guest vocals on the Protagonist’s debut, the vocals melded perfectly when only presented in a small segment.  Maybe the extent of use of vocals has been somewhat dictated by the theme of the album being poems of Charles Baudelaire being set to music (I assume this is the individual on the cover?) and the need to include sufficient text.  Anyway, not wanted to dwell on negatives, the musical backing is very solid in authentic classical composition, (if not aesthetically sparse in instrumentation) which clearly brings to mind Shinjuku Thief’s ‘the scribbler’ CD, which incidentally also took inspiration from an artistic source (being some Kafka texts).  Highlights are found on the lengthy tracks such as ‘The Spirit and the Flesh’ & ‘Abel & Cain’ bringing out the full flair of the project in a sweeping yet subdued orchestral manner.  Packaging is a stunning 24 page booklet of poem selections from Charles Baudelaire printed in black and silver on stark white card stock.

Einleitungszeit (Slo) “Schrei des Feuers” video 1999 Ars Morta Universum

As far as videos go for this type of scene this is not a bad offering at all.  While there will always be limitations to how a live video turns out, the feel and look of this falls somewhere between the slightly lacking quality of the Tesco Organisation’s Heavy Electronics festival video and the quite superb Der Blutharsch live video.  As for the live set up, the group consists of two individuals – one on the floor working various distortion pedals, pieces of metal, pipes and steel spring (that all appear to have been contact mic’ed), while the other (standing) individual handles the noise/ beat samplers and live vocals.  The sound is extremely heavy and chaotic with searing noise blast and flanged vocal shrieks creating an all out aural offensive.  Somewhere between power electronics and death industrial the intensity peaks early and remains so throughout the 30 or so minutes.  With a mix of synthesised samples and mostly non rhythmic beats, the bone grinding machinery aura is further embellished with tortured vocals (of non descript ramblings or straight screaming) and the shifting textures of random metallic noise.  Certainly these sounds give the aura of some of the most tortured sounds to come from Brighter Death Now (ie: ‘necrose evangelicum’ CD).  At one point the guy working the home made noise implements, sets upon the mic’ed metal sheet with an angle grinder (creating quite a calamity as your would expect) then alternating between that and an un mic’ed metal plate strapped to his chest (more for visual effect and symbolism than noise generation I suspect..)  The footage is derived from a single camera (mainly of a hand held style), moving in and out of close ups, with the visuals being fed through some post production colour and texture that adds to the chaos.  And while there may be the odd audible applause and the end of each track there is no footage to indicate the size of the venue nor how many people may have been in attendance.  Admittedly having only previously known this group by namesake I don’t know if the live tracks are taken from previous releases, however on the quality of these live noise scapes I now plan on tracking down their other musical outputs.

Ex.Order (Ger) “Silence + Brutality” MCD 1999 Associated Distortion

Three tracks of subtly insidious psychological degradation, a collaborative effort forged by Inade side-project Ex. Order and the image work of Charles Acethorpe.  Echoed vocal samples lead one into the slow throb brainwash environment of “A Dazzling Peace,” calm, deceptively sinister tones rising and sinking in the background, burrowing into the cranium: it has begun.  “Bound By Threads” continues the heavy samples vein, this time disrupted by distant machinegun fire and a swirling, menacing ambience upon which pulsing distortion is slathered over the top.  Escape is futile: outside, the war rages on; in here, in the Ex. Order sonic vacuum, a more depraved fate awaits.  “Flesh Pumping” is a furious pummel and squeal affair, no need any more for prisoners or the attainment of covert information, just kill them, kill them all… And, before death, the looped female vocal sample conjures an image of an underlying sexual deviation that fills the mind with perversity, a perversity born of the hideous circumstances: the cruel, less apparent vestiges of war… As with the brilliant The Infernal Age CD from early 1999, Silence + Brutality is another devastating journey into the blasted cranial mind-field that is Ex. Order’s sonic dominion.  -JC Smith  (Reprinted by permission from Side-Line magazine: http://www.side-line.com) -JC Smith

Fire+Ice (Eng) “Birdking” CD 2000 Tesco Organisation

A bit of an all star cast is featured on the new album by Ian Reed aka Fire+Ice, with musical contribution from members of Death in June, Ostara, Blood Axis, Backworld to name but a few.  As for the music this is traditional poetic apocalyptic folk music, the vocals of Ian full of tragedy and nostalgia.  While not stepping outside of the boundaries of the genre, this stays true to its folk origins, even to being even more folk oriented that any other of the affiliated artists.  A piano tune follows and embellishes the main melody line of the title track and likewise crops up to varying degrees on other tracks (as does keyboards, percussion etc).  The particularly traditional folk structure of ‘Drighten’s Hall’ is fantastic with lone acoustic guitar, and whistle – the vocals of Ian being more forced in delivery, sitting against a female vocal backing.  Things really hit their peak on this track with the use of soaring violins, bring visions of elder times into full view of the mind’s eye.  ‘The Lady of the Vanir’ does not feature Ian, rather seeming to be a piece written and sung by Alice Karlsdottir, acoustic guitar, keyboards and percussion being the musical backing.  The track sounding most akin to DiJ acoustic works comes with ‘Take my Hand’, which incidentally features none other than Douglas P playing both acoustic guitar and keyboards.  The organ sound and vocal delivery of ‘My Brother’ strangely sounds like a gospel hymn, that I actually don’t feel fits all that well with the other acoustic format type tracks.  Regardless, the final track has a mood of more uplifting celebration when compared to the others being full and rich in sound, the musical accompaniment consisting of acoustic guitar, piano, keyboards violin etc which is a good conclusion to this set of traditional folk sounding tunes.

Fennesz (Aut) “plus forty seven degrees 56’37” minus sixteen degrees 51’ 08”” CD 1999 Touch

Armed with a powerbook laptop and guitar it is reported that Christian Fennesz recorded this album outdoors and unrehearsed, which if is the case sits perfectly with beautiful outdoor landscape shots of the booklet and oversized card cover.  One shot in particular details power lines crossing an open field, factories dotted off in the distance. With this image illustrating the merging spheres of the electronic and organic this states multitudes about the feel of this album.  With no sounds that could be recognized as being derived from a guitar, the album is a sweeping explorations of textural sound intensity and cutting edge sound aesthetics.  Hints of melody weave throughout the sound explorations, yet really remaining incidental to the overall atmospheres. Tracks three & four contain a sound texture akin to that of a low flamed fire, yet produced via an electronic medium of gliched sporadic sounds and gaps of silence.  Track five is an intensely noisy and dynamic piece of multi-layered static, but is presented in such a way with an underlying melodious drone that it has a soothing quality.  Fragile shimmering textures, submissive static and distant sounds of track six create a massive depth of sound revealing to the mind’s eye a wide screen vision of storm clouds slowing closing in on a rolling hilled landscape.  The final two pieces are reasonable short, yet cover sounds ranging from an aggressive loud perspective to softly contemplated (even when being just over two minutes each). For those not really familiar with the MEGO label (on which Fennesz first appeared) and affiliated artists (not that I am any sort of expert anyway!) this could be compared to the sound textural direction that Hazard has been pursuing over recent albums.  The only other thing I could add is that this is brilliant underground experimental sound works of digital abstraction – the product of a scene that will be a major force in the future of experimental music.

First Law (Ger) “Violent::Sedated” CD 1999 Loki Foundation

First Law brews a strange concoction of uncommon, enigmatic ambience (and what strange concoction is suggested by all of the pharmaceutically inspired song titles?).  Violent::Sedated circles from the periphery, from a place not often explored (just to the left of limbo), blending tonally oblique elements into a sonic cauldron that continually boils over with contextually bizarre sounds.  Brittle, fluttering wings introduce “Amphetamine Sulfate (100 mg),” after which futuristic, smooth edged synth textures are unveiled–think Wendy Carlos’ work on Clockwork Orange.  A sudden interruption of odd, anxious tapping leads one into a realm of metallic, tribal percussion upon which the synths are re-introduced, giving the ambience a different focus.  Wary slivers of razor honed nuances peek through the folds of “Loxapine (220 mg),” while uncomfortable synths desperately try to arrange themselves, to no avail: the mood is tenaciously discomfiting throughout.  “Paraxetine HCI (50 mg)” seems recorded low to the ground as twitching, insect level sounds overwhelm; the ambience is moist and uneasy, a nauseous landscape as heard/sensed/translated via insect antennae.  The caught in the propeller blade gyrating ambience of “Phenobarbital (175 mg)” is jolted by bursts of ritualistically laced percussive disruptions and a noisy crowd demonstration.  Gurgling, oscillating synths and feedback struggle for control amidst a whirlpool of chipped plastic, percolating rubber, and splintered metal during “Phenelzine (70 mg).”  As threaded together with light tribal structures, the noise itself is never out of control (despite the aspirations of each individual sound).  Repeated listens familiarize the listener to the First Law sonic mandate and really bring out the hidden textures buried within.  Unique–not exactly dark sonicscape, but different…–JC Smith

4th Sign of the Apocalypse (USA) “Lost Hour World” CD 1998 Suffering Clown

The sounds created from this project while not musically similar to Dream into Dust, do have one similarity, in that this is just as confounding when trying to evoke an appropriate description.  There are dark soundscapes punctured with weirdness (somewhat humorous choices of sound bites), slow experimental guitar driven tracks with morose male vocals (such as on ‘Miss Meh’), and other pieces of selected sonic oddities.  Even when the dark ambience is more straight forward looped styling, they are furnished with track titles such as ‘On a Slightly Higher Moonbeam Then Death’ again taking a somewhat tongue in cheek approach.  On the other hand ‘Bleeding’ contains an industrialised rhythm with repetitive driven guitar riff & vocal chant, while field recordings, sirens and an assortment of other found sounds act as the backing collage.  Acoustic guitar intro to ‘KnickKnack’ ushers in the weirdest track of the CD, sort of a drug infused experimental jazz piece with experimental industrial overtones (this track is a little to far out there for me to fully appreciate).  The plodding beats and surrealist atmospheres of ‘Take me Away’ presents as if a musical insight into a madman’s mind, with the rambling heavily treated vocals ultimately solidifying this vision, while ‘The last 7:38 of Your Life’ is an appropriately engulfing listen with guttural bass tones, deeply echoed cyclic sounds and disembodied voices calling from the abyss (ultimately being one of the best tracks of the CD).  Great ideas are explored here, yet sometimes somewhat hit and miss in final musical presentation.

Genocide Organ (Ger) “the truth will make you free” LP 1999 Tesco Organisation

Arguably the most controversial power electronics group ever, Genocide Organ return with this new release.  Now before the politically correct factions get all riled up with the visuals, text and samples contained on this LP I think the following quote from a G.O interview is relevant: “We never say what we think, and we never believe what we say, and if we tell the truth by accident, we hide it under so many lies that it is difficult to find out” (Descent Volume 5: The Death Issue June 1999).  Now with that out of the way, even if the music was not up to standard (not that this is the case at all) this release is worth it for the packaging alone.  There is a certain special feeling you get when holding the ultra thick, heavy weight, maximum thickness, gloss card gatefold album cover, that is essentially beyond description.  This simply needs to be seen to understand what I’m getting at…. Orchestral sample intro and ambiguous ‘fatherland’ styled speech text introduces ‘Tide Side’ (side B is ‘Grow Side’) merging into the subdued electric throbbing, sweeping textures and absolutely amazing vocal treatment/ of ‘Harmony’.  And it is this track which introduces and solidifies the overall vibe of the LP being heavily controlled rather than an all out blistering attack, essentially opting for domination through subversion when compared to G.O’s previous use of sheer violence.  Smattering of vocals and voice snippets are interspersed throughout the factory stomping rhythms, sinister drones and general clatter giving a quite old school feel to the sound production creating some supreme industrial noise/ power electronics.  Each of the 10 tracks established a different sound early on, then exploring minor variations with the sound treatments, loops, vocals, voice samples etc throughout.  A nice touch to the LP is a locked grove finishing each side to ensure the tracks will never finish either with looped vitriolic laughter or factory clatter depending on the side. If the LP and packaging were not enough a bonus CD is included being a re-release of the 36 minute ‘Leichenlinie’ LP.  Taken from a much earlier period of G.O’s power electronics career the sound is more of an all out aural assault just to boil the blood a little in the wake on the subdued chaos of the LP (including the classic cut ‘Klaus Barbie’). Lastly I’m not sure why there is a point in reviewing a release such as this (as already the 1750 copies are long sold out) other than to spite those who were too slow in ordering this and to egg on the ensuring bidding wars that will occur as unscrupulous record collectors start auctioning off their multiple copies.  Expect to have to sell a kidney if you find one of these for sale….

This Gentle Flow (Aus) “This Cage” MCD 1999 Left as in Sinister

Here we have a solo group of one Valerious Calocerinos, also the fonder and operator of the label this is released on.  Distant rain & thunder, slow fuzzed out guitar and grandiose keys waiver before kicking full swing into the quick paced gothic rock of the title track.  The bridging elements, and certain style of song written draw some comparison to some the more experimental black metal bands (particularly Arcturus), however it is the drum machine and mid ranged vocals that set this squarely within the gothic realm (although thankfully not being derivative of this). Strange clangings, wails, programmed beat elements and choir generated keys give a certain gothic ritual element, prior to a huge monster industrial riff making its appearance – but heaven forbid that things are straight forward from here!  Vocals have a weird treatment, keyboard layers become more prominent and generally tunes, vocals, riffs, noises etc tangent off to do there own thing generally under the banner of the track (‘punctured vein’) but somehow remaining relevant to the overall direction.  Prominent programmed bass and beats of ‘Laugh’ probably work the least favorably in my eyes, but even as the most structured piece I feel is the most experimental in melding elements into a whole.  ‘Confused (just still)’ is something of a gothic Mr Bungle number, with background sampled carnival music and simply weird and quirky compositional writing of mid paced darkly gothic tunes, heaped with plenty of down vibed keys and up tempo beats. In passing quite an intriguing listen given these are not musical territories I frequent often, and particularly due to the surreal elements evoked through the more experimental tune writing.

Golden Dawn (USA) “L.V.X” CD 1996 Suffering Clown

This CD contains the actual rituals used by the Golden Dawn that here have been partially set to music (Likewise the 20 page booklet cover includes full written instruction of the said rituals).  To start the disc the opening track ‘The Temple’ is independent of the later ritual side of things, that sets out to describe the history and dynamics of the Golden Dawn organization via a plodding gothic rock type musical foundation.  Moving onto the 7 ritual movements, of the auras evoked are obviously heavily ritualised due to the chimes, vocal chants and reading of written passages, but it the inclusion of keyboard layers, guitars, bass and programmed beats that removes it from being simply a ritual recording.  The stylistic sound of the music with intricate guar work, classical synth lines and slow ridged beat programming adheres to a gothic rock framework, but here is done in a understated way that limits it being pretentious as often this style can be.  ‘Spirit (Part 2)’ being the fifth track is quite unusual in its use of a funky bass line and straight forward rock chorus which in my opinion jars unfavourably against the atmospheres generated up to that point, but luckily the CD does redeem itself on the beautifully sorrowful next track ‘The ritual of the Rose Cross’.  Musically speaking this is good which is made all the more interesting due to the magical and ritual implications.

Gridlock (USA) “5.25” CD 1999 Pendgragon

There are no rules, no clear-cut guidelines, when it comes to Gridlock.  Not one to cater to the specific ideals or dynamics of industrial (the genre/label usually associated with them), the duo of Cadoo and Mike Wells have always pushed away from the expected constrictions, into a place uniquely their own.  5.25 collects rare, live and remixed tracks from the ever-mutating electronicians, materiel that spans their whole creative existence as Gridlock.  The music Gridlock creates is distinguished by pristine, hope-ravaged synthwork and snarling, stuttering ratchet, machinery infused percussive interjections.  Tracks like “Halo,” and the live version of “Burn,” utilize an incendiary feedback whine as a creative tool, assisting with metal pipe clanking percussion that spits bolts in rapid fire succession, while Cadoo’s gritty, screaming whisper vocals seem reminiscent of one who regularly gargles steel wool.  But the already sparse vocals have been pushed even further by the wayside on more recent endeavors.  The title track is a spastic percussive excursion, kinetic to the nth, that defies the laws of gravity as it scampers over extraterrestrial terrain, accentuated by looming bass structures that rise above the frozen craters.  Just excellent!  “Edit 364” crisply illuminates remote cosmic frontiers, offset by some corrosive percussion that rips and snorts in restrained junctures, as if speaking an as yet undefined language.  “Program 41” emits squiggly, lubricated electronics that slither upon the surface of another sonically visualized extraterrestrial topography.  This strange, beautiful music highlights the exquisite transformation in progress.  It’s a long stretch from the earliest incarnations, including the electro-fied corruption of Berlin’s “Metro,” included here for kicks.  A very worthy release that showcases Gridlock’s evolution from electro-industrial into dark sonicscape into…(?)…via music that continually moves beyond…–JC Smith

Gruntsplatter (USA) “the Death Fires” CD 2000 Crowd Control Activities

Watching this group’s evolution from the early split CD releases has been an intriguing and rewarding endeavor considering the class shown on this debut full length CD.   Promise was definitely shown on the early split CD’s, further enhanced with the 7” of last year, now amalgamating all experience in a coercive whole, to create an album that I knew they would always produce.  While some of the earlier recordings were slightly marred by elements of lo-fi and muffled production, the digitized medium of this has brought everything to the fore mastered impeccably by one Thomas Dimuzio.  While the tones of many of the noise layers are reasonably harsh and scathing, the production has purposefully blunted the razor edge to create a deceptively ambient air – otherwise described as ‘noise ambient’. Seething furnace fumes permeate ‘black toothed morality’ along with a sparse keyboard tune, introducing a new and very positive element into the Gruntsplatter sound.  Probing high pitched squeals introduce ‘access the blood’ and waver in view throughout while crunchy sub bases texture grind away at the flesh of your inner ear. The bone grinding machinery is certainly cranked into full swing for ‘against the dying of the light’, mixing the chaotic with a system of repetition.  Crispy static loops and speaker imploding bass work particularly well in storming unison on ‘fearbitter’, elements added and subtracted from the mix at various points and as spacious and drawn out ‘struggling to breath’ is, it still contains a feeling of finite audile space, gradually closing in and engulfing the room in heavy ashen air.  With the forcefulness of many of the preceding tracks, the minimalist construction of ‘below the stones’ gives the ability for a more detailed exploration of subtly of texture (including mournful drawn out chants), ensuring this is one of my favorite pieces on the disc. Comparisons could be made to the greats of the death industrial genre such as Brighter Death Now (such as the drawn out moments on the Great Death series), however in that the said group has a very European sound, I feel that this likewise Gruntsplatter have a very American flavor, matching up with the sounds being explored in different formats by a variety of US groups.  In this increasingly recognized US scene Gruntsplatter have created a niche in exploring sounds that generate fiery & suffocating mental imagery.  Finally the cover art matches the atmosphere perfectly, in that text and images are melded into a dark background, akin to being covered in black soot and ash.

Hazard (Swe) “ Field/ Bridge – Wood” LP/ CD set 2000 Ash International (R.I.P)

Benny Neilsen from the inception of his Hazard project has forged ahead with creating increasingly more subdued and experimental soundscapes, becoming more minimal with the last album and likewise this release.   However, the arctic cold feeling of the last album ‘north’ is not so evident here, rather consisting of an enveloping yet sterile digital warmth.  For those not familiar the title could bring visions of someone simply taking field recording and presenting them as music, but this is rather taking an organic aura and bringing it to life through electronic means (regardless if sounds once originated as a field recording or not).  Interestingly the liner notes state that the final material was recorded outdoors in a Swedish forest (on a lap top I’m assuming) yet many sound samples have a certain ‘urbanism’ to them (the creaking of an old elevator on ‘Location South’ is a good example). ‘Fibre Test’ the first track on the CD using repetition of high pitched sonic digital blips to gain somewhat of a rhythm, whilst the lower sound ranged rumble with bass loaded intensity, scrapping processed textures likewise entering and existing sporadically.   These elements of ‘found’ sounds, subtle tones, shifting textures, electronic digital cut ups etc categorises the tracks, placing variations of these in random and programmed patterns over a base of often what are drawn out bass tones or idling machine like drones (that occasionally hint at melody). Clutter and chaos verses order and composition, this release manages to work on both of these levels.  ‘Chords and Branches’ is beyond amazing, containing a feeling of rising dread (A horrific archaic atmosphere in the heart of a track of cutting edge electronic experimentation).  The oceanic sonic waves of ‘Pylons’ are presented via mid ranged wavering drones, harking back to the hazy atmospheres of the debut Hazard CD ‘Lech’, while the last CD track ‘the log fire’ is just that, a recording of the sonic intensity of fire, with rhythms of malfunctioning machinery thrown in for good effect. The two tracks on the LP take advantage of the longer format, presented two drawn out pieces – one each side.  ‘Field’ takes the guise of the CD tracks slow subtle shifts of digital sound, that is gradually enveloped by droning elements (here they are rather high pitch than bass driven).  Mid to late in the track the atmosphere morphs somewhat into far off storming rumbles mixed with sinister sounding scraping textures, the last section morphing again to warm electronic drones, rounded out with a locked groove.  ‘Bridge’ a track of rising static, drones, and sonically crisp elements, is quite a forceful piece by virtue of the quick rotations of vortex of sound, which at the same time makes for a more composed piece. The format/s in which this has been released is a nice touch, in that around 70 minutes of music are presented, yet halved between CD and LP, acting as a complete set and not just as one item with a bonus CD or LP.  I guess this also breaks up the sound that each format flows to its conclusion quite quickly.  With simple slip sleeve for both CD and LP the images are becoming a trademark of Touch an Ash Int (R.I.P) releases, detailing forest and wood imagery taken by Jon Wozencroft.  This is another fantastic example of digital/ organic abstraction that combines enough cutting edge studio experimentation intermixed with enough older school industrial sentiments to keep me very happy.

Heid (Swe) “Arktogäa” CD 2000 Malignant Records

I had been waiting quite some time to hear this group as I unfortunately missed out on getting a copy of their limited debut CD.  From the big words been spoken about the group this, their second CD has not disappointed one iota.  In amongst all the archaic atmospheres of slow shifting symphonic layers, distant chanted vocals etc, sits more abrasive sonics & programmed ritual percussive textures of a more modern sounding origin.  The inherent skill in Heid’s work is that these are blended perfectly together, neither element ever feeling out of place.  Likewise it seems that the sounds coming from CMI in the early 90’s have been given a full working over with a heavy dose of evolution and originality.  Seven untitled tracks of varying length are showcased, resulting in an overall play time of just under 45 minutes.  Track 2 is a wonderfully deep piece of classically tinged dark ambience – low bass tones emphasizing depth, with the other sparse layers of vocals, drones and keys creating the slow evolving vibe that is concluded with a slow sorrowful piano tune.  A foggy haze permeates all aspects of track 3, (yet this could be said of much of the CD’s atmosphere) being reliant on noise and scattered sound as it basis rather than any minimalist tune.  Mid paced yet sparse martial beats and an unusually treated vocal sample introduce track 5, the backing tune gradually gaining momentum.  The beats sinking into oblivion further allows the slow tunes to take over mid way through.  As a conclusion piece track seven contains elements of distant chiming bells, deep bass laden atmospheres and minimalist classical movement to great effect (some middle eastern samples are also infused into the background). Despite having provided some descriptions of individual track, each piece is placed into its inherent whole, creating a fluid movement throughout the complete album with one piece flowing perfectly onto the next, essentially creating one piece of music. The cover is another element that deserves a mention, with the inlay being three sepia toned transparent inserts, the jewelcase further provided with a black card slipsleeve.  This is a stunning introduction to the group and will now have me maddeningly searching out their debut.

Herbst9 (Ger) “From a Dark Chasm Below” CD 2000 Loki Foundation

Herbst9 create complex, textural ambience, consisting of layer upon layer of kinetic, luminous tones and ephemeral nuances of time, sounding not unlike label-mates Inade, though with a completely different agenda.  Born in the destitute fringes and moist jungles of Asia, Herbst9 sail the tenacious undercurrent  of past indiscretions and potential future travesties (waiting, patiently waiting…), homing in on the timbres of the forgotten, erased from memory, horrors of humanity.  “Ab Ovo” sets the rickety stage, upon which a radiant ambience glowers, augmented with the brushed with solitude intonations of monks, and slivers of coarse memory.  The ambience throughout seems leery of human allegiance, though the inhuman impressions are still built on a purely human foundation (a Pandora’s Box of sonic possibilities) as layers are melded into, folded over, and unraveled within, other layers.  “The Snake Of Saigon” is an anxious excursion littered with war-like nuances, a miasma of surrounding sonic elements in subtle communion–mournful monks, a plucked instrument that sounds like a banjo but is most certainly some similar Asian instrument–dark rumblings that slither and, eventually, a helicopter that circles in the distance.  The remnants of devious, inhuman deeds that could only have been constructed by the human monster itself, linger throughout.  “Melting Spheres” scatters unknown winged monstrosities (a limbic regression to the time of pterodactyls?) before a pensive drone and the rising pulse of anxiety dominate.  A demonstrative yell opens “In The Vein Of Purusa,” a yell that inspires dread and pause for concern as the rain drenched ambience is sliced by a knife that caresses bone strings, trace animals (the jungle looms ever near), and a predatory machinery loop.  Odd classical underpinnings add another layer to the strange design, the track, as with all of the tracks on this amazing CD, subtly metamorphic in construction, inherently restless.  Herbst9 construct sonic rituals gleaned from the ruins of minds scraped hollow and left to decay, minds privy to evil deeds and the existence of such evil deeds made concrete.  On the brilliant LOKI label, reason enough to check this out.  -JC Smith  (Reprinted by permission from Side-Line magazine: http://www.side-line.com)

Howden/ Wakeford (Eng) “Three Nine” CD 2000 Tursa

Having been introduced to this collaborative project on the compilation ‘on the brink of infinity’ I was quite looking forward to this.  Standing by my summation of their track on the compilation (I reviewed their track by stating the composition was somewhere between an actual song and piece of ambience) this album plays out in a similar fashion.  Ambient folk noir perhaps?  Segmented acoustic guitars, plucked bass, flowing female vocalizations, sparse programmed textures, piano & violin segments, sampled and treated vocals etc make up the myriad of elements.  Yet even in most part containing relative sparseness, selected segments of tracks burst into quite composed urgency, certainly resulted in obvious contradictions.  Likewise from the way the overall flow of the album pans out, one would guess that the majority of elements were recorded separately and painstakingly collated into the finished pieces in the studio. Referencing the background of the work the bio states that this album is dedicated to the third and ninth runes with musical time signatures and patterns being derived from these sum of associated equations.  Even then with the main nine tracks, we are treated to the prior mentioned compilation track, which is in fact derived from the fragments of nine main compositions (with the then additional bonus instrumental version clocking in at – you guessed it 9 minutes!).  Regardless of these calculated nuisances of music composition the end result is an impressive debut album of dark nostalgic feel from two renowned artists.

H.P.P. (Ita) “Horse Penis Pants” CD 2000 Possessive Blindfold

H.P.P. (Horse Penis Pants-now there’s a name for you!) is Maurizio Landini, who also does time with (the brilliant!) I Burn.  Where I Burn specialize in incinerator ambience sonicscapes, H.P.P. creates looped rhythmic discharges through percussive means, as well as clipped noise and static overload. “Re-Education” entwines piercing needles into the eardrum while hiccuping belches of condensed distortion and pummeling percussion joist for dominance.  “Scarweld” solders bubbling, white hot noise onto a stuttering rhythmic loop; as the track progresses, abrupt squeals are melted into the mix.  “Private Play” gets positively electronic, a fusion of incessant beats with quirky electronic impulses, sounds that skitter and tumble with a purpose; the track is constructed in shifting segments, vaguely reminding me of the  excellent Shock Front CD from Converter, circa 1999.  “Labia Engine” spastically grinds, with punishing consistency, before the racing corpuscles fill the genitalia to an aching arousal, ending with slowly teasing, pre-orgasmic sludge pacing that never reaches orgasm.  Furiously beat-splattered and slathered in noise!  -JC Smith

I-Burn (Ita) “Third Degree Burns Ambience” 1999, Old Europa Cafe

I-Burn’s second album is a collection of ten tracks in the style and sound that was hinted at on the previous ‘Ipertermia’ 10”.  Likewise with the tracks playing out over longer segments than those on the debut, the pieces having become more fluid, enabling them to traverse additional territory within their timeframes, thus making for a much evolved and improved sound.  Deep sub-terrainian textures, vast glacial soundscapes, metallic clatter, static induced bursts of noise are just some of the sound elements that are collated, mixed and infused into these mind altering offerings.  Brooding yet harsh, sinister yet atmospheric – the tracks play out in various such configurations creating an aura of desolation and isolation due to the shear barrenness of any organic sounds.  To my mind’s eye the atmospheres generated on these tracks don’t represent the flesh burning qualities of searing heat rather the infliction of pain via severe low glacial temperatures (or even that of dried ice).  What is a little frost bite when you get to hear a CD such as this?!  Recommended.

Ickytrip (USA) “Ickytrip” CD 1999 Ickytrip

Without beating around the point, it is a bit hard for me to review this objectively as straight off the keyboard programming sound simply leaves me cold.  This is just too synthesized, particularly in relation to the drum beats and sequences.  By all accounts there is no question that the individual behind this can compose and write music, it is just the means by which it has been recorded that I cannot seem to overcome.  In justification the synthetic sounds alone are not really the problem, rather the ridgedness of the uptempo factory preset drummachine beats and the lack of any grittier background sounds.  While most dark ambient/ neo classical/ industrial artists have no other option but to use keyboards and programming it is often what background elements and layering techniques that are utalised that makes all the difference in smoothing off the sharpness of synthetic textures and likewise assists in gaining a personalized sound.  The factory preset sounds comment again comes into contention.  The bio references this as “classical composition with modern technology to create orchestral music that resembles a cinematic soundtrack” which I guess is OK to a point, yet on the other hand simply add some guitars and a morose vocalist and you really have mid paced gothic fare.  Again my dislike for gothic music or gothic derivative sounds surfaces, but maybe in its favor gothic fans would go nuts over this as a dark wave type release.  Sorry, this just does not float my boat.

Ildfrost (Nor) “You’ll never sparkle in hell” CD 2000 Fluttering Dragon Records

My, My…look at what the passage of time has offered up for us on the new Ildfrost release!  Gone are sweeping and depressive neo-classical hymns of Natanael, veering towards intelligent tribal/ neo classical tinged electronica.  Sounds like and unusual mix?  Well not at all when you listen to this.  Modernity has played quite a large role in the updated and ‘current’ sounding production, but after getting over the initial change in sound the Ildfrost structure is still quite evident.  A good example is the dark throbbing classical hymn that is ‘shitspinner’, taking on a new studio sound aesthetic mixing it up with sampled tribal vocals that have in turn influenced the underlying tribal beat.  Referencing a more standard electronica sound, ‘Novadrops’ approaches a sound not unlike what Atomine Elektrine produce with a chilled out new age type beat oriented atmosphere.  Dark echoed richness signify the sound of the tribal percussion of ‘exhalation’, sepulchral voices summoning the unknown (and ultimately succeeding) as the atmosphere become increasingly tense with an air of shrill orchestral dread.  Sitting over what sounds like a raging firestorm, an introspective piano/ xylophone tune of ‘Auxiliaries’ rises steadily to be the main element (radio voices cutting in and out occasionally) capturing some of the best auras of the Natanael album via quite a different sound direction.  On the other hand ‘Fetish of the hour’ is a fantastic track of a dark orchestral/ choral aura driven constantly onward by a framework of mid paced pulsating electronica.  Sweeping cinematic precision is showcased on ‘past is no choral moon’ containing what could easily described as progressive classical (if that is even a term) where ‘Effete vocabulary of summer’ is another stunning example of heavy, darkly brooding slab of beat laden electronica, and acting as the last album track prior to the short outro ‘done’.  While years may pass and musical directions and interests may change, Ilfrost show they are but only stronger for it.

Imminent (Bel) / Synapscape (Ger) “Screenwalking” CD ep 2000 Ant-Zen

Not having too much knowledge of Synapscape’s works I guess I can only review this from the Imminent perspective, and with the ‘Starvation’ tag being dropped from ‘Imminent’, there might have been the perception that an aim was being made to a more commercial and accessible sound.  In reality any notion of this is quickly dispensed with the powerhouse beat’n’noise fest served up.  Whip lashing beat structures explode in crystalline static bursts, leaving barely any room for the trademark moody background layers.  And as intense listen as the ‘Nord’ CD was this effort makes it seem like an album of candy floss coated pop tunes.  The flurry of electronic beats are relentless, surging and attacking from multitudes of angles, the remaining soundscape encompassing barbs of flesh scrapping static and noise.  The tracks are akin to a machine careening out of control being overloaded with pure sonic power, which actually in part would make this music difficult to get down to given the rigidity of it.  The track ‘warc’ differs slightly by not containing any beat structure but with a tonal soundscape backing and fractured electronic blips and bursts of frequency.  The following piece ‘uatio’ moves closer to the noise and groove sounds of the ‘Nord’ CD, with ‘aigre’ the final piece being an elongated slab of technoise beats and static.  As the promo for this CD went “Imminent Starvation is dead…long live Imminent”.  Well while your there singing praise of them please bring on the next full length so when can hear just what Imminent have become in an individual setting!!

Inade (Ger) “Burning Flesh” CD 2000 Loki Foundation

While I wait extremely impatiently for a new full length Inade album, I could not have been happier to hear that their debut cassette was being re-released with bonus tracks.  With the original cassette long out of print this was more than welcome for me to get acquainted with the formative compositions of the group. Of the 8 tracks originally on the ‘Burning Flesh’ tape, these come into shorter song formats with less flow overall, concentrating on the death industrial/ death ambient vibe of each individual piece.  Remembering reading an earlier review of the ‘Burning Flesh’ tracks, a comparison was made to the likes of Archon Satani, which I never quite saw in their later releases but can now see why that compassion was made.  Windy mid to high end drone textures, sampled crowd cheering and manipulated/ echoed church bells encompass ‘Overtune Bells’, while ‘Shattered Bones’ with dredging drones, distant factory clatter, chant like sound layers and slow moving dynamics brings to mind the classic Swedish sound of death ambience which permeated many groups in the early 90’s.  ‘The coming of the Black Legions’ is the first storming track of intensely ominous slow beats, and fractures electronic layers to a create rhythmic and anthemic piece.  Other standouts come with the title track in the form of the abrasive yet subdued drone clatter, including some indecipherable vocal samples.  The last track of the ‘Burning Flesh’ set comes with the gargantuan cyclic & spacious drones of ‘through the gates of death’, a perfect track to complement the visuals of massive stone statutes printed on the disc.  Moving on to the bonus tracks, there is a marked change in style and sound from the earlier tracks to the later.  While great at creating good solid death industrial sounds on earlier material (such as the aforementioned ‘Burning Flesh’ tracks and on ‘the flood of white light’ 10”), Inade in my mind really hit that special “something” when they started to focus on mystic, occultist, ritualized sounds.  Even within this guise of such inspiration the group has still managed to create diversity of material such as fantastic spacious drone works (‘Alderbaren’ CD), to more sinister sub orchestral sounds (‘v.i.t.r.i.o.l’ 7”).  This clear change in sound and direction is partially evident at the conclusion of the ‘Burning Flesh’ tracks (composed in 1993) to the ‘Genius Loci’ tracks (composed throughout 1994-1998.  Even the additional bonus inclusion of ‘Tat Twam Asi’ (formerly of ‘the book of shadowz’ compilation LP) shows this brilliant massive occultism aura that Inade have since gone on to master.  ‘Genius Loci Pt. 1’ intermixes clanging church bells, subterranean bass textures and the odd vocal chant that rises to prominence late in the piece.  ‘Pt. 2’ with ritual wind instruments and slow tribal beat show exactly where Inade broke out from emulating a sound to creating something all their own.  Distant vocals add to the tense atmospheres, less machine and factory sounding, rather encapsulating an aura of a time long forgotten.  Delayed, slowed and manipulated, the once Gregorian chants on ‘Pt.3’ still hold their inherent religious flavour, the backing of slow tribal beats providing some focus and direction.  ‘Pt. 4’ whilst still slow, ups the dynamics in an urgent styling, of ritualistic chants & odd percussion, likewise with increased dimensions sound layers.  Limited to a mere 500 copies this is a brilliant documentation of the progression of one of the most important groups of recent years.

Inade (Ger) “Quartered Void” 7”ep 2000 Membrum Debile Propaganda

Slowly rising out of the glacial void, slow drones and scattered pulses mark the introduction of this two track picture disc.  ‘Crackling void’ is assisted in its namesake via the vinyl format – slow drawn out shimmering movements being the stylistics approach.  ‘Quartered conclusion’ more singular in direction (also containing a sampled vocal segment) brings to mind their 10”ep ‘the flood of white light’.  The cyclic rotation of sound makes it more active and forceful then the first, the assaulting and fluctuating sonics increasing tension immensely.  Given these tracks are a few years old now (yet only now released) I would place the sound of this in the evolutionary period where Inade were moving from death industrial sounds and towards more drawn out spacious territory such as explored on the ‘Alderbaran’ CD.  In regard to the picture disc format and with the images being of a manipulated eye, could this be potentially referencing the void of the mind’s eye?  Regardless, all I can say in passing is that too much Inade is never enough!

In Death’s Throes (USA) “Infernal Deities Transcending” CD 2000 Live Bait Recording Foundation

Hellish, looped vocal belches climb the limestone walls of the Abyss during the opening sonic aberration, “War,” riding on the back of metallic scorpions as the din scrambles toward the surface.  Dark priests evoke demonic uprisings, meshing (and mashing) the Black Occult aspirations into the ground bone and blood soaked machinery of singed ambience that is In Death’s Throes.  It seems all Hell is about to be unleashed.  This leads into the unnatural cadences of “Civil Disobedience,” dragging the listener not into sunlight, but an aborted annex just below the surface…an annex of Hell decorated with esoteric tones, the cries and whispers of sounds in torment, and hallucinogenic madness.  This is the stuff of nightmares, of those whose eyes have been sutured shut, and there is no light, no awakening revelation bent on releasing them from the grim clutches of such suffocating, condemning darkness.  In Death’s Throes are Brian Sutter (God’s Pets and Jinnseraph) and Stephen Petrus (Murderous Vision, Umbra, head of the Live Bait Recording Foundation label, plus more?).  They create multi-layered sheets of sound guaranteed to mess with one’s perception of reality by concretizing the existence of Hell, of a pitch-black netherworld that teems with a rabid urgency, with a frothing desire, to infiltrate the confines of your nice, normal world.  Dull, yawningly weary loops are the foundation of “In Celebration II (The Port),” sprinkled with more vocals culled from the blackest regions of creation, subtly espousing sinister sonic intentions.  The epic “Where God Is…”is triggered by a depraved chorus which douses the listener in a swirling cesspool of despondent tones and scratchy cadences.  The sensation while listening to this track is palpable, flowing from my speakers, enveloping me in dread.  Further in, the track descends into an even more subcutaneous realm, full of volatile, cranium-eroding winds streaming from a crumbling, cavernous (hungry) maw.  The sound manipulation and inhuman vocal processing throughout inspires discomfort in the listener, the unnerving ambience at times reminiscent of the work of the great Schloss Tegal (the ultimate compliment!).  Evil!  –JC Smith

IRM (Swe) “the red album” LP 1999 Cold Meat Industry

IRM being one of the new flag bearers of the next generation of sound coming from the CMI camp, the debut LP has been unleashed in a pressing of 700 copies – this being after previously introduction to the world with their two tracks on the “Estheticks of Cruelty” compilation (incidentally both ‘powerdrill’ and ‘Martyr 2000’ featured here as part of the 7 tracks). Classy, pulverising and cleansing power electronics is what we have here, very much rooted in the traditions set down by the likes of Anezephalia, Genocide Organ, Con-Dom etc.  With constant pounding machinery, flesh searing electronics and a bludgeoning slightly flanged vocal attack I would say that IRM are not really forging much new territory, but when generated with such fantastic conviction and clarity of sound production, there are no complaints from this quarter.  Regarding my personal tastes, the more unstructured and improvised a power electronic track, the less engaging I find it overall.  However in the case of IRM they have found a prefect balance between chaotic aggression mixed with clear structure and direction, as is displayed on the slower brooding, yet concrete slab solid track “Unconscious”.  Likewise ‘Soulcleaner’ (the last track on side A), is an absolutely stunning piece with massive bludgeoning machine gun rhythms, hefty flanged vocal attack and general extremities of mid ranged electronics.  The later track ‘Katharsis’ opts for a part droning, mostly storming framework of sweeping static and cascading waves of searing distortion, creating a cleansing (instrumental) baptism of sound.  This mindset follows on into the final track ‘R.S’ with a similar slow sweeping structure, yet here the vocals return being a fantastic counterpart due the sheer anger and desperation of delivery, enhanced via echo and flanged effects. As alluded in the title of the album I would have to say that this is the plainest cover that Karmanik has ever designed yet is still classily presented in all its simplicity.  Although somewhat on the short side this is certainly an album that should be in ever power electronic enthusiasts’ collection.

Iron Justice (Swe) “Tell Me” 7” ep 1999 Cold Meat Industry

Iron Justice being one of the new guard of power electronics groups emerging from Sweden, present this limited 7” in an 8 page booklet sleeve, imagery of questionable intent and phrases such as “This is our truth… now tell us yours!  The existing edifice is rotten.  We need some new foundations…” just to ensure things are politically obscure.  Pulverizing, grinding textures vocal sample smatterings and general noise mayhem of ‘Tell Me’ is actually reasonably subdued despite its inherent noisiness.  Pace is mid to slow, managing to be both harsh and atmospheric simultaneously (yet intensity does increase toward the end of the piece).  When the vocals are introduced, they are heavily flanged and echoed adding that nice urgent flavor.  ‘Sons and Daughter’s’ of side B has a more high end obliterated noise attack, particularly the vocals moving from the rantings of the previous piece to all out psychotic yelling.  Screamed wails of distortion and feed back give no respite, creating a track of feverous sonic punishment.  This is good power electronics that is by no means reaching outside of the boundaries set down by the pioneers (Con-Dom, the Grey Wolves, Genocide Organ etc) but that will please most fans of this genre.

Iron Justice (Swe) “Manufacture Of Consent” LP 2000 Cold Meat Industry

Iron Justice specializes in politically infused power electronics whose white noise regime is the very definition of ‘harsh’ in all its contaminated glory.   Opening with the title track, vocal samples bow before the gurgling, slobbering and spitting, squeal infested noise that annihilates the proceedings.  Echoed vocals rage underneath, but it’s the torrential onslaught above that mangles the audio receptors.  Just brutal…and it’s only beginning.  An impatient arm of feedback is injected with a rusty needle of free-based rage during the clattering cacophony of “The Worlds Sole Hygiene.”  Writhing, wriggling worms of wet processed noise pour from the viscous sonic upheaval that is “Conspiracy Intl.”  A voice flails underneath, amidst static samples and the insurmountable sonic discord.  The relentless assault continues on side two with “Mutual Terrorism,” an undiluted exercise in whip slashing audio terror as sheets of corrosive noise are beaten, lashed and electrocuted while the ever-present vocals bark from underneath the ragged din.  “Mother To Us All” juggles a variety of sharp implements (knives, scalpels) before said implements are utilized to puncture and corrupt in conjunction with a throbbing machinery loop.  “Towards The Sun” dissects the squirming body of strapped down but still alive white noise amidst a deluge of feedback and more frenzied vocal utterances.  Manufacture Of Consent is a merciless, streamlined corruption of sound that is mind-numbingly (you guessed it) harsh.  Comes on lovely, thick white vinyl and includes an assortment of postcards.   -JC Smith

Kelm (Ger) “Blue Mesk” CD 2000 Welt am Draht

With this duo working under the guise of Kelm, one of individuals behind this might already be known to some from his workings in projects such as Skalp and Kenotaph (both of which had releases out on Tesco and Functional respectively).  In regard to this project, the first track coming in at a whopping 34 minutes, makes for quite a lengthy introduction!  Dualities of texture are evident here, this track working on two levels: one of lower death ambient drone styling, the other on higher end sonic experimentations akin to Daniel Menche’s subdues works.  Selected textures hint at rhythms when also sporadically mixed with random-esque sounds and scrapping elements, but overall things are firmly entrenched in the slow evolution camp.  Dense catatonic beats in various coagulated configurations weave throughout the middle segment and continue to lurk throughout until close to the 29 minute mark, where the home stretch of less sub bass textures are explored.  More easily digestible that the mouthful of the first, the second track is an exploration of mid bass rhythmic distortion and insectile sounds, the third of furnace blasts, machinery drones and fractures electronics which reminds me of a very noisy version of Hazard’s new sound explorations.  Alien vocalistations, weird textures and rhythms, static bursts and a underlying sub and mid, electronic and bass drones are abound on track 4 making for an eclectic piece or new school ‘Mego’ styled sounds.  The split level of sound again surfaces on track 5 with deep sub bass textures, liquidous/ electronic mid ranged elements mixed with what sounds like scattered field recordings sampled from within a disused factory. Overall this track lacks that certain something – not quite sure what… To close the set the far off thunderous sounds and signal bleeps of track 6 swing into chaotic but slightly rhythmic territory, disembodied voices appearing sporadically. Although it took me a few listens to warm to this (mostly in grasping an overall impressions of the variance of sounds) my thoughts have solidified in favor of appreciation and subsequent praise for these dark experimental sonics.

Klangstabil (Ger) “Sprite Storage Format” LP 2000 Ant-Zen

With the concept of this release revolving around tracks created from a gameboy as the main sound source, you are assured an unusual listen on this.  An obvious hint of cheesy computer game sounds is unavoidable, but these elements are actually cut and looping into patterns and sequences that create credible sounding tracks.  Mostly chugging computer glitches and segments are looped into discernible format which seem to hold for most of the tracks’ lengths.  ‘raw stripping’ is less recognizable as being generated from computer game music, being a sinister electronic track of malfunctioning software origin.  Complexities of rhythms and beats gradual structure themselves around the track’s core making for quite a noisy, static riddled piece.  What could only be a Mario Boys type tune is looped on ‘symmetrical reduction’ that creates quite a quirky groove within the repetitive choppy static beats.  More obvious gameboy looped tunes are found on ‘japanese roms’, here relying less on beat structures other than straight programmed noises.  The gameboy inspiration goes even a step further in regards to packaging, with group photos taken and printed via a gameboy camera & printer and with the shape and clear insert of the slip sleeve cover likewise looking like an actual gameboy.  I will admit that I initially brought this more so related to the gimmick factor (and wanting to hear what such a project would sound like), yet overall this is a surprisingly compelling listen.

Klood (Fra) “Gag – Hamin” 7”ep 1999 Drone Records

Sticking the formula of a lot of Drone titles this is yet another take on slow morphing drone sound.  ‘Eagla’ on side A has full bodied analogue synth lines compose sparse tunes and in turn create bleak visions of barren arctic wastelands.  Sounds seep out in every direction towards the distant horizon giving a spatial resonance to the minimalist sound and movement of the tracks. ‘Juste de Passage’ on side B has a sound more closely associated with guitar treatments and textures, being a more active piece in sound exploration.  Deep echoed sounds and distortion layers rise and fall throughout, with mid ranged notes playing a barely composed tune (a subdued Contrastate could be a comparison here).  Overall both tracks have barren somberness to them which is certainly to my liking.  On the aesthetic front it’s a pity that this is pressed into ugly pink vinyl.

La Mainson Moderne (Aut) “Day after Day” MCD HuaRuk / WKN

My, my…what will the hardened industrial fans think of Albin Julius of Der Blutharsch trying his hand at a dance music project?  Not much I’m sure, but here it is for us to marvel and/ or scratch our craniums at.  The opening track ‘spiel suber’ presenting as up tempo and playful as it is still infuses distant air raid sirens, sampled German vocal segments and bomb explosions that would not be out of place on Der Blurharsch track.  Umtempo yet brooding, the cyclic noises/ programmed tunes and constant mid paced beat of ‘Welcome to Paradise’ contains more vocal samples and even real vocals again akin to what has been presented on Der Blutharsch.  ‘Day after Day’ although still uptempo has a much more dark trance inducing edge, the repeated vocal line being somewhat more prominent (“day after day..nothing changes”).  Stomping beats and sub orchestral melody characterise ‘sea of love and hate’ and while a late break of a programmed tune sees the track to its conclusion, it later reveals a fifth hidden track of mid paced trip hop beats and celebratory type tunes – very pleasing indeed!  Overall the sound is quite eclectic – both modern and retrospective at the same time.  Hints of orchestral/ martial themes are also infused deep within the backing, mainly due to the rigidity of selected pieces and if you listen intently you can actually pick the trademark song structure and style of Albin.  Regardless of any ‘rules’ people what to place on artists on what they can and can’t do, Albin has created a very interesting and listenable take on the dance music genre.

Law (USA) “Vindication and Contempt” CD 2000 Triumvirate

Having an LP out on Ant-Zen some years back and then falling seemingly quiet, LAW have burst back into action with a succession of recent and slated upcoming releases (with the most recently passed release the ‘wading knee deep in your blood’ LP reviewed last issue).  Like the ‘wading..’ LP this album was recorded in 1997, only now seeing a release on this new label which is certainly an extremely powerful album for a label’s debut (incidentally which Mitchell Altum the individual behind the group has a partnership in). Cascading sonic waves, pulsing (manipulated) beats and slow grinding electronics waver, prior to the ‘hollow’ introductory sermon of Mitchell – at first almost morose & regretful – later solidifying the anger of delivery as the barrage of electronics take hold.  ‘No one will find them’ takes a slightly different tangent given that a strummed acoustic guitar is sporadically fed into sound collage, along with more segments of Mitchell’s multi layered spoken vocals.  Whilst some power electronics artists are content in having their vocals heavily treated and barely decipherable here LAW has something to say and wants you to hear, contemplate and UNDERSTAND his message of contempt for the masses – lets just hope you are not one of them… Again another sound tangent is explored where ‘a place of refuge, a test of commitment’ utilises a repetitive string (synthetically generated) melody on one level with controlled electronics churning below.  Shimmering tones of ‘you have no choice’ give an almost ambient feel, yet LAW would never choose to be that subtle, ensuring the lurking harsher (controlled) tones are constantly threatening dissent (of which occurs in a partly recognisable guitar layer).  Mitchell really demonstrates his understanding and control of suspense throughout this track, effortlessly pushing the composition into many sections whilst constantly increasing intensity throughout the sordid journey. Massive orchestral strains of ‘locked down solid’ are quickly obliterated in the nosiest track thus far with buzz saw tones, rhythmic machine clatter, screeching tortured voices (really too many layers to reasonably count) amassed into a weighty multi (sonic) dimensional whole. The crystalline and more sharply defined textures of ‘unknown command’ & ‘fluctuating tensile strength’ again expand LAW’s sound, running a fine line between relaxing ambient and sinister sounds, with the grating textures never far away. The album overall sees the elements of sound generally working on two tangents – those with swirling layers, almost organic in feel and those layers of machine like sound textures and programming, all processed and expertly combined to created the stunning final result. In part some of the tones and structure remind me of an early to mid 90’s project Allegory Chapel Ltd. (who all but seems to have disappeared) or otherwise akin to Stratvm Terror, however these comparisons give only a marginal indication of what to expect, as essentially LAW has too many defining characteristics of its own.  Beyond recommended.

Lefthandeddecision (USA) “Instinct & Emotion” 2000 Crionic Mind

This is a disc which demands listening focus throughout, which I guess is not a difficult task when considering how punishing this is!  ‘Innate Perception’ introduces the disc with sonic earthquake tones, which seem to have been mixed with sinister intent to destroy speakers before the disc goes even close to being played out (I think this quality may have a little something to do with Phil Easter being behind the mastering desk). In most part there is a mid ranged level of static going on here, but the real pure brute force comes with the grinding sub bass tones that can be felt vibrating your internal organs.  Although still very chaotic like what preceded it, ‘Self Restraint’ has a slower brooding edge and with a few sweeping noises tends to be mind me of a much noisier Stratvm Terror.  With tracks 1 through 6 playing out between 36 seconds to just under 5 minutes each, track 7 (‘Isopraxism’) arrives at a whopping 37 minutes!  Starting with what is comparatively quiet (for this album anyway) grinding electronic feedback squirms over a sub sonic underbelly, moving slowly toward slow sonically grating territory that just continues to multiply in force and density.  There appears to be vocals and vocal samples somewhere in there but are just too mangled to verify at all what is being conveyed.  The direction of the track (if you could even label it as direction) that is to forge forever forward to increase the sonic intensity via any means possible, including some high pitches ear drum assaults (although the concluding passage has mid ranged bass flow to it in a less harsh guise).  Hidden tracks 9 through 23 all contain silence but strangely range in length from 4 to 24 seconds (hmmm…I’m not really sure what this is meant to signify), however the real hidden track comes at track 24.  A scraping death industrial pulse introduces this as bar far the quietest piece, prior to a full sampled song being fed into the music destructing devices of the group, with sporadic pieces of the track rising to the surface of the maddening noise (as if watching a drowning man coming up for air).  Without finishing there a hidden track within a hidden track appears, which for some reason has mangled snippets of what sounds like two individuals having a conversation at a party with none other than MC Hammer playing in the background?! (I don’t even want to know what was going on here…). Overall as much as the tracks presented do not sound formally composed, I’m sure there would have been at least some framework planning if this is in fact mostly improvised.  In that I am reluctant to regularly play this at high volumes due to the speaker shredding qualities, I have tended to opt for a more restrained volume that has uncovered a certain relaxing ambience to the crispy sub sonic forcefulness of the wall of sound.  Not quite pure noise nor not quite power electronics, this has melded the harshest parts of both to create something quite unique in sound that to my ears reflects a certain sound inherent to the American scene.

Francisco Lopez (Ita) “untitled #90” CD 1999 Pre-Feed

One track at 45 minutes in length, Mr Lopez delivers another tonal soundscape work of field and natural type recordings.  Shrill in incessant high pitched hum the obvious sampling of insect sounds remains an unchanging constant throughout.  Located deep underneath the insect sounds are low washes of sound of waves lapping at the shore, which not surprisingly become more prominent throughout its section.  Shifts in direction are minimal at best yet occur so slowly that they are barely noticed, one segment of insect sounds traversing to the next.   The lack of obvious treatment to any of the sound layers gives a realistic vibe and I would be not at all surprised if this was simply a pure environmental recording.  At low volume the high pitched hum becomes almost a drone, but becomes increasingly piercing and invasive as volume is increased.  For the type of sound work this is, it works best when put on in the background, allowing it to envelope you whilst you mind is focused on something else.  Not for collective listening that is for sure, but surely one way to mentally escape the city even if it can’t be achieved physically.

Megaptera (Swe) “Electronic Underground” CD 2000 Slaughter Productions

Given that Peter Nystrom has decided to quit all further work by this group, ‘electronic underground’ is a posthumous re-release of an early tape (unfortunately it does not seem the planning DCD on CMI will ever eventuate). Being an older recording the tracks do differ from the death industrial musings of ‘disease’ and ‘curse of the scarecrow’ yet still being discernable as Megaptera.  While the other albums I am familiar with were full of sweeping atmospheres and packed with movie sample dialogue, these take a more singular approach in dynamics likewise mostly without the sampled voices.  The cold pulse is still here, yet the predominant sweeping atmospheres mixed heavily with slow programmed beats/ rhythms have been replaced with more of a straightforward electronic character. The cold sterile atmospheres of the title track both in parts 1 & 2 set the scene of the album via sparse (slow to mid paced) percussion, static drones and mild noise.  ‘Metal Blaster’ ups the level of noise, focusing on noisy drones and scattered metallic clatter for the most part, solidifying into a rumbling solid mass of sound.  ‘Megaptea Theme’ beginning with the lapping of waves at a shore and the grunts & groans of nameless things sound as if it was recorded in inky blackness of an underground lake cavern.  Moving on from the opening passage the track slowly meanders through segments of subdued drones and urgent static attacks.  ‘Hypnotic Fear’ is particularly noteworthy with a distant furnace blast textures and pounding drums, while low drawn out keyboard notes gradually shift between tones.  Midway though the beat becomes more complex (complete with cavernous echo) to create a very ritualized vibe.  ‘Last Machinery’ is just that being the final piece on the disc, sounding much like an idling motor (soon to be empty of if fuel consisting of flesh and bone) and could even be partly comparable to some of Brighter Death Now’s pieces. At close to 60 minutes if you have been missing the ultra dark ritual industrial sounds that characterized the early 90’s Swedish scene this should be an ample fix for your craving. 

Daniel Menche (USA) “Scourge” 3” CD 1999 G.M.B.H.

Nice packaging on this item, with the 3” CD housed in a tiny gatefold containing imagery of bullet shattered glass. As for the sonics it contains a single 21 minute piece of trademark Menche sound manipulations – totally engulfing in all its electro acoustic power.  Thick sonic slabs of sound are gradually erected around the ear drums with faint acoustics and subtle textures intermixed completing the desolate audial aura.  The drawn out textures give the piece a slow evolving essence which although do multiply into more tense segments giving off a very suspenseful cinematic feel.  At around 10 minutes the former segment abruptly ceases for yet another mid range section to commence which is less subtle and more scattered overall (basically sounding like ‘track 2’).  Again the ‘multiplier effect’ is used building and removing layers of sound texture creating some truly contemplative moments.  The last few minutes take on the guise of ‘track 3’ which sounds as if cockroaches are being slowly crushed between two plates of glass – crispy and crackly indeed!  While Mr Menche may have become more subtle overall with his recent sound-workings (in comparison to high much noisier earlier releases) in essence the results are becoming more stunning with each new release.

Militia (Bel) “Kingdom of our Lord” MCD 1999 Praxis Dr Bearmann

2 tracks at 21 minutes, this is not nearly as long as I would like but than again at least it is a Militia item! Mixing almost discordant orchestral sentiments with rough and repetitive percussion, Militia manage to create uniquely heavy atmospherics on this MCD.  Title track opening, the knife edge atmospheres fold and overlap prior to the incessant martial ritualistic beats, tribal chimes and general machinery clatter taking hold.  Having an off kilter sway about the rhythm it also runs the knife edge…somewhere between hypnotic and rousing, with the ending passage engulfing all elements into a (subdued) almost power electronic tone. Second track (“Maschinezimmer”) is even more percussive based and using quite hyper forceful beats and mixed background clatter.  Likewise as with the first track the beat has a slightly groggy sway which is kept in check with an understated orchestral string segment.  Less atmospheric overall than the first track (and for me less engaging) it is still a good listen. Packaging on this will one infuriate those who only like jewel cases for easy storage…..housed in an A4 sizes fold out envelope involving imagery and text to compliment the content of each track.

Militia (Bel) “The Black Flag Hoisted” 2xCD 2000 Tactical Recordings

This item has certainly been highly anticipated, being the official third release in the Militia ‘Statement’ Trilogy (New European Order 3xLP and Nature Revealed 2CD were the first two parts).  Straight of the mark the packaging does not disappoint with a large fold out card cover, larger insert poster, 2 CD’s with individual slip cases and to top the whole thing off a medium sized black flag with the Militia logo printed on the centre.  Truly amazing!  For all its right wing sounding implications of the packaging, titles etc, the ideas displayed within the music and cover are actually from a ‘leftist’ approach covering philosophies of anarchy and also the actions of the Animal Liberation Front etc.  The cover even includes a listing of organizations, documents & statements used in their inspiration and obviously reflecting their cause.  The music itself falls somewhere between the N.E.O sub-orchestral sound and the rousing percussive style of the above reviewed MCD.   CD1 of the set contains contributions from many artists, (both in the form of vocals and soundscapes) with some of the notables being: Bastard Noise, Waste Matrix and Con-Dom.  Track 1 of CD 1 quickly focuses from low rumblings to snare & tympani martial percussion and trademark horn blasts.  Here the scene is set, with the track diverting quickly off into another low soundscape courtesy of Bastard Noise (with foreign ranted vocal), prior to third brilliant track kicking in – this being a massively heavy loop and metal percussive track.  Repetitively hypnotic this is Militia at their best.  Jumping between low brooding soundscapes, to the massive percussion, the group do both brilliantly, solidly grounded and focused at all times.  The chugging/ surging oil barrel rhythms and loops of ‘Die Theorielosigkeit des Anarchismus’ are superb with a new element of a piano line thrown in randomly. ‘Light and Truth’ containing a soaring organ loop, keyboard layers shrill trumpet blasts, hints at that something is approaching – that thing being the following track ‘In Mitten von Kamph’ that after a slow voice text sample introduction, moves back into the aggressive percussion territory, yet here is subdued by Militia standards, set against a sorrowful orchestral melody.  CD2 does not appear to contain any contributory input, thus this is Militia even more pure than on the first disc.  The sparse soundscapes and use of a didgeridoo on ‘Liberecana Anarkista Kolonio‘ hints at the sound of the Nature Revealed CD, albeit the sounds electronically generated, and the straight down the line mid paced percussion of ‘Manifest’ includes a proclamation (in full anarchist flair) of the clear agenda of Militia.  The introductory tensile soundscape of ‘Black Wolves Music’ include a further Militia statement, with the track then again moving toward heavy percussion, however here a standard drum kit is used along with bass to create a quick moving piece that expands on their traditional sound.  ‘Anarchist Movement for Collectiv and Direct Action’ again uses the drum kit and standard raucous percussion, with swaying background loop, & didgeridoo.  ‘Final Statement’ contains a brooding and shrill backing loop, percussion stripped back to tympani, oil barrel & clanging symbols.  The vocals of this track take various words/ ideas that are stated in a commanding style, and then immediately looped backwards over themselves to intriguing result.  One last other thing to add in regards to the music is that the last track on both CD’s come courtesy of the Nas Dom-Slomsek Choir with quite beautiful dual gender vocal harmonies.  Politically heavy and likewise musically, this is simply a brilliantly conceived and realised work both musically and aesthetically.

The Mirror Reveals (USA) “Frames of Teknicolor” CD 2000 Middle Pillar

Whatever Middle Pillar has released thus far has been a pleasure to listen to (be it the ethereal folk type bands of the more obscure dark ambient projects) with this, the forth release, falling into the former category. The fragility of the female vocals (Kit Messick) set against the likewise fragile and subtle clean guitar work (James Babbo) contains a true essence of dark brooding beauty only further enhanced by the vast & mostly delicate musical backing (piano, keyboards & violin).  Coming off the back of two tracks adhering closely to the above description ‘Moebius Stripped’ is the closest this comes to a (slow) gothic rock track, only due to the programmed beat, but more than amply avoiding the pitfalls of the said genre.  The deep reverberating bass of ‘In a box’ works wonders as an introduction – keyboard atmospheres solidifying, duet male/ female vocals flirting with a lone violin – all amounting to a soothing gentle wave of introspection.  There is a celebratory beauty to ‘In a Memory’ given the slightly up-tempo drum-kit beat, putting it in the leagues of the excellent experimental prog group the 3rd and the Mortal.  Without doubt ‘The Undying Man’ is the most sorrow filled piece with the depressive guitar tune, sweeping keyboards and male vocals – respite only in the female vocals and riff of the chorus.  ‘Frozen in Time’ crystallizing the finally of the album comes with a prominent dark piano/ guitar piece again using the building atmosphere of keyboards, slow beat and the ever stunning female vocals.  Bitter sweet sorrow at its finest….. Lastly taking noticing the quality production, the expanse of space contained within the tracks ensures an additionally vast and haunting listen thanks to the skills of both Bryin Dall and Derek Rush (of other affiliated projects).  Having released only items from their own backyard (New York) Middle Pillar thus far are creating an identifiable face to an obviously flourishing scene.  Lets hope the torch is held equally high for subsequent releases. 

Moljebka Pvlse (Swe) “Koan” CD 2000 Eibon Records / Pre-Feed

The group having a minor introduction on the CMI ‘Estheticks of Cruelty’ compilation, Moljebka Pulve presented a track of stilted rhythmic static, which is a far cry from the much more mature and hypnotic drone atmospheres of this their debut CD.  Thick in brooding sonic intensity, these dense drawn out drones have a certain element to the sound that could be pin-pointed towards being derived from treated guitar layers, yet this perception is mostly from a tonal perspective than being clearly & specifically recognizable.  Pulsating textures probe with low end intensity, the sonics buffed with smooth rounded edges – no sharp or abrasive noises in ear shot.  Deep rhythmic pulses work up to mildly urgent intensity on ‘Parshva’ despite the backing remaining subdued.  Obvious slow movement and evolution of sound is the format, yet this is exactly the hallmark of drone type works to enable yourself to be lost in the morphing atmospheres.  At first some underlying scattered sounds on ‘Rujing’ sound more akin to a faulty mix of the track, but do consolidate into a rough rhythm in the last minutes. Between 5 to 13 minutes of sound expanse are covered on each of the six tracks, the cover having a visually pleasing image of non descript shape and colour.

Monokrom (Ger) “Monokrom” CD 2000 Ant-Zen

Power noise? Abrasive ambience? Rhythmic industrial? This is somehow none of these yet all of them at the same time.  The black paper embossed cover gives absolutely no information at all on the group recording or track listings, but the disc itself provides 11 tracks, that on average between 5- 7 minutes in length, creating a playtime that verges on the maximum amount of sound your can cram on the format. Fractural soundscapes of subdued and chaotic electronic derived resonance, flicker between heavy and heavier sonic atmospheres.  Even when quiet in actual sound it can’t shake of its dark cloaked aura.  Track three contains a metallic machinegun rhythms of shredding intensity that blasts out between the quieter rhythmic segments, whilst track four solidifies between squealing blasts of noise and mid paced beats.  Disembodied voices arrive aimlessly throughout track seven, a piece which could be described as an electro-noise-ritual summoning taking beats, voices, sounds, textures etc and randomly weaving them together.  Slower textural intensity of track eight works well as a very modern sounding piece of industrial ambience – the blips, bleeps and modem like sounds giving an edge of modernity.  The following track nine then skews of on another tangent – a noisy factory type rhythmic machinery piece that swirls in aggressive sound loops.  As for track ten, if I heard this at random without being told who it was by, I would have certainly picked it as one of the most aggressive Con-Dom tracks consisting of squealing feedback and screeched and gargled vocal distortion.  Not the case at all in actual fact but certainly had me fooled, and yes I would have to say the sound of this short piece differs quite a bit from the remainder.  Slow building tension and metallic clatter see the disc to its conclusion on track eleven, the sound spectrum encompassing everything from the sustained high pitched notes, to the guttural sub bass beneath. Slow and atmospheric yet tense and chaotic, this track is the perfect way to conclude a broadly expansive album. For a round about comparison I would have to offer up a couple in the form of Morgenstern maybe mixed with a hint of Imminent Starvation’s slower or beat less tracks off the Human Dislocation CD – so yes in essence this has a very ‘Ant-Zen’ sound.  For those whop can’t get enough of the disc there is an exclusive MP3 track available only on the web site – but to gain access you must first own the CD.  This bonus track does inhabit a certain cohesion to the other tracks but is by far the most straight forward beat oriented track. (hint: the web site access code is visibly imbedded on the music side of the disc).  Happy hunting.

MZ412 (Swe) “Legion Ultra” 7”ep 2000 Cold Meat Industry

The basic premise of this item was that anyone interested was invited to send in whatever source material they wanted and then MZ412 would record two tracks for a limited 7”ep.  Myself having sent in contributory sounds I’m not sure if my opinions are somewhat biased…but anyway here goes!  Likewise when anticipating what to expect, I was not sure if I would be able to pick any of my contributory elements within the overall track dynamics, but surprisingly there they were smattered throughout.   All in all twelve ‘individuals’ material were utilized, but I use this term ‘individuals’ with a grain of salt as I remember someone saying their cats had provided material (would that be ‘Cleopatra Velvetpaws’ and ‘Galaxy Glitterpants’ perhaps?!).  Anyway, I guess whoever has had input into this will listen to the tracks quite differently and take away a completely different impression when hearing their own sounds within the tracks. For a general overview I will add that the tracks are surprisingly MZ412 in character in the way they take various noise sounds and manipulate them into rhythmic patterns, however the sound is slightly more harsh and gritty than normal, I guess mostly due to the contributions.  Side A being a noisy chaotic yet rhythmic piece, begins with swirling vocal distortion and feedback, prior to high pitch squeals and fractured looped static giving some sense of movement.  An amazing reverberating bass echo, the main core of the piece is offset against a high pitched looped squeal (I believe I might be responsible for this sound) and likewise looped vocal type sample.   The track has a classic MZ412 song structure characteristic which is exploited here to stunningly effect.  Side B the encompasses a subdued sound of slow modulations but actually ends up being noisier than the first, with a furnace blasting static sound that is loosely fused together in grinding loops of low, mid and high ranged sound (incidentally I can pick more of my contributions out of this number).  Calming down for only a brief moment the track lurches back into a finally of abrasive textures to conclude the ep. Basically presented here are two great tracks that won’t disappoint any MZ fan and will be collectable given this is limited to 412 copies in white and 412 in black vinyl.  A recommended item (but of course I would have said that!).

Necrophorus (Swe) “drifting in motion” CD 2000 Crown Control Activities

The original title for this being ‘tundra stillness’ combined with the actual title furnished upon release, gives quite a good synopsis of the atmospheres on here.  There is an obvious calmness to the flow illustrating a bleak wintry haze, surely influenced by the use of a block of ice a part of the sound source material. The first Necrophorus CD is probably my least favorite of Peter Andersson’s works, but the passage of time that passed between the recordings has ensured this is leaps and bounds ahead of the debut.  With little to compare to the debut, other than the calm new aged tinged atmospheres, this CD works perfectly as a slow cohesive journey into the artic wastelands of the mind.  And while this has more in common with the meandering soundscapes on the Yoga 10” release there are no middle eastern elements as included on that limited vinyl. Solidifying a vision in the mind’s eye, the amplified sound of the source material is akin to the permafrost slowly cracking under the weight of the artic caps, further intermixed with slow drawn out keyboard passages, minimal drones and non-descript chimes.  Selected moments veer off into more sinister atmospheres such as on ‘ice shifting’ (containing an air of urgency), while ‘frost’ better illustrates a passage of mournful emotional desolation (verging on some of the most depressive segments of raison détre‘s works).  The exploration of the transformation of ice from solid to liquid on ‘Partial Melt’ is particularly evocative set against droning melodies and the distant shrill calls of a whale – a primal call evoking the archaic forces of nature. Although quite lengthy at 57 minutes (over 6 tracks), when listening to this time feels as though it has been momentarily suspended.  Firstly there is there feeling of time passing quite quickly (despite the slow motion pace compositions) but secondly confounded by the lingering perception that a great mental distance has been traveled….  Nothing to add, other then yet another handy work of Peter Andersson that is essential to your collection.

Nocturne (Fra) “Kommando Holocauste” 10” ep 1999 Old Europa Cafe

Being my first introduction to this group I think I will have to try and track down their previous 10”EP on Tesco if this is anything to go by. Containing version I & II title track Nocturne are an interesting blend of almost power electronic inspired atmospherics interlaced with orchestral samples and historic vocal snippets.  This is not noisy or forceful enough to be true power electronics and likewise too skittish to be a dark ambient/ industrial project. Layering plays a big role in the shifting dynamics of the sounds, yet maintaining a sense of controlled tension giving off the feeling of a vertical sound expanse rather than specifically the normal “breadth” of sound.  Track I sets the tone being more controlled with a couple of searing interludes but it is track two where things take a more dramatic turn in the condemning implications of the forcefulness of sound layering.  Initially set under an era wartime recording the intent of the rising tones can certainly be felt, being more condensed and focused, gradually multiplying in strength.  As the static hits mid to high range distortion more era vocals are intermixed as the ‘rising/ falling’ dynamic established surges towards its demise.  Comparisons to parts of LJDLP’s sound are the most obvious in this case, and while there were statements to the effect that this group was once part of the aforementioned project, it would now appear that was actually a misunderstanding.  Regardless this is another nice piece of vinyl that has been coming out of the OEC camp of late.

Northaunt (Nor) “the ominous silence” CDR 1999 Northaunt

In amongst the more well known groups there are always some unknowns that rise out of the depths producing quality self released items.  After following a group e-mail link and browsing Northhaunt’s website I was sufficiently intrigued to write and ask for a copy for review…and in a situation stranger the fiction the group informed me that they had already sent off a promotional copy only two days before my request!  Mixing rain drenched field recordings with synth generated textures ‘Might and Misanthropy’ commences proceedings, awash with sweeping bass tones and understated piano tune and mournful violin passage giving off a very good dark ambient/ neo-classical hybrid feel.  At close to 13 minutes things meander along slowly, veering off on a couple of darker, more subdued tangents, including an acoustic guitar interlude, a section of folk oriented flute and tortured vocal shrieks akin to what is found in black metal.  The track taking it names from the groups moniker, rumbles on in a cavernous guise with shifting sound treatments buried in the mix, later with harsh whispers and a barely accentuated piano tune.  More field recordings and an industrial noise pulse make up the backing of ‘Der bor en frost her inne’ including an acoustic tune as the main musical counterpart.  Gradually things take a downward turn (by that I mean good!) with dark factory clatter and a sustained (synth produced) string movement.  ‘De sorte traer’ again utalises the acoustic guitar in amongst an intricately textured sound backing while ‘Running out of time’ reminds me somewhat of early raison d’etre with sweeping layers, chant like drones and church bells.  The track however remains distinctive with multiple samples of ticking clocks and a lone voice somewhat desperately stating the track’s title.  On first hearing ‘In rain’ the piano tune sounded a little off time but on subsequent listens the off kilter playing only enhances its charm.  ‘And I Fade Away’ is the last track on offer and is a little more experimental than the former tracks with its mid paced keyboard tune in amongst dungeon like clatter, dripping water and far off noises… attention held in the fore with some spoken vocals. The overall aura of this release quite reminds me of Ildfrost’s ‘Nataenel’ CD, although this is somewhat less composed with a larger variety of sound sources.  What I guess I am getting at it is the comparison to the overall dark atmosphere and morose classical feel of the stated item.  The atmospheres presented definitely show clarity of ideas and I think the use of natural field recordings as a backdrop really enhance the depth of sound.  The incorporation of piano movements, string sections and acoustic guitars are used sparingly which only enhances the atmosphere at the appropriate times. Although a CDR it is still encased in professionally printed and presented booklet, complete with full sized printed CD label.  A group to keep an eye out for. 

Novatron (USA) “New Rising Sun” CD 1999 Cold Spring Records

Being oblivious to the previous musical projects of the main man Anthony Di Franco (of which I believe there are noteworthy ones) I can’t really offer any comparisons.  However, having Novatron billed as ‘solar music’, the spacious and inky blackness of the sonic tones certainly do this title justice.  Throbbing swelling dynamics and textural sound, ‘kore’ commences the epic solar journey, sweeping into ‘axis one’ and simultaneously intermixing effects laden beats to stunning impact.  On first rotations I had the sounds pegged for heavily treated guitar generated source material, but the cover revealed that this was completely wrong in that samplers, electronics and a myriad of synths were utalised alone with a bass.  Shimmering elements of ‘inamorata’ in part bring to mind Atomine Elektrine’s ‘Archimetrial Universe’ disc, however the bass loaded beat and more abrasive elements steers into darker sonic territory, choir like tones keeping the piece afloat from sinking into pure darkness.  The repetitive succession of fast paced throbbing sounds of ‘alloy/ sorcerer’ is the only drawback I can find on the album, being far too repetitive and high in the mix, yet when out of the way the track hits a great segment of harsh sonic noises and random pounded beats.  The drawn out drones of ‘total mass retain’ work on the lower sonic levels, while other slightly scathing elements hovering just overhead.  Symmetry and balance is the feeling conveyed by this pieces, grasping you in its breathtaking sonic vortex.  The rumbling, imploding textures of ‘cobra-bora’ could easily illustrate the last moments of a dying super nova (does this signify the end of the journey?), yet things do calm down to sweeping multi dimensional drones (I’m still convinced these sounds have a guitar like resonance), choosing to take a drawn out path to the discs untimely conclusion.  Around the nine and a half minutes mark, a sinister dynamic stages a takeover encompassing deeper and harsher drones almost emulating a symphonic character. With the stunning fiery tones of the cover, set against inky black background, likewise overwritten with silver print, the cover is the perfect counterpart to the sounds on offer.  As with everything Cold Spring put their name to regardless of style, you can always be guaranteed a fantastic release, with Novatron being no exception.

Novy Svet (Aut) “Faccia a faccia” CD 1999 HuaRuk/ WKN

This CD is both bizarrely strange yet highly intriguing.  Signed to Albin Julius’s label (Albin of Der Blutharsch infamy) and knowing his penchant for folk music this might start to explain this group, but not entirely. The opening track is somewhere between folk and jazz with plucked double bass and uptempo snare/ symbol percussion, while two off kilter (almost out of key) Austrian’s sing in an almost drunken fashion?!!  The second song is no less weird with slow beer hall piano playing, those sung/ spoken vocals again, trippy keyboard sounds and some sort of ritual percussion.  Track three takes a more standard industrial subdued rhythmic approach similar to Deutsch Nepal (but don’t forget how weird some of his stuff is!) yet the vocals again setting this well apart.  ‘Puro rumore/ puo amore’ runs between sections slow and uptempo accordion playing, with the vocal treatment and presentation totally overshadowing the fact that – yes an accordion is being used! (Drunken accordion volk music indeed?!)  The ritual and martial undercurrent of ‘brigada budoucnost’ with its dark industrial intensity is almost out of place on this album considering the tracks it is placed adjacent to (the next track consists of yet more mid tempo beer hall piano playing and vocal chanting!). The drunken sway is again displayed on ‘operazione runa’ as if the group were literally trying to compose a marching tune while heavily intoxicated (and might I add that however it was composed it has resulted in a great but quirky track).  The last track ‘sala, 19.00 MEZ’ has a distant and muffled orchestral sound, mixed with crowd voices, church bells, easily being the most subdued piece on the disc and having in part a field recording vibe to it.  After 10 minutes of silence the hidden track appears seeing the accordion getting brought out for one last drunken lament before the bizarre musical oddity draws to a close. I guess this would be really only for the very adventurous music enthusiast, but as much as my review may make it sound like this would not work, it is a highly addictive release that while has confounded me, certainly has not disappointed.

Nurse with Wounds (Eng) “Alice the Goon” MCD 2000 United Dairies

I don’t know how overall I am convinced with this, but for the collectors it is a re-release of a limited (read 500 copies) one sided LP released in association with the Musiques Ultimes Festival held in France in 1995.  Track one ‘(I don’t want to have) Easy Listening Nightmares’ is a way out and totally quirky with a big band type brass and percussion loop that is overlaid with sound snipits, noises, saxaphone drones etc.  The main loops acts as the platform with, limited variation and movement throughout the nine odd minutes.  ‘Prelude to Alice the Goon’ mostly contains deep double bass rhythm/ tune, tripped out vocals (with full vocal treatments).  There is more movement in this passage of time and works best when the vocals are not present with other broad background sounds, sparse vocal choirs & percussion.  The third untitled track was not on the original LP yet was recorded at the same time.  Quite minimalist, it commences as a low drone, with distant voices and an untold echoed depth.  Vocals become more prominent as mournful wails whilst likewise the shimmering textures increase with metallic texture and for its atmosphere this would easily have to be the best track on here.  Ad for the digipack cover it contains some nice visuals of strange line drawings.

of the wand and the moon (Den) “sol ek sa”7”ep 2000 Hau Ruk

Limited info about the group comes with this one, however two very different styles are showcased.  Side a contains one track (‘my blackflamed sun’) of drawn out ritual/ industrial drones, slow beats and scattered sounds.  Dynamics are used in the expected manner – starting slow, gradually building to climatic moments.  To swap sound completely, the second side of the vinyl contains two stunning two neo-folk tunes.  The acoustic guitar and low spoken vocals of ‘sol ek sa MIIX’ do bring to mind the likes of Death in June yet the clarinet accompaniment works particularly well in giving the track its own distinctive sound.  A track of beautiful misanthropic wonder.  The depth of sound of ‘lion serpent sun‘ is further highlighted with the acoustic strains being overshadowed by piano, and backing horns, percussion etc creating again a fantastic piece.  Vocals do no break out from a low whisper, still remaining high in the mix.  I for one will be certainly looking out for future releases from this new group.

Of Unknown Origin (USA) “Seven Ovens of the Soul” CD 1998 Suffering Clown

The two artists behind this (Derek Rush ov Dream in Dust and Bryin Dall ov 4th sign of the Apocalypse) already have a well established history of collaborative efforts – be it the Middle Pillar released ‘a murder of angels’ CD of last year or likewise their contributions to each others projects (to name just a few).  Of Unknown Origins is yet another project birthed out of their collective interest for dark experimental sonics with this album taking a broad dark ambient approach, containing smatterings of unusual segments and mildly crispy electronics.  Tortured vocals of ‘From the Womb’ are part of this short introductory piece, before a looped and sampled horn sound starts with ‘meditation ladder’ complete with spoken psychological instructions (sampled of course) on immersing yourself in a subconscious mindframe.  This track is essentially unusual in vibe rather than being specifically dark, however things do take a bleaker turn on ‘Saturnine Night’ with bursts a mild static and loose rhythmic framework.  A Deutsch Nepal comparable style is presented on ‘Chemognosis’ with looped mechanized rhythms and cold metallic sounds, however a lone guitar sound sets it somewhat apart from the initial comparison (with it fading in and out at will throughout).  Visions of baron wind swept landscapes (mixed with distant factory sounds) are evoked on ‘Sphered in a Radiant Cloud’ to good effect, raising intensity as it progresses and even included a tribal metallic beat in the last minutes.  ‘Urlo’ continues with the tribal mindset, with heavy (repetitive) percussive beat as the swirling sound textures align themselves in varying sweeping patterns.  Deutch Nepal is again brought to mind on ‘Nemonik Enbtropy’ with the central plodding bass tune and quirky off center programmed percussion surging forward in repetitive fashion.  All in all this is another worthwhile listen, even if is already a few years.

Ohrenschmerz (Ger) “example compilation” CDR 1999 self released

As you can see from the title this is not an official release rather a collection of tracks from three releases of this group from this group from 1998 through 1999.  I’m not sure how official these original items were, but I get the feeling they may have also bee self released.  Anyway, unrelenting power/ noise industrial with is what we have here ranging from the pure noise attacks to the more hyper beat stabs.  ‘Fehlfunktion’ presents the sounds of massive unidentified machinery in total over drive, intense in all its rough repetitive glory with enough obliterated feedback and scattered German vocal samples tossed into the meat grinders which are my speakers to bring a smile to my dial (in appreciation of course).  The noise attack of ‘intro’ aside, ‘tinitus’ contains a cleaner yet no less metallic resonance in the pummelling beat structure.  Blistering loops again of metallic origin (of ‘tote liebe’) really grab at the roots of what industrial music is all about (and not this main stream fluff that passes as ‘industrial’ these days).  Powerful, aggressive and all encompassing is this melding of two parts noise and three parts beat.  ‘Traum II’ explores the use of feedback blasted vocals and a barely contained programmed tune that adds a further positive dimension to the later works of this group.  The lurching loops and corrosive static of ‘deutscher hass (sv)’ contain a razor sharpness making this a premier power electronics number comparable to the like of Genocide Organ, with the final track reverting to the power rhythms format. Overall the biggest comparison would be to the harder edged Ant-Zen and affiliated groups and in particular the likes of Converter.  As a taster of this groups work I will certainly be looking out for a new release which I’m sure will eventuate on one label or another given the strength of this.

 Oil10 (Fra) “metastases” 12”ep 1999 Hymen

Siren generated rhythms and static oriented beats, sets Oil10 in rather quirky yet groovy ambient/ techno territory that is not all the dissimilar to the stylistic approach of Black Lung.  This comparison is further enhanced when the second track (‘shadows in the sand’) morphs off into an introduction of shimmering sub bass pulses, later focussing around programmed ‘blip’ oriented melody lines creating a very sci-fi styled vibe.  The slow pace and extend length of this piece does make for a chilled out aura that leads side A to its close.  Side B beginning with a much more evasive sound, the mid paced beats drive the track forward quickly building loops and complexity, while the tripped out quirky blips that make up part of the tune again encompass a sci-fi edge.  The final track is probably both the fastest and most straight forward piece – a slow drawn out droning tune over quick beat sequences, with random sounds adding to the various patterns being toyed with.  Another nice item in the Hymen series of 12”eps (being the series where all vinyls have the same cover except for the authentic postage stamps that detail the name of the artist and release).

Ordo Equitum Solis (Ita) “Metamorphosis – Personam Impono” CD 2000 World Serpent Distribution

Being serviced by World Serpent with promo items, it have given me the ability to hear groups that I am well aware of, but due to lacking funds have never got around to checking out (with O.E.S being such a group).  For those familiar with the group the press release references that this CD has reached a level of maturation that was both not expected nor required so I guess this is saying something if you appreciated their past releases!  Likewise my impressions of the group hearing them for the first time are likewise of a positive slant. Following a classical/ folk, male/ female duo type path, shades of Dead Can Dance and other slight dark wave influence are evident (the dark wave influence I would acquaint to the partial keyboard programming sound).  These elements along sparse acoustics, bass melodies and the interplay of gender specific vocals no doubt expand on an established sound.  The acoustic guitar and trumpet of “Tomorrow Cries” nods to Death in June’s sound on the “Rose Clouds..” album, yet the female vocals presented in a very mainstream styled delivery which I hear is another variance to previous offering.  The beautiful flowing instrumental track (incidentally titled ‘instrumental’) is a brooding classical inspired piece which does not suffer too greatly from the synthetic means of production.  The percussive, acoustic guitar tracks (with related instrument embellishment) are the most numerous here, each one taking on different emotive qualities.  On one of the later tracks the merging of the acoustic strums and deep cinematic classical melodies of ‘Reprise’ is where the album works at its utmost best, but actually lacks vocals which is a little disappointing.  ‘The last hopes in me’ being the conclusional piece partly resolves my disappointment with the preceding track, here merging a more subdued backing with female vocals a lone piano line and mournful trumpet tunes. Surprisingly mainstream on many tracks, this CD is by no means a difficult listen, nor something that you have to have a lot of ‘scene’ baggage to appreciate, thus appeal could be quite wide for this.

Orplid (Ger) “Orplid” CD 1999 Eis und Licht Tontrager

Having read a interview and recommendation in Descent Magazine 5# (and knowing they are spot on with knowing what is worthwhile), I tracked a copy of this CD down.  My searched resulted in me obtained the original slip cover version, however I hear this has been released with new packaging and maybe a bonus track or two. A deep orchestral marching ode opens the CD setting a shrill battlefield aura (snares and tympani’s pound, brass horns bellow etc) prior to the main focus of the album presenting itself as dark melancholic apocalyptic folk music.  ‘Bruder Luzifer’ presents complex arrangements of acoustic guitars playing brooding tunes and melodies, complimented with synth layers, and deep martial percussion.  Vocals being sung in their native tongue (being powerful and commanding in the mid ranged presentation) certainly add to the aura. In regard to these vocals ‘Totenlied’ basses itself around a vocal choir arrangement, (sung by the male members) obtaining an intense heathen flavor.  The title track differs again from what precedes it, being a stunning piano movement with flute accompaniment – male vocals softly sung against the fragile and beautiful piano tune.  Intense acoustic tune, lone cello, volkish mouth harp and monk like chanted vocals embody an ode to the Norse God ‘Balder’ (track of the same name), with the background screams acting as emotional catharsis. The volk marching ode of ‘Jenseits von hier’ uses electronic means to create the tunes, here with female vocals taking the center stage, male vocals acting as a restrained backing.  Apocalyptic acoustic folk music does not get much better than on ‘Dan Abendland’, whilst the straight sung vocals approach sounding like Douglas P (musical backing far more folk tinged though).  The last track is strange in its inclusion here that it starts as a crusty programmed dark drum and bass piece, with full nightclub crowd noise in the background.  Once this segment is concluded, swirling winds and an angry German speech sample arrives full force, than falling back into field recording territory with rain and thunder, a slow acoustic tune presenting a mournful ballad for the final minutes.  This track is a really good piece but it is just not something I would have expected given the overall flavor of the album.  For a final compassion if anyone has followed a band by the name of Ulver, (and in particular their second acoustic folk CD), this is a marker to what you can expect from Orplid and their stunning acoustic and vocal battle hymns.

Osso Exotico (Por) “VII” 7”ep 1999 Drone Records

Created via an church organ this is not exactly how you would expect this to sound given the drawn out essence of the pieces, yet the aura of sound does retain a slight resemblance to its origin (fleeting sounds spark this recognition).  Likewise there is an unavoidable religious flair to the sounds, mainly due to the conations associated with the instrument choice but this has more to do with preconceived notions than anything else. On both tracks a slow hazy warmth exudes from the grooves of the vinyl, with slow enveloping drones and deep cavernous sounds that rise and fall in volume during the slow journey of the two pieces.  Essentially dark ambient pieces these sit well with the likes of Amon and the more minimalist school of sound.  Interestingly the packing sees the music pressed on clear vinyl and comes with a small packet of spices.  Very tasty!

Ostara (Aus/Ere) “Secret Homeland” CD 2000 World Serpent Distribution

Two items reviewed in one, mostly as the single was a limited to 1000 promotional copies containing one the tracks off the upcoming album.  The single certainly grabbed my attention, frustrating me that I would have to wait by the letterbox for the arrival of the full length it was taken from (luckily I only had to wait for a bit over a month). Continuing on from the former group Strength Through Joy, the name has now being changed and musical orientation slightly altered, creating quite an interesting spin on the ‘apocalyptic folk’ sound.  One of the first things that is evident is the crystal clarity of the production, being full, rich and lively in all elements of vocals (mostly male with selected female backing), guitar (including slide), bass, drums, keyboards and occasional cello.  Apart from the production setting a standard above much in the genre, the drumming rather than opting for martial percussion, has used the standard drum kit, setting the music in a much more rock/ folk tangent. ‘Epiphany’ the first off the mark, highlights the poetics of lyrics and vocal delivery, being well sung in a mid range octave, encompassing lines such as “I believe in mysteries and I can see with clarity, the truth behind the veil, beneath the lie”.  The tragic acoustic strains of ‘Operation Valkrie’ set against keyboard layers and deep bass make it both a highlight as a single and highlight of the album, being an ode to the myths of northern paganism and the strife facing Europe with the loss of such traditions.  ‘Midsummer Sunday’ is a much calmer affair coming across as a beautiful acoustic strummed celebration, complete with female vocal and cello accompaniment.  ‘Ways to Strength and Beauty’ opens with a poetic metaphor, then becoming another stand out track of subdued anger realised via the mid paced acoustics, bagpipes and more forceful (marching) drumming.  The rock/ folk perspective mentioned earlier is again shown on ‘Nostalgia for the Future’ mainly due to the up-tempo guitar, drumming and violin passages.  ‘The Wolf’s Door’ (dare I say it) contains an almost low key prog rock feel, with the following ‘Beauty to Burn’ also using a non characteristic drum pattern for this genre.  Rounding out the album is ‘Serpent’s Wine’, an optimistic sounding tune of mid paced acoustic strummed and cello bowed bliss. In conclusion as much as I feel this is a fantastic album from execution of musicianship through to production, at nearly 70 minutes over 12 tracks there starts to become a certain ‘sameness’ to the sound.  Maybe with a few less tracks this would have been all the stronger for it, but really if this is the only gripe to raise it is not much of one at all.

Ovum (Swe) “plastic passion” MC 2000 Troniks

Having had a minor introduction to the world via the CMI ‘estheticks of cruelty’ compilation, Ovum presented as being one of the quieter groups with a track of subdued machine like drones.  While the said compilation track was reasonably one dimensional, this tape shows the same slow drone aesthetic, yet with more movement and spaciousness explored.  Two long tracks without titles are presented (one per tape side) exploring cold barren soundscapes.  On the first side drones placed on a number of bass and sub bass levels resonate thick sonic waves with other mid ranged glacial shimmering sounds rhythmically rising and falling in volume.  With freezing crystalline beauty this likewise has a sterile clinical feel void of human emotion or interaction (The thought patterns of a cold unfeeling mind perhaps?).  Still at a snails pace, track two increases dynamics somewhat by introducing sound elements at a quicker rate.  Again the sounds sit between deep drones and rising/ falling glacial mid ranged textures however a few more cavernous element creates a sense of depth that was not evident on track 1 (due to its emphasis on breadth of sound).  A high pitched sound or two weave into the composition, without being obtrusive to the ear likewise mixed with what sounds like a distant slow grinding melody muffled somewhere in the background.  The tense dynamic, and cold liquidous movement of this makes it more engaging than the first yet, fusing some more low end machine like tones & static towards then end.  Probably a little too active to fit into the ‘isolationist’ mold, yet this is cold barren dark ambience maybe slightly like Hazard on the ‘north’ CD.  A good release that unfortunately for me won’t get played that often due to the format (me never having been much of a tape buff).  

Ovum (Swe) “epepe” CD 2000 Fever Pitch

This being marked as an EP and only 4 tracks, it still has a running time of over 40 minutes.  Continuing on from the review of Ovum’s sound above, it seems that these recording predate the tape tracks having been recorded in around 1998-1999.  ‘Bolesc’ the first track takes a very ‘Thomas Koner’ type take on slow glacial minimalism of shifting sub bass textures.  Slow and steady this track introduces the album, intensity rising at such a slow rate you barely notice the volume has increased from the opening passage to its conclusion at over 9 minutes.  The second track ‘Islossning’ from the very start takes a more active role of mid ranged stormy drones, bleak gray enveloped textures & fractured machinery type sounds – part minimalist part subdued noise, overall great result.  Glacial archaic depths and shifting deep space bleakness (ala Lustmord on ‘…black stars..’ album), the title track is a great sparsely textured dark ambient number that weaves its way into and imbeds in your psyche over its (nearly) 10 minute span. All I can add is that I can never seem to get enough of this sound when it is pulled off with flair such as this.!  Last track of 4 ‘cenote’ bass rumbles its way into contention, more singular in focus and likewise muffled in its suffocation of a partly composed melody.  Minor shifts here and there, (likewise with slow increasing intensity) mark a track content in slowly unraveling itself over 16 minutes. Of the fours tracks of minimalist dark ambience presented, each takes an individual sound and focus creating a well thought out and presented document of bleak atmospherics.  Ovum are certainly a deserving group worthy of checking out and with myself now having some of the groups material on CD will certainly ensure regular rotations.

Pain Station (USA) “Cold” CD 1999 COP

Cold is the third release by Scott Sturgis’ Pain Station; he also helms the distorted rhythmic maelstrom that is Converter.  Where the previous release, Disjointed, veered into regions of the mind tinged with bleak futuristic nuances, Cold tears off the layers of (already lean) sonic excess, presenting a blinding, bone-white melding of a psyche in disrepair, hinged to existence by futility and despair.  The sound is one of isolated machinery murmur and corrosive synths augmented with spastic beats amidst a taut electro industrial framework.  The dry ice vocals and introspective lyrical focus concisely align the listener with Cold’s exploration of the struggle within (“One mans journey into self-destruction…”).  The bass of “Dead Inside” thumps solemnly (reminiscent of Ennio Morricone’s crisp, glacial soundtrack to John Carpenter’s The Thing) before frustration pours from the synth line and vocals stumble down the staircase of inner turmoil.  “Turning Point” opens with machinery whispers and a despondent soundscape loop (is that Heid?) upon which mysterious beasts chirp, bleat, and scramble, and layers of subtly percussive rhythms vie for transient supremacy.  “Braindead” slinks through the computer-banks refuge, stuttering beats punctuated by the parched, sun-blasted vocals of one desperately holding on to one’s already fractured sanity.  Like a vacuum, the chorus of “Aftermath” sucks the listener deeper into the swiftly disintegrating psyche.  “Dark Day (Self-Destruct)” sprays liquid radiation upon the scoured cranium, a scathing noise fusion of nuclear waste and mental deterioration.  The whole disc feels as though it was, literally, recorded from within the mind of the tormented narrator.  An illuminating blend of electro industrial idiosyncrasies and dark sonicscape dynamics.  Highly recommended!  –JC Smith 

P.A.L (Ger) “release” CD 2000 Ant-Zen

This, P.A.L’s third CD is my first introduction to this group, however I tend to get the feeling that this may be the most commercially accessible “release” given previous reviews I have read of theirs. Of the tracks presented they encompass layers of percussive up tempo beats, synthesiser lines and programmed sound textures, done in a way that is reasonably straight forward, gradually morphing through various segments of each track. After a short layered synth/ answering machine message intro, ‘discoroad’ roars into existence in the guise of a driving bass sonic piece with an overload of mechanically driven beats and minimalist melody.  The following track “crash the party” continues a similar driving feel of bass sonics, having slightly less emphasis on the beats, choosing to have a heavy focus on the programming side of things.  A much harder edged beats and machine driven rhythmic clatter is found on an appropriately titled “death is a drum machine”, heading towards the territory inhabited by label mates Converter & Imminent (Starvation).  ‘welcome to annexia’ is a more personal track of the album containing a slow minimalist dirge of programming with hints of buried beats, sub-bass melody and scattered noise.  Amping up the mood again, ‘bang your box’ is an absolute stomper of a track which has a hell of a groove to the driving bass current, complete with harsh (straight up) percussion, resulting in it being one of the definite highlights of the CD.  ‘in the now’ has a weird (repeated) cigarette dialogue vocal sample layered over a reasonably dark, brooding piece (with limited slow beats) giving a bit of down time between the faster tracks (which incidentally is the next track ‘move!’) This piece creates a good suspenseful atmosphere via the gradually layering programming, increasing the intensity before the full beat/ noise programming kicks in.  “reborn” mixes up the sound palate considerably, containing a massive surging (down tuned) guitar riff alongside mid tempo pounding beats and programming being refreshing in its simplicity.  ‘leeste, night’ is the lengthy closer to the disc commencing with sampled angelic vocals later moving into a darkish synth line, continuing over a 7 minute span until the final conclusion – acting as a coming down track considering the over the top energy displayed on the majority of the 51 minute disc. One last comment would be that there is the element of humour evident in the music, given the use of vocal samples taken from cartoons and Faulty Towers among others.  While not too obtrusive, they slightly detracts from the overall feel in that it for me it gives a gimmicky edge which I tend to dislike when associated with hard edged electronic music.

Pita (Aut) “Get Out” CD 1999 Mego

This is another Mego artist that uses a lap top computer to create these eclectic takes of digitally abstract noise/ sound.  Despite high end burst of static (such as track 1) the resonance is not akin to say Japanese noise, rather has a more inherent subdued sound.  Cutting from one track to the next quite sporadically, track two has an earthen depth to the low end, with the sound spectrum occasionally sweeping quickly upwards to ear piercing result.  The singular highlight of the disc come with the 11 minute track three which has taken what sound like a ‘borrowed’ classical type melody/ choir vocal and fed it through a harsh computer mixing programming.  Here the beauty of the tune is still evident yet somehow enhanced by being juxtaposed with the thunderous driving static and glitched distortion textures.  This track can’t help but stand out from the others, particularly as the majority of the nine pieces are between 1 to 4 minutes (and only explore small snippets of sound and noise texture), as here this track has taken one theme and toyed with it to stunning effect over quite an extended length.  Track four takes a computer game sound aesthetic to its chopped framework, while track five has a thicker liquidous tone in a calm droning type piece. You would be forgiven for thinking your CD player is malfunctioning on track seven with the way it presents itself as digitally fractured segment of sound.  The final track again explores an extended length, timing in at around 8 minutes.  As such I feel that the disc works better when the tracks are given a bit more breadth to more, as here the tonal rumblings and mid ranged sounds are given the ability to gradually morph into different patterns without appearing to have changed drastically.  I would say this disc is worth it for track three and track nine alone. 

Polar (USA) “Consistencies in Nature” CDR 2000 M.M.S

Without any bio or release info sent with this I have next to no idea of the background of this….and from what little I can glean from the cover is this is two guys experimenting with selected traditional instruments (leaf blower, yadaki etc) and samplers/ rhythm machines.  The results they come up with encompass 6 lengthy tracks, sometimes constituting mature, well evolved, (mildly) tribal, yet mostly studio tweaked soundscapes, whilst others segments falling somewhat short, coming across as not as accurately planned or executed (maybe even improvised) in particular such as on ‘winged flight on base zero’.  The pace of play generally keeps it down to a slow crawl emphasising the evolution of the tracks and being much akin to watching hazy textures of light emitted from a slowly heating lava lamp.  ‘Half-Hibernation in part uses a standard programmed beat, mixing it up somewhat to the other pieces, but overall probably grabbing my attention slightly less than the more experimental sections.  ‘Two Points Converging’ pull out the big guns in an all out, sprawling drone-age fest of bass drenched waves and sharper more refined textures gradually spinning and weaving in a tangled audio collage.  ‘Falling to the Sea’ walks again on a different tangent containing some nice death ambient vibes (yet still experimental), being mostly built on bass and distortion loops with other scrapping sounds and random tribal percussion. Elements of this remind me of a more subdued and organic sounding Stone Glass Steel during the “Industrial >Icon<” and “Industrial Meditation” albums and likewise this could fit nicely with some of the items coming from the Influx Communications label such as the albums from Asia Nova or Smooth Quality Excrement.  Overall this is a good introductory listen and I get the feeling that these guys could be something to watch out for.

PPF (Fra) “Propagande Par Le Fait” LP 2000 StateArt

First up I will say that the packaging of this would sit very nicely next to the recent Iron Justice LP, as this is also pressed into ultra heavy weight vinyl and housed in a white slip sleeve.  And if we are going to make the comparison to another power electronics group, you might as well expect this to be in the same arena.  Well, in actual fact this statement is only true to an extent, as PPF do have a distinctive sound of their own that cuts from (mostly) power electronics to noise ambience and noise industrial (all done fantastically I might add).  The sinister drilling tones and fluttering white noise sets things in motion on the first track of the LP ‘Minski’s Torture Chamber’, with the arrival of the tortured flanged vocals articulating a sense of blissful anger.  Squiggly mid toned layers add to the backing of ‘Penis Pressure Forensics’ where the vocals are the focal point and main wonder here.  Shrieking and heavily treated they take the total fore of the composition, becoming even more frantic and unintelligible throughout.  ‘PCF’ sits more in a noise ambient styling with low guttural sounds that are treated with both echoed and sweeping textures.  Various segments of French spoken samples add to the subdued calamity with also a higher pitched sound akin to someone trying to obtain a signal on CB radio.  ‘Your not welcome’ harks back to a classic power electronics sound, starting off slow with a few select layers of cyclic noise that quickly multiply and accelerate forward to urgent mid paced delivery.  The vocals add a whole new dimension, which has more to do with the insane conviction of delivery and level white noise distortion added.  The tension constantly building as sporadically the voice can be made out to screaming the track’s title.  Not breaking any new ground, but masterfully done all the same.  Side B offers up three choice selections with ‘Airwaves Control’ being the first.  More radio transmitter signalling noise is used here to good effect within a shrill/ sweeping noise industrial framework (obviously with radio voices of French origin occasionally filtering in and out of the tense noise collage).  ‘PPF’ takes a slight diversion in that it contains a slow drum machine percussive element.  Sustained keyboard tones ebb out a slight melody in amongst more shrill piecing elements, all over a backing of distant bombing and other French speech samples.  The last track of the LP (‘En Milieu Hostile’) comes as a lengthy extended piece that starts with deep wavering textures and scattered layers of surging mid ranged sound.  Further in, heavier distortion plays a bigger role along with the use of vocals that are flanged, echoed and distorted (and is quite interesting to hear power electronics vocals presented in their native tongue).  By the end of the track is has degenerated into a mass of screaming vocals, feedback and the ever present underlying surging loops.  All in all yet another great addition to the power electronics genre (both group and album) with this release being limited in number to 500 cuts of vitriolic vinyl.

Psychic TV (Eng) “were you ever bullied at school…do you want revenge?” DCD 1999 Cold Spring Records

Can I review this item without even referencing the music?  Lets see if I can’t!  A double CD set of vintage Psychic TV live gig recordings is what this is all about, the performances themselves supposedly having never been heard before (other than those at the actual shows I guess).  Two CD’s and two performances, one recorded in September, 1984 the other in December, 1994 and both in Germany.  Psychic TV are a group where their reputation precedes them, embellished by both past associations and likewise the members own individual and collective achievements, that has solidly embedded them in industrial folklore.  God knows what I was doing when these shows were recorded (primary school perhaps?) but that is not really the point other than not having a great background knowledge to drawn from and hence severely flawing my ability as reviewer. Basically you are either a massive Psychic TV fan and avid collector of their outputs and will already have this (or will ultimately be obtaining this), or you may be a little like me, being far from well acquainted with Psychic TV’s sound (let alone everything they stood from), creating a bemusing situation for me to write a semi competent, let alone intelligent review of it.  Thus as you may have guessed I am not even go and try, but then again any real Psychic TV fan has probably not read this far realizing my ignorant status in relation to all things Psychic.  14 tracks in all are included (7 per performance/ per disc) encompassing different song sets for both shows, and to name drop some of them would include: ‘turn the golden thread’, ‘rope your self’, ‘ov power’, ‘soul eater’, ‘godstar (never forget)’ and ‘papal breakdance..’.   Well what else to say that this may just be the longest non-music descriptive review I have ever done!

Psychonaut (USA) “The Witches’ Sabbath” CD 2000 Athanor

I guess there is ritual inspired type music and then there is music encompassing actual ritualistic rites.  This would most definitely be placed in the later category and is noted to be specifically influenced by Austin Osman Spare and likewise containing lyrics on one track that were penned Aleister Crowley (‘Hymn to Pan’).  If you were not aware this a project of one Michael Ford (the main member) who has worked previously with other projects such as Valefor (among others).  Constant ritual percussive elements, vocals of both gender (female vocals most prominent either sung or spoken) and wind instruments over sparse sweeping electronic textures gives the aura of rites and evocations in full progress.  Each track sets out to capturing an aura, then enhancing it via general repetition and minimal progression.  The lack of percussion on tracks ‘Bacchanal’ actually enhances the seductively sinister electronic drones and accompanying pan flute.  ‘Lights Black Majesty’ follows a similar non percussive sound, yet with additional electronic clatter and quite prominent male vocals reciting the lyrics to a Rosaleen Norton piece.  It is for all the specific ritual connotations that the albums does not really work as an active listening tool, rather works better when listened to in a background sound context, or even an enhancement to your own ritual practices.  The cover is quite stunning containing panels of artwork from notables such as Rosaleen Norton, Aleister Crowley and Austin Osman Spare, likewise with a transparent over wrap.  Overall I am generally at a loss for words with this one (…that is quite unlike me actually…). 

Puissance (Swe) “War On” CD 1999 Fluttering Dragon

Ah yes, Puissance are back at it with a remix CD of some of their favourite tracks along with two new numbers presented in a simplistic digi-pack case. Culling two tracks from all three albums each have some sort of discernible difference in sound, mostly that they have been made more bombastic overall or that the vocals have changed slightly in presentation – meaning that I get the feeling that some of the tracks may have been actually re-recorded.  ‘Control’ lifted from the first album opens this disc, which is improved with a less muddied sound, massive harsher drumming and more spiteful vocals.  ‘Erlangen’ (being the first of two new tracks) starts with a sound very much like the orchestral tracks of the first CD, which initially had be worried that Puissance’s sound might be regressing.  This concern abates after the whole track has been taken in, as it shows Puissance have started to write longer form tracks that meander through a number of segments rather than focusing on one or two themes per track.  The opening segment contains of the deep horns, shrill strings and marching percussion with one or two off kilter breaks before being stripped back to a quieter foreboding middle sections of tense ambience.  Somewhat relaxed epic orchestral tones return as the third passage which strides confidently back into the opening segment to bring the track full circle (although ends abruptly mid passage for some reason).  ‘Totalitarian Hearts’ has had a reworking where the mastering has increased the intensity of the music and with the vocals being re-recording with a slight echo effect and a touch more irony or cynicism in the tone of the voice.  ‘For the Days of Pestilence’ is the second new track which mixes orchestral strains very well with a more primitive industrial clanging undertone, containing a steady mid paced beat, sweeping background choirs and mechanical rhythms.  Although containing the same overall sound as the original ‘Burn the Earth’ is still almost unrecognisable when compared back to the original.  It is surprising how weak the original recording was with many of the orchestral layers getting lost in a definitely mediocre production.  The reworked version is thankfully much more crystalline giving each layer of sound room to move and to embellish the track overall improving it tenfold (even if it still a tad synthetic).  ‘In Shining Armour’, selected as one of the powerful tracks of the last CD has its main touch up in the vocal department (being re-recorded) utilising a much more forceful half sung/ half spoken guise which takes a very central role over and above the massive folk tinged backing.  Following on with ‘Light of a Dead Sun’ (also off the last CD) seems in most part to be the same except for the obvious perks that a good re-mastering provides.  I must say that ‘Command and Conquer’ was always a powerful track but the manner in which this re-working portrays it all out anger is truly impressive.  This would be one the most outwardly militant tracks Puissance have written, scraping any hint of epic orchestra elements, rather opting for a sinister drone and mechanical pulse that rips into a massive whirlpool of distorted fast kettle drumming.  Falling back to the sinister drones, mechanical textures and sounds of distant explosions, the track again ravages the listener’s ears with the distorted drumming being even more powerful the second time around.  I will say that on this track it is the first time that Puissance have struck me as much as some of Turbund Sturmwerk’s compositions have done in the past – and that is certainly no mean feat.  Given I guess this a bridging release before the new album I am quite intrigued with what it will contain as this is too short at only 40 minutes.

Raison D’etre (Swe) “The Empty Hollow Unfolds” CD 2000 Cold Meat Industry

I will say that since this highly anticipated release appeared in my letterbox I have been settling (or is that unsettling??) into this new offering from raison d’etre. On first listens and making a comparison to previous works, there is a more meandering song framework than the “In Silence….” CD, harking more back to tracks on “Within the depths..” CD.  The song structure of this new album is essentially somewhere in the middle of these albums, however overall this is the DARKEST thing exorcised by raison d’etre yet. The drones are increasingly suffocating and keyboard passages even more solemn than ever before, intermixed with a fare whack of abrasive factory clatter, tonal outbursts and scrapping textures (with the odd monk or choir sample arising in between).  An icy wind blowing through ‘the slow ascent’ stimulates metallic wind chimes within the framework of guttural atmospheric depth, while craggy outcrops of sub bass textures mar the journey, all the while with lamenting choirs mourning the fate of the traveler in his desperate search for the unnamed but ultimately desolate place.  Lethargic orchestral movements, embody the depressive melody of ‘the hidden hallows’, only made all the more dark via the shifting catacomb textures.  Of the more abrasive and unsettling tracks ‘End of a Cycle’ is the one to name, indeed marking the end of raison d’etre as a sweet/ sorrowful group, here totally embracing and immersing the project in pure darkness, the invasively loud choir sounds making an commanding presence rather than depressive one. ‘The Wasteland’ is simply that – a sparse soundscape of tonal depth and dungeon atmospherics mainly evoked by the metal on metal abrasiveness.  Female type choir melodies smooth the edges somewhat, yet the overall feel remains that of a place of an inhospitable bleakness.  The journey reached at ‘The Eternal Return and the Infinity Horizon’ takes the longest span of the album, fleshing out over 20 minutes.  Early Lustmord is brought to mind within the starting blocks segment, slowly introducing more doom laden sounds, sparse metallic clatter and layers of resonating male type choir sounds.  More comforting in non movement, the place which was being sought had finally been reached, marking also the end of another journey. Although I have made mention of the louder textures being introduced and even with the more abrasive Stratvm Terror like samples, they are never significantly harsh to detract from the typical aura that raison d’etre is well renowned and revered for (and likewise being nothing like sitting through the ‘Pain Implantations’ CD!!)   I’m hard pressed to rank this against all of raison d’etre’s previous albums as I tend to find that whichever is playing at the time is my favorite, with this being no exception.  All that can be ultimately evidenced from this is that there is still plenty of territory for raison d’etre to explore and I for one will be waiting patently for the next chance to be lead down into another catacomb within the depth of Peter’s psyche.

Remanence (USA) “Apparitions” CD 1999 Cold Spring Records

From the brilliant packaging (sepia toned booklet with transparent over wrap) through to the compositional tunes (premier neo classics) everything here is top notch.   The music spans 13 tracks of stunning, emotive beauty, which appear to take vision and inspiration from ghosts and afterlife phenomenon, rather than being produced under a militant guise of many other artists in this genre.  In regard to compassions parallels could be drawn to some of Shinjuku Thief’s albums or in part the works of Ontario Blue or Ildfrost.  Orchestral passages, piano interludes, classical percussion are just some of the elements to be found.  With specific tracks ‘1st Wave’ appears to have captured the depressive pulse of time in its core essence – a sweeping of classically inspired keyboard layers, clarinet and partly tribal (treated) beat, all perfectly understated.  ‘Be careful what you wish for’ is not as sinister as the title would imply being a slow balladry piano melody with accompanying background rainstorm (however the title is obviously referencing crackly vocal sample asking “….is there anyone on the air”).   ‘Where the shadows lie’ sees the adoption of a militant guise containing striking percussion and both shrill and brooding string/ brass accompaniment (although is probably the track where the synthetic elements are most recognizable).  With a combinations of instrumentation ranging from real to synthesized, overall it assists in the sound having an authentic vibe rather than if the whole album was keyboard generated.  The flow of the album is likewise quite stunning navigating slow depressive (almost dark ambient) pieces to more mid paced neo classical percussive works, meaning there is never fear of this album being one dimensional or derivative.  Additionally when selected segments are repeated through the album, they appear to be echoing fragments of time and emotion (such as with ‘1st Wave’ being repeated as ‘3rd Wave’ now resplendent with acoustic guitar).  Not much else to say but search this out. 

Reynols (Arg) “10000 Chicken Symphony” 7”ep 2000 Drone Records

Of all the sound sources you could choose Reynolds have opted from one of the more obscure ones, directly related to the ep’s title.  Side A, contains a muffled mix of thunderstorm tones, distant sounds and deep textures, which are actually quite ambient and relaxing in their droning qualities.  Elements multiply, sounds increase in volume, yet the ambience remains throughout. Selected noise seem to point to the sound source, yet are not such that they are totally recognisable. Side 2 is much noisier, reflecting relatively untreated samples of the soundsource.  The high-pitched chirping of thousand of birds is presented in a cacophony of high end texture that borders on white static.  This track is quite a difficult piece to sit through yet works surprisingly better than how you would expect considering the means from which it was created.  This is to the point that given the intensity to the middle of the piece it has me wonder if I would have actually picked the soundsource if not already aware of it.  An interestingly diverse release over a mere two tracks. 

Sanctum (Swe) “New York City Bluster: live at cbgb’s” CD 2000 Cold Meat Industry

With it being around four years since the release of the debut Sanctum album, this I guess acts as a bridging live release, show-casing old and new material of Sanctum (and other affiliated projects) before the actual second album.  Essentially the two male members travelled to the US in 1999 (leaving the other two female members behind) to undertake a short string of dates, with the culmination of the performance in New York forming this recording. A fair extra heft of weight and grunt is evident in lieu of the female balance of the group, encompassing the exploration grinding industrial elements and very Sanctum-esque neo classical segments.  The first two tracks ‘Axiom’ and ‘Mindtwister’ (both noted as being fragments of what to expect on the next album) range in this format arcing between harsh and beautiful, the grating and the sublime. The live rendition of ‘Decay’ is simply stunning, with vocals being even more feverous than that of the original set against the sampled industrial buzz saw guitar riff, all sheathed in soothing keyboard textures.  An excerpt of a Parca Pace track (Parca Pace being a side project) encompasses track 4, slowing things down into a tribal/ industrial soundscape, later exploring harsher vocals, heavier percussion and random noise textures, finally reducing to a mid paced, slightly urgent neo-classical ending section. The shear beauty of ‘In Two Minds’ although lacking the lush female vocals simply can not be held back when executed in such a perfect fashion.  Essential “in my mind” this track forms the core of everything Sanctum embody – the perfect blend of the industrial and the classical.  If Sanctum were ever ‘in two minds’ of what direction to pursue this would be it! ‘Sly Dog’ is a track of another side project ‘Mago’, being much more focussed on complexities & subtleties of percussion and rhythms than actual tune composition.  Backing this is a track of polar opposites (‘Gift’) being a quite playful neo-classical piece of multi-layered strings and although not specifically a Sanctum piece (noted as originally being composed for a dance performance) fits well within the morphing sound and direction of the live performance. Despite the mixed nature of the original source of the tracks (coming from the main project and other side projects), there is never any doubt that the resulting whole has Sanctum’s trademark stamp all over it.  As with the debut this release illustrates Sanctum are one of the more accessible groups of the CMI roster and will surely leave fans both within and outside of the ambient/ industrial/ neo-classical ‘inner-sanctum’ waiting with baited breath for the next offering.

Scorn (UK) “imaginaria award” CDep 2000 Hymen

Having not extensively followed Mick Harris’s output under a multitude of project names and styles (apart from a couple of ‘Lull’ items) I do not have a wealth of background knowledge to draw from, however Scorn is a name I have been aware of, and now can relate to some of the hype.  It seems this project has been recording for some 9 years now in the search and creation of darkly menacing drum and bass music (this is something like the 15th Scorn release). Opening with ‘out of the picture’ this could be better characterized by drum and noise than drum and bass.  The combination of kick, snare and high hat are certainly there, yet there is no real groove or tune to the pulverizing textures or the more subdues background noises.  Big (slightly tweaked) slow pounding beats and deep sweeping tones comprise ‘worried’, as it grooves forward navigating a few minor interludes from the main theme along the way.  The straight upbeat ridged ness of ‘as if’ gives it a brooding hip hop feel, inter-spread with sporadic keyboard note hits and ominous grinding bass.  Twisted and morphed beat structures of ‘as if (part 2)’ never quite solidify into a full composed piece (obviously intentional), choosing to remain a experimental exploration of tone and structure.  The final track is the most upbeat and playful, with huge repetitive bass lines, grinding noise rhythms, mid paced kick drum and quick paced high hat.  Sitting comfortably above this are quite atmospheric yet abrasive elements, further stretching the boundaries of the composition.  A distant sinister and hazy tune also plays its role, creating a down vibe to the otherwise up tempo fair.  With all elements working perfectly this is easily my favorite off this release. Although somewhat late (OK extremely late) I have found this to be a great introduction to Scorn given it is an easily digested 5 track ep. Soon to follow is a full length under the name “…no joke movement” on the same label.

Simvlacrvm (Slo) “Zeugma” CD 1999 Old Europa Cafe

A hum emanates from my speakers, rising from an undefined horizon, one measured in time as well as distance.  The past melds with the present as desolate, tribal rhythms mesh with occasional blasts of shredded machinery noise, a female vocal utilized as an instrument (no definable language is spoken, it is just another layer in the tapestry of sound), and sparse synths shrouded in melancholia.  Simvlacrvm’s (side-project of the noisy Einleitungszeit) unique juxtaposition of sonic elements, a combination of diverse sounds that transcends the ages, is most captivating.  Zeugma contains six tracks listed as I-VI (track VI indicates two halves, 0 & I), all of which follow along similar thematic lines.  “II” opens with brooding drones upon which a kick and stomp belch of noise grows quite ferocious.  In the distance, distorted radio-wave vocals (voices defying the laws of time, in essence, crossing the known parameters of time?) are plucked from the empty skies.  As the track unfolds, pensive synths and the ever-present tribal rhythms, along with the same female vocals from the previous track, are blended into the mix.  I am in awe of the way the disparate textures meld into a cohesive piece, a dark, fiery, forlorn trek.  Each track seems a part of what came before, while expanding and metamorphosing the Zeugma sonic landscape, building and shifting the perceptions in fascinating ways.  Synths that casually slip one into a state of disorientation open “III,” before tribal rhythms lead one into a realm of shattered hope distinguished by an acoustic guitar (or, most probably, a synth masked as one).  The synths of “VI” solemnly whisper amidst an ambience coated in subtly grim trepidation, before a light rain of percussion and raw bleats of noise corrode the background.  The second half of the track eerily resonates with exhaling synths, nervous crystals of sound, a looped, fuzzy pulsation, more synths dredged from the depths of hopelessness, and chiming percussion that skitters about before everything, somehow, comes full circle (though from an alternate trajectory…).  The vocals are similar, but not the same; the feel is similar-as throughout-but not the same…  A wonderfully enchanting, darkly illusive, listening experience.  –JC Smith

Shining Vril (Aus) / Knifeladder (Eng) “Self Titled” split CD 2000 CAPP

Here we have a split CD of two of John Murphy’s current musical projects.  First up is Shining Vril with 4 track of partly rhythmic yet fully tensile atmospheric soundscapes, that generate an unusual ambience with the use of an Australian accented female voice on one of the tracks.  ‘Tortured Willow’ (the first track) is a captivating piece of shrill high and low end loops that create a foreboding & suspenseful sound texture. The same atmosphere carries through to ‘’Carcass Black’ but there is an increased reliance on treated and looped vocalisations and far off percussive drumming.  The female spoken vocals are used with grim abandon on ‘Dislocation’, ranging from looped words, whispered and spoken passages that are vaguely treated with echoes and other treatments to make up the basis of the track.  The last track from Shining Vril is ‘All my sins remembered’, which is quite a sweepingly atmospheric piece of male vocals, sound loops and ritual sounds whilst still retaining the underlying tension.  Next up with three tracks Knifeladder that in comparison opt for heavy percussive power electronics with the compositions partially resembling the soundscapes of Militia (albeit the percussive elements being much more aggressive and straight forward).  ‘Lasp Gasp’ being the first taster of Knifeladder contains slow ritual/ martial percussion, plodding base and slightly melodic backing soundscape/ tune that gradually morphs into much heavier territory by all musical elements increase aggression.  Hitting a point late in the track, it quickly surges off at a rapid pace of increased tempo with fast drumming and noisier backing layers of sound.  The next offering being the live track ‘Dervish’ redefines the meaning of driving percussion, as I simply can’t begin to describe the inherent power of the all out percussive/ noise looped soundscape.  At over 6 minutes there is no let up whatsoever to the drumming that compliments perfectly the multiplying intensity of the noise loops and sound stabs.  The last track for both the CD and Knifeladder is the lengthy 19 minute ‘Maelstrom I+II+III’ that meanders through various stages along its travels.  Beginning with slow percussion and bass tune the layered electronics remain subdued in the background whilst gradually becoming more focussed and prominent over a passage of time.  The middle section sees the percussion and bass drop off somewhat replaced with a centre of noise loops, sound bites and grinding electronics, with the final segments moving back to the bass & percussion driven atmospheres enhanced with the tense electronic backing.  Of the two projects I would have to say I am much more enamoured with Knifeladder although Shining Vril has more than a few great moments.  I guess it is just that I am a sucker for percussive driven power electronics at the moment and Knifeladder is a name I’m sure we are going to hear quite a lot more of in the future.

Simply Dead’s (Swe) “Structure of Minds” CD 2000 Fluttering Dragon Records

When I opened the package from the label containing this album, I had no idea who this group is (and actually I still don’t) and likewise the cover gave no hint at all to the style of the music.  From the first listen I can say that I was literally blown away, as without any expectations the music was able to stand on its own without suffering from any preconceived notions.  The opening track being a darkly brooding trip hop piece, resplendent with computer vocals, (later mirrored with female vocals) absolutely flawed me and is quite comparable to the darker sounds of a group like Massive Attack.  From there, the album toys with similar sounds whilst tangenting off into more experimental, programmed type synth soundscapes (also with vocal samples, voices etc).  The classical synth lines and reverberating bass tune of track three mirrors the emotive elements of the opening track, and continues with track four intermixed with speak samples from Martin Luther King and likewise covering other topics such as Jonestown. The depth and sparsity of the tune on track 7 melds composed and minimalist elements to emotive result, morphing back into much more heavily programmed territory with track 8, beats and multi-layered programmed elements, which unfortunately goes a little to far with the programmed sound that detracts for the preceding aura evoked.  A groovy laid back beat section of programming arrives on track 9 solidifying all which is great on this album, the next piece enhancing the darker less beat oriented programmed segments of the album.  The diversity of material coming from Fluttering Dragon has thus far been very impressive, and if they continue on this path will continue to garner an increasingly than positive reputation.  I for one hope they can bring forward more material from this group and here’s hoping that something will eventuate soon given that this album was recorded in 1998/1999. Worth the time to seek this one out. (note: I have found out it seems that the group includes one member that is the live vocalist for In Slaughter Natives).

Skrol (Cze) “Heretical Antiphony” CD 1999 Membrum Debile Propaganda

Debut CD for Czechian groups showcases a heavily classically influenced, war mongering dark industrial group, potentially comparable to In Slaughter Natives and the like, with the ridged beat programming and more flowing and shrill string and organ segments. “Agog” is particularly forceful with violent strings, organ keys and harsh programmed rhythms with underlying martial implications due to the synthetic snare rolls.  “Litany” is the most drawn out track at over 6 minutes which contains a heavy focus on the monotonous organ dirge, part operatic female vocals, the again shrill violins and distant explosions in the background.  The cinematic battle scenes evoked on “Non-Organic” are extremely rousing with fast beats, multi layered strings, deep horns and partly buried monotone (male) vocals.  Things are mixed up a bit more on “Fire Scene” with slow drum rolls and piano again with the organ and commanding female vocals.  Although I have not had a chance to check, this tracks sounds suspiciously like a re-worked song from the Matyria vinyl 10”.  “Converted” uses a basic construction of the female vocals and programmed string segments in a mid paced fashion before again adding the snare and organ, with Martina Sweeney all the while stating themes of “a new life”. The final cut “Epilogue: Exsanguis” is the most flowing piece and somehow manages to sound removed from the preceding tracks due to its slow triumphant air (also due to the reduced emphasis on the organ) signalling the end of battle (but not the war….). Overall this is the quality of release hinted at on the preceding Matyria 10” and although the overall feel is probably still a little ridged for my personal liking (due to the programming basis) is still it is a commendable item packaged in a simple well presented predominantly black digi-pack.

Skrol (Cze) “Heretical Antiphony” CD 1999 Membrum Debile Propaganda

Debut CD for Czechian groups showcases a heavily classically influenced, war mongering dark industrial group, potentially comparable to In Slaughter Natives and the like, with the ridged beat programming and more flowing and shrill string and organ segments. “Agog” is particularly forceful with violent strings, organ keys and harsh programmed rhythms with underlying martial implications due to the synthetic snare rolls.  “Litany” is the most drawn out track at over 6 minutes which contains a heavy focus on the monotonous organ dirge, part operatic female vocals, the again shrill violins and distant explosions in the background.  The cinematic battle scenes evoked on “Non-Organic” are extremely rousing with fast beats, multi layered strings, deep horns and partly buried monotone (male) vocals.  Things are mixed up a bit more on “Fire Scene” with slow drum rolls and piano again with the organ and commanding female vocals.  Although I have not had a chance to check, this tracks sounds suspiciously like a re-worked song from the Matyria vinyl 10”.  “Converted” uses a basic construction of the female vocals and programmed string segments in a mid paced fashion before again adding the snare and organ, with Martina Sweeney all the while stating themes of “a new life”. The final cut “Epilogue: Exsanguis” is the most flowing piece and somehow manages to sound removed from the preceding tracks due to its slow triumphant air (also due to the reduced emphasis on the organ) signalling the end of battle (but not the war….). Overall this is the quality of release hinted at on the preceding Matyria 10” and although the overall feel is probably still a little ridged for my personal liking (due to the programming basis) is still it is a commendable item packaged in a simple well presented predominantly black digi-pack.

Sol Invictus (Eng) “Trieste” CD 2000 Tursa

Not a new album this a live recording of the group from an acoustic performance in Italy during November, 1999.  Assisted by both Sally Doherty and Matt Howden, the morose sung/ spoken vocals of Tony Wakeford are embellished by acoustic guitars, violin, flute & voice of Ms Doherty often echoing or following the main vocal lines in sweet feminine divinity.  This format encompasses much of the 17 songs/ 60 minute set, never lacking or being overstated in instrumentation, stepping between quieter subtle renditions to others of more forcefully played numbers (yet still retaining a fragility by the acoustic format). The renditions of ‘Come the Morning’ & ‘In a Garden Green’ are particularly great, incidentally as is the whole performance.  ‘Remember & Forget’ has the soaring vocals of Ms Doherty operatically phrasing Latin, light acoustic guitar & violin guitar being the only accompaniment.  Other tracks in the set list include ‘Amongst the Ruins’, ‘Media’, ‘See how we Fall’, ‘Against the Modern World’, ‘In Europa’ etc. For a live recording given the quality of production it does not sound as such, yet in between the songs, there is polite and enthusiastic applause.  The sound of the crowd has me slightly bemused seeming as if Sol Invinctus were playing to the appreciative audience of a concert hall gathering, rather than that of a normal show.  If this was actually the case maybe there is a level of cultural interest by the arts crowd of Italy in such music that is not prevalent in other countries (where they tend to snob such folk noir type music).  Regardless a great document of the live performance. 

Spear (Pol) “not two” 7”ep 1999 Drone Records

Ritual chimes and deep ambience start the title track – a tense atmosphere of sweepings archaic sounds of aeons past.  Half composed melodies abound combined with sparse vocals chants and condemning sounds actually remind me of some of the less composed works of raison d’etre.  Quite a good introduction. Side B split into two tracks, first off is ‘the names – low frequency silence’ which does a good job of giving a brief description of the sound.  Less forceful, here the atmospheres are of introspection, focusing on slow movement of tone and sound in a droneage guise.  The archaic atmospheres are still prevalent being like a much more ritualized Lustmord or likewise akin to the works of ExoToendo.  The second track ‘equilibrium’ slowly rises forth at a quicker pace then its predecessor quickly outdoing it in volume.  Tense drones, smatterings of texture and sweeping textures are mixed placed with other unusual sound outbursts creating a track of experimental quality that I feel is not totally related to the first two track.  Nonetheless I recommend you should seek this out for the quality of the first two pieces. 

Squaremeter (Ger) “14id1610s” CD 2000 Ant-Zen

This is an extremely great example of cutting edge sampling and studio trickery creating astounding glitch orientated soundscapes (created, manipulated, de-constructed and assembled by the artist Panacea).  Taking 89% of sound samples from Ant-Zen releases most are recognisable only in fleeting glances due to the scattergun approach to melding them together.  Static bursts of beats, blips, bleeps and other random sounds spit and gurgle from the speakers housed and delivered in a crystaline sound production.  Scattered hyper beat driven atmospheres to minimalist electronics is the breadth of sound exploration going here, with this being a fantastic cornerstone of a emerging new genre of sound texturalisation. To even start describing all the elements of the album let alone individual tracks is an absolutely fruitless task as when appropriately descriptive words solidify, the sounds of the CD have already surged off on a totally different tangent.  However this is not to say that this lacks focus as it is a very engaging listen.  Not quite digital abstraction due to the many beat oriented samples nor is this flowing enough to be able to be played in a club.  More appropriately it is a digital canvas masterwork to be appreciated by coinsures of experimental digital sound works.  Packaging also deserves a mention with the minimal print, transparent cover and inlay card housed in a clear jewelcase creating a very nice visual effect. Lastly referencing the title it equates to 14 tracks (14id) and an astounding 1620 samples! (1610s).  To even imagine collating that many samples into a cohesive listenable whole is an astounding feat within itself.  Ant-Zen does it again! 

Sleeping with the Earth (USA) “S/T” CDR 1999 S.W.T.E

Most people in power electronics would be well aware of the certain sounds coming from different geographic regions, with the two disciplines of German and English power electronics being the most distinctive.  These scenes have then gone on to inspire other groups with the emergence of a hybrid of these two sounds with a number of American artists. Taking a select amount of the high pitched un-structured mayhem of Con-Dom and the Grey Wolves and the obliterated semi-structures of Genocide Organ and Anzenzephalia would end up somewhere in the vicinity of Sleeping with the Earth, particularly as show cased on the track ‘Inside/Beyond’.  On this track rather than opting for an audible or partly audile vocal component, they are simply heavily processed into yet another squealing layer of feedback.  ‘and sell my soul’ content in presenting a few spacious loops the multiple into a subdued throbbing mass, later with churning vocals and spits, hisses and crackles of speaker obliterating tones.  The surging mass of ‘untitled 2’ is quite chaotic with a layer or two of squiggly, improvised sounding layers, which become less obtrusive when overshadowed by the sweeping noise elements. Overall the tracks can be characterised by their seemingly unstructured ferocious freeform flow, yet always containing a hint of looped form via the building blocks of sound layers.  ‘Faluire 2’ is a good example of this with stabs of static white noise (both feedback and vocal) over multiple pulsating factory generated textures. ‘Reduction’ is the closest the groups gets to sounding like Con-Dom in this absolute chaos of vocals and all out aural warfare.  Here the distortion is so extreme even the basic structure is nearly totally obliterated. I’m not sure how widely available this CDR is, but for a demo recording it is good quality, ensuring the group has been signed up for a number of releases including items on Troniks & Malignant Records.

Smooth Quality Excrement (USA) “Bird and Truck Collision” CD 2000 Influx Communications

Do not be put off by the unusual title of both the group or CD, or even the modest packaging as all these elements pale in comparison to the sheer brilliance of the tension filled atmospheric electronics on the disc.  The liner notes specify that all the 5 untitled tracks were the result of live improvisations between three individuals with absolutely no sequencing used.  In itself this is no mean feat, but does perfectly explain the sprawling, constant tangent pursuing nature of the sounds.  Dredging electronic drones, low flying textures, spits and bursts of static, random processed beats, storming, swirling sounds burst out of the speakers from every which way, keeping the listener on their toes by creating a situation where you are never quite sure to what or when any of these random elements will leap out.  For an unusual analogy for the unusual sounds, it is akin to being in a virtual reality kitchen, listening as the compositional layers are continuously rolled and folded, never repeating with each kneading touch (with the inevitable baking process being yet another plundered sound source). Other than that tension created throughout the tracks are constantly on the move, some parts being highly active and multi dimensional, others creating more subdued liquidous drones – maybe just maybe this is what Yen Pox would sound like on bad acid trip!  All in all there are to many sounds & too much ground covered to describe everything going on but do believe me when I say that you could do no wrong with picking up a copy of this.  Yes…this is a definite recommendation!

…the soil Bleeds Black (USA) “Alchemie” CD 1999 World Serpent Distribution

With this, the forth album release and also on a new label, the group have endeavoured to take their sound forward by the use of primarily real instrumentation, attempting top rely less on sound generated from synthetic means as show cased on previous releases (and in regard to their intent I can vouch that this has been achieved).  The newer components of sound mainly come in the form of acoustic guitars, dulcimer, pipes, whistles, recorders and various types of percussion which all do greatly assist in fleshing out the breadth of sound. If unfamiliar with the group, …the soil Bleeds Black is a project producing traditional medieval folk music illustrating a past aeon.  Essentially the intent is not to create folk music with an updated modern sound rather to simply create authentic medieval music.   Revolving around the twin brothers of Mark and Mike Riddick and with a third member Eugenia Houston, male and female vocals intermix with acoustic guitars, synth layers, pipes and percussion on reasonably short movements.  Predominantly folk oriented in vibe, selected moments border on neo-classical with some segments of accentuated instrumentation and in particular on “Winter Marriage”. The influence of CMI recording artist Arcana can be felt on the guest appearance track “Lapis Philosoyhorum” having a darker majestic edged the more celebratory folk sound of the other tracks.  In most part the male vocals suit the vibe very well but unfortunately on “Fire of the Sacred Seal” are a little over the top in accentuation, mostly in relation to the deeper voices and not the higher clean sung part. The haunting feel of “Some sweet sorrow did her heart distraine, Act 1” complete with slow pounding drumming, hymn like female vocals, keyboard and recorder tunes is a good ending track, presenting yet another element to expanding song writing sound to the group. At 13 tracks only over 35 minutes this might be quite a short release but is beautifully presented in a mini gatefold card slip sleeve.

Subklink (USA) “Dawn of Desekration” CD 2000 CDR Live Bait Recording Foundation

Subklink are one of the generation of American artists delving into death ambient type sonics bringing to mind pioneers such as Megaptera, although this release is somewhat more subdued overall.  Containing 6 ‘movements’ these are coagulated into one track of just under 70 minutes and given the length, things start slow and continue in such a style for the majority of the album.  Densely heavy and partially fractured guttural drones slowly grind in sparse cyclic fashion given the air of discarded machinery being cranked into action once again.  Far off windy textures add to the rumbling sound palate adding some variation to the patterns along with faint hints of slow droning keyboard melodies and occasionally understated rhythmic clatter.  There is not a great significance of change in sound between the 6 movements thus the single track format does suit it as a single drawn out soundscape sonically illustrating hollow catacomb depths.  Not a bad release by any means, but rather acts as an item that shows the project has much more than rudimentary ability.  If this is anything to go by I shudder to think of the much stronger and powerful soundscapes they are likely to come up with in future.  Packaging comes with a nice oversized DVD case.

The Sword Volcano Complex (USA) “The Sword Volcano Complex” CD, 2000 Suffering Clown Inc.

Many acts write and produce ‘cinematic’ music, yet this CD has the feeling that you are actually hearing a movie but lacking the visual counterpart. This perception has much to do with the use and inclusion of extensive field recordings as utalised on the track ‘the sanctum’ which follows after the opening piece (a beautifully sorrowful passage of orchestral violin and keyboard melodies).  Footfalls, seagull cries, water lapping at the shores, distant ship horns etc intermixed with droning textures and found sounds illustrate and amplify the bleak experimental collage. The liner notes of the disc make ‘cupid never speaks’ an intriguing track as it is stated both music and words were totally improvised and pieced together into the final track.  An introductive soundscape meanders along before the musical composition segment of slow programmed electronic beats/ bass enters along with well executed clean vocals and minimalist keyboard tune.   The following piece ‘Monolithic’ arcs back to the field recording and sound experiment format, differing in that a spoken word piece is included.  One track I feel that does not really fit within the context of the other tracks is ‘Adrenalin’ due to the electronic/ pounding drumming and partly chanted vocals format, that I personally feel is too up tempo in comparison to the rest of the flow of the album and unfortunately has me leaping for the skip button.  Again from my reading of the liner note it appears that a trance like state was attained for the recording of the vocals on ‘the sperm of metal’ managing to evoke a very ritualistic feel, backed with spare experimentalism.  ‘Descent into the Valley of the Kings’ represents another sound sculpture containing air raid sirens, looped anger filled vocals (chanting “ashes to ashes .. dust to dust”) slow distant horn & orchestral melodies resulting in quite a stunning piece. On the final offering, (the title track) a mantra of the repeated phrase “when will I see you again?” loops, while a variety of words central to the philosophy of the group are slowly revealed over the course of tense backing of electronic drones and experimental beats. Combining the talents of Bruce LaFountain (is this who is pictured on the cover?) and John Murphy (with other select contributions), this debut CD even if not viewed totally in context of music in an evocative and introspective exploration of an inner self.

Tehom (Cro) “Theriomorphic Spirits” CD 2000 Twilight Command/ NER

Although the second album for the project, having not heard the debut I obviously can’t compare, but being discovered and signed by Douglas P, I had the perception that this might be some apocalyptic folk/ neo-classical fare, but in reality is stunning dark ambient atmospheric works much in the vein of Lustmord, Inade and Yen Pox.  These tracks are atmospheres sounding if derived from barren windswept battle fields long after the conflict has ended, yet remnants of twisted and discarded implements of war still visibly scattered across the ground.  The tracks also ranging in length from 7 to 16 minutes each, further illustrates the drawn out nature of the compositions.  In the middle of the opening piece ‘Jaldabaoth’ a low chant filters into the mix for a fleeting instant, the track then taking a tangent off to noisier machine grinding textures.  Ritualized percussive textures & cavernous dungeon sounds work fantastically on ‘Aberth’, the main section of echoed and treated hand percussion being a particular standout.  The sweeping barren soundscapes are again employed on ‘The Eight Sky’, the various echoed treatments launching the tense drones out into the infinite distance. Subtler deep droning sound elements are toyed with on ‘The Shadow Integration’, hints of choir like textures floating somewhere off in the distance.  At around the 6 minute mark a slow, cripplingly heavy beat arrives as a ritualistic sound element as a slow horn tune also introduces itself.  Of the remaining tracks, they play out in similar style intermixing the ritualistic sounds and dense echoed drones, yet the final track Hybris has the most focused orchestral sound with a prominent looped horn tune.  One of the greatest tragedies of the CD is that its creator is reported to have died from a war related illness soon after the completion of recordings (Sinisa Ocurscak fought in the Balkans conflict within a Special Unit based in Dugave-Zagreb).  Maybe Sinisa is now one of the spirits mentioned in the title.

Thee Majesty (USA/ UK) “Time’s Up” CD 1999 Suffering Clown

Thee Majesty being Bryin Dall and Genesis P-Orridge is a CD that works in a similar manor to the Merzbow/ Genesis P-Orridge collaboration CD ‘a perfect pain’.  And while that later CD was a vehicle for the sounds of Merzbow with Genesis P-Orridge’s spoken passages over it, here the CD is much more reliant on spoken vocals being the focal point as the backing sounds are much more subtle if not non existent in sections.  (Incidentally it is also noted that some of the spoken passages here were also used on the Merzbow collaborative CD).  Half sung, half spoken – each word is heavily articulated in a slow drawl akin to a narrator of a child novel, albeit one that has the ability to unnerve even an adult with the content & stylistic delivery.  All sorts of ideas are explored by Genesis on the disc with one example being on the 29 second cryptic piece ‘I.T’, with the only included vocals stating “First it was….then it knew it was….and that is it”.  By posing questions, presenting quirky takes on common ideas and other passages of literary weirdness, it creates an aura where ordinary perceptions are shattered and where you begin to question the construct of your own reality.  But I guess this is quite understandable considering Genesis P-Orridge has been a long standing media provocateur.  Referencing the projects other member, when Bryin’s contributions do make themselves known they are mostly in the form of experimental soundscapes of low subtle sounds and shifting noise textures that act as an enhancement rather than prominent element and generally seem to have the resonance of being derived from a guitar.  (An exception to the non musical rule is the classical tune contained in ‘wisdom’).  Basically this CD demands your attention and requires a certain mood to take in the content, but during the wee hours in a darken room somehow seems very appropriate.  The packaging is the standard jewelcase, however the cover is printed in beautiful shades of purple with silver logo and writing.


Ure Thrall & the Fruitless Hand (USA) “Forbidden Fruit” CD 1999 HydrXdelusions

Given that the above collaborators are two thirds of the Smooth Quality Excrement project, this gives a certain slant on what to expect between of this CD (although incidentally this was recorded and released prior to the SQE album). Descending into a vortex of subliminal yet confrontational cascading drones, the all expansiveness of the tracks present themselves as slightly more subdued and brooding than that of SQE, and track 1 at close to 30 minutes sets this tone in an expanded construct of experimentation.  Liquidous yet shimmering and fractured multi layered tones rendering themselves void of any recognition to the original sound source due to massive amount of pre and post production undertaken.  Much as in a relay, segments arise, surge forward then interlink with the next section with the former slowly receding, creating a seamless flowing voyage, navigating a myriad of peak and troughs in the sonic ocean.  Rather than utalising mostly subliminal or minimalist drone elements, this is much more dynamic, creating a quite playful take on what some may have considered a genre that contains certain limitations. Interestingly tracks two and three are live recordings but do not distance themselves from the first in sound or tone being just as crystalline and dynamic, one opting for a ‘quick’ 8 minute jaunt while the other sprawls out over 28.  This is highly recommended for any ‘drone’ fan and is still awash in brooding sentiment to entice fans the darker groups such as Yen Pox.

…today I’m dead (Ita) “the anatomy of melancholy” CDR 1999 Slaughter Productions

Not only has this project taken a heavy overdose of ‘Brighter Death Now’ carcinogen, the sole member has even gone as far as taping it into the bloodstream to gain inspiration via intravenous means.  While plagiarism can be a huge downfall I will say that this ode is done with enough spite and hatred that they are forgiven for any such comparisons, with this forming an ultimate tribute to their master – Mr Karmanik.  The dense carcinogenic pulsations of “death passion time” are a perfect counter part to the early to mid phase of B.D.N’s sound complete with distant psychotic rambling’s, which in later tracks reveal much more tortured distortion added for a gritty resonance without having a clue of what is being conveyed (but with tiles such as ‘young flesh’ of ‘rape me(explicit version)’ you might be thankful).  On ‘satisfy your desire’ the low industrial drones are merged with other noisier & seemingly improvised layers, creating a track rife with scattered modulating distortion and incessant high pitched squeals.  Whereas following on, the extreme density of ‘a cold winter’ renders it a droning, writhing mass, vocals barely able to puncture the coagulated black ooze dripping from the speakers.  Weirdness of sample choice is an understatement on the untitled track 10, containing a female sung German folk song, the only treatment being the use of slight reverb and echo…strange. strange, strange indeed…. Tympani like factory pounding’s, sparse drones and even sparser vocal wails still recreates some of the best minimalist tracks of the B.D.N’s ‘Great Death’ trilogy on a track simply entitled ‘All’ – and yes there is no doubt about it, with atmospheres like this, the abyss is certainly calling….  ‘I’m Alone’ is a sophisticated death ambient track (if there was ever such a thing), with over the top constant electronic explosions and acerbic vocals akin to rusty razorblades dragged across cold flesh.  Already covering all sorts of violent extremities, religion is hardly going to escape unscathed, with God getting a good serve of venom on ‘Jesus Can’t’ with its obliterated (inside an oil drum) sound treatment of various religious inspired radio and text snippets. To conclude, these tracks along with cover and enclosed text, illustrates an individual that is truly beyond redemption (let alone salvation), yet I imagine this is no less then exactly where he wants to be…

Triage (USA) “The Cessation Of Spoil” CD 1999 Glass Throat Recordings

Triage teams the ubiquitous Scott E. Candey (Gruntsplatter, head of Crionic Mind, plus more…) with Chet W. Scott (Ruhr Hunter, head of Glass Throat Recordings) for a collection of mini soundtracks adorned in trepidation, in the tattered shroud of dismay.  A tension whine rises during the opening “Serum.”  Dread is highlighted as the contorted distortion swells to the forefront.  But the tension is never released; the dread remains, an ominous shadow, even as the track simmers to conclusion.  “Donor” kicks in with samples from David Cronenberg’s gloomy descent into love/obsession inspired, drug-laden, co-dependency (quite literally) melancholia, Dead Ringers (this must be Chet’s favorite movie as he also sampled it on “Euthanasia” from the excellent Ruhr Hunter–…Ritual Before The Hunt CD).  Subtle humming and clicking noises set the foundation for moist, grinding machinery noises.  The underlying, despondent drone slips under the skin, a needle injecting discomfort.  Throughout, marching feet slosh through the sodden sonic landscape.  The inherent unnerving quality grows more imposing as the track progresses.  This track, as with much of the CD, highlights the dark sonicscape elements as opposed to the sheer noise assault, but the presence of noise is always on the periphery, occasionally slipping into full view.  The oscillating, whirring tendencies of spastically fluttering propeller blades slices through “Grume” as hideous noise gurgles insanely underneath.  Jagged metal spikes sink serrated teeth into the brooding, noisy ambience of clutter and dissolution during “Assume.”  “Natural Order” resonates with the repetitious cadences of an exhausted machinery loop before slivers of subtly melodic sound and distorted vocal noise intrude.  The fuzzy throb of “Genetic Drift” portends danger, a danger accentuated by the slippery, scoured feedback sounds that scamper from within the smoldering embers radiance.  A diverse, exceptionally crafted and conceived piece of work; each track opens new wounds in the dark sonicscape flesh, new perceptions gleaned from the glistening cavities.  Masterful!  –JC Smith (Reprinted by permission from Side-Line magazine: http://www.side-line.com)

Tripwire (Swe) “Intellavoid” CD 1999 Fluttering Dragon

With the involvement of one of the Puissance members this is certain to shock a few as this is pure brooding techno/ ambience.  Not at all really what you would expect considering the infamy main project.  The next question is to if this is any good, and I actually have to admit that it is. Although slightly lacking in the cutting edge studio sounds that are being forged by the some of the Ant-Zen crew (Beefcake & Xingu Hill come to mind), the tracks themselves are all pretty solid.  Working on two levels, there is the sweeping galactic ambience (generated from multi layered synths lines), overlaid with the programmed drum machine beats and rhythm distortion.  The title track has choir keyboard textures, with mid paced bass pounds and energetic drum work creating a dark yet dynamic listen (which goes for much of the other 7 tracks).  ‘Prokain’ starting as a drum’n’bass piece quickly snaps into quick break beats then back again, using this format throughout.  Things get somewhat tribal/ classical in the tune and drum sequence of ‘Made Out’ with the classical tunes also being used in ‘Imaginary Flies’, break beats & noise swirling throughout the main violin melody, likewise the partly urgent/ partly brooding choir synth lines work particularly well here. Crazy bass lines and schizoid beats are the fair for ‘Theif’ with a strangely cheesy (in a good way) keyboard line that appears towards the middle of the track.  The track ‘Tripwire’ is the closest thing you will get to a Puissance number, only by virtue of the angrier bomb loaded beats and sweeping urgent neo-classical backing.  More drum’n’bass is featured on last offering ‘Scartissue’ with a slow bass tune, mid to fast paced breakbeats and again those great (sweeping) down vibed melodies.  I guess this could muster a comparison as a more energetic Atomine Elektrine (more so in relation to the first album rather than the second), yet this remains noisier and more complex in track construction.  Overall this is a pretty good listen, but I have to admit that I originally purchased this out of curiosity than anything else.  

David Tonkin (Aus) “Semblance of Perfection” MC 2000

With a definite lack of groups within Australia focusing on the death industrial genre, David Tonkin has certainly started to change all that with this high quality self released tape.  And while the project may not have a sinister moniker, the compositions certainly brings to mind Megaptera, Deutsch Nepal & No Festival of Light….in other words a project of great old school death industrial vibes. Hands down the opening track (‘Baptism of Fire’) is the best track, being in the vein of the best of what Megaptera has to offer.  The multi layered drawn out electronic drones (some guttural, some mid ranged and one high pitched), catatonicly slow beat and well placed vocal samples (taken from ‘the Candyman’ if I’m not mistaken) are all processed together, as further external thunderous elements sweep into the composition.  The slow movement of the track allows a variety textures to be explored through various segments, coming to a conclusion with an interesting use of a distressed Papua New Guinean tribesman’s voice.  The clinical electronic pulse of ‘Buyer Beware’ brings more to mind No Festival of Light along with the use of somewhat hazy and shimmering factory type sound textures.  Following on ‘Terra Coitus’ is slightly aggressive with mid paced pulsating layers and soulless beats, that over an extended length gradual align themselves into a loose yet quirky industrial rhythm (ala Deutsch Nepal).  The sunken, muffled tones of the last track on side A do justice to its title (‘(song for) Aquatic Dreamers’), giving off a subdued ambient feel, with ‘Glacial Drop, River Freezing’ (first on Side B) continuing in a similar vein but using a few less murky textures to help distinguish it.  More vocal samples appear on ‘take me to your feeder’ (referencing religion and passiveness/ violence) followed by some tibetan monk type vocals chants reverberating in cylindrical fashion until a very crispy electronic tone bursts forth from the speakers.  No Festival of Light is again brought to mind on ‘Dance of the Sheeple’ being totally calculated with its use of clinical drones, wavering sounds and type writer like beat.  Lastly ‘Night in ABSU’ rounds out the tape with an extended length track.  A horn like drone, bass drenched textures and ritualistic beat set a Lovecraftian air, the mood slightly lightened with a looped sample (sounding akin to a treated harp/ female vocal recording), entrancing the listening into a dreamlike journey. While I have thrown in a few more comparisons than normal, I have simply done so to emphasise the quality of these tracks.  Many facets of the death industrial/ death ambient genre are explored on the tape thus avoiding the tracks or overall tape from ever sounding one dimensional.  Given that I know these are some of the first compositions that David has recorded, with the clarity of ideas shown and skills displayed, I’m sure you will be hearing a lot more about this.  If intrigued drop David a line on <daveton@start.com.au>. 

Turbund Stermwerk (Ger) “Weltbrand” CD 1999 Loki Foundation

After having this for a couple of months now I am still undecided to how I perceive this album overall.  The tracks are certainly high calibre, martially enhanced orchestral/ neo classical hymns but seem to work best as individual track rather than flowing as an overall album such as what was presented on the debut.  Likewise as the tracks are quite a bit more straightforward, they also tend to be patcher between individual pieces. With an opener like ‘Vortex’ (formerly off the stunning Natural Order 2LP compilation set) it is easy to see where my misgivings about this album originate, because exactly where do you go after a track of such brilliance?  A repetitive yet intricate acoustic string instrument (sounds more like a lute than acoustic guitar) is the main basic of the tune, mixed with xylophone chimes, female hymn oriented vocals and understated beat, overlaid with Charles Manson’s world view presented in narrative conversational form. Sharp abrasive drum outbursts, drawn out violin segments, distant sound textures and sampled German voices embody ‘Europa’ which holds a tense atmosphere and air of anticipation that never quite comes, running straight into ‘Feueradler’.  Here drum textures are swapped for trench warfare sounds with razor edged kettle drumming, as bombs fly and explode close overhead.  This continues with electric tension until the absolutely massively epic brass orchestral segment strides in quite unexpectedly (and I question anyone who would not get inspired by this…) which is however just to damn short.  ‘Wellenthal’ again has that weird trench warfare vibe, except here it seems to be illustrating the emptiness of down time between battle, where the soldier is simply waiting for the next confrontation in which the choice is to either kill or be so yourself (Distant air raid sirens sound, slow tunes play out, melded with layers of nondescript sounds and tones… )  ‘Stumme Front’ I find the most difficult of tracks on this album due to a repetitive bass tune mixed very high in the mix, the only other elements being more sampled German speeches, swirling tones and liquidous/ scaping sounds. Back to my favourite format ‘Kainmal’ mixes interludes of slow pounding drumming with shrill strings and deep horns to embrace the huge epic orchestral aura (flowing via a number of segments) and while less intense but no less commanding ‘Sonnenschild’ uses a similar approach of neo-classical brilliance.  Militant to the core, no hint of a tune is present on ‘Allen Gewalten’ rather using looped tympani/ snare drumming, industrial factory noise and a single German phrase repeated throughout to drive the message home (whatever that message is, is lost on an exclusive English speaker like myself).  An echo treated piano and tonal elements makes for a short interlude to the final track ‘Arcanum’ which is essentially a soundscape piece used as backing to yet another eira speech (incidentally the final hidden track is a sampled early recording of a German male singing & strait drumming piece). The blood red cover with text and imagery (in a combination of black and white print) if full of esoteric symbolism and unfortunately as the text is again exclusively in German I can’t appreciate the full implications of what is written.  While on the musical front this may not be exactly what I was expecting from the debut release, I think my overall uncertainty is more tainted from this angle than specifically being a below par second album.  Turbund Sturmwerk have created a very solid and worthy album, it is just that it slightly differs in sound and direction from what I was expecting.

Ultra Milkmaids (Fra) “peps” CD 2000 Duebel

This is the first I have come across this French duo, however maybe this is the best given that the bio states previous that the group toyed with industrial-noise-rock and jazz-noise?!  Here they seem to have settled with minimalist ambient soundscapes, and do a mighty fine job with it at that! (so maybe their previous experimentations would not have been as bad as my expectation).  Regardless, this could be filed with artists like Squaremeter or alternatively some of the MEGO roster in its obvious studio manipulation and glitch aesthetic.  Would ‘digital abstraction’ be an appropriate term?  I think so… Tones, blips, fractured static and dismembered melodies form the broad canvas of sound texture creating sterile environment of electronics oft enveloped in a minimalist brooding tune.  The juxtaposition of silence (when utilized) emphasizes tone thus boosting perception, of what otherwise would be wrongly perceived as fragile soundscapes – there is an inherent power in these recordings even if the actual volume is not overwhelming.  Additionally the disc comes with a multi-media component with a video for the opening track of the disc.  Much as in the description of the music, the video does a commendable job of visually illustrating the sounds with slow panning shot of in descript imagery, with the video production footage intentionally textured and flawed.

Ultra United (Swi)  “Research 1” 7”ep 1999 Drone Records

Having heard good things about this project I was eagerly anticipating this ep, which certainly does not disappoint and actually only making me impatient for upcoming releases! (For a general categorization I guess you would slot this in with groups of an industrial noise, or subdued power electronics sound). The introductory piece ‘Achtung!’ is a mildly treated female choir vocal sample prior to the first proper track ‘execution 2’ arriving.  Comprising of intense noise with slow militant orchestral underpinnings (synth generated layers) the shrill swirling of mid ranged sound amplifies during the progression of the slow atmospheres.  Whilst I was trying to describe the last track on side A ‘scrape in the sky’ I noted it has already finished before descriptive terminology had a chance to solidify in my mind…hmmm to short. (for easy reference check the description above!).  On side B fire blazing intensity is presented and detailed on ‘physical initiation’ again with a great mixture of deep orchestral sub melodies and mid ranged noise.   ‘Arrival (excerpt)’ on the other hand explores shrill high end noise of almost air raid siren proportions which overshadows the lower noise texture. Given this is a shortened version I would certainly like to hear the unedited version of this. A brooding yet tense atmosphere of the final track ‘the volunteer’ (another edited piece) relies less on noise due to the various deep orchestral layers to great result, much like some of the works from Dagda Mor.  Printed on gold vinyl this is a special item you should seek out and likewise keep a keen eye out for future release, of which I believe will materialize via StateArt.

Ulver (Nor) “Metamorphosis” MCD 1999 Jester Records

Those who have followed Ulver’s evolution will either be astounded by this release or will write it off as they simply don’t ‘get’ what the band is doing.  Well I can say without a doubt I am of the former and the mini CD is much of the reason why I tracked down the group for an interview in this issue.  Following on form the electronia/ trip hop tinged “Themes from William Blake’s Marriage of Heaven and Hell” Ulver have further severed any ties to their fledgling black metal days to come up with a banging techno/ dark electronica/ ambient gem.  Starting out with ‘Of Wolves & Vibrancy’ with a short interlude the track strides headlong into a hefty mix of fast techno driven beats, grinding bass, computer glitchy textures, all complimented with a dark synth underbelly.  If only all techno was to sound like this…. “Gnosis” is more brooding drawn out dark electronica piece that covers quite a distance over its 8 minutes.  The track plays with cinematic half composed segments, subtle acoustic guitars and slow driving rock beats before a heavy pounding (still rock) beat and various studio trickery solidify the core of the track.  Stripping back to a desolately mesmerising guitar tune the vocals are introduced (being the only track with vocals as always handled greatly by Garm aka Trickster G in his trademark full throated clean singing style) followed by the re-introduction all the former beat and computer generated elements. Again rock drums and piano introduce “Limbo Central” before becoming progressively more treated with studio manipulations, drum machines, synth lines (and the like) with the last section being played out with a segmented (almost) industrial guitar riff, tension rising into the last seconds of the three and a half minutes. Last up is “Of Wolves & Withdrawal” and as the title may suggest is a direct opposite of the opening cut, opting for a greatly flowing piece of drone ambient textures and cavernous sounds, all the while remaining true to the essence of the sound production already established. Being a bridging release to the upcoming CD “Perdition City” if this release is any indication it will be no less than a masterpiece.

Umbra (Pol) “Ater” CD 1999 Fluttering Dragon

While there is another US group running under the same name, this however is the Polish ‘Umbra’ being a solo project of one female Eliza.  This CD oozes a ritualistic air from the opening segments, summoned forth from the ‘witch’ like whispered spoken vocals, solemn keyboard layers, distant moans and half sung wails.  The slow pace of the segments of ritual drums and chimes heightens this feeling, yet when used sparsely creates a meandering musical forum.  At other times small outbursts of shrill strings and heavily accentuated female poetic evocations add a nice amount of tension to the dank and dreary musical setting.  Later sections containing understated classical piano and orchestral backing ushers the listener through mournful settings to be later jolted into heightened awareness with urgent bass pounding, church bells, slow string segments and scattered tones all combined into a surreal nightmarish atmospheres.  Each of the 9 tracks (at a touch over 40 minutes) interweaves with the preceding piece to create an impeccable flow even if a wide variety of ritual atmospheres and compositions are explored.  Given this is a very professional sounding release I feel that draws a wide variety of (fleeting) comparisons to sections of sound from groups such as Aghast, Endvra, Desideri Marginis, Ildfrost and the like.  The packaging (or more particularly the cover) is well presented in a jewelcase along with various panels and fold out sections in tones of earthen reds & browns complimented with gold text print with the overall visual feel being quite comparable to the  ‘CMI’ look.  Another great ritual/ industrial/ dark ambient CD from this rising label.

Umbra (USA) “Unclean Spirit” CD 2000 The Rectrix

Umbra is Scott E. Candey (Gruntsplatter, head of the Crionic Mind label) and Stephen B. Petrus (In Death’s Throes, head of the Live Bait Recording Foundation label).  They perfectly meld the Gruntsplatter Armageddon Noise Grind dynamics (a type of post-apocalyptic sonic haven built on destruction) with the In Death’s Throes eerie, more darkly sinister inclinations.  Oscillating, humming feedback chews through the ground bones ambience of “The Valley Of Dry Bones,” Scott’s destructive tendencies barely held at bay as the ambience is smothered in distortion.  “Tangled Gullet” weaves anxious tones into a wall of crackling, radiantly alive sound. The compelling balance showcases what the novice noise listener might miss-the inherent language of each layer, the emotional pull of each layer, as it is peeled to reveal the intricate design at the heart of the piece, hence, the inherent anxiety.  Voices swim below a slow throbbing rumble of noise during “Stacking The Dead,” the brain numb from the death work at hand.  “Spiders Under The Skin” reverberates in a more haunting, downright ghostly vein, Stephen’s esoteric tendencies on display, murky and discomfiting.  The speaker ripping, acid waves tumult of “Washed Up On The Banks” prophesize cataclysmic doom, while more of that damned strangely melodic humming slinks underneath.  “Lecher” is the masterpiece, the crystallization of Umbra’s sonic vision, featuring deep, growling noise, slashed and immediately cauterized.  The incinerator burn distortion leads one into the molten, melting walls of the abattoir.  The tonalities and density of napalm drenched sound has been compressed, allowing no escape, the dripping walls of the abattoir closing in, claustrophobic–brilliant!  There’s also a recontextualization of the material on Unclean Spirit by Azoikum, entitled “Husk,” in which the turbulent tides so inherent in the music (an impression of turbulent electronic seas can be gleaned throughout) is brought into focus.  Excellent work and reason enough to check out both of these artists’ other projects.  –JC Smith

The Unquiet Void (USA) “between the twilights” CD 2000 Middle Pillar

A slight diversion is taken on this new Middle Pillar birthed release, with an album of composed sub-orchestral dark ambience.  A project of one individual Jason Wallach, the concept revolves around the dream state with this aura permeating the sometimes dreary, sometimes uplifting surrealist tinged atmospheres.  The synth being the primary tool gives a hint to the stylistic sounds generated, but is done in such a way with layering and use of tonal elements that it generally avoids any cheesy sounding elements.  The track titles follow a concept of the journey into the dream state, with the music aiming to likewise illustrate this.  Dark pounding percussion and massively uplifting string elements marks ‘the dreaming begins’, detailing the mix between the ambient tones and orchestral elements.  ‘Sinking into the blue black oblivion’ takes a ritual percussive framework, building a darkly sweeping classical melody over it, that ebbs and flows for the nine odd minutes. While ‘Sea of serenity’ contains a more sombre underlying mood with slow, depressively echoed tune, the sound switches to an increasingly urgent and tense atmosphere on ‘angels’ (here there is a mild programmed rhythm element within the sweeping keyboard textures).  ‘Morning twilight’ with it groaning pulse and distant drones, marks the beginning of the end, where it as if the uplifting multi-layered orchestral tune is drawing the soul back into the slumbering body.  Packaged in the now trademark elaborate fold out digi-pack, Middle Pillar ‘Presents’ another fine act in their growing roster of US artists.

Unveiled (Ger) “Silver” CD 2000 World Serpent Distribution

Being a solo project of one of the members of …of the wand and the moon, this has little in common with their acoustic folk sounds.  And what would appear to be the second CD from this group, this album focuses on electronic/ ambient type soundscapes.  Elements of the sound on more than the odd occasion bring to mind the recent works of Hazard, as is displayed on ‘anotherworldness’ with the grinding industrial factory textures wrapped in an experimental/ electronic aesthetic.  ‘Soul in a Crystal’ contains a mysterious sweeping edge to the sonic palate, (almost choir like in selected layers of sound) mixed up with spoken word lyrics and some damn heavy martial/ ritual type percussion.  The slow grinding machinery returns on ‘winter’ engulfing the listener in its bleak hazy resonance, with half remembered melodies seeming to be buried somewhere under the textural slab of sound.  ‘Fire as a Friend’ on the other hand is quite active, containing a mid paced metallic rhythm mixed up with circular weaving sonics.  ‘Sand’ comes as easily the most composed track, with spoken vocals and commandingly heavy slow martial beats over a base of sparse sounds and slight melody, while the mid paced programmed rhythm of ‘letter and stones’ is adequately sonically scared to not detract for the dark (partly ritual) atmosphere.  The title track takes the CD to its demise via a low subtle soundscape, which is beautifully enhanced with a looped Gregorian vocal line and ultra subdued percussion (and in part brings to mind a fleeting reference to raison détre).  Overall this could not quite be described as straight out dark ambience, but rather an electro/ acoustic endeavour that has subsequently taken on quite a few darker characteristics.  Either way the results are very worthwhile and worthy of your time.

Urawa (Bel) “Villa Vertigo” CD 2000 Foton Records 

With input from Olivier Moreau (aka Imminent) and John Sellekaers (aka Xingu Hill) what is presented here is very different to what I was otherwise expecting.  Consisting of a series of drawn out subtle soundscapes (each track title referencing a room in the “Villa”), this has more in common with digitally abstract experimental works then anything like the electronica/ industrial of their main projects.  Ambience generated of a quite minimalist nature sees strange sounds, samples and voices used for cunning effect (such as the water drips, ticking clocks and metallic scraping of ‘the study’).  The type of sounds Hazard have been creating are brought to mind on a number of occasions, however this does differ in that there is a playful and quirky style at work here generally being less cold in evoked atmospheres than that of the comparative project.  There is a definite complexity to the subtleness of the compositions, by which words do little to adequately render my overall positive perceptions.  Packaged in a slimline cased in an outer card slipsleeve, insets include a real photo, business card and projector slide.

Various Artists (Rus) “edge of the night: russian gothic compilation” CD 2000 Russian Gothic Project

If you are anything like me, normally you would run a mile from a compilation with the word ‘Gothic’ in the title, and even with this being my first instinct the blue and silver printed wood cut art of the cover initially grabbed my attention and encouraged me to explore further.  After browsing through the 16 odd tracks I tend to feel that the connotation of categorising the compilation as ‘gothic’ actually detracts from the diversity of material on offer.  While yes there are some bands who do little more the further all of the clichés and general sound associated with the Gothic genre (to this I would acquaint: No Man’s Land, Phantom Bertha) there are plenty of other groups that have a wealth of talent to offer. Canonis is an unusual ethereal band due to the incorporation of folk, progressive rock and doom touches throughout their track, incorporating a sweet female voice for the vocals. Baroque type classical music is the fair offered by Caprice consisting of harp introduction, later consisting of orchestral chamber music and operatic female vocals done superbly.  Not that I am totally taken by Dvar’s track I mention it just because it is quite bizarre.  Mid paced programming and syth line are overlaid by vocal shrieking akin to what is found in extreme metal circles except that they sound as if they recorded when under the influence of acid.  Hmmm… not sure what to make of it.  The synth ethereal project Dreams contains a trip hop/ drum and bass type backing over soothing keyboard lines and soaring female vocals which is quite interesting. Cyclotimia inhabit the type of sound coining by Atomine Elektrine in a new aged/ classically influenced trance/ techno piece.  With the shear brilliance of this track it is quite easy to see why StateArt have signed them up for a release.  What could almost be described as a perfect blend of gothic and ethereal genres Lunophobia make a good fist of this with a melody that both rocks and soars aloft. If pure traditional folk/ medieval music is your fair (and I must have to say it is for me when done with this much conviction and authenticity) Djembe should be checked out.  The use of almost totally (if not all) real instrumentation has only assisted in the full and rich sound of the tribal beats infused with pipe/ fiddle/ violin melodies. A melancholic folk tune is perfectly handled by Kratong with Douglas P type whispered/ spoken vocals, further enhanced by female backing, string quartet accompaniment and lone intricate acoustic guitar melody.  Moon far Away have a brooding classical cinematic feel (yet gothic tinged sound), with the sparse composition being fleshed out over the 6 and a half minute length. Of those other groups not already name dropped or described thus far, these include: Romowe Rikoito, Neutral Damsel’s Dream, Tnt Art (presenting a Swans cover) & Cisfinitum.  Giving a wide cross section of the variety of the sub-cultural music originated from the heart of Russia this is a well compiled and presented compilation that shines as a beacon for many (at this point) unknown artists.

Various Artists (Wld) “How Terrorists Kill” CD 1999 StateArt

If you do not your sounds harsh and abrasive nor the inspiration behind it music containing difficult subject matter, I suggest your steer clear of this!  This compilation was originally slated to be issued via the Ajna Offensive however how now surfaced via the superb German label StateArt.  The oversized 20 page cover/ booklet is immaculate in collation and presentation of the artwork submissions from each artist. The sinister intent of the subdued Ex.Order track ‘the only way to heaven’ sets the tone nicely setting a subversive agenda for later more force pieces to platform off. Tense atmospheres, slow founding factory rhythms and shrill yet bearably noise are what can be found here, of which underneath sits what appears to be voices, sirens and general crowd chaos.  Slogun do what they are known best for – and that is obliterated walls of extreme punishing noise.  From memory I have never really appreciated the vocals, but here the distortion treatment and ranted dialogue work particularly well.  A piece of Christian gospel type music acts as the introduction for Thorofon’s track (of which the looped bass from the song appears to sit in the background throughout the whole track) before machinegun fire ushers in the main section of tense power electronic noise tones and repeated vocal rant phrase.  Next up is Valefor’s track of subdued ritual industrial sound akin to Deutsch Nepal or No Festival of Light.  Nothing fantastic but a solid track nonetheless.  Not that I would have ever thought power electronics would have been the forum to present rhyming poetry, Robert X Patriot does here to laughable result.  It is a shame considering there is certain charm to the crude improvised noise/ rhythm backing.  A pretty trademark track is offered up by Con-Dom containing straight forward squealing mid ranged noise, ranted heavily treated vocals that here are mostly indecipherable.  Like Slogun, Macronympha opt for the wall’o’noise sound yet do not choose to include vocals in what is an intense if not throwaway piece.  The sinister ritual sound and pulse of TGVT’s track is intermixed with a variety of vocal samples, speeches and conversation snippets, creating an intense death ambient/ death industrial sound. Having heard quite good things about Wertham, the track here does not really grab me, suffering from a muffled, muddied sound production of noise industrial implications.  Collapsing and imploding ultra noise textures of ‘the order of faith’ from ASP is an intense power electronics, albeit a little repetitive and while normally hard hitting, the Grey Wolves present a track is uncharacteristically atmospheric without loosing any inherent power, via a slow sweeping noise industrial sound.  Slow and subversive, the untitled piece from Der Kampfbund, starts off slow then launches into an impressive noise attack both shrill and grinding in sound texture, infused with indecipherable crowd chants.  Operation Cleansweep have the somewhat daunting task of concluding the compilation, yet handle this with ease via the swirling noise and the incessant grinding of the out of control factory machinery. Overall, the tracks presented are thoughtfully placed in their track listing to align noisy tracks next to quieter ones to give some respite and appreciation of diversity between pieces.  Worth getting if you are a power electronics/ noise industrial aficionado.

Various Artists (Wld) “Insights of the Profane” CD 2000 Ma Kahru

This compilation represents the merging of sounds from two musical scenes, which although sound very different do often have a similarity in inspirational approach (those scenes being that of black ambient and black metal).  The basic layout of tracks goes something like black ambient/ black metal/ black ambient creating diversity between pieces, yet given the focus of this publication I will mainly those groups which fit under this umbrella. Anapthergal (hailing from Finland) are a group I have not heard of before, but this does not prevent them from opening the CD with deep noise/ ambient atmospheres, Gregorian chants, distant groans etc thrown in forgreat effect.  The shrill high speed riffing of Abigor (the most well known Black Metal band on offer here) has an old school thrash style to the songwriting which is actually quite different to their medieval styling of black metal on their first few albums.  Baal are particularly good with a track of swirling sub bass textures of varying levels, gradually multiplying into a storming mid ranged noise track.  Subklink’s containing, both low drones and muffled sweeping elements don’t really set my world on fire – not a bad piece just not enough tension to the sound. ‘Murderous Vision’ take a noisy mind frame distilling it down into a tensile atmosphere, essentially creating an impotent noise track that is all the better for it.  Ontario Blue a side project of Stephen Pennick (of Endvra infamy) present a track of pure middle eastern tribal flair that is basically the least dark and most composed of the ambient tracks (no real point in pointing out is a great track if you already appreciate his other solo and collaborative outputs).  If I remember right Darkness Enshroud were a black metal band now resurrected as a black ambient project.  Slow synth layers, deathly drum machine pounds and ghostly female vocals make their evocation a reasonable but not fantastic track.  GoatWAR deserve a mention alone for their musical style description being coined as “raw black vomit war metal”! (Hmmm.. black metal is not known for its sense of humor but this surely has to be tongue in cheek?).  Deep subterranean dungeon atmospheres with a piano being played somewhere off in the catacombs make Veinke’s track a great listen as the conclusional last main track (except otherwise for the hidden track – a blistering 1 minute 27 seconds speed riffage attack from Allfather). Noting that there has been quite a bit of crossover interest from Black Metal to industrial music over the past 5-7 years this release would be of obvious interest to such fans, yet as I’m not sure how much crossover interest has gone the other way I don’t know how an entrenched industrial fan would take to this.  Regardless this is a solid document of some of the currently lesser known groups of each genres with a suitably dark satanic imagery. Finally of those black metal bands not prior mentioned, the compilation also includes: Azaghal, Archaean Harmony, Judas Iscariot & Myrmidon.

Various Artists (Wld) “Noise Transmission” CD 1999 Deafborn Records

With the clarity and ferociousness of the production you would be hard pressed to pick all of these tracks as live recordings, yet the nine tracks from four different artists were recording at the 1998 Noise Transmission Festival held in Germany.  The artists collated on here cover the power electronic and death industrial genres either exclusively of bridging the two.  First up is Rectal Surgery with a pounding mix of industrial noise, beats, scattered samples screamed vocals.  In particular the fusion of mechanized beats (bordering on gabber) and noise in ‘Gefahr’ is very impressive.  Irikarah is a name I have not come across before, but creating a subdued noise industrial piece with ‘mistress of agarthi’ then stepping into searing noise/ power electronics on ‘fight fast’ (my speakers sound if they can barely withstand the punishment being dished out).   The Cazzodio tracks are a little different to that of the tracks I have heard off their debut CD in that vocals are included here in the guise of either spoken sections or death metal screeches.  I don’t know how convinced I am with the vocals themselves (particularly when growled) but the music if of the same high caliber of industrial strength power rhythms (albeit a bit slower overall than normal) and hefty slabs of concrete noise.  To bring the CD to a conclusion Morder Machine (feat. Atrax Morgue) grinds things down to a death obsessed halt with two tracks, including one previously off the ‘Death Show’ CD.  Vocals gargling razorblades over a death industrial pulse and scattered screeching mayhem envelopes the room with both ‘Living Dead’ and ‘I’m so’.  With this act the vocals are the true wonder obviously working in a cyclic fashion in feeding off and giving back to the creation of the deadly atmosphere of the obliterated slow beat and noise textures. Overall worth getting if you have an interest in any of these artists.

Various Artists (Wld) “RGB [an audio spectrum]” CD 2000 siRcom

As a conceptual work this is quite interesting.  Three sound artists were given a colour each (either red, blue or green) and asked to produce a 15 minute composition illustrating what they thought their colour sounded like.  These three tracks were then complied into one 45 minute piece, with two other tracks created from the collective material and titled ‘black’ and ‘white’, that have respectively been used to start and conclude the CD.  Of the three sound artists involved they included:  Leif Elggren of Sweden (red), sourRce research of the UK (green) and Matmos of the USA (blue).  The collective introductory track ‘black’ is an unusual one in that it uses great expanses of silence over the 10 minute length, occasional containing fleeting tonal analogue outbursts (Black=suffocating silence maybe?).  On the main track, Leif Elggren is up first on Movement 1, creating his version of the sound of red.  Thick wavering analogue drones characterise this segment, increasing in intensity and evasiveness, that to extent exudes the feeling of warmth (hence the colour red).  On movement 2, souRce research are given the task of the tackling the colour green and handle it by way of starting with low shimmering sounds, building it to a point where an acoustic guitar tune, whispered vocals and field recordings of seagulls are utilised.  At first I was not so sure about this segment being all that effective, but the more I thought about it, it did actually bring visions to the mind of rolling green hills along some unnamed British coastline.  The shimmering sounds are again used (now becoming more akin to an electro/ acoustic soundscape) that bridges the piece towards Movement 3 where Matmos tries his hand at the colour blue.  From the written passage on the cover it seems quite a formula went into the ethos behind this soundscape, which makes more sense when listening to this last segment.  High end scattered junk sounds sit over watery and deep tonal elements, basically attempting to illustrate the receding nature of the colour by using foreground textures (high end) and low drones and pulses (background).  Interestingly a mid section includes a jazz type percussion drum beat infused with the other sounds which I’m not exactly sure what it signifies.  For me this piece is the most experimental and unfortunately the least successful in the aim of creating its colour via sound, although does appear to have the most thought and theory behind it.  Rounding out the disc is the collective track ‘white’ with a subtitle of ‘red+green+blue=white’ which states the obvious in how this sounds as elements taken from each Movement intermix and interact.  Overall I think this works best as an experimental and conceptual work than an album you would listen to for simple enjoyment.

Various Artists (Wld) “Saturn Gnosis” 2 x 10″ Box Set 2000 Loki Foundation

Saturn Gnosis is a mesmerizing collection of surreptitious sonic atmospherics, each track depicting varied impressions of the German occult lodge, Fraternitas Saturni.  But, not only is it a feast for the ears, the presentation must be noted.  The face staring at me (with no discernable pupils) from the cover of this impressive package is stern, the unyielding expression draped in secrecy, in knowledge most mysterious.  As Rene, head of LOKI informs me, the face is “the Gotos, a visualized medium that was based in every lodge of the brotherhood of Saturni as a stone bust.  This Gotos is overlaid on the front image by a demon-painting of a Saturni member.”  (Interestingly enough, when looking directly at the picture, the bust is most prominent, splashed in crimson brush strokes…but look at it indirectly, from an angle, for a more sinister perception.  Glance at the picture in the mirror, from a distance, and the demon within becomes more visible, gaunt and in allegiance with…demons, of course.  Eerie and hauntingly effective.)  Open the glossy black box and there is more delight for the eyes.  Therewith enclosed, both sleeves, as well as a large booklet, are decorously designed with the brightly colored, geometrically enticing artwork of Frater Pacitus, one of the original members of the Fraternitas Saturni from the 1920’s.  All of this would be for naught, though, if the music were not as compelling as the packaging and subject matter.  Not to worry, as one places the semi-opaque (it is oddly tinted-brown, bronze?-individual perceptions may vary) vinyl on the player and sets the needle to the groove.  Inade’s “Cherub” bursts through the stratosphere, unveiling an uncanny, tension weary ambience upon which vocals with a certain arcane enunciation (the German language foreign to me) are tattooed.  Further in, the Inade ship blows a horn as it crosses from one dimension to another (and neither dimension may be this dimension…).  As it lurches forth, the roiling cosmic seas disintegrate into a tempestuous corkscrew of sonic trepidation and awe-inspiring discovery.  In the background, a scalpel is thrust and twisted into the barren heavens.  That’s one track, 7:28 of explorative ambience that transcends genius.  Yes, it’s that good!  Easily on par with the brilliant V.I.T.R.I.O.L. materiel, and worth the price of admission, as I like to say.  How can anyone follow this up?  Well, rest assured, what follows more than validates the proceedings.  Herbst9 solidify their standing as one of the finest dark ambient practitioners with the molar grinding ambience of an unknown beast amidst tribal ruins during “Threshold To Akasa.”  The violin of Blood Axis’ ‘Der Gefallene Engel” singes the strings of sorrow while Stephen Flowers (author of the book Fire And Ice, in which more information on the Fraternitas Saturni can be found) speaks of “The Fallen Angel,” and strange sounds gurgle underneath.   First Law blends astonishingly bizarre, almost otherworldly textures (understated instrumental vocalizations, disintegrating crystals from afar) and time devouring tribalism during “Velochrome 1.”  The track surprisingly ends up in a region distinguished by medieval shadings, forging an unexpected path in the winding darkness.  SRP trespass on the desolate, darkened terrain of the void, a terrain littered with symphonic sonic residue that pushes at the periphery, eventually succumbing to the insistent symphonic radiance during “Hochpolung Des Willens.”  A slumber of nebulous design is disrupted by the processional pummel and ascending, born of fire chorus that rises from the very center of a convoluted labyrinth amidst the multi-layered progression of sounds during Predominance’s “Awaken Of The Violet Demons.”  The masters of ancient darkness, Endvra, decorate a dull, wind from nowhere throb with crisply plucked injections of tattered anxiety amidst threads of brittle, obscure tones woven into the glistening flesh of “The Sun And The Stillborn Stars.” Turbund Sturmwerk entrance via a disjointed collage of discomfiting vocals and a foreboding bass, grim dynamics harbored in confusion amidst the chaos din during “UrFyr.”  Pandemonium is upon us, though it is a subdued, distinctly lethal interpretation.  Saturn Gnosis brings out the best in all of the participants (literally-the First Law and Turbund Sturmwerk tracks may be their best yet, the Inade track only confirms that they are inventing music that is of a level most cannot even comprehend…).  Each track envelops the listener in an ambience drawn from the well of imagination that each band drinks from.  Each track also seems to have two distinct sides (at least): the visible, predominant sounds, and the taciturn sounds that suggest indecipherable allegiances.  On every conceivable level, Saturn Gnosis is nothing less than a masterpiece!  –JC Smith

Various Artists (Wld) “Your Daily Buzz” CD 2000 Tripmeke Records

This CD is the first release on this new label with contributions by: Lasse Marhaug, K2 & MSBR vs. Cartisian Faith.  Lasse Marhaug is on track 1 ‘surface sci-fi’, which is a grinding mass of lurching feedback gradually becoming more chaotic and metallic as it builds up multiple layers, giving me the feeling that guitars might have been somewhere in the original sound source.  Mid way through, the first segments cuts out with a second feedback grinding loop kicking in (over a slightly watery undercarriage) prior to high pitch squeals arriving full force.   While not free form enough to be pure noise it is still a good partly composed noise track.  K2 on track two ‘limb bud’ subscribe more closely to the pure noise sound aesthetic with a 14 minute ear reaming piece of high end blasting white noise.  There are the odd segments of composed texture but this is really only a small fraction of the total sound, with chaos basically reigning supreme with the piece chopping and changing sound focus ever few seconds.  The remaining tracks three through nine are created by a collaboration between MSBR & Cartisian Faith and seem to be more experimental noise, exploring sound texture and equipment effects.  Vocals form about half of their first piece ‘yon’ but are basically mangled beyond recognition having been used as soundsource.  ‘Daily’ is reasonably noisy and harsh of mid ranged static, but with a good sense of direction and building tension it makes for a good listen at over eight minutes.  ‘Buzz’ is much more typical of the noise genre with its wall’o’screaming feedback style, where the following piece ‘grey’ is almost the total opposite of low dredging metallic and electronic sounds akin to a more synthetic Daniel Menche.  Following on the track ‘cyclic’ is quite unusual in that it seems to be generated from someone taking a bath with contact mic’s creating ‘up close’ sound effects.  Another one of the longer format pieces is ‘Lurid’ and while consisting of extremely stormy metallic echoed scrapping textures, tends to hold its direction well even incorporated a soulless machine type beat off in the background


Veinke (USA) “Collection III The Black Summer” CD 2000 Triumvirate

Seven unnamed pieces are showcased covering a reasonable amount of ground in the process, but a basic description could be that this CD encompasses ultra dark sonics with bleak & searing qualities.  There are segments of cavernous drone oriented soundscapes (such as on track one) while track two contains tense atmospheres of shrill textures, deep throbbing heartbeat, guttural chants and the sound of a metal implement chipping away at stone (giving the aura of some uncontemplated entity valiantly trying to dig its way out of its core earth entrapment).  Track three arrives with a running time at over 20 minutes, sprawling out with drone undercurrents and smatterings of factory oriented sounds (echoes, clanging metal and nondescript textures).  Later things are stripped back to a distant cavernous drone with a mild percussive texture and the rambled religious chant of someone acknowledging their imminent demise.  Even further in, awesome (non lyrical) vocal chants that sit alongside with a deep echoed metallic rhythm that ushers the track to its ultimate demise.  The megalithic programmed percussion of track four gives it a rough power noise type vibe and while the following piece opting for a similar sound yet arriving with far less percussion and much more searing noise.  Track six is unusual in that it utilises a fair amount of contact mic type derived sound, which is more akin to the sounds created by Daniel Menche that the sounds on preceding tracks (this sound continues to an extent on the final track but also contains an undercurrent of droney textures).  Overall Veinke have offered up a more than commendable disc of dark sonic textures. 

Vir (USA) “strika/ solaris” 7”ep 2000 Drone Records

Having something to do with the project Love Lies Crushing (incidentally on the Projekt label),  this is a spare experimental release with mild ethereal overtones.

Harmonies swirling textures spacious expanse of atmosphere is prevalent here, sounds ranging from soothing to tensile, female vocals shifting within the mix of the first track as if articulating archetype memory (rather than simply being included there for the sake of providing vocals).  Side B offers up an even more expansive vision of multi textural drones, shimmering guitar generated textures and massive reverberating sounds, with the coagulation of these elements toward the end creating a very full bodied atmosphere of orchestral/ noise proportions.  The grey vinyl with blue streaks makes quite a nice looking piece of wax.


Von Thronstahl (Ger) “Imperium Internum” CD 2000 Cold Spring Records

Hello!! I think we have a new contender rising to make challenge for the neo-classic crown.  Words and actions of the group aside (which seem to have stirred quite some controversy in the underground recently) this is an extremely ambitious debut given the breadth of influence and sound incorporated into this.  The obvious heavy martial themes are here, that of the pounding rhythms, the profound horn and string accompaniments, the grand orchestrations all fused together with vocals of a rasping spoken quality and an industrial noise underbelly.  Yet despite these forming the core, many other sounds, vocalisations and instrumentations create a multi-dimensional work.  Female spoken vocals prominent on ‘Schwarz, Weiss, Rot’ sit within a menacing framework of multi-layers strings and brass instrumentation, male voice delivery a German speech in a background of industrial gritty textures.  The epic piano piece ‘The Majestic Return’ is fleshed out by clean guitars, snare and tympani rolls and full classical orchestration in the midst of roaring crowds and warlike sounds.  The power is increased up even another notch on ‘Kristall/ Kristur’, the classical melody lines taking a sweeping path above the rigid fast pounding beats, while the vitriolic speech takes to the fore.  Half industrial/ half classical, the harsh looped sounds of ‘Under the Mask of Humanity’ add the grittiness of presentation, the repeated vocal line being likewise rasping in delivery.  The harsh battle tank rhythms of ‘Sturmzeit’ eclipse the forcefulness of any previous track, rolling ever forward in warlike intent, snippets of choirs melded into the quick loops of pounding beats and shrill orchestrations. The following track then comes as a complete surprise, with its folkish strains of strummed acoustic guitar and relaxed framework of semi-romantic musical backing.  A reflective sorrowful sound is appropriated on ‘Noch Bluht Im Geist Verbogen’ removing the martial undertones, leaving a framework of deep brooding classical melodies, while the massive brass sounds of ‘Atlantis Teif’ cuts in and out of snippets of what sounds like an ‘Oi’ band and other beats, voices, sounds etc as if the main backing is set against someone flipping through radio static and finding the odd sound filler (which remarkably works extremely well).  Another acoustic guitar number, ‘Turn the Centuries’ while still folkish is much more epic sounding, the whisper vocals adding a spine chilling effect.  ‘Pontifex Solis’ the track which concludes this stunning work is a piece which sees the melding of many elements of sound on the whole album, be those of martial drumming, sorrowful classical melodies, acoustic guitars, speech presentation vocals etc.

In its more blatant aspects of attention grabbing within cover imagery, these elements can be overlooked when an album of this stature is pulled off as debut release.  Given this fits very nicely alongside Turbund Sturmwerk’s debut CD in similar broad musical vision should tell you this an item that must be placed high on your want list.


Where (Ita) “the creatures of the wind” CD 1999 Eibon Recordings

Within sub cultural genres, certain countries tend to spawn their own distinctive sound with Italy being no exception.  Where are very much of this Italian sound, being in the guise of sparse minimalist dungeon ambience.  On ‘Boreas’ sweeping moisture heavy air swirls forth from the speakers as if a long sealed cavern has been breached for the first time in aeons passed.  Rusted hinges creak, metal on metal scrape, creating harsh unnerving sounds giving rise to visions of things best not thought of lurking in the crevices of the cavernous soundscapes.  ‘Conoscenze oscure’ containing what sound like distant rolling thunder creating an extreme depth perception to the sound.  Again the metallic noises are present but off in the far distance, muffled and subdued.  ‘Sa’rka’ny’ commencing as an echoed minimalist offering lulls the listener in, before unloading a whole segment of flesh crawling metallically generated sounds that continue for the remainder of the 10 minute track.

The crumbling textures of ‘Cialarere’ present a density of sound not present on the preceding tracks (a wind encapsulating membrane preventing the sounds from sprawling outwards), while ‘Streghe del vento’ has a sub sonic bass drone creating a low level echoed ambience as much of the other metallic sounds are mixed or at minimum muffled by the bass textures (not that these don’t make themselves fully felt toward to end of the piece).

Little is presented in the way of tunes or audible melodies (save for the last track), rather presenting the atmospheres via ghastly haunting soundscapes of distant sounds, windswept textures, sporadic clatter, echoes and any other sound you would expect to hear in dungeons and catacombs described in HP Lovecraft’s writings.  Lastly, taking inspiration from and being dedicated to of variety of mythical entities from Italy, Greece and Hungry, Where has created a release that is really beyond ambience that you could listen to when going to sleep given the unnerving qualities presented (believe me as I have tried this!).  Eibon may not release a stack of items of each but of the handful they do like this you are assured of quality both musically and in presentation.

Yen Pox (USA) “New Dark Age” CD 2000 Malignant Records

Where do you start with a review of the second Yen Pox album considering how highly anticipated it has been?  And could it be that the passage of time might have pegged expectations too high?  Well I am glad to say that this has both lived up to and ultimately surpassed any of my initial expectations.  One thing that is instantly evident is the massive sound production and sweeping spaciousness of the tones.  While the last album explored suffocating & confined subterranean depths this has a less obvious organic edge, lending itself to spacious territory as if illustrating a lifeless barren wasteland as the dusk light quickly recedes.  This is not to say that the trademark depth and tone of sound has at all been lost, as this still gives my stereo a run for it money in grappling with the bass loaded intensity.  The multi-dimensional layering of sound is another all encompassing element – tones sweeping in for all angles likewise rising and falling throughout the composition – faint and barely recognisable melodies all the while playing out in a catatonic fashion.  For such slow moving soundscapes it is quite astounding the level of variation and movement of each composition, never faltering or slowing down, constantly spiraling headlong into its self supporting vortex as one piece slips into the next, constantly building on what has preceded it.  All I can say in conclusion is get this and bow before the new masters of dark ambience.


Vir (USA) “strika/ solaris” 7”ep 2000 Drone Records

Having something to do with the project Love Lies Crushing (incidentally on the Projekt label),  this is a spare experimental release with mild ethereal overtones.  Harmonies swirling textures spacious expanse of atmosphere is prevalent here, sounds ranging from soothing to tensile, female vocals shifting within the mix of the first track as if articulating archetype memory (rather than simply being included there for the sake of providing vocals).  Side B offers up an even more expansive vision of multi textural drones, shimmering guitar generated textures and massive reverberating sounds, with the coagulation of these elements toward the end creating a very full bodied atmosphere of orchestral/ noise proportions.  The grey vinyl with blue streaks makes quite a nice looking piece of wax.

Von Thronstahl (Ger) “Imperium Internum” CD 2000 Cold Spring Records

Hello!! I think we have a new contender rising to make challenge for the neo-classic crown.  Words and actions of the group aside (which seem to have stirred quite some controversy in the underground recently) this is an extremely ambitious debut given the breadth of influence and sound incorporated into this.  The obvious heavy martial themes are here, that of the pounding rhythms, the profound horn and string accompaniments, the grand orchestrations all fused together with vocals of a rasping spoken quality and an industrial noise underbelly.  Yet despite these forming the core, many other sounds, vocalisations and instrumentations create a multi-dimensional work.  Female spoken vocals prominent on ‘Schwarz, Weiss, Rot’ sit within a menacing framework of multi-layers strings and brass instrumentation, male voice delivery a German speech in a background of industrial gritty textures.  The epic piano piece ‘The Majestic Return’ is fleshed out by clean guitars, snare and tympani rolls and full classical orchestration in the midst of roaring crowds and warlike sounds.  The power is increased up even another notch on ‘Kristall/ Kristur’, the classical melody lines taking a sweeping path above the rigid fast pounding beats, while the vitriolic speech takes to the fore.  Half industrial/ half classical, the harsh looped sounds of ‘Under the Mask of Humanity’ add the grittiness of presentation, the repeated vocal line being likewise rasping in delivery.  The harsh battle tank rhythms of ‘Sturmzeit’ eclipse the forcefulness of any previous track, rolling ever forward in warlike intent, snippets of choirs melded into the quick loops of pounding beats and shrill orchestrations. The following track then comes as a complete surprise, with its folkish strains of strummed acoustic guitar and relaxed framework of semi-romantic musical backing.  A reflective sorrowful sound is appropriated on ‘Noch Bluht Im Geist Verbogen’ removing the martial undertones, leaving a framework of deep brooding classical melodies, while the massive brass sounds of ‘Atlantis Teif’ cuts in and out of snippets of what sounds like an ‘Oi’ band and other beats, voices, sounds etc as if the main backing is set against someone flipping through radio static and finding the odd sound filler (which remarkably works extremely well).  Another acoustic guitar number, ‘Turn the Centuries’ while still folkish is much more epic sounding, the whisper vocals adding a spine chilling effect.  ‘Pontifex Solis’ the track which concludes this stunning work is a piece which sees the melding of many elements of sound on the whole album, be those of martial drumming, sorrowful classical melodies, acoustic guitars, speech presentation vocals etc.   In its more blatant aspects of attention grabbing within cover imagery, these elements can be overlooked when an album of this stature is pulled off as debut release.  Given this fits very nicely alongside Turbund Sturmwerk’s debut CD in similar broad musical vision should tell you this an item that must be placed high on your want list.

Where (Ita) “the creatures of the wind” CD 1999 Eibon Recordings

Within sub cultural genres, certain countries tend to spawn their own distinctive sound with Italy being no exception.  Where are very much of this Italian sound, being in the guise of sparse minimalist dungeon ambience.  On ‘Boreas’ sweeping moisture heavy air swirls forth from the speakers as if a long sealed cavern has been breached for the first time in aeons passed.  Rusted hinges creak, metal on metal scrape, creating harsh unnerving sounds giving rise to visions of things best not thought of lurking in the crevices of the cavernous soundscapes.  ‘Conoscenze oscure’ containing what sound like distant rolling thunder creating an extreme depth perception to the sound.  Again the metallic noises are present but off in the far distance, muffled and subdued.  ‘Sa’rka’ny’ commencing as an echoed minimalist offering lulls the listener in, before unloading a whole segment of flesh crawling metallically generated sounds that continue for the remainder of the 10 minute track. The crumbling textures of ‘Cialarere’ present a density of sound not present on the preceding tracks (a wind encapsulating membrane preventing the sounds from sprawling outwards), while ‘Streghe del vento’ has a sub sonic bass drone creating a low level echoed ambience as much of the other metallic sounds are mixed or at minimum muffled by the bass textures (not that these don’t make themselves fully felt toward to end of the piece).  Little is presented in the way of tunes or audible melodies (save for the last track), rather presenting the atmospheres via ghastly haunting soundscapes of distant sounds, windswept textures, sporadic clatter, echoes and any other sound you would expect to hear in dungeons and catacombs described in HP Lovecraft’s writings.  Lastly, taking inspiration from and being dedicated to of variety of mythical entities from Italy, Greece and Hungry, Where has created a release that is really beyond ambience that you could listen to when going to sleep given the unnerving qualities presented (believe me as I have tried this!).  Eibon may not release a stack of items of each but of the handful they do like this you are assured of quality both musically and in presentation.

Yen Pox (USA) “New Dark Age” CD 2000 Malignant Records

Where do you start with a review of the second Yen Pox album considering how highly anticipated it has been?  And could it be that the passage of time might have pegged expectations too high?  Well I am glad to say that this has both lived up to and ultimately surpassed any of my initial expectations.  One thing that is instantly evident is the massive sound production and sweeping spaciousness of the tones.  While the last album explored suffocating & confined subterranean depths this has a less obvious organic edge, lending itself to spacious territory as if illustrating a lifeless barren wasteland as the dusk light quickly recedes.  This is not to say that the trademark depth and tone of sound has at all been lost, as this still gives my stereo a run for it money in grappling with the bass loaded intensity.  The multi-dimensional layering of sound is another all encompassing element – tones sweeping in for all angles likewise rising and falling throughout the composition – faint and barely recognisable melodies all the while playing out in a catatonic fashion.  For such slow moving soundscapes it is quite astounding the level of variation and movement of each composition, never faltering or slowing down, constantly spiraling headlong into its self supporting vortex as one piece slips into the next, constantly building on what has preceded it.  All I can say in conclusion is get this and bow before the new masters of dark ambience.


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