Vicious Beast – Tortura Obscura (CD, L. White Records)

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Vicious Beast was the duo of Thomas Mortigan and Cornelius, a power electronics/droning noise group that released Tortura Obscura back in 2009 on Destructive Industries. This re-release on L. White Records comes packaged in a slim DVD case with new artwork, and includes two bonus tracks, featuring Mortigan and Churner on bass and electronics.

The five tracks originally included on Tortura Obscura are synth-heavy and laden with effects. Often, Vicious Beast use repetitive synth rhythms to bolster a track, then incorporate noisy layers overtop of them; opener “Bog Beasts” sets a foggy course with a droning synth repetition, and “All in Black” follows with mournful violin-esque lines punctuated with bass.

Later tracks like the lengthy “Finale/Tortura Obscura” drone on with prominent electronic effects rather than rhythm. “Even in Death, They Sang Songs” focuses more on simplistic synths with whispered vocals and even some pipe manipulation; the lyrics aren’t as effective, but this track is already steeped in atmosphere. The two bonus tracks are welcome additions to the release, with Churner’s bass a significant factor in both that gives Vicious Beast even more depth.

All told Tortura Obscura‘s re-release is certainly a strong album, made more so by a couple of additional tracks providing another 15 minutes of content. The release looks great, too, so it’s a project worth looking into.

Knurl – Pyrolysis (C46, Terror)

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“Pyrolysis” is defined as an irreversible chemical change brought about by the heating of organic material; in Knurl’s case, the material is the intense destruction of electronics, scrap metal, and other objects that form the basis for his noise. The project has been going on for some time now, and Alan Bloor, the man behind the moniker, is known for using different instruments for his recordings. On Pyrolysis, the attacks of his tracks are harsh and swift, opting for intense blasts that don’t cease.

Both tracks are part of the whole of Pyrolysis, and they sound it – their MO is to blast the listener as much as possible with huge bass rumbles paired with whatever crunch and junk Knurl wants to throw in. There might be squealing feedback, although not as harsh as other artists are known for; there are steady scrap metal scrapes, and, on “Part 1,” a noticeable droning pattern within the mix.

“Part 2″ has a similar rumble, but there’s a higher-pitched sawing-like grating sound throughout; this isn’t fixed, and Knurl likes to deviate from the course at times, but it’s the best way to identify this track from the other one. Otherwise, Pyrolysis does tread carefully around territory where the two tracks could sound too alike. There’s an emphasis on “Part 2″‘s tendency to cut out, stopping the rumble and then restarting it in cut-up fashion.

If one likes intense harsh noise, then Knurl’s Pyrolysis is the way to go. It is a case of an artist never letting up on the sound, allowing the noise to soak in without caring about sensory overload. It’s a monumental release, 40 minutes of huge sound.

Unclean/Lapot – Sortovuosien Terrori/Represiju Metai (C70, Terror)

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Unclean is a Finnish harsh noise artist who throws out some destructive sounds over two tracks on his side of this split tape, subtitled “Sortovuosien Terrori,” while on the B-side, “Represiju Metai,” Lapot allows one long track to expand and contort wherever it likes in 35 minutes. Both sides are bleak, atmospheric, and bleary in sound.

First is Unclean’s “Sodanjulistus,” a very bass-heavy track that is so blurred by the muddy production that the only thing that really stands out is the intense blustery sound. Unclean’s assault also features quite a bit of feedback mid-range, as well as a hypnotic chanting section, but the audio clearly favors the heavy rumbles over the other pieces of the track. “Veri Suomen Kaduilla” is a more balanced track, with a juddering tone paired with a punctuated rumble of bass; vocals kick in about a minute or so in, nicely backgrounded with an echo to them that makes them seem shouted into a bomb shelter.

Lapot’s track “Represiju Metai” is much more contained, starting off with a low drone and segueing into shuddering bass with slight sounds of vocals and a low crackle that could be coming from a guitar. This is continued throughout much of the track, but the interesting thing about Lapot’s textures is that the drone is the most dominant feature of the track, with the subtle nuances of the static crackles hidden beneath the surface. In general, “Represiju Metai” sticks to a solid sound but enhances the black hole-like sound with the presence of small differences.

This lengthy split is worth the time, especially because both artists offer tracks that hide their harsher natures. Unclean allows the bass to drive the tracks, while Lapot’s slow escalation into huge sound works well with the material.

Trepaneringsritualen – The Totality of Death (Programme B) (CD, Silken Tofu)

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The Totality of Death (Programme B) is the second disc in a compilation of difficult-to-find tracks from Trepaneringsritualen. It’s another hour of death industrial tracks, released on Silken Tofu in much the same style as Programme A with more flip-out panel artwork in a digipak.

Most of these tracks are similar in quality and tonality to the ones on Programme A, some of them appearing on the same releases. Silken Tofu and Malignant Records split up the tracks instead of having them appear back-to-back as they would have on their corresponding releases, possibly for a better mix and proportion of similar tracks.

There’s lots of banging and pounding akin to the death industrial tribalism; “Sacrament & Crucifixion,” “Champ Sacré,” and “Decoupage de L’Orme,” back to back with each other, all sit fairly comfortably in this zone, driven by the rhythmic pounding with the latter featuring a wind-swept drone punctuated by muffled screaming.

Trepaneringsritualen alternates comfortably between upbeat tracks with prominent black metal vocals and more droning efforts like the opener “Beläten”; some are focused heavily on atmosphere, and others, like the rough “Eucharist of Shit & Piss,” fall nearly into black metal categories. It’s a sweeping testament to genres, but The Totality of Death as a complete set is a wonderful arrangement of the differences in Trepaneringsritualen’s work.

Like most compilations, there are some definite hits and a few misses; some of Trepaneringsritualen’s work tends to drag for too long (“Repeating (Anti-Memory),” “Den Fallne Domaldrs Lik”). But for the most part both programmes are intense and effective, with great packages. You should pick up both for two hours of good material.

Griefhound – Griefhound (CD-R, Not On Label)

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Griefhound is an interesting doom/noise project from Harvey and Novak, both members of various other projects including Snuff Film and Leach Mine. Their self-titled release finds the duo working through five tracks of heavy riffing laced with selective noise and drone works, switching back and forth between the two with relative ease.

The first couple of tracks, “Holy Flesh” and “Mizzah Mills and the Temple of Gloom,” sit more comfortably within the slude/doom territory of Griefhound’s sound. They combine heavy bass riffs with Novak’s pounding percussion, often a bit more frenetic than most doom metal allows for, and occasionally mix in noise atmospherics akin to Indian or Buried At Sea. It’s an effective element, and Griefhound does it well.

The final three tracks are noticeably longer and filled with more noise, relying less on doom song structures and taking breaks to incorporate longer passages of drones and swirling, pulsating sounds. “Behemoth,” at over 20 minutes, works as a series of vignettes; the riffs give way to noise, then back to riffs, then noise, a concept that sounds good enough but is perhaps a bit too extended. “Ghost Ship” and “Date Raped By the White Wizard… In Space” allot nearly all the running time to buzzes and hiss, a nice way to break up what could have been more of the same gloomy doom.

Griefhound is a great introduction to this duo’s output, a release that caters to doom and noise fans. Those who don’t like their music filtered with grating harsh noise might be turned away, but it’s unlikely, since Griefhound’s heaviness is attractive to those with more experimental palates anyway.

The Girl with the Stanley Knife – Cradle of Blades (CD-R, Ink Runs Recordings)

cradle of blades

Ink Runs Recordings is the new label from Julien Skrobek of Ruine, Ghost, and many other harsh noise wall projects, as well as the previous label Slow Death Records. In much the same fashion as that previous label, Ink Runs Recordings releases small sets of CD-Rs with plastic sleeves and a more abstract approach to artwork. The Girl with the Stanley Knife is Skrobek’s significant other Charlotte Skrobek, a HNW project that puts out one 20 minute wall on this release Cradle of Blades.

The track is punctuated by a heavy bass wall without any openings that fills the background of the track, a fast-moving wave that stays put throughout. The forefront features a static crackle that alternates thanks to what appears to be Skrobek’s manipulation of a contact mic. There are a few changes within the sound, with a mid-range static sizzle opening up after the five minute mark, a quiet crackle towards the middle, and a quiet retreat from the dense background wall at the end.

The contact mic crackle at the beginning of this track is the most interesting, calm and clean and yet hypnotic in its alterations. The more pronounced static in the proceeding minutes is familiar to the genre, but still an excellent pairing with the impenetrable background. The Girl with the Stanley Knife’s debut work is a substantial release with a good wall, effectively combining multiple textures and variations throughout.

The Elderbranch Campaign – Aural Histories of the Jovian Survey – Book II (Not on Label, MP3)

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The Elderbranch Campaign has been pumping out releases that fall into the category of the Jovian Survey, an idea that encompasses the exploration of life on Europa and Jupiter’s moons. It’s a sci-fi idea that fits right in with the kind of fantastical sounds that drone can often encompass, and Aural Histories of the Jovian Survey captures the essence of space quite well by flooding the listener with sound.

The release offers two tracks that float just a bit past the 20 minute mark. The first, “And the Extinction Event Came In the Form of Ice,” is a strong opener that contains an intensely cold experience; synths wail and scream, layered upon each other with just the hint of a rhythmic yield underneath it all, each layer ebbing and flowing with elongated tails of sound. It all resembles the sound of a howling windstorm, but this would fit in on a movie soundtrack about a horrifying space exploration trip just fine. There’s a denseness to the work that’s both intriguing and suffocating.

“They Coded Resurrection Seeds Into Digital Microbes” features a similar concept, with a droning track slowly building to cacophonous levels, and the sounds continue to waver and flow without completely ending. There’s a feeling of perpetual chaos within the sound, that whatever event is being portrayed sonically is horrifying – almost like the continual trill of flute and violin in a horror movie soundtrack, except this drone is stretched to lengthy extremes. Eventually the track moves into more recognizable synth tones, a chilly but beautiful melody that sustains for the rest of the track.

It’s easy to get lost in Aural Histories of the Jovian Survey – Book II and write it off as two lengthy tracks that do relatively the same thing, but that would be overlooking the grander scope of these pieces. Though they resemble each other, and use a wall of drone in each, the feelings and attitudes of the tracks are different, and only appreciated by a calculated listen akin to harsh noise wall.