Vorkuta was originally released in 2008 as part of a trilogy of albums about prison camps, but Crucial Blast has re-released the first of those three in a simple digipak. Gulaggh is the transformation of the original group Stalaggh after they concluded a different trilogy of releases; the musicians are surely focused on their themes.
This one-track album, lasting about 45 minutes, is composed of two distinct movements; the first, which lasts nearly half the time, features droning dissonant chords and bass booms along with a Russian giving a speech in what must be a recorded announcement to the gulag. The track swells, expands, ultimately becomes bloated with the encompassing features of the track, and explodes into a series of cries and screams.
At first they could be anything; perhaps they are just screams of anger or frustration. But as Vorkuta continues, they become agonized cries, not of adults but of children wailing in chorus. It’s unsettling, and Gulaggh emphasize that aspect with impacting bass hits and the calculated roll of snare drum.
If there’s a way to put suffering to sound, Gulaggh have managed to do that on Vorkuta. It effectively epitomizes the terrible aspects of a prison camp as much as I can imagine; in a way, this soundscape is the tortuous expanse of being forced to listen to moral and ethical wrongs while also helpless to stop it.