reviews: industrial

(industrial / noise / power electronics)

MZ.412 – Infernal Affairs

MZ.412 doesn’t need no introduction. This project is for years known as the originator of black industrial: a mixture of industrial and black arts inspired sounds and content, as often found in black metal.

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V/A – Swarm

A few years after the compilation “Chamber”, UK’s Cold Spring Records now comes with a new label sampler. Swarm gathers 22 artist who released or will release material on Cold Spring. And the good news is that all tracks were recorded specifically for this collection.
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Merzbow & John Wiese – Multiplication

Even when it comes to the likes of Merzbow and John Wiese, the prolific noisegods whose creations often transcends those of mere mortals, it usually takes the right frame of mind to jump right into noise music, especially when it’s extreme. There’s not much time for that on ‘Multiplication’- the opening track “Bonanza” hits fast and with a fury, setting a pace that doesn’t let up until the very end of the title track, “Multiplication”, a 27 minute marathon.

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V/A – Six Doors: a Housepig Compilation

‘Six Doors’ is a great idea from the Housepig label. Housepig is based in Minneapolis, MN, and focuses on ambient and noise. This compilation holds six top notch acts from the U.S. and Japan: Unicorn; Aube; Bastard Noise; Luasa Raelon; Guilty Connector & Tabata; and Oblong Box. Each shows a different approach to experimental electronics, and each works in an extended format here, with the shortest track at close to ten minutes long.

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Goatvargr – S/T

Goatvargr is what you get when you mix Swedish Henrik Nordvargr Björkk with American Andy O’Sullivan (a.k.a Goat). Henrik Nordvargr Björkk has been active for some time with his highly acclaimed projects Folkstorm, MZ412, and Toroidh. Goatvargr adds to Nordvargr’s long list of collaborations across noise-industrial boundaries. O’Sullivan has a background of playing drums in bands, influenced by all styles, while his Goat project has been up to this point readily filed under noise – fast becoming recognized as one of America’s better noise acts.

Goatvargr delivers on all expectations. “Goatlord Rising”, the intro track, begins with dark ambience, adds a hypnotic beat, and finishes with a sharp splinter of noise. “Fix”, combines a down-tempo drum track with an almost hip-hop drum kick, some distorted voicing, plus a mass of heavy distortion everywhere else. “Realms of Goatvargr” starts with a rhythmic industrial pulse, declines into pure noise, and settles down with some soothing ambience. “Filthdaemon”, on the other hoof, is nonstop madness.

“Drunk on the Blood of the Goat” is maybe the most rhythmic and club friendly tracks, making it also one of the most listenable. “Beyond the Quorthorian Realms”, at close to thirteen minutes in length, is the most epic of the tracks. It breaks from the a-musical nature of the rest of the album with an intro that features an orchestral-like chorus of strings, but soon draws upon the doom of pulsing power electronics.

Music this intense always requires a response. Mine: feed the angry Goatvargr through sacrifice!

Negru Voda – Unplugged

Negru Voda unplugged? Peter Nyström playing John Denver songs around the campfire? No, not really. This cd contains 6 tracks recorded at an industrial festival in Vilnius in 2004.

The musical ingredients are what you can expect: pounding (metal) percussion, rusty machine noises, manipulated samples and a variety of sampled voices. The sound is very clear and loud, perhaps thanks to the mastering of Magnus Sundström. The cd does not have an instant live feeling, you don’t hear any applause or other audience noises. You do get a feeling of improvisation in the monotonous but gradually evolving track structures.

Unplugged is a solid and powerful release, which focuses more on the industrial than the dark ambient side of Negru Voda. The heavy rhythmic elements are really massive at times. For instance in combination with the ominous sounds of the third track, or in the next piece which sounds as if factory halls are being demolished. Grab it while you can, it’s limited to 279 numbered copies.

Fire in the Head special

Almost every week Michael Page aka F/I/T/H/ churns out a new release, as if his life depends on it. This American musican is luckily not only productive, but also responsible for one of the more interesting power electronics projects. This review describes just some of the recent Fire in the Head releases.

As the nest burns (cd, Autarkeia, 2005)
After some demos and cd-r’s, this was the first proper cd of Fire in the Head as far as I know. Released on the label Autarkeia from Lithuania, it contains 7 tracks in just over half an hour. The release has images of war and destruction in the booklet, for which the music forms a good companion. Nasty high-pitched sounds, a wall of monotonous dense noise and at times screaming vocals, somewhat in the background of the mix. A few tracks differ alittle, like the weird droning ambient of ‘One last sunset’. This cd is not very original and not very varied, but pieces like the blasting title track are convincing in their loudness and agression.

Be my Enemy (cd, Audio Immolation Industries, 2005)
45 minutes of ‘hostile noise’ released on F/T/H/’s own label. Again a loud and threatening mixture of power electronics and death ambient, this time with a bigger role for brutal vocals and evil sampled voices, a bit like NTT. There are even lyrics printed at Fire in the Head’s website. Of course don’t expect any romantic poetry. The first line is ‘You have no idea what I am capable of’, but I’m not sure if I want to know at all. I find “Be my Enemy” one of the most interesting releases of the American project so far, because of its greater variation in styles and sounds, instead of plain noise. The bigger vocal/textual aspects also help to give the music a deeper dimension. Favourite tracks: ‘When this no longer satisfies’ and ‘Submit/succumb’.

Come Closer Cut Deeper (Nihilist Records, 2005)
Photos of corpses and slit throats should help me to get in the mood for this record. Again the walls of manipulated noise and screaming feedback sounds are abundant, with angry texts spit out to make it more festive. Some tracks slow the pace a bit down, like the intense soundscape ‘Lie to me’, while others are almost rhythmic (‘The art of obliteration’). ‘Malfunction’ uses lyrics of a classic Cro-Mags track, which I wouldn’t have recognised if it weren’t mentioned in the booklet. A piece I quite like is ‘The last thing you’ll see’, which combines uncomprimising noise with an ominous ambient background.

Meditate/Mutilate (cd, Eibon Records, 2006)
Italy’s Eibon Records has build up a good reputation as distributors of industrial noise, so this release can be seen as a form of recognition for Fire in the Head. Perhaps not surprising that both music and artwork occur to be more professional at first glance. For a change the album does not start with an overwhelming attack of noise, but with a good piece of hallucinatory death industrial/drone, called ‘Darkest before dawn’. The sound of shots and an angry speech form the start of ‘True believer’, which gets louder and denser as it evolves, with the screaming voice trying his best to be heard over the music. Then it’s time for another deep droning piece with industrial sounds, making me think of Megaptera, though the track ends raher noisy. The album continues in this vein, alternating powernoise and death ambient. “Meditate/Mutilate” is the most mature work of Fire in the Head so far. The tracks are built up in a subtler manner and the production is better so you can hear the individual sound elements better, without losing its uncomprimising nature. Listen for instance to a heavy piece like ‘Complete the obsession’.

Hypnoskull – (G.O.D) – Once Again

The Belgian label Spectre exists for ten years now and has build up an impressive catalogue. One of their most recent releases is this cd by Hypnoskull, the rhythmic industrial project which the productive Patrick Stevens started in the early 90’s.

As always the mood and sound of Hypnoskull is agressive, on the brink of war. This already starts with the messages in the booklet (‘You know you are scum’, ‘I ain’t your stupid little huggybear’). The intro track continues in this matter with unfriendly speech samples about ‘cracking your skull’.

Things move on with the nice midtempo ‘You scum!’, before really taking off in ‘Don’t die in vein’, featuring the expected noisy analogue electronica, heavy technoid beats and loads of violent speech samples. As the cd evolves, the tracks begin to become more chaotic, with more restless breaks and beats.

It’s not a cd which I will be often in the mood for to play at home, therefore the music is too violent and nervous, and the blood-spilling text samples begin to bore me after a while. But uptempo tracks like ‘The betrayal’ or the hardcore techno of ‘G.O.D.’ are certainly fitted to let off steam or to storm the dancefloor.

Geneviéve Pasquier – Soap Bubble Factory

With her previous releases Geneviéve Pasquier has raised some expectations. Especially the 7” on Disorder and the split 10” (with Bastards Of Love) on Petting Zoo were good pieces of old school minimal industrial music.

Now Thorofon is no more, it seems her solo project is her main focus. But her first “big” release is somewhat easy and accessible in comparison with her earlier work.

Most tracks on Soap Bubble Factory are a sort of soundscapes in which the industrial music elements are pushed into the back (‘Remember’ and ‘Mind-Whore’). Some other tracks are a bit boring as not really much is happening (‘Catwalk’ and ‘I Am Not Yours’). Also the dance tunes are not what you might expect from this ex-Thorofon member. ‘Existance’ is nothing more then a slick contemporary cyber gothic track and ’Soap Bubble Factory’ is a sort of bubblegum dance / pop track.

The track ‘Disappointed Expectations’ summarizes this album quite well. With a name and status like Geneviéve Pasquier you should come up with something better.

Gjöll – Way Through Zero

Way Through Zero is the debut of Gjöll and a concept album about the mental state of a person. This state goes from pessimistic to anger and to analysis and realization of the self. Musically this is worked out very well: From drone-like industrial ambient to pulsating noise.

The mood of the music is dark and mysterious and especially the first two parts are great. Part one is filled with mysterious dark ambient with a whispering voice and vague sounds in the background. The second part is a drone in which the Scandinavian background of the musicians becomes very clear.

The thick booklet with nice photos and texts in Icelandic (and English) only enriches the listening experience. Way Through Zero is an original and interesting industrial release for sure!

Narcosa – Taking care of your pain

Narcosa is a Dutch one-man project whose sound is a mixture of dark ambient, death industrial and martial elements. This cd-r was handed to me by its creator at a music party a while ago. I wasn’t really sure what to expect, though the artwork didn’t look very cheerful. Photos of brains and dead bodies, a signature in blood… The statement that ‘various human bones and medical instruments were used for drumloop and other sounds’ did not surprise me anymore after seeing the booklet.

The cd-r contains three untitled tracks and lasts about 15 minutes. The music is mostly created by a mixture of analogue electronic gear, loads of samples and unrecognizably treated instruments like guitar and violin. The first sounds really work on my nerves with a mixture of distorted sounds and brutal satanic screaming. But soon there comes more structure in the track, with an ominous hornlike sound and dark speech sample (something about a patient…). An apocalyptic soundscape that will appeal to fans of Toroidh and some CMI acts.

The second piece starts with a minimal drone, but soon evolves into a heavy percussive marching piece with many obscure samples. This track mostly reminds me of early Blutharsch material. It’s a bit repetive, but certainly powerful.
The last piece has a more extreme sound, a dense noisy structure with lots of nasty samples to give you a very unheimisch feeling, something for experienced listeners of oldschool industrial.

This cd-r suprised me in a positive manner. The sound is really dark and oppressive and the ‘medical theme’ gives it some originality. Perhaps at times the artist tries to put too many different elements in his tracks, but on the other hand the density enhances the feeling of suffocation.

Haus Arafna – Blut: Trilogie des Blutes + Nachblutung

The first album of Haus Arafna finally re-released to do something against the piracy, but probably most welcomed by the people who don’t have the original release. Blut: Trilogie des Blutes was first released in 1995. This re-issue features three bonus tracks from the same period.

If you are familiar with the sounds of Haus Arafna you know what to expect. Blut offers some of the most intense analogue pwer electronics mixed with dark minimal electronics around. Harsh and terrifying sound sculptures are spit out over you. Pulsating noises and screaming machines will make you shiver.
‘Blot out your soul’ and ‘He colored me blind’ are excellent pieces to torture the dancefloor with.
Nightmarish are ‘The hell of a world next door’ and ‘Selection’. The extra three tracks are nice and are placed at the end of the record as a sort of bitter dessert.

Blut is an impressive and intense piece of work. The music has lost nothing of its power and impact in ten years time. This is all you could hope for when it comes to pitch black electronic music. A classic!

C/A/T – The Rogue Pair

Instead of abusing my fellow passengers when commuting home after an unsatisfying day at work, I was listening to this C/A/T release on my mobile music device. It’s just the suited type of music when you need to let off some steam, with its energetic adrenaline-filled EBM-industrial-techno mixture.

Compared to for instance the mcd “Worldwide Totalitarian Control”, “The Rogue Pair” has a much more straightforward sound. You’re treated to hammering technoid beats, crunchy distortorted rhythms, trancy synth melodies and occassional speech samples. Unlike previous work this release is not that politically engaged, though you might hear an occasional ‘Al Qaida’-remark. The subject matter is a bit wider know, and deals for instance with… breasts in ‘Enhancer (“you’re obsessed with tits!”).

It’s good stuff for listening on the road or to keep the dancefloors busy. When you play this cd on repeat in the living room, you might get easily bored, since most tracks follow more or less the same recipe, it’s just that one piece is louder and faster than the other, culminating in ‘The Rogue Pair [v.1]’, which has a thundering gabba terror sound. There are also various mixes by the likes of Terrorfakt and Manufactora, but they don’t add too much substantial in my opinion.
Coming soon from C/A/T is an EP called “ATF”, followed later this year by a full length album called “A Warning To All”.

Napalmed – Strident abrasive auricular erosion

You asked for something obscure? Well, here you have a true underground release. Napalmed is a noise/industrial project from the Czech Republic that is around for more than 10 years, with numerous people involved and a guy called Radek Kopel as driving force.

Dozens and dozens of home-made releases were created, mainly tapes in small quantities, but also various cd’s and vinyls. Like this 12″ in a colourful manga sleeve on Lo-Fi or Die, a label normally more into breakcore. Apparently this is a collection of Napalmed’s early recordings remastered from cassette.

Loads of samples, for instance from cheesy pop music (Alphaville’s ‘Forever young’) or trash metal, records played at the wrong speed, cut up tape loops and radio broadcasts are combined with harsh noises, created with the strangest sources like junk materials, household products and old analogue equipment. Everything is totally lo-fi and the sequence of sounds often seems to be completely random and improvised. Lots of distortion and never a dull moment.

To be honest, this is not a record to play often, unless you’re aiming for a nervous breakdown. But the musical madness and chaos of Napalmed often puts a smile on my face. At least its noisy and entertaining.

PPF / ICK – Collectivistes / Individualistes

Two French projects from the industrial underground have teamed up for this limited piece of vinyl, which was released somewhere last year. Side A contains two pieces by PPF and four tracks by I-C-K, while the other side of the record contains four collaborative efforts.

The two acts combine old-fashioned raw industrial and minimal wave/electro elements, let’s roughly say between Throbbing Gristle and Absolute Body Control. Now and then things get a little violent with some heavy distorted vocals. A good example is the first track by PPF, ‘La Grande Colère’, which combines agression with a nice melody, though 10 minutes is perhaps a little too long.

This release has an uncomprising unpolished, rather lo-fi sound. Nevertheless the tracks are not inaccessible, due to elements like the dry rhythms which make you nod your head, the melodic analogue synth (for instance in one of my favourite pieces ‘Déchéance Transparence’) or the cool spacy bleeps in ‘All this solitude destroys me’. This record is quite a pleasure to listen to with its cold, nostalgic atmosphere.

Dove Yellow Swans – Live During War Crimes

I was really surprised by this cd. Not just this cd, but this cd on this label, Release The Bats Records. The label releases post-punk related music and until now always guitar sounds. Yellow Swans (often with an ever changing D-word placed in front of the name) produces a very different post-punk sound, namely industrial noise.

Their industrial is in the old style like Throbbing Gristle first gave it to the world and a band like Wolf Eyes plays it today. Live During War Crimes is a collection of tracks from various older (tape) releases but with a very cohesive feeling. Also all tracks were recorded in a live situation. The sound quality is superb, so no cheap lo-fi recordings here.

What you get are six untitled noisescapes based on improvisation and mainly produced by electronic mains. Prepare yourself for apocalyptic minimalistic sonic bombardments in the best tradition of industrial music.

This cd comes in a nice special format sleeve. It has been awhile since I heard such excellent and true industrial sounds. Highly recommended!!

Initial Prayer – The last men in Europe

This cd of an unknown band with not very attractive artwork made me a bit sceptical. But after having listened to “The last men in Europe” a couple of times, I’m quite enthousiastic.

The sound of Initial Prayer is doomy and hypnotizing. On many tracks they have a slow and monotonous sound often reminding me of 80’s industrial icons like Controlled Bleeding, Coil or Swans. But there are also seem to be neoclassical, psychedelic and krautrock influences present. That Initial Prayer sounds a bit nostalgic is not so strange, because apparently they have been active since the early 80’s.

Distorted guitars with a lot of feedback play a prominent role on the first few tracks, while atmospheric synths play a bigger role in the second half. The convincing vocals are often declamated in a way resembling the likes of Boyd Rice. To make things more interesting, the lyrics deal with all kinds of challenging philosophical concepts.

There are even a few catchy, melodic tunes present on this album. Especially the infectious ‘We serve’, complete with wavy synths and handclaps, could well be served at an underground dancefloor. The slower tracks are also worthwhile, like the slow and compelling hymn ‘Prelude’.

To end with some namedropping: the cd has been mastered by veterans Sion Orgon and Thighpaulsandra. A recommended album which should appeal to everyone with an interest in somewhat retro industrial & wave as well as postrock.

Loss – I kill everything

Without a doubt one of the most impressive industrial releases I heard in the past months. Loss already caught my attention with the mcd A letter that will never be sent. The first full-length album of this New York based project of certainly fulfilled my high expectations.

The first track ‘The Turning’ directly sounds overwhelming. It has a huge wall of noise, with a thick crunchy sound which is barely penetrated by the heavy distorted vocals. But underneath it all is an attractive, melancholic synth melody which keeps you drawn to the track during its 7-minute lenght. The second track, ‘The waste that was to be’, is much more rhythmic, with a technoid beat and some repetitive ritual elements. A fine danceable piece somewhat in the vein of This Morn’ Omina.

It is followed by the slower, ominous track ‘Freedom in ashes’, which is dominated by harsh power electronics style vocals, noisy outbursts and a nice neoclassical background. Five more tracks follow, each with a different approach, like the droney ambient piece ‘Wrapped up?’.

Loss certainly has created a powerful debut album. Sheer force is combined with lush atmospheres, noise and melody go hand in hand. There is a great deal of variety abound and every track manages to convey a lot of (darker) emotions. Highly recommended!

Maska Genetik – Quarantine

New releases on Galakthorrö are pretty scarce. New acts on this German cult label are even rarer. Maska Genetik first made its appearance on the label compilation Kosmoloko, with two excellent tracks.

Now Galakthorrö has presented the official debut release of Maska Genetik, a 7″ EP called “Quarantine”. As usual the release comes with a special heavy cover in a limited edition to wet the collector’s appetite. The ‘angst pop’ style of the four tracks on this single won’t be too much of a surprise for followers of Galakthorrö.

Maska Genetik sounds somewhere the slower works of Haus Arafna (“Butterfly) and November Növelet. This means nervously pulsating analogue synth patterns, unpleasant spoken/shouted vocals with undecipherable lyrics, dirty noises and cold mechanical rhythms. As always the feeling is unpleasant and apocalyptic, like an aural confrontation with man’s lowest habits.

The tracks on the single sound slow and claustrophobic. They are more tranquil and less rhythmic than Maska Genetik’s contributions on the Kosmoloko sampler. The music on this single is not entirely original, but I find the atmosphere stll appealing and addictive.

Sons of Bronson – Niñas y marisco

A release for the die-hard noise fans. The Sons of Bronson from Barcelona don’t sound like the merciful types. The first heavily distorted sounds directly make me move away from my speakers.

I’m quite relieved when the first track is over, a seemingly improvised slab of noise and sound experimentations which should appeal to daily consumers of Prurient or Merzbow. This is not to say that the other tracks are less brutal, they just have slightly more moments of relative rest.

Here and there are some metal influences, but the main ingredient throughout remains violent and chaotic noise, with heavily manipulated samples which often resemble machinegun fire. Now and then a recognizable rhythm makes its appearance, but never longer than a few seconds. A cd for lovers of pure experimental noise without distracting vocals, melodies or rhythms.

My compliments by the way for the artwork, a striking combination of knives, lobsters and small children.