RU-486 is a power electronics project from Thomas Mortigan, part of the collaborative project Black Leather Jesus. So while Iron Empire is the first full-length release from RU-486, Mortigan is no newcomer to the field. For this release on No Visible Scars, the album cover is a black-and-white picture of a metallic industrial machine, perfect for the angry power electronics featured here.
“Cast Iron Effigies” starts out with a distant screeching wave along with a pulsing drone underneath, and the tone never really changes from there. It’s got a really great texture, and that pulse underneath sets the mood of a very tense track, brimming with a cold and clinical atmosphere. At times, a deep, somnolent voice speaks dark poetry as the noise continues, although it’s difficult to decipher phrases as the words are somewhat muffled. Towards the end of the track, the howl cuts out, leaving only the drone and the voice, which fades out with an ominous “Thy kingdom is grave.”
“Watchtower Troops” delves into harsher territory with a high-pitched squeal of feedback and then some choppy, frayed noodling of electronics. Again, RU-486 shows great adherence to texture and sound and the finale of the track throws in some squalls of static coupled with some shredded feedback to torture the ears with industrial waste. This effectively transitions to “Slaves Sold as Scrap (Industrial Slavery Pt. 1),” which carries a similar chopped and mangled feel with higher feedback which alternates into a bassy buzz, until a flurry of fast-paced contractions kick in halfway through the track.
“Conveyor of Broken Dreams” hits with a fuzzy, warped drone of noise and static, whirring along on the conveyor belt of the title. The setup of this track is very similar to that of a really jumpy harsh noise wall track, building up those layers of static only to shift them into new textures. Some of the fuzz is really crushing in its weight, and with “Conveyor” being the longest track on the album, RU-486 washes away the world with some industrial chaos.
And then “Amidst Ascending Cranes” brings the high-end violence which has been hinted at throughout the release, a mix of higher sustained feedback and low rumbles that crumble together. It’s nice to hear a variability here, and the shrieks of electronics drive that industrial-tinged theme home while also providing a destructive soundtrack of scrap metal.
Iron Empire is 25 minutes in five shorter tracks, hitting highs, lows, and the middle ground in between with walls, drones, and even spoken word on the first track. Though I’d say Ru-486 plays it somewhat safe on this release, never really leaving the area of standard harsh noise and PE, Iron Empire is a good amalgamation of these genres.