Tag: Death Industrial (Page 2 of 3)

Theologian – Forced Utopia – Review

Artist: Theologian
Album: Forced Utopia
Release date: 20 October 2017
Label: Danvers State Recordings

Tracklist:
01. Side A 28:59
A1. In The End Times
A2. The Sisters
A3. We Envy Our Gods For Their Indifference
A4. Spent Fuel Rods
02. Side B 29:36
B1. Forced Utopia
B2. Subtract
B3. Indifference Redux
B4. Epilogue

Theologian is an artist I’ve been talking about quite frequently since the advent of This Is Darkness. His talents have been secured for numerous of the recent Cadabra Records spoken-art releases, particularly the H.P. Lovecraft ones. But the musical works of Lee Bartow go much deeper, spanning back into the late 90s as Navicon Torture Technologies, Bartow has been tearing up the death industrial, power electronics, and dark ambient scenes. All the while, his Annihilvs Power Electronix (APEX) label has been providing a foundation for a multitude of post-industrial artists.

Between 2009 and 2013, Theologian slowly replaced Navicon Torture Technologies as the primary of Bartow’s projects. Theologian has proved to be an incredibly diverse project, with sounds that can span several genres in a single track. This breadth of interest and expertise is what likely drew the attention of Cadabra Records when they were looking for dark eerie soundscapes to build the foundations for many of their spoken-art releases. The upcoming The Call of Cthulhu, which we’ll cover here, is likely to be one of the most impressive Cadabra Records releases to date, with Theologian (soundscapes) and Andrew Leman (readings) again taking the helm together.

The latest full-length solo release by Theologian is Forced Utopia, a look into a mind that sees in only darkness, in a world which is on a collision course with utter disaster. It equally examines the inner thoughts of one left to fend for themselves in an increasingly cannibalistic society, and the outer landscapes, as they dry and eventually conflagrate, burning to ash. The question of whether or not this existence is worth fighting for at all seems to be at the center of the narrative.

Forced Utopia has been an album that I’ve been pondering for a few months. There was never a question of whether or not it was worth taking the time to review, that answer has been apparent from the first play-through. But, dissecting the release, understanding what musical influences have come into play has proven to be a bit harder. In the end, suffice to say, it is basically futile to categorize much of what is happening here. The one comparison that does come to mind is the recent Shock Frontier, in the way that both albums seem to move through incredibly diverse stages touching on dark ambient, death industrial and power electronics, but also other, far reaching genres that would be much less obvious on the first analysis.

The opener, “In The End Times” has stayed pretty consistent as my favorite track on this release. There is a gradual build up, spanning several moments, before the terror is fully unleashed through heavily distorted vocals, which are given some of the most interesting treatment I’ve heard in a long time, a combination of effects which render Bartow’s vocals almost unearthly in their presentation. As the first half of the cassette progresses, we move through a number of different dark soundscapes, vividly painting that picture of apocalyptic ruin and mental degradation.

Side B moves on through varied mind-warping soundscapes, dark and sort of futuristic in palette. Toward the middle of Side B the energy is again driven into overcharge. Starting with a steady beat, electronic pulses, ghostly vocals hovering in the distance, we move into territory I wasn’t quite expecting. Bartow, delivers a vocal performance here, which is again quite impressive to say the least. Where at the beginning of the album the sounds were devastatingly harsh, here, we are taken into something on a vocal level which is more akin to an alternative rock style. But the rest of the track never abandons its cause, continuing to deal the devastating apocalyptic darkness that has saturated Forced Utopia. So, when these vocals pierce through, proclaiming the words, “This could be the year, I take myself out of the equation.”, it is a little bit more than gripping, it manages to add some serious heartfelt emotion to the album.

Forced Utopia came to us on cassette through Danvers State Recordings. An underground tape label run by Andrew Grant, also known for his project The Vomit Arsonist. (Note: Shortly after the birth of This Is Darkness, I reviewed Pulsed In A Dull Glass Bell by R.C. Kozletsky also known for Apocryphos and Shock Frontier, you can check out the review for that other brilliant release here.) The cassette format works well for this release, which seems to see the future as being so bleak. It can also be purchased digitally through Bartow’s Annihilvs Power Electronix Bandcamp page.

Forced Utopia is one of the most enjoyable Theologian releases I’ve heard to-date. I’ve been coming back to this release frequently and happily over the last few months, pondering it for review. While a review will occasionally give me a sigh of relief as I’m able to move into something fresh, this will likely be one of those releases I keep returning to frequently even over the coming weeks. Theologian gives us a little of everything that makes their music great, on Forced Utopia, while simultaneously painting a vividly bleak and disturbing picture for the listener to experience.

Written by: Michael Barnett

 

Shock Frontier – Tumult – Review

Artist: Shock Frontier
Album: Tumult
Release date: 1 December 2017
Label: Malignant Records

Tracklist:
01. The Cold Illucid World (feat. CMK)
02. What We Are
03. Duress
04. I Am Afraid & Bringing Fire (feat. Gnawed)
05. Ashes of Others
06. Once Assured of Salvation
07. Forfallen (feat. Noculture)
08. Our Vain Illusion
09. Tumult (feat. Kristoffer Oustad)

Shock Frontier is the death industrial project out of Pennsylvania manned by Kyle Carney and Robert Kozletsky. Many of you will be familiar with Kozletsky’s work on his dark ambient project, Apocryphos. Shock Frontier, like many of it’s death industrial brethren, is a no-holds barred aural assault on the senses. The music is meant to make you feel the emotions of the artists, right down to your gut. This emotion can be wide-ranging in theme but is always on the negative side of the spectrum. Following in the footsteps of artists like Brighter Death Now and Deutsch Nepal, the death industrial scene has continued to grow over the last few years, with artists like Steel Hook Prostheses, Theologian, The Vomit Arsonist and Gnawed (just to name a few from the Malignant roster), continuing to carry the torch for the next generation of listeners. Shock Frontier garnered much acceptance after their debut, Mancuerda Confessions back in 2013, but their new sophomore release, Tumult, will likely bring them all due respect that they deserve.

On their debut, Shock Frontier created incredibly harsh soundscapes which, frankly, had no need for improvement. So, instead of recreating their debut Shock Frontier decided to test new waters with their sounds. The most noticeable of these new elements will be the addition of vocals. The opening track, “The Cold Illucid World” introduces us to this new addition. We hear a sort of singing/yelling by Kyle Carney which introduces us to the themes at play on the album. As the track progresses the vocals slowly morph into all-out screams. While there is no traditional use of instruments like guitars or drums, the track still manages to have a sort of traditional song structure feel to it, which, as the album continues, corrodes further and further into the glorious depths of death industrial noise.

The third track of the album, “Duress” is my personal favorite. It opens with this powerful passage, which I’m honestly not sure if it’s their own lyrics or a clip from a film. I’d like to think it is them! (but I’m guessing it isn’t) “You think god will protect you from the head of this hammer? Or the six floors you are about to fall? As long as there is a god, men like you can kill thousands, millions. But you will never find peace. Well… I guess were going to have to kill God. That is my message to the world. Kill God.” What follows is a repetitive harsh industrial percussion drowned in a tumult of electronic noise. Through the entirety of the track, we hear the words “Kill God.” repeated in various inflections and levels of intensity. As a whole, it makes for a beautiful cacophony of noise, which is utterly devastating and relentless.

Another highlight is the closer, “Tumult”, which includes the talents of Kristoffer Oustad, as well as another spine-tingling sample of an older gentlemen speaking of what would seem to be their plans for a mass suicide… in the name of God… This track is one of the few throughout the album that have a bit lower level of intensity, holding the death industrial vibes while moving into sounds that are, at times, quite dark ambient. It leaves the listener with an incredibly uneasy feeling as the album reaches its close.

Bringing in the talents of several other musicians (including Gnawed, Noculture and Kristoffer Oustad) to collaborate on a few tracks, Shock Frontier are able to further diversify their sounds from the previous release. What we are left with is a scathing look at humanity, through the eyes of people that have clearly had enough of the current trends and cultures that fill our modern planet. Themes of apocalyptic confrontations, mass suicides, and a corroded natural environment take listeners into the deepest darkest fears and sadistic pleasures mankind has to offer.

Shock Frontier have absolutely proven their worth on Tumult. The album is challenging at times, but always at maximum intensity and always drenched in negative emotion, even during its more reserved, dark ambient leaning tracks. This new vision was given the full treatment by Malignant Records, housed in a beautiful DVD digipak with irradiated, irreligious, apocalyptic art created by Noculture. The sounds are mastered by death industrial veteran John Stillings of Steel Hook Prostheses. Kozletsky and Carney have bared their souls, grinding out tracks which surely took them into the darkest recesses of their psyches and Malignant gave them a platform to spill this deviant heresy on the post-industrial world. It is now left to us, the listeners, to share this dark beast with the unsuspecting masses. May they bask in its deviance… or crumble beneath its iron grip.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Trepaneringsritualen – Kainskult – Review

Artist: Trepaneringsritualen
Album: Kainskult
Release date: 1 October 2017
Label: Tesco Organization

Tracklist:
01. Death & Ecstasy
02. Maðr Malformed
03. All Flesh Has Corrupted
04. ᚲ ∴ ᚲ ∴ ᚲ
05. Feral Me
06. Serpent Seed
07. An Immaculate Body of Water
08. ∴
09. V ∴ V ∴ V

Injecting catchiness into styles as unfriendly as death industrial or ritual industrial might seem about as logical as trying to teach anteaters how to read, but that’s exactly what Swedish experimental artist Thomas Martin Ekelund has done with his newest release under the alias Trepaneringsritualen (TxRxP for short. You’re welcome.). Though thematically and aesthetically up to the standard this death industrial heavyweight set for mechanical dementia, Kainskult remains as infectious as it is caustic.

In comparison to the grinding ritualism of 2014’s Perfection & Permanence, this LP’s approach sports pervading accessibility in the midst of its harsh overtones. “Death & Ecstasy” starts Kainskult off familiarly enough with growls cadencing clanking thuds and tribal grunts, but incomes quasi-melodic vocalizations evoking the most disconcerting affectations of Michael Gira and Attila Csihar’s most atmospheric tendencies. This juxtaposition of hair-raising terror and penetrating emotion derails expectations while enhancing the impact of Kainskult tenfold, which only becomes more apparent when “Death & Ecstasy” collapses into “Maðr Malformed.”

This track and the following “All Flesh Has Corrupted” sear their grooves onto eardrums like a branding iron. The former’s driving tribal percussion and subterraneanly heavy synth lines provide the perfect backdrop for demonic chants, standing in contrast to the plodding tom-tom hits and echoing back-beat of the latter. Though intimate delivery pails before bestial brutality, these songs transcend genre norms as they embody a maniacal occultist dance while pummeling listeners to smithereens.

The importance of vocals on Kainskult needs to be stressed. In many ways they’re the nucleus for the album’s memorability. On top of expanding his range, Ekelund also collaborates with several other throat-masters this time around, allowing his lyrics to take center stage on multiple occasions through multiple filters, accentuating ceremonial auras while embedding his words into the souls of listeners. The factory-esque military percussion and bass pulse on “Feral Me,” while punishing enough in its own right, brutalizes to a tremendous effect through fiery gutturals. TxRxP is no longer just about scaring, but decimating.

As its title might have already clarified, Kainskult centers around the biblical character Kain, known to Judeo-Christianity as the first murderer, and to Ekelund as the “Original Heresiarch.” His explorations of both the metaphysical divergency and visceral malice at play in Kain’s story, when coupled with paranoia-inducing drone-scapes and dirgey percussion, produce some of the most haunting music in the genre. The depth charge percussive blasts and glacial sound collages in ambient tracks like “ᚲ ∴ ᚲ ∴ ᚲ” delve into the depths of Kain’s outlook, while more structured cuts harness his archaic infamy to drive their auditory destruction.

“Serpent Seed” and “An Immaculate Body of Water” respectively encapsulate Kainskult’s undeniable groove and atmospheric rites within impregnable harshness. The former employs triplet-based vocal patterns almost bordering on rap over a bludgeoning beat, while the latter’s ominous synth lead piles layers of filthy distortion and disembodied voices comparing to West Europe’s Stalaggh/Gulaggh in aural excruciation. With the exception of the 29-second interlude “∴,” which serves only to transition from the aforementioned track into the concluding “V ∴ V ∴ V,” these tracks conjure believable vibes while energizing TxRxP‘s overall sound.

In the final song, Ekelund showcases his ability to balance accessible forays with the cavernous terror he has become known for. A hypnotic industrial beat slowly gains more complexity, while cleverly-placed descending synth lines provide the perfect foundation for Ekelund’s one-to-100 vocal jumps. The atmosphere remains intact thanks to unique auras produced by grating gutturals and brooding mutterings, keeping listeners guessing until the album closes with dynamic leaps.

TxRxP has broken new ground for the death industrial sound while paying proper respect to the style’s inaccessible nature, something Ekelund’s contemporaries often struggle to accomplish. Many projects embrace outside influences as they try to push beyond their template, but this album remains firmly rooted in brain-bashing claustrophobia. Trepaneringsritualen produces something hardcore fans of this music will adore, but also provides enough glimmers of approachability for those lost in the sonic fray — making Kainskult one of the most potent death industrial releases to drop in recent years.

Written by: Maxwell Heilman

Atrox Pestis – Exclusive Full Album Stream & Music Video Premiere

We are very pleased to share with you an exclusive preview of the new Atrox Pestis album, Hewn by the Hands of the Damned, set for release on Chryptus Records! Grant Richardson, the man behind Atrox Pestis is better known for his main project Gnawed. The death industrial project, Gnawed, has already released several acclaimed albums through Malignant Records as well as their own label, Maniacal Hatred. The full length debut of his dark ambient project Atrox Pestis is being released courtesy of Chryptus Records, an up & coming label which has already released albums by Strigae and Anthony Amelang.

The promotional video is an eight minute piece created by Grant Richardson himself, and complements the title track “Hewn by the Hands of the Damned”. Hewn by the Hands of the Damned releases January 5, 2018!

Album blurb by Chryptus Records:

“Mark 9:43
And if thy hand offend thee, cut it off: it is better for thee to enter into life maimed, than having two hands to go into hell, into the fire that never shall be quenched

Genesis 1:6
And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters

Who are “the damned,” the living or the dead, and which of these is the cruel plague? We have riven great scars in the surface of the planet. Each human age brings with it more terrible capabilities. Do we approach godhood, or something else? The ambivalence of the great powers of the universe is frightening.

Where Gnawed is the bloody heartbeat of humans crushed by their own creation, Atrox Pestis is that same barren world self-reflecting. Pristine bass, distant scrape, the rumination of a world luxuriating in deep, geological time. Those ambivalent forces have set about reshaping our world. What will be created next?

Hewn by the Hands of the Damned releases January 5, 2018!”

Read the review of Atrox Pestis‘ previous EP here.
Links:
Chryptus Records Facebook, Bandcamp, Twitter, Instagram
Atrox Pestis Discogs

The Final Struggle – Darkness & Death Mix

A mix of dark ambient and death industrial music. The theme of this mix is a story of a dying planet, a protagonist at their wits end, the final struggle between life and death and ultimately defeat. The afterlife is enshrouded in turmoil and the final resting place of the soul is conjectured. This mix is at times serene with strong religiosity, and yet the mood and atmosphere is chaotic and constantly shifting, reflecting the final struggle in the before and after.
Checkout the full tracklist with links to each album at the bottom of this page!
(For some reason the mixcloud app leaves a ton of blank space after it, just scroll further down.)

01. 0:00:00 Shrine – The Night That Hell Broke Loose
02. 0:07:00 Sabled Sun – Black Void
03. 0:09:50 Anemone Tube – Suicidal Fantasy (Negation of Myth II)
04. 0:13:30 R|A|A|N – Arrival of the Sek
05. 0:17:30 Steel Hook Prostheses – The Medicus
06. 0:22:00 Council of Nine – I No Longer Hear You
07. 0:27:50 Svartsinn & Allseits – Falling Pt.2
08. 0:33:10 Climax Denial & Gnawed – He Is Himself Instead Of The Body He Touches
09. 0:39:10 Flowers For Bodysnatchers – Blood Trumpets And Nihilism
10. 0:44:50 The Vomit Arsonist – There Is Nothing Here
11. 0:49:50 Brighter Death Now – There Is Nothing Left In This World
12. 0:55:30 Fear-Modern-Man – Nightmare Death Syndrome
13. 1:01:20 Epiglottis – Her Fifth Visit – “Suicide Attempt”
14. 1:02:30 Spine – The Dying Process
15. 1:09:50 Xerxes The Dark – Departing Scene
16. 1:15:05 Hezaliel – A Death Without Reaction
17. 1:19:40 Yen Pox – Grief Ritual
18. 1:27:50 IRM – Closure V
19. 1:33:50 Paranoia Inducta – Sanctuary of Madness
20. 1:37:35 Anima Nostra – Solemn Majesty
21. 1:42:50 Phragments – The Fire Still Burns
22. 1:48:35 Randal Collier-Ford – Watching Eden Burn
23. 1:52:00 Inade – Abandoned Inferno
24. 1:57:00 Melek-Tha & Corona Barathri – Dark Heresy [The Edge of Darkness]
25. 2:03:35 Monocube – Drowned Sun
26. 2:07:45 Shibalba – Opening The Shadow Box
27. 2:14:00 VelgeNaturlig – The Hum
28. 2:16:15 Cities Last Broadcast – Cornerstone
29. 2:21:30 Theologian & Leila Abdul Rauf – Ziggurat

Martin Bladh – Interview (re-pub)

This interview was originally published in January 2017 on Terra Relicta – Dark Music Webmagazine. Tomaz has been kind enough to allow me to re-publish the interview here on This Is Darkness!

Interview with: Martin Bladh
Conducted by: Michael Barnett

Martin Bladh is a multi-faceted artist. Over his years in the public eye, Martin has worked on numerous visual, musical, and performance art projects. He entered the public realm through his power-electronics project, IRM, with Erik Jarl, and later joined by Mikael Oretoft. He would soon join forces with Magnus Lindh creating the musical force know as Skin Area. Martin has also done musical projects with Sektor 304, entitled Ruby, and with Bo I. Cavefors, entitled The Island Of Death, as well as a number of his own personal musical projects. Delving into the medium of film, Martin has created a handful of videos, many of which can be seen on the DVD accompanying Epicurean Escapism I. He also played a large part in the production of the feature film, Gasper. In the visual art world, Martin has joined forces with Karolina Urbaniak, starting Infinity Land Press. Through Infinity Land Press he has already participated in the production of a number of books, including The Rorschach Text, To Putrefaction, No Breath Of Sound – The History Of Drowning and Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome. With all these projects in the works along with more that I haven’t even mentioned, and others which haven’t yet found their way to the public eye, Martin Bladh is a very busy man. I am honored to have the multi-media artist take a little time out of his dizzying schedule to answer some questions about his art and some others which lead in a more personal direction.

Michael: I have to admit from the start, I was a bit nervous to conduct this interview. So often these days in entertainment, artists follow their own path, without much attention to overarching themes or the history of art. I get the feeling when observing your various forms of art, that there is a serious depth, hidden meanings, allegories, which all need to be taken into account to fully appreciate your body of work. Do you have a formal education in the arts, or has this always been a natural passion for you?

Martin: I’m interested in the history of art, and yes, I’ve studied it at the university as well. Even though you don’t need the faculties I really believe this is something people need to know and understand, before they can call themselves “artist,” or using words such as “important,” “urgent,” “brave” or “original.” I also went to so-called art school for some years, which was, and is nothing but utter BULLSHIT that should be shunned like the plague. I’m sure that at least 95% of all this silly playground nonsense does more damage to the so-called artist to be and the art-world in whole.

Michael: Considering my previous question, do you find that fans often notice the underlying meanings?

Martin: Well, I’ve different kinds of fans. Some of my “music fans” are mainly interested in noise and the pitch of my voice. I mean if you haven’t bought the latest IRM and Skin Area CD’s, read the lyrics and looked at the artworks you have a very vague idea about the content. You can’t listen to an MP3 and experience it, that’s just impossible. Then of course you wouldn’t count as a FAN if you didn’t buy the actual record, right? Saying that, my work has a vagueness, and ambivalence to it, it points you into specific territories but it doesn’t have one specific meaning.

Michael: Are you equally happy to see fans enjoying your art, regardless of their understanding of the underlying meanings?

Martin: I don’t like laziness, which is a huge problem these days. There’s too much information out there and it’s too easy to get it; that instead of really analyse a subject people are just scratching the surface and move on to the next download. I mean, the day people will start to buy kindle art-books everything is fucked! But of course, it’s always nice to be appreciated, even if it’s only for having composed a curious tune, or a framed decorative piece of tapestry.

Collage Inspired by Rembrandt’s The Blinding of Samson

Michael: You have recently started a company, Infinite Land Press, with Karolina Urbaniak. Would you like to tell readers a little bit about the goals of the press and some of the recent publications?

Martin: Me and Karolina Urbaniak started Infinity Land Press back in 2013 as a means to publish our own material without having to deal with any middleman. I still lived in Sweden back then and Karolina was based in London. Our first book To Putrefaction (2013), a romantic ode to death and decay, was strictly limited to 50 copies. We then got the idea to publish books with other artists that we admired, such as Dennis Cooper, Michael Salerno and most recently Philip Best, and collaborations between ourselves and other artists – Karolina did Altered Balance with Jeremy Reed and The Void Ratio with Shane Levene, and in the beginning of 2017 me and Jeremy Reed’s book Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome was released. We usually deal in strictly limited editions because that’s what we can afford and stock in our office (which is our living room), and we’ll continue to publish as long as we find material that’s interesting enough. Our credo: Infinity Land is a realm deeply steeped in pathological obsessions, extreme desires, and private aesthetic visions. Having disappeared over the horizon from the nurseries stocked with frivolous babblings of apologetic pleasures, Infinity Land is foundationally a geography configured by the compulsive, annihilating search for impossible beauty.

“True beauty is something that attacks, overpowers, robs, and finally destroys.”
Yukio Mishima

Michael: As I’ve already alluded to, your artistic vision is truly multi-faceted. You have released everything from books, to DVDs, to albums. You have also done some stage shows which combine aspects of all these projects. Can we look at your entire body of work as part of a whole? Is there an over-arching vision which anchors all these ideas into one central theme?

Martin: I like the Wagnerian idea of the Gesamtkunstwerk, where different artistic media bleed together into one synthesis. It might be a weakness, but I’ve never felt satisfied by expressing myself through a single media, and I’ve vivid memories of the suffocating frustration that I went through from the period 1998 – 2003, when sounds and lyrics was my only outlet. The multimedia expression has become an absolute necessity for me, if you read my books DES and The Hurtin’ Club you know what I mean. And yes, every new project I do has a specific content which I try to filter through these various medias.

Michael: Out of all your musical output over the years, I was the most intrigued by your work on Ruby with Sektor 304. The vocal style was totally different than I had experienced on IRM or Skin Area albums. I wonder if you could give us some insight into that album? How it came about as a collaboration between you and Sektor 304. Also, I wonder what your connection is to the character named Ruby, the main focus of the album.

Martin: I’m glad to hear you saying that as I believe it to be highly underrated. The Sektor 304 guys contacted me back in 2012, and wanted me to send them a guest recording for a live broadcast they were doing for the Portuguese radio. When I heard the result I was very pleased and asked them if they wanted to collaborate with me on an album. I remember making clear from the start that this would be something different from what I’ve been doing with IRM and Skin Area, and the guys were very sympathetic and excited about that. The whole narrative and background story of Ruby (the name’s got an alchemical inclination) came out of a clinical study from the late 50ties, about art therapy and schizophrenia which I’ve read. It was based on dialogs between a psychiatrist and patient, how the patient’s explained his painting for the psychiatrist and the interpretation process involved. I kind of re-wrote this material for my own purpose, which (obviously) took it into even darker territories, and that was the birth of the androgynous Ruby.

Michael: I had the pleasure of witnessing an IRM performance last year, on the APEX Fest Tour. The performance was magnificent. You had an extremely theatrical stage presence, which seemed almost choreographed, everything from your facial expressions to body positioning, and the handling of the two microphones. Do you put a lot of preparation into your live sets for all your projects or was this a natural presence which just seemed to be calculated?

Martin: Nothing I do on stage has been prepared or choreographed beforehand; but I’ve done these performances for quite some time now; so I might rely on my body memory. The only so called “preparation” I do is to drink, and let the alcohol sensation peak when I go on stage, I guess it’s somewhat similar to an Dionysian frenzy, and I really work myself up when I’m up there; so I’m not really aware of my body postures or facial expression until watching the reproduction of the show afterwards (which I do very seldom).

from DES: Sad Sketches

Michael: Continuing on the topic of the APEX Fest, I was delighted to read in the “Through My Eyes” article (you can read that article here) on Santa Sangre Magazine: “Any moment of 2015 you’ll remember on your death bed? The city of Baltimore. I never seen anything like it in the western world. A hellhole. Amazing.” Obviously, coming from Baltimore, I found this remark quite interesting. Baltimore, as with much of the United States and Europe, is currently undergoing a lot of social changes and realizations. I would be interested if you could take that previous statement into a bit more detail, and describe to the readers exactly what you found so different about Baltimore.

Martin: Ha, ha, well I guess that statement was a bit unfair, cause I only saw some of the roughest parts of the city, which actually reminded me of photographs of Berlin 1945, with whole building blocks caving in on themselves. I know there’s another side to the city as well, but I never seen anything like it neither in Western nor Eastern Europe. I remember asking the organiser for a pharmacy and she told me there was one just a couple of hundred meters away, but to get there I should take cab because otherwise it might be too dangerous.

Michael: In 2014, your most enduring musical project, IRM released Closure… through Malignant Records. You also released the track, “Triptych”, which is a sort of crash course of the whole trilogy which included: Indications of Nigredo, Order4 and Closure… Since finalizing this chapter of IRM, have you begun to work on something new, or is IRM currently on hold as you guys focus on other projects like Skin Area, Jarl, and Infinity Land Press?

Martin: IRM haven’t worked on any new material since finalising Closure… , and I’m not sure when we’ll start again. Everything is a bit more complicated since I moved to London and the other two guys are still in Sweden (living in different cities). Our records are recorded and put together very carefully, and the process of making the last two full length albums was very time consuming. Me and Magnus are actually in the process of putting together a new Skin Area record though, and we work on it every time I visit Sweden.

from Gasper

Michael: I recently reviewed the Pale Thorns debut album, Somberland. Pale Thorns is a solo-project by Magnus Lindh, the other half of Skin Area. When I spoke with Magnus, he mentioned that you had looked over his lyrical content on the album. We both agreed that your lyrics are totally unique and deliver extremely powerful imagery. I wonder if you can think back to when you first started writing lyrics. Were you a child when you first put the pen to paper, or did this come later in life as you started IRM with Erik?

Martin: As a kid I had a very vivid imagination, but I was more keen on drawing than writing. It was back in 1992 that I made my first attempts to write – coloured by the second wave of Black Metal – and from what I remember, they were hideously bad. It was later when I started to nurture a genuine interest in literature that something happened. Oedipus Dethroned (2000) would probably be the first serious example of some kind of craft.

Michael: Which writers or filmmakers have been the most influential on you throughout your life? Has this list changed much over the years as you have become an adult?

Martin: As a child I was obsessed with comic book- and James Bond villains, the only “books” I ever read were things like Flash Gordon. When I was a bit older I discovered H.P. Lovecraft and horror films. Then writers like Sade, Burroughs, Lautreamont and Mishima together with filmmakers like Stanley Kubrick, David Lynch and Pasolini turned everything topsy turvy. And then as an adult, “mature” man, I might settle for writer such as Antonin Artaud, Georg Trakl and Jean Genet, and as for film Ingmar Bergman, Fassbinder and Michael Haneke.

Michael: Sweden seems to be a place where so much unique talent enters the public realm, especially when it comes to the darker side of media. What do you think it is about Sweden which produces such dark and introspective artists?

Martin:That’s what an outsider sees when he scratches the surface, dig a little deeper and you’ll find that most of it is rather harmless and PC, filled with individuals who have a morality quite similar to your own mother’s. But yes, there are a lot of acts that originate from Sweden, and some of them are really good. A lot of it might have to do with luxury angst; to live in a safe and pampered society might give you a desire for controlled danger as spice to the boredom of everyday life. Then when it comes to medias such as literature, film or conceptual and visual art the country is a desert – total shite that is.

from Darkleaks – The Ripper Genome

Michael: You have since relocated to London, is the U.K. a more fitting home-base for your operations?

Martin: I’m closer to Karolina, and it’s of course much easier to run Infinity Land Press from here. I have two day jobs and I’ve never worked as much as I do now, but because of that I’m pricing the time I spend on my “real” work much higher.

Michael: Do you think the apocalypse is coming, if so how do you think it will happen?

Martin: Some kind of apocalypse is coming our way, but even the apocalypse isn’t the end…

Martin Bladh links: Official website, Infinity Land Press website, Infinity Land Press Facebook, IRM Facebook, Skin Area Facebook

Anima Nostra – Atraments – On the Periphery – Review

Artist: Anima Nostra
Album: Atraments
Release date: 16 June 2017
Label: Malignant Records

Tracklist:
01. Composition for the Shadow Self
02. Naamah
03. Blameless
04. Tabula Smaragdina
05. Solemn Majesty
06. Anima Nostra
07. Intermezzo for the Double-Wanded One
08. Doxologia Yaldabaoth
09. The Seal

Henrik Nordvargr Björkk is one of the most active and relevant members of the post-industrial scene. His project Mz.412 put him on that map as far back as the late 1980s. Since then he has taken part in a staggering number of projects. His albums have been released by such labels as Cold Meat Industry, Cold Spring, Cyclic Law and Malignant Records to name just a few. In recent years, we’ve seen a some great output by a few of his “side-projects” if they can be called that, as most of his work these days, in one way or another, consists of a side-project to some other previous greatness, be it Mz.412, Pouppée Fabrikk, Nordvargr, etc.

In early 2016 Nordvargr teamed up with Margaux Renaudin to release an album entitled Anima Nostra on Cold Spring. The album consisted of music that was hard to accurately label. There were elements of death industrial, doom metal, neo-classical and dark ambient. The duo were so happy with the final product that they quickly began to work on a follow-up album, this time they named their project/band Anima Nostra. He recently released several well received albums on Malignant Records including The Secret Barbarous Names as Nordvargr and Avatars of Rape and Rage as Körperwelten, a collaboration with Lee Bartow of Theologian/Navicon Torture Technologies. So it followed that Anima Nostra would return to Malignant Records with their newest creation, Atraments.

As was the case with their debut the year before, Anima Nostra bring together an amalgamation of styles/genres that seem like they would clash, but for Anima Nostra the combination works perfectly. Atrament, a word many may not be familiar with, is defined as black fluid. A look over the beautifully crafted digi-pak gives us a literal example of this word in use. Much of the album art consists of a matte black background with a glossy black lettering. The characters are unfamiliar to me, but seem to have similarities to Urdu, ancient Sumerian and ancient Akkadian alphabets. The digi-pak comes with an 8-page booklet containing even more of these beautifully antiquated scripts.

Atraments glides between the territory of multiple genres effortlessly. The opening track, “Composition for the Shadow Self” has an ambient start, which evolves into some glacially paced doom metal style music. The guitar is distorted and only uses several chords repeatedly over industrial metallic drums which give the track an almost religious, tribal feel. Nordvargr’s vocals are deep and guttural screams. “Naamah”, the following track, consists of a screeching guitar feedback which drones over a plethora of drums, whispers and screams, which all provide a backdrop to Nordvargr’s spoken words which are highly ritualistic. Then there are tracks like “Tabula Smaragdina” and “Solemn Majesty” which incorporate Gregorian style chants and other beautiful religious stylized sounds, such as a cathedralic organ section, which provide the perfect opposition to the other more gritty and chaotic tracks.

Atraments is far from my usual musical interests. In general, I’m not always a fan of the many varied works of Nordvargr. but I greatly enjoyed the aforementioned Körperwelten and obviously some of the works of Mz.412, so I gave this latest release an honest chance. My first impressions were a bit negative, again I’m not a huge fan of doom metal in particular. But, after the second and third playthroughs I started to really understand the project and slowly but surely fell in love with each track and the nuances and progressions that take place throughout the album. This is why I would never review an album without giving it numerous listens, first impressions can be misleading, some things, especially those that fall outside the usual genre boundaries, need time to make sense to the listener. At this point, I could say that I highly recommend Atraments to any fans of the varied output of Malignant Records. It seems that the variety of releases from the Malignant label all find their way of making sense within the frame-work of this one single album. There is the dark, the brooding, the beautiful, and the ugly, all making appearances on Atraments.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Bleach for the Stars – The Time for Silver Flowers – Review

Artist: Bleach for the Stars
Album: The Time for Silver Flowers
Release date: 12 June 2017
Label: Cromlech Records

Tracklist:
01. Ashen Light
02. The Wild Vine
03. Eight Eleven
04. Husk Marant

Bleach for the Stars is a project by Benjamin Power of The United Kingdom. Active in dark ambient and related genres for the last few years, he has built up a varied collection of releases. Tapping into different aspects of his psyche, Power feeds into Bleach For The Stars his love of various aspects of the post-industrial scene as well as his troubled and painful past.

It seems that Benjamin Power has been through quite a bit of turmoil in his life. His albums reflect an inner pain that is undeniable. Often his works lean heavily in the directions of death industrial, power electronics and other heavier forms of post-industrial music. Using his vocals as a weapon, his music easily portrays this inner pain, taking something that can at times seem hateful and resent-filled, yet turning these emotions into a conduit for healthy release. In the process, fans of his music can turn to these albums to help cope with their own struggles with the world, as many of us often find reality to be a bleak and fickle concept.

The Time For Silver Flowers does not dial back on the emotional elements. But in terms of musical execution the sounds will be much more reserved than previous fare by Bleach For The Stars. The Time For Silver Flowers is able to fit more squarely into the dark ambient framework than much of his work. Yet, even with this said, the version of dark ambient that you will find here is still super-charged with emotion, the sounds are gritty, reminding that there is still no abatement to the inner pain of the composer.

The vocals are used in a haunting manner. Especially on tracks like the closer, “Husk Marant”, we can hear the laments of someone hopelessly pain-stricken. Whether this is a purely emotional pain, or also showing physical manifestations, the foundation of the message seems clear, the suffering shall never end. The vocal input, presumably all created by Power, appears takes on the voice of more than one character. At some points it seems as if there are numerous souls all crying out in agony. At other times, the vocals take on a deep and distorted nature, they sound of the heavy wails and cackles of a demoniac source. As these tortured screams reverberate throughout the track, it becomes almost plausible that the track is taking place within the infernal fires of the underworld. As if the sounds come directly from the mouth of the lord of darkness, Lucifer himself.

The vocals may be the most unique aspect of the album, but they are not necessarily the primary focus until later, especially during the final track, “Husk Marant”. There is a slow build up toward that final climactic closure. The opener, “Ashen Light” starts in a subdued fashion, with what seems to be the sound manipulations of some analog synth source. The industrial elements are always present, though it should be noted that I use the term industrial here to portray a sense of setting or location not necessarily to speak of that particular genre of music.

As each track progresses, they all build upon their foundations, starting in a more reserved fashion and then adding layers of sound, building toward a cacophonous climax later in each track. The gently expanding and receding format makes it much easier for the casual listener to enjoy this experience. There is not a constant onslaught of aural terror tactics. The occasional lulls give us the needed down-time to appreciate each subsequent climax all the more fully.

This is the fourth release on Cromlech Records, which is helmed by Arne Weinberg of Valanx and Solemn Embrace. For listeners familiar with the previous three releases there should not be too much surprise here. The music sticks to a predominately analog format. But, The Time For Silver Flowers does seem a bit unique in its uses of vocals and personal subject matter. The album comes in similar packaging to the label’s debut, a 4-panel CD card wallet with relatively abstract two-tone cover-art. Benjamin Power has included in this release a poem, printed upon a high quality card insert. As expected, the content of the poem is bleak. It helps listeners to appreciate an extra dimension of Power’s vision for the album. I have left the overview of that poem out from the review. I find with poetry that each reader should come to their own conclusion before discussing any of a poem’s qualities.

The Time For Silver Flowers is a highly enjoyable album, which can be returned to time and again. The analog elements do not seem as mechanical and lifeless herein as is so often the case with albums fully dedicated to this format. This is a perfect place to start for those unfamiliar with Cromlech Records. For those already familiar with the label, there should be minimal criticism of this latest release to be found. In sound execution as well as packaging, Cromlech Records have done justice to the vision of Benjamin Power. I will certainly be paying attention to whatever comes next for Cromlech and/or Bleach for The Stars.

Written by: Michael Barnett

Encounters – Beneath the Forces of Contradiction

Artist: Encounters
Album: Beneath the Forces of Contradiction
Release date: Early 2017
Label: Primitive Temples

Tracklist:
01. Untitled 1
02. Untitled 2
03. Untitled 3
04. Untitled 4
05. Untitled 5

Encounters has been around since 2013 when they released their debut, Houses, through Neon Doom Records. Beneath the Forces of Contradiction is their first release on Primitive Temples. This is only the second release on the fledgling label. Todd Watson, maybe best known for his work as Husere Grav (I reviewed their latest album here) is one of the faces behind the Encounters collective. He is also the owner of the Primitive Temples label.

While the label itself, as well as Encounters and Husere Grav may all be reasonably new names to readers, the man behind the mastering of the album, John Stillings of Steel Hook Prostheses and resident mastering tech for Malignant Records, should not be new to many. There are some people in the various parts of the music industry whom lend credence to a project, they give it an air of legitimacy, just by being associated with the project, no matter how great or minor the form. A comparison in similar genres could be made to Peter Andersson of raison d’etre. Peter’s name frequently arises as the mastering tech behind certain albums, and whenever his name is attached there is always a very good chance that I will love the music, regardless of genre.

Encounters is made up of four musicians: the aforementioned T. Watson is accompanied by Rajj Bhatt, Jason Pool and Brian Slaughter on this musical excursion. Beneath the Forces of Contradiction, true to its name, uses “encounters” as the basis for their musical vision. Encounters with the dead, to be precise. The album seeks to recreate or at least draw similar emotions in relation to encountering the dead, as they continue to traverse the Earth, awaiting their final rest. In the press release Encounters uses a quote from the 19th Century author E. Bulwer-Lytton, known among other things for his writing of The Last Days of Pompeii, documenting the destruction of the ancient Roman town by the carnage of the volcanic eruption on Mount Vesuvius.

“There may be intermediate beings of mixed nature, not deliberately evil nor steadily benevolent, capricious, uncertain, and only able to get at imperfect rapport with humanity.”

They also draw inspiration from the pet project of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. Doyle was heavily invested in collecting spiritualist photography. He was enamored with the idea of supernatural beings making encounters with humanity. His collection of photos are a sort of proof of these encounters, seeming to show the actual visitation of supernatural beings to the living.

While some of the album moves into heavily distorted death industrial territory, other tracks take on a much lighter and more dark ambient leaning sound. These variations in style seek to symbolize the differences in the ghostly apparitions. Some will be malevolent beings, angered by the circumstances of their passing or by their inability to make the full transition into the afterlife. Others will float through this sort of purgatory in a more somber or depressed emotional state. When the apparitions are angry, the music will soar to devastating heights, an onslaught upon the senses. Yet, the other, less aggravated, entities will exude an air of patience, the soundscapes taking on a hollow and at times almost meditative droning.

Beneath the Forces of Contradiction will be best suited to listeners whom enjoy their dark ambient with a harsher edge. Anyone familiar with the works of John Stillings should know this sort of balance of which I speak. The music never turns into that dreaded harsh noise wall format, it manages to lightly balance itself between dark ambient and death industrial. It has enough subtlety to keep the discerning dark ambient fan interested and at relative ease of mind, while it has enough aggression to satiate the demands of the death industrial crowd. Both communities should surely take a look at this well prepared and intricately detailed release.

Nota bene: While there is no sample of this release online, the digipak is selling for a mere $3 here. I have a copy and it’s just as well crafted as anything else in my collection. You really can’t go wrong with giving it a try.

Written by: Michael Barnett

The Vomit Arsonist – Meditations on Giving up Completely – Review

Artist: The Vomit Arsonist
Album: Meditations on Giving up Completely
Release date: 5 May 2017
Label: Malignant Records

Tracklist:
01. Meditations
02. What’s Left
03. It Never Ends
04. On Living
05. When the Last Flame has been Extinguished
06. There is Nothing Here
07. Sick Over Trying

Death industrial powerhouse, The Vomit Arsonist, is back with another album on Malignant Records which is sure to invoke revulsion and terror. The Vomit Arsonist has been through many phases and progressions as an artist over the last decade. Yet, one thing always holds true, his sense of loathing and abhorrence toward the modern world. This seems to hold especially true for his latest Malignant release.

Owner of Danvers State Recordings, Andy Grant knows what he wants out of music, and he knows how to bring his visions to reality. Grant’s own label focuses on cassette releases, one of which was previously reviewed here; Pulsed in a Dull Glass Bell, a harsher project by R.C. Kozletsky which falls somewhere between Apocryphos and Shock Frontier.

Meditations on Giving up Completely is quite possibly the best work to date by The Vomit Arsonist, bringing forth all the forms of aural assault that Grant has honed over the years. The result is close to perfection of the death industrial sound.

On Meditations, The Vomit Arsonist has finally gone too far in the sense of mental stability. It could be the case that Meditations is only meant as a representation of the mind of the author but it does seem to speak on a grander scale.  The album seems as if his thought process has moved from individual despair to a loathing and invocation of an impending doom for the entire planet. Always one to appreciate nihilism, The Vomit Arsonist writhes and seethes within an apocalyptic vision of total death and destruction, the final chapter for the entirety of Earth’s inhabitants.

If The Vomit Arsonist found and learned to live with himself on Only Red, Meditations could be seen as the first studio album where Andy Grant is able to totally and unquestioningly be himself. Meditations is that moment when an artist is in full control, knows what they want and delivers it without ever skipping a beat. While his career has been rather long, and quite illustrious, Meditations may be the masterpiece, the total acceptance of himself and his capabilities.

Meditations has a cinematic edge which flows through it. One gets the idea that Grant sees himself as a bystander in the final war, taking cover in the basement as the world tears itself to pieces just outside his door. Yet at the same time, it’s also easy to imagine him as taking to the frontline in this battle. His vocals shouting orders to his followers as an apocalyptic destruction ensues. This dichotomy could be intentional or subliminal, he could be characterizing the views of two seperate people, or showing his own mixed emotions with regards to fighting an internal or external battle.

The digipak, released through Malignant Records is quite the high quality release. A glossy black and gray finish displays a distorted image, which appears to be a man either standing on a bridge or a dam. The thoughts in his head can be deduced from the album content. According to Grant, there will be a cassette extension of Meditations released on Smrt Productions in the near future. After hearing the entirety of Meditations on Giving up Completely on multiple playthroughs, I’m sure readers will be as eager to hear some extra material as I am.

The Vomit Arsonist should find the acceptance of many varied listener bases with this release. For death industrial fans, there is everything to love about this sonic assault. There is very little downtime and from the vocals to the booming bass The Vomit Arsonist delivers with perfection. Dark ambient fans of the strictest sense will find Meditations to be a bit overwhelming and a bit too loud, but those on the periphery who love blending of styles and a harsher edge to their soundscapes will welcome Meditations happily. Even moving into the power electronics and industrial scenes, Meditations should hold its own, standing up to the greatest of critiques.

Realizing himself, honestly, over the last few years, The Vomit Arsonist has no scruples with doubling down on his style. This is where he feels he belongs, and it really shows on Meditations. Everything done previously by this artist seems to come to a head on Meditations. Listeners should immediately recognize the intensity of the release, an intensity which rarely is diminished through the entirety of the album. I would highly recommend Meditations on Giving up Completely to any readers of This Is Darkness who don’t mind a bit of extra heavy distortion and apocalyptic martial vocal tones. If Meditations is the soundtrack to the end, then we are in for a hell of a climax.

Written by: Michael Barnett

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