Dodsmaskin – Fullstendig Brent (CD, Malignant Records)

harsh noise, power electronics, Uncategorized

Fullstendig Brent translates to «completely burnt»; «holocaust» in Norwegian according to the album’s interior insert, and the writing goes on to explain the ideas behind this full-length recording from Dodsmaskin. It’s meant as an interpretation of the Norwegian witch trials in the 17th century, and the five tracks offered on this album certainly do represent an aural history of that time.

The album is littered with burning sounds, from the first crackles of the opener
“Båldom” to the other tracks’ usage of static and more conventional power electronics synth rhythms to emphasize the thematic imagery of the witch trials. Dodsmaskin uses more ambient layers at first, allowing “Båldom” room to set the mournful atmosphere before “Heksetimen” breaks into a heavy power electronics lurch, the sounds of screaming women a cacophony in the background.

“Christoffer Orning” and “De Ti: 1621” sit comfortably in the middle, offering ambient sound effects like chanting throughout the opening minutes of the tracks and then breaking into a mountainous din; Dodsmaskin is comfortable crafting bleak and minimal tones, but his synth drones and physical effects, like shattering glass, add a theme of insurmountable odds to Fullstendig Brent.

Like its opening track, the album ends on a somber and mournful piano ballad with
“Dømt På Sitt Liv Til Ild Og Bål,” and thus ends a narrative told in audio from Dodsmaskin. Fullstendig Brent is a strong album even at its short running time, and anyone interested in the witch trials will definitely want to hear this soundscape of torture and terror from the 17th century.

Yen Pox – Between the Horizon and the Abyss (CD, Malignant Records)

ambient, dark ambient, Music, Review

I’ll be honest – writing for a noise/drone review blog, I hear a lot of dark ambient works. At this point, it’s difficult to get excited for most of them, even if the idea behind them seems solid. There are many artists working in the field who are prone to dropping a few long, sustained synth notes into a track and calling it dark ambient, and it’s the kind of oversaturation that is really hurting the subgenre. Yen Pox, however, are not newbies to this kind of music, and it truly shows on their latest album Between the Horizon and the Abyss. This isn’t a couple of notes alternated over an 8-10 minute track; it really is an ambient experience, full of moody sustained chords, swirled instrumentation, with a tension apparent from the first minutes of the near-80 minute album.

They start things off with “The Awakening,” which focuses on those sustained notes – the kind of thing that can often make for an underwhelming listen – and then integrates a wavering complexity to them. And morphing right into “White of the Eye,” it’s clear that Yen Pox understand that dark ambient’s atmosphere takes more than just dreary, held-note progressions; the swirls of sound ebb and flow, and nuance takes precedence here. There’s a reliance on the minimal within their sound that one should not mistake for a lack of complexity, because a close listen rewards with a number of subtle changes in the wavering tones of Michael J.V. Hensley and Steven Hall’s compositions.

It’s not always so quiet, though. “Cold Summer Sun” finds Yen Pox hammering on the chords, breaking out chains and rattling whatever metal was on hand – it’s almost like an updated version of A Nightmare on Elm Street‘s theme from the boiler room scenes, even complete with ghostly giggles in the background.

The flaw with Between the Horizon and the Abyss, which I would argue is a flaw with almost every album of this style, is that the listener begins to get desensitized to the flowing darkness within each of these tracks. While Yen Pox spice things up with new ideas within each song, the central idea remains mostly the same – plodding tones, sweeps of sound, and an ambiance that forces the listener to feel uneasy. That’s really the intention, to overload the audience with the abyss, but Between the Horizon and the Abyss feels a tad overstuffed. The tracks are a bit too long, or, there are too many of them. At 80 minutes, this will be a difficult listen for all those save the lover of the subgenre.

Still, Yen Pox delivers exactly what’s expected of them, with some seriously dark and brooding tunes. The vocal deliveries and the clangs of distant metallics combine with the swarming synth textures for an album that is brimming with ethereal darkness. With Between the Horizon and the Abyss, the listener finds oneself in a limbo that feels tense and uneasy – an album that showcases the best of the dark ambient genre.

Steel Hook Prostheses – The Empirics Guild (CD, Malignant Records)

Black Noise, death industrial, harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

the empirics guild

Steel Hook Prostheses is the duo J. Stillings and L. Kerr, and their sound sits primarily within the heavy power electronics/death industrial genres. The black metal vocals should give it away immediately on The Empiric Guild, but the combination of intensely atmospheric noise and the penchant for producing eerie textures of makes this a soundtrack for a very gloomy day; or, if it isn’t one, it sure will be after a listen to the screaming electronics.

The Empirics Guild is composed of twelve tracks to make up over an hour of sound. These often run the gamut from lengthy to quite-lengthy, most of them not falling under the four minute mark. Steel Hook Prostheses generally envelope the listener in sound, starting out with windy, escalating drones that are joined with harsh, often manipulated vocals. The thing about The Empirics Guild‘s tracks is that the vocals are rarely the same, often heavily modified; “Leprosaria Dross”‘ demonic incantations sound significantly different from the less-modulated screams on the other tracks, for example.

This means that no two tracks fall into the same sort of sound, which is often a problem with death industrial and power electronics. The vocals are an important technique for Steel Hook Prostheses, and they add an extra layer to the noises that populate this release. Spoken word samples on “Debrided Necrotic Tissue” add a creepy texture to the hushed drones; harsher screams give chilling results. The tracks are meant to unnerve, and they do so at all times.

Some tracks may seem familiar to others doing the same sort of styles, but Steel Hook Prostheses is consistently good. If you’re into this type of death industrial/PE, you’ll have no problem finding multiple tracks to enjoy on The Empirics Guild.

Trepaneringsritualen – The Totality of Death (Programme A) (CD, Malignant Records)

Black Noise, harsh noise, Industrial, Noise, power electronics, Review

the totality of death a

Trepaneringsritualen is Thomas Ekelund, a death industrial/power electronics project that has been around since about 2010. The project itself has amassed quite a number of smaller, hard to find releases on tapes across the noise spectrum (and even a 10″ on Release the Bats, kind of surprising), so in a partnership between Malignant Records and Silken Tofu, Trepaneringsritualen released a two-CD compilation set comprising many (but not all) of his tracks. Thus, one label released Programme A, the other released Programme B.

The tracks aren’t ordered by date of release, so they’re split fairly evenly between the two discs. You’ll get some of Trepaneringsritualen’s old and new stuff on both CDs, so there’s no worry that one disc consists of less quality than the other. It’s interesting how the tracks are structured on Programme A, because some of them seem quite different from his other works.

Opener “Death Reveler” finds a looped, scorched guitar rhythm and some bell-like textures with harsh vocals overtop, while the second track, “Edifice of Nine Sauvastikas,” meanders with an echoing industrial yaw for ten minutes. These moments tend to juxtapose the changes in Trepaneringsritualen’s sound as it evolved, and that’s really what a compilation such as this should be about.

Programme A‘s tracks tend toward the simpler side of things in terms of sonic output; Ekelund is often happy to offer up one pattern of textures throughout an entire track, working with the blackened samples he includes without feeling the need to change the loop. While this often works to his advantage (see “All Hail the Black Flame”), some of the tracks like “The Birth of Babalon” can grow stale. Likewise, the moments where Trepaneringsritualen buries his vocals in the sound, as on “För Svears Väl,” feel like missed opportunities – the atmosphere is there, but the vocals do give the project and tracks an added weight.

The last two tracks on Programme A are considerably lesser in quality, which is fine, because these offerings are quite different from the rest of the output. Drums, guitar, and other instruments combine with his vocals for an amalgam that is hinted at on other tracks but never explored. Trepaneringsritualen even covers Death in June’s “C’est Un Reve.”

Like many compilations, the tracks on The Totality of Death (Programme A) can be hit or miss, but for the most part, Trepaneringsritualen’s output is consistently punishing and worth the lengthy hour listen, especially because the project has been quite varied over the years. The discs from Malignant Records and Silken Tofu come in a six-panel fold-out digipak, too, so the whole package is worth it.