Gnawed – Terminal Epoch (CD, Phage Tapes)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

terminal epoch

Terminal Epoch is a full-length Gnawed album from Grant Richardson, and he’s become quite the aficionado of the power electronics scene. All of Gnawed’s output is consistently grueling; the devastating recordings are populated with the staples of the PE genre without feeling like the same tracks over and over again. That’s a difficult thing to do with a full-length like Terminal Epoch, with twelve tracks to fill. But the CD, clocking in at over 40 minutes, never repeats the same thing.

It certainly fits into the style of power electronics that Gnawed has been putting out for years, though. Tracks like the opening “Savage Judgment” paired with “Taken As Scorn” would sit well on any cassette Gnawed as put out; they use the vocal manipulations and pounding, slow synth beats that make up traditional PE tracks. But what always amazes me about Gnawed as an artist in the forefront of the field is that his tracks always feel incredibly powerful, mixed with the clanging industrial beats as emphatic as feedback is with harsh noise artists.

Gnawed varies things considerably, however. It’s not all about the methodical rhythmic beats; “Lip Service,” “Retribution,” and “To Crawl” manage to loop industrial rhythms without needing a thudding stomp. “Deconstructed” only sticks around for a minute, while other tracks make use of unusual source sounds like a monotone scrawl of static or a quiet sampled vocals. Gnawed’s signature whorled screams are still present, but they’re muffled occasionally.

The source sounds elevate Terminal Epoch above other PE tracks. Screeching electronics is par for the course, but piecing together specific sounds, like the synth line from the title track, takes a lot more foresight. It makes it well worth the listen.

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Gnawed – Patience Is Waste (C40, Out-Of-Body Records)

harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

Gnawed is at it again with Patience Is Waste, a solid forty minutes of power electronics set to stabbing, pulsating rhythms. There’s not always a lot of excess noise on display here; often Gnawed gives his tracks some room by simply allowing oscillating textures to fill a void while vocals run over the sound.

That’s not always the case, but it’s prevalent. Opener “Sands” establishes a very repetitive beat until the vocals finally kick in minutes later; the idea of the vocals, the whorls of the screams, are stronger because of the looping. It’s a tactic Gnawed uses well; there’s that same sense of an industrialized loop in “Spoiled” where Gnawed continues to give us those deep, guttural snarls.

But there are also some very good drones, slower parts where the industrialized clanking and synths build nicely while the screams flow along with it. “Tension” is a good example of this, and it really expresses its title; “Serenity” carries a drone tone throughout while spoken vocals chant underneath it, along with some pounding sounds that only hint at a rhythm. When the drones occur, they’ve got a very dark, warehouse-like vibe to them which work well for Patience Is Waste.

All told, this is a refreshing release from Gnawed – it’s got those grinding PE loops, but different enough to warrant picking up. When other releases tend to blend together, Gnawed remains unique, and though Patience Is Waste might feel cold, it’s also somewhat comforting.

 

Gnawed – Purge (C40, Maniacal Hatred)

Noise, power electronics, Review

You know Gnawed. Envision the world ending, trains derailing from their moors on tracks; skyscrapers crumbling into the roads; planes falling from the sky in a terrifying and beautiful display of defeat. That’s Grant Richardson’s project, a layered feast of power electronics and hatred assaulting you aurally via looping drones and pounding bass. His latest, Purge, is very reminiscent of Gnawed’s previous output, with Richardson’s tortured howls forming a sort of middle ground between the snaking coils of electronics and the the thumping bass tones, yet there’s a sense that Richardson has tried to limit the ferocity of Purge with some occasional droning textures.

The tape opens with “Purge,” with loops of staggering synth lines, rearing sizzles and hitches in sound accompanied by background bass. It’s a rather droning piece that nicely layers these pieces together, carrying on for a few minutes as an introduction to “Culturing the Virus”. The opening loops linger a bit too long, their force not quite taut or tense enough to carry the noise into the riveting following track. What “Purge” lacks in its meandering suspension of aggression is made up for in “Culturing the Virus,” a heavy, marching track with lots of bass and the squeaking of wheels behind the whole thing. Siren-like wails of electronics filter in, along with very distorted and wavery vocals by Richardson – and it’s a good thing the liner notes give us the apocalyptic lyrics, because otherwise deciphering them would be near impossible. The vocals are interesting and add a nuance to the track, but their loopy sound can become cartoonish on this track, like a vision of Richardson trying to yell out these destructive words while submerged underwater.

“Contempt” and “Feeding” round out Side A, the first without vocals and the second including them. “Contempt” is a faster-paced affair with double-bass-like rumbles, high-pitched squeals of sound, and occasional whirrings that come and go. There’s not a clear rhythm at first beside the continuous churning of the bass, which gives the entire thing an off-kilter jive until the whirring pulsates and some echoing electronics take control to drone out everything else. “Feeding” pulses slowly with bass, and then alarum calls repeatedly break through, echoing higher and higher, then lower and lower as background howls of electronics work their way in. It’s all very tense, especially the consistent escalations of the noise alarms; everything’s wavering like the moments before a storm is ready to let loose. We’ve got those rippling vocals from Richardson again, but this time the underwater feeling is okay because it’s as if the noise is surging over his head.

And to move on to Side B, there’s a very similar sound as “Feeding”, as if each track is moving onward in a layer of rotating sound. “Bricklayer” continues the vocal onslaught, and again there’s a constant bass movement with feedback squeals behind it. Fast moving, and this is a good thing because there’s really no gap in intensity from the A and B side, no real way out of Gnawed’s aggressive disgust – and when the scraping electronics come in it’s really just icing on the powerful cake Richardson has baked (or some proverbial phrase like that). “Saturation” continues the movement, squeaking electronics, powerful bass, and those similar feedback lines oscillating with a rumble that seems like a marching band has taken residence in your house.

Simply, Purge starts out somewhat slow for a reason: it needs somewhere to build to, a climax of noises that must begin somewhere and makes it difficult to end. But Gnawed really hammers home with the sprawling last few tracks, heavy on the rumbles, with an explosive amount of bass and synth arrangements that are breathtaking in their anger. Especially “Human Vermin” – that track has a magnanimous amount of filth behind it. But then again, Gnawed always brings that special finesse that makes you hate life and love it at the same time.

Still available, so buy from Maniacal Hatred

Gnawed – Devolve (C24, Phage Tapes)

Drone, Music, Noise, Review

Devolve is angry power electronics at its finest. Five tracks of powerful, driven vocals, so much so that depletion of the listener’s energy is inherent after the relatively short run tape of this cassette. The cover of this set features x-ray photos of appendages; the J-card features a bashed-in skull and spine, and the tape has a nice print of a spinal column on both sides.

“Scum (Origins)” starts with a meandering electronic buzz and a foreboding sense of destruction, rumbling in a rhythmic, tense soundtrack of demise. Then “Evolve” smashes into the mix with an unnoticeable shift, a throbbing pulse of bass that ebbs and flows, with sudden spurts of voluminous blasts. There’s a continual drone of buzz in the background, and the occasional electronic outbursts add to the building of a very tense track, the drone surging forward and picking up momentum until the ultimate climax, where Gnawed’s distorted vocals break through the chaos. This is a fantastically-organized piece, using rhythmic blasts to generate a suffocating experience. And it also knocked a bunch of CDs off of my stereo shelf. Ending side A is “Unnatural Selection,” a squeaky track with another rhythmic bass pattern along with saw-like feedback as Grant Richardson delivers his epic vocals overtop of it. Another pummeling track that emphasizes the rumble and tumult of industrialism, and it makes me wish the J-card came with a lyrics sheet.

On the flip side, we have “Devolve (Filth)” and “Lamenting Ruin (Perdition),” two longer tracks to finish off the C24. “Devolve (Filth)” starts with a harsh feedback pitch and some crumbly bass until explosions of rumbling fuzz assault the ears with aplomb. The track is most notable for its limited bursts of noise, maintaining a somewhat rigid background texture of rumbles while electronics and filthy vocals rip the foreground to shreds. A haunting, escalating siren sound peals in the distance, while the spurts of noise pulsate and writhe under Richardson’s yells. It’s easy to fall into a trance with the slow, oscillating textures, nodding your head in worship. “Lamenting Ruin (Perdition)” continues in the same vein, bass rumbles with rhythmic static feedback squeals, along with a windy echo of electronic drone beneath it. After the destruction of “Devolve (Filth),” it’s difficult to follow up with another track, and so “Lamenting Ruin” lacks some of the grit of the previous track, but instead drones with another ominous track of distant clanging and swirling electronic peals. It brings the adrenaline down to equilibrium, and concludes the tape with much-needed release.

Devolve is exhausting to listen to with so much happening at once, and surely it was just as exhausting to create a piece so full of dark fury and tension. Gnawed’s work on this tape is some of the best noise I’ve heard this year, with ritualistic beats and driving vocal performances, along with a fascination for pairing harsh sounds with distorted rhythms. Absolutely a must for power electronics fans.

Pick it up from Phage