Annihilvs is beyond honoured and privileged to present the Fruit of the Ash digipak CD-R by Bonedust in 2018.
Bonedust was formed as a performance art project in 2004 by vocalist/composer Chrissy Wolpert (director of The Assembly of Light Choir, frequent contributor to The Body) and interdisciplinary artist Pippi Zornoza (Rectrix, Vvltvre, Worms in Women and Cattle). They are joined on this incredible recording by vocalists Rebecca Mitchell (Whore Paint, House Red), Maralie Armstrong (Humanbeast, Valise), Natalja Kent (Querent) and vocalist/performer Neve Cross.
Fruit of the Ash is based on their 2011 theatrical performance of the same name, and was recorded, mixed, and mastered by Kris Lapke (Alberich) at Machines With Magnets in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, the Dirt Palace in Providence, and Dungeon Beach in Brooklyn.
This release will also be available as a Bundle, including a cassette edition, a t-shirt, a one-sided picture disc lathe-cut 7inch single, and a copy of the digipak CD-R.
02. Primat des Willens
03. Kampf ums Dasein
05. Beyond Affirmation and Negation
06. La Volonté Aveugle
07. Alienated Vitalism
09 Emptiness is Form, Form is Emptiness
“Beauty is but the cloak of happiness. Where joy tarries, there also is beauty.” Ludwig Klages
You maybe know the feeling : an immense wave of joy captures you, but at the very same time, that voice on the radio, those people on the TV screen, the charming, fascinating attraction that is submerging you, despite it all, an inner voice is telling you that what is going on is probably wrong – nonetheless you can’t help but drowning in the collective enthusiasm. This is exactly what the instantly grabbing “Mind-Body-Problem” is likely to arise. With such intro and opening track, Salò Salon immediately sets a very high standard. The rest of the album, The Scent Of Voluntarism keeps up to the promises and never diminishes in strength. Crushing death industrial, wide amplitudes of frequencies, with no place to hide – any little corner will be invaded by the forceful atmospheric noise. My initial reaction at first listen has been: “A diamond”.
Not a newcomer at all – prior to The Scent Of Voluntarism, Salò Salon has issued Execution Tourism (The Dialectic Of Violence) (CDR album limited to 120 copies) on the British label 412Recordings (that released stuff by Slut Kull, Bagman, Steel Hook Prostheses, among other delicacies) in December 2015, followed by Agonal Pessimism (cassette mini album limited to 50 copies) on German Obsessive Fundamental Realism (a label maintaining a “crude DIY approach, (with) no interest in humanistic values and unauthentic artists, (…)rooted in the idea of Post-Industrial being a means of transportation for brutal and antisocial world-views, urges and mindsets”). The rather limited editions should not at all be a measure of disregarding these releases, as they are milestones in an ongoing rise of one of the most promising projects in this field of musical expression, likely to reach cult status in a not too distant future – and all these recordings are available as digital downloads at Salò Salon‘s Bandcamp anyway.
This new release is a factory pressed CD limited to 100 copies on the German label White Ashes, mastered by Sven Bussler (White Ashes‘ owner, and mastermind behind the martial industrial almighty Wappenbund, also a collaborator with Anna Gardeck and Wiener Aktivisten). Handmade box sealed and wax-closed with the logo of Salò Salon. Inner cover artwork by Quadreria Romantico Seriale from Italy, introducing themselves as “ethics, esthetics, genetics – esthetical and political deviance – autonomous and radical action – a mise en scene – an entity that acts among eugenics forms and terminal beauties – a misanthropic showgirl and disciplined daughter of the disaster ruling in the void, enemy of the Five M Order : Multiculturalism, Mundialism, Modernity, Mundanity, Materialism – an antinomian in the Great Civilizing Persuasion : here and now the verities are only moments of the fake, where every destiny succumbs to dissolution and every concept is subjected to oblivion – a cardiac wave, its organs are vital where others would die”. Needless to say, Salò Salon has gathered a bunch of allies of caliber for this album, which should be re-released as vinyl LP later on this year. And in the pipeline is a collaboration with UK legend Satori.
That has been the formal section. Going further: a very prominent aspect of the work of Salò Salon is cultural pessimism, as envisioned and investigated by German thinkers such as Arthur Schopenhauer, Ludwig Klages, Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche, Johann Caspar Schmidt aka ‘Max Stirner’, and the impact that such psychic explorers have had on the historical march of humanity. Delusional rationality… and indeed, not to be confused with any ideological positioning. Question everything – no restriction – no taboo – never take anything for granted. For the sake of the reviewer’s credibility, if I would have to propose some sort of a comparison, then I would maybe succumb to citing Anenzephalia. No less. But to the extent of the mindset / attitude context, not the sound. Salò Salon doesn’t have the very prominent use of speech that is a distinctive trait of Anenzephalia. Rather drowning the listener in a forceful exhilaration, than submitting to the crowds. Somewhere between death industrial and heavy electronics, between contemplation and brute force, blending hypnotic sample loops, fanfare tones, massive atmospheric, rash textures and noisy backgrounds. An album that is impossible not to play one track after the other in succession : once the wine is pulled, it must be drunk, drink the chalice until the dregs. An instant classic.
Theologian is slowly creeping their way to becoming one of the most covered artists here on This Is Darkness. I’ve been following the artist, Lee Bartow, for a good while now, through his project Theologian, his previous project Navicon Torture Technologies, and his label Annihilvs Power Electronix. But I really started to dig into this artist when Theologian was featured as the soundtrack/soundscapes on a number of Cadabra Records spoken-art releases, the most recent being The Call of Cthulhu by H.P. Lovecraft, read by the brilliant Andrew Leman.
Photo by: Gretchen Heinel
Theologian – “Tetanus” from the upcoming album, Reconcile.
After covering last year’s Forced Utopia (read the review here), we are pleased to premiere a brand new track from his upcoming release, Reconcile. This new track, “Tetanus”, will immediately stand out to many from the more recent previous works by Theologian. There are airy dronescapes that gently blanket the 6 1/2 minute experience, while cavernously reverberating percussion hammers and voices are heard, in a sort of irreligious long-form chanting dirge. While the percussion, in particular, will keep this outside the boundaries of your standard definition of dark ambient, I think what Theologian is doing here may end up being one of his more dark ambient friendly tracks to date. I’ll be covering the album in a full review soon!
Below you can read the full press release for the Theologian – Reconcile album, to be released on 16 June 2018 via Cloister Recordings.
Cover photo by: K. Berlin
Theologian – Reconcile
Hot on the heels of The Icy Bleakness of Things, Theologian’s collaboration with The Vomit Arsonist, Cloister Recordings presents Reconcile. Timed to coincide with the upcoming live appearance at the DARKNESS DESCENDS festival, this 60-minute cassette (and digital) release contains brand-new material featuring input from Andy Grant (The Vomit Arsonist), Mike McClatchey (Lament Cityscape), Stephen Petrus (Murderous Vision), and Derek Rush (Dream Into Dust). The album was mixed by Mike McClatchey. The word “supergroup” has been jokingly bandied about in reference to this collection of artists, but the final product is indeed a unique composite of industrial sounds, reflecting another step in the evolution of Theologian.
Perhaps most notable is a return to an earlier, less harsh and distorted iteration of the project, with cavernous drones and thunderous percussion creating the sort of dense sonic environments found on the 2010 debut album, The Further I Get From Your Star, The Less Light I Feel On My Face.
Eschewing the longform drone/ambient tracks of older releases, here we find Theologian attempting to approximate the immediacy and memorability of pop, using rhythm and melody to elicit slightly less sprawling emotional landscapes. The album’s eight tracks are interconnected by brief interludes, serving as touchstones along the journey to the album’s denouement. As the title suggests, Reconcile is ultimately about coming to terms with past versions of oneself, while examining the present and fretting over the future. Cloister Recordings is issuing this cassette in an edition of 100 copies, which will become available for the first time when Theologian headlines the DARKNESS DESCENDS festival on Saturday, June 16 at Pat’s in the Flat’s in Cleveland, Ohio.
Also performing are The Vomit Arsonist, Steel Hook Prostheses, Gnawed, Compactor, Shock Frontier, Vitriol Gauge, Cunting Daughters, and Murderous Vision. The Theologian performance will include Andy Grant, Stephen Petrus, and Derek Rush as live collaborators. The event is sold out.
Soft Tissue, the 2016 collaborative release by Lament Cityscape and Theologian, will be reissued later this year, featuring completely new mixes of the original album and remixes by Achromaticist, Compactor, Cutworm, Kidaudra, Neurospora, Orphx, Over Hold, rRhexis, and Snowbeasts.
Murderous Vision and Lament Cityscape have both recently completed new albums yet to be released, while The Vomit Arsonist produced a new cassette, entitled Further, in April of this year via Gutter Bloat. While Derek Rush has mostly been busy as SysAdmin for heavy electronics project Compactor, a 20th anniversary vinyl reissue of the Dream Into Dust album The World We Have Lost is in the works for April 2019.
01. Murderous Vision – “The Final Enemy”
02. Cunting Daughters – “Awaken The Beneath”
03. Abjection Ritual – “Tiny Atrocities”
04. Shock Frontier – “Your Cross Is Not Illuminated”
05. Vitriol Gauge – “No Calm”
06. Compactor – “Ultimatum”
07. Gnawed – “The Harrowing Dark”
08. Steel Hook Prostheses – “Orbitoclast”
09. The Vomit Arsonist – “Dispirited”
10. Theologian – “I Shed Your Corpse”
The undead thrasher may feel hunger when thinking they’ve spotted some review of Dark Angel‘s second album from 1986, but the mistake is certain (homage is not), as this Darkness Descends does not belong to Combat Records catalog, rather to Live Bait Recording Foundation, referenced LBRF 051 ; subtitled A Post-Industrial Compilation, be sure that black prophecies and merciless audio death are anyway to be expected, and that in the sonic process of the burning of sonic landscapes, the listener might as well perish in flames.
The compilation opens like a mechanical procession towards the Styx with “The Final Enemy” by Murderous Vision, long going project of Stephen Petrus, owner of Live Bait Recording Foundation, confirming again the faultless majesty of dark atmospheric procedures and deep explorations of unhealthy corners with which he has established himself. Processed vocals and a pounding final section mark the beginning of a journey requiring assistance – ladies and gentlemen, this way please.
Cunting Daughters drowns you in stagnant, noxious swamps with “Awaken the Beneath”. Rise up and try to escape those liquid textures, as if coming back to life through metempsychic rebirth, the wet begins to dry with caution. Death ambient, industrial, atmospheric. A project formerly known for a very limited release (55 copies) in 2011, seemingly oriented on post-mortem evocations.
Abjection Ritual furthers the awakening with “Tiny Atrocities”. A, maybe, more electro-acoustic affair involving violin, ropes slippage above the intimistic power rumblings that are present throughout. Tension in the air, human order still prevails in the environment of rebirth, this new existence is not going to be peaceful. From a project introducing itself as “influenced by mental illness, disease, self-hatred, shame, failure and disgust for humanity”, the weight of the karma has to be borne.
Shock Frontier – Tumult
Shock Frontier continues the anamnesis of apprehending this world. “Your Cross Is Not Illuminated” convokes religious orders, spiritual coercion. The death industrial is profound. Flowing, somber drones, bit by bit, arise to a more crushing structure. Hearing this, I wonder what their previous two CD albums, Tumors 64 & 110 on Malignant Records, could have been like – must check those. [Editor’s Note: You can read our review of Shock Frontier – Tumult here.]
Vitriol Gauge, a project emanating from one half of United Front, and who has recently issued a new excellently thick-frequencies-ridden opus, entitled Routines on the label Concrete//Contrôle, pursues the topology of being coerced : “Are you real, or are you just in my mind?” – “Doesn’t matter at all…” Harsher, due to the heavily-processed vocals, noisier, although the atmospheric, death-industrial tone is kept. Outbursts of resistance among a (post?)apocalyptic haze, “No Calm” indicates the persistence of will, despite the blurry consensus.
COMPACTOR photo by Stephen Petrus in Vantaa, Finland 11.06.17
The unleashing follows with Compactor – “Ultimatum”. Pounding powerful craft with titillating bleeps, stomping the contained rage. A project by Derek Rush, also responsible for the artwork on the compilation, and long go’er known from Dream Into Dust, labels The Order Of The Suffering Clown and Chthonic Streams, as well as involvement in Loretta’s Doll and The Sword Volcano Complex.
“The Harrowing Dark” by Gnawed, then, steps into power-electronics territories, due to determined, yet jaded vocals ; flanged vocals is the leading element in power-electronics? – yes madam, ‘cos as you can hear, even when the soundscapes are layers of death-industrial undertones and slow pounding, the commanding vocals crowning it all renders it power-electronics. The unleash remains uncertain, too many past lives, too many sticking memories, crusades failed, thus all has corroded. Gnawed is for me a very pleasant discovery here, I will for sure keep an eye on this project, which already has an imposing discography. [Editor’s Note: Grant Richardson of Gnawed also runs the dark ambient project Atrox Pestis, whose debut EP we reviewed, and debut full-length we premiered.]
Steel Hook Prostheses next. Woops! Gnawed has been a fair warning? Okay… Drones are sumptuous and wide, almost orchestral, which does not prevent distortion and sepulchral shriekings from interfering. “Orbitoclast” sets a nauseating crawl, despite the beauty that may surface. Full blown heavy electronics with always the death-industrial measure that accompanies the trip. Since Steel Hook Audio Mastering has been in charge of the entire treatment of the compilation, you know which crushing efficiency to expect.
Are the visitors having enough? The journey is relentless. The Vomit Arsonist keeps reminding you that you are “Dispirited”, an avalanche of frequencies that is somehow closing the circle which Shock Frontier had initiated. You tried, you lost. Again.
Theologian concludes with structured awesome potency. “I Shed Your Corpse” sounds vibrant, poignant buried vocals and again an almost orchestral tone, culminating in rhythmic military reshaping that appears almost hopeful. So, this is the very texture of the darkness that we all have to deal with? Indeed – therefore you have been enlightened. Be merry.
Although a various artists compilation, it could almost sound as an entire album by the same artist in that the tones are so unified. Not one weak track, not one filler, all almighty and powerful. Blending, both older and more recent, projects in a constant progression that creates the feeling of chapters within a book. A psychotopography, detailing specific aspects of an inner meltdown. The physical version of it will be a professionally printed CDR in a digi-sleeve limited to 200 copies, which will be available at the Darkness Descends Festival held in Cleveland, Ohio on June 16th, 2018.
01. Inherent Resurrection
02. Fever Wave Dream Function
03. Blood Consciousness
05. Reluctant Traveller (feat. Grutle Kjellson of Enslaved)
06. Exchanging Eyes
07. New Devoted Human
Stromstad is a collaborative project between Jasse Tuukki and Toni Myöhänen of STROM.ec and Kristoffer Oustad. STROM.ec of Finland have been spreading their variety of industrialized darkness to the world since their debut on Freak Animal Records, back in 2000. Since then, they have continued to make a name for themselves through such labels as Annihilvs, Malignant and it’s sub-label Black Plague. The Norwegian artist, Kristoffer Oustad, known for work under his own name, and also as part of the Kristoffer Nyströms Orkester with Peter Nyström, has proven his dynamic set of abilities as a high caliber dark ambient producer.
We got a morsel of Oustad’s taste for the heavier and grittier cousin of dark ambient, death industrial on his contributions to the latest, and highly recommended, Tumult by Shock Frontier (reviewed here), which released just prior to New Devoted Human, also on Malignant Records. STROM.ec have stayed consistently heavier throughout their career, having little room for the more reserved dark ambient sections that we hear throughout New Devoted Human.
So, when we get both projects together, STROM.ec and Kristoffer Oustad, the outcome is not entirely surprising in its style, but what is more surprising is the sense of fluidity and comfort these artists seem to have working together. The chemistry is what makes New Devoted Human such a gem for the small but passionate international community that follows this sort of music. Malignant Records saw it coming, which led them to the choice of giving the Stromstad debut a vinyl edition, which is something they’ve been doing more frequently, but still quite selectively.
There are tracks where the two different styles come together perfectly in a single track, through a whirlwind of noise and emotion. Tracks like “New Devoted Human” with its distorted guitars, industrial drum sections, and enraged screams, blend perfectly with Oustad’s more reserved and delicate dark ambient undertones. Early in this track, we can hear that dark ambient element lingering in the background, behind the much thicker noises of the STROM.ec guys. As the track progresses these dark ambient elements slowly, and almost subconsciously, move to the forefront. The track takes on a sort of violent narrative, as we move from the viciousness of the beginning sections into this wall of subtle darkness, a sort of uneasy calm as the dust settles just after a city is besieged.
Other tracks, like “Inherent Resurrection” and “Blood Consciousness”, keep the energy at maximum throughout their duration. Electronics blaring and angry vocals dictated, Stromstad give us the perfect example of a sort of post-industrial metal band. Yet, the meshing of varied genres can go even further afield at times, like on the chorus section of “Blood Consciousness” which features a dubstep-like component that is incredibly unlikely, but fits beautifully.
Intermingled with these high-energy tracks are dark ambient soundscapes which help the listener to paint a picture of this imagined future, which is as technologically advanced as it is apocalyptically devastated. The listener can get a sense of a future which took A.I., military-grade weaponry, and robotics to their darkest ends, creating a war-torn planet, upon which human life is no longer so cherished; a place where greed and technology come together, achieving the worst possible outcomes. “Nattsvermer” is one such track, where the perfectly executed dark ambient elements take prominence above a tapestry of industrial noises which lie in the background. Another is the closer, “Kosto”, which is the most reserved track on New Devoted Human, using gentle waves of synth to create an almost serene atmosphere, which helps the album to end on a more philosophical than apocalyptic note.
New Devoted Human is certainly a unique experience. This is something that will find a wide and unlikely set of fans. While I’ve focused on a few of the more prominent genre elements presented here, listeners will likely find a number of other genre influences which will enrich their personal experiences with the album all the more. I would foremost recommend this release to listeners that find the more dynamic releases on Malignant Records to their liking. For fans of a more strict definition of dark ambient, this will be a bit too heavy, but with that said, I think it is still worth giving it a try, they really have found a nice chemistry here, which doesn’t take any one element to too great an extreme.
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
B3. Indifference Redux
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 ElectronixBandcamp 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.
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.”
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.
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…
01. Båldom (Fire Verdict)
02. Heksetimen (The Witching Hour)
03. Christoffer Orning
04. De Ti – 1621 (The Ten – 1621)
05. Dømt På Sitt Liv Til Ild Og Bål (Sentenced to Death by Flame and Pyre)
Dødsmaskin, meaning “death machine” in English, is a Norwegian post-industrial / drone act by Peter Vindel and Kjetil Ottersen. They self-released a digital album in 2015 entitled, Ingenting (“nothing” in English). On that debut they showed a lot of promise and a general sense of talent in the noisier side of drone music. But their physical debut on Malignant Records, Fullstendig Brent (Completely Burnt; Holocaust) takes them into some amazingly complex territory. This is one of those rare gems in which utterly chaotic noises are able to mingle perfectly with the serenity of dark ambient. This album could fit into many categories, post-industrial, drone, dark ambient, death industrial, power electronics. Indeed, there is a bit of all these genres presented here.
This album will be particularly pleasing to anyone with a love for the darkest days of history. The inner panel of the digipak consists of one sentence, “Djevelhorer Skal Brennes – Martin Luther (1537)” This can be translated to English as “devil whores be burned.” It is a fitting preparation for the onslaught of soundscapes presented within. Fullstendig Brent takes us on a deeply cinematic journey back in time to the 17th century in the northern parts of Norway, specifically to the fortress of Vardøhus in Vardø, the center of Norwegian Finnmark. This fortress would play the stage to a particularly dark and brutal period of history. We are taken here at a time when witch trials were being carried out around the western world. Each track on Fullstendig Brent gives us a glimpse into various times during these proceedings.
“Båldom” stands as an introduction to these nightmares. It is translated to English as “Verdict of Fire”, an allusion to the preferred method of dispensing of witches once their guilt was proven. “Båldom” is a perfect example of what to expect from Fullstendig Brent. The track starts with the sounds of a raging fire. A beautiful, if melancholic, loop of drone-work takes the forefront. It truly sounds majestic in its sense of foreboding. After this goes on for a short period of time we are cast into the fires, where our sins may be purged, before the eyes of the faithful. It is a descent into a truly cacophonous noise. Yet, with the brilliant talents akin to Jarl or Steel Hook Prostheses, these sounds never lose their focus. It is a perfect execution of brilliant noises.
The cinematic edge is taken to an even more obvious place on “Christoffer Orning”, named after a notorious district governor responsible for the majority of deaths of innocent women and children. The track starts out with prayers being begged in unison by the demented congregation. After they give their blessings, the witches are allowed to burn for their sins. As the beating industrial noises completely overtake our senses, it’s easy to imagine these so-called witches perishing in the most horrible way imaginable. Their body slowly roasting on the pyre, they shriek in utter despair soon followed by the sobbing of this unlucky female victim, attempting to alleviate some of the pain as she begins to smell her flesh being cooked, long before losing consciousness or dying.
Each track on the album goes through these ups and downs of subtle preparation followed by industrially induced terror. The true beauty of the music is that at no point do the sounds become overwhelming. They perfectly play their role, dragging the listener so close to the action that they will undoubtedly have their minds filled with the images of these brutal acts of Christian fanaticism. Part of the praise for this feat should be given to the mastering talents of Rafael Anton Irisarri working his magic from the Black Knoll Studio in New York. Equal thanks can be given to the brilliant artwork of Sense:Versus on the digipak. The front cover adorned in a minimalistic fashion with the Dødsmaskin logo, set behind a single leap of flames. The digipak is textured, with a rustic border, giving it the impression of an old worn leather book, possibly even bound in human flesh.
Dødsmaskin clearly paid the utmost attention to detail on Fullstendig Brent, which is undeniably present throughout the entirety of the album. There is never a moment wasted, each second holds our attention with its simultaneous beauty and ugliness. I would especially recommend this album to fans of cinematic dark ambient who also enjoy some noisier genres like death industrial or power electronics. Yet, there is really no reason to warn off others. This album is a miraculously well prepared example of how music can go above and beyond genre labels. While it may be significantly harsher than many listeners are used to, it should be a welcome novelty, a way to truly appreciate what is behind the thoughts of many musicians of the post-industrial scene. Many of them could surely learn a thing or two from Dødsmaskin.