Tagged: horror

Throne Of Blood

Now for some very grisly and soul-shattering “Horror-Electronics” from the American magus Burial Hex (Clay Ruby) last heard in these four walls in 2012 with the terrifying Book Of Delusions album. A quick glance at this madman’s Bandcamp page will indicate there’s no end to his prolific career in sight, and you’ve only to peruse the images of skulls, hooded figures, night skies, moons and planets, sigils, symbols, statues and magick hex charms to get an index on where his brain-waves are coming from. Ruby – or CLYRBY – still seems hell-bent on creating music that serves a purpose “In Psychic Defence” (to use one of his own album titles), and clearly perceives the world as an extremely threatening place filled with invisible enemies, demons and devils who strive to capture his soul. To keep them at bay, he dare not relax his charms for a single second, and consequently his every waking moment is likely to be dedicated to the production of this sickening, harrowing noise, filled with desolate atmospheres, harsh explosive effects, unpleasant grinding sensations, and ghastly shrieks of despair. The present record Throne (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR232CD) is the third in a series of reissue albums, bringing together Clay Ruby’s contributions from split records made with Sylvester Anfang and Iron Fist Of The Sun, and other sources. If you missed the original vinyl editions, here’s your chance to catch up. It opens with three shockers of raw noise and yawping nightmare…for my reactions to ‘The Coming Of War’ and ‘Actaeon’, see this post.

‘The Feast Of Saints Peter And Paul’ is a work that in title at least must be understood as evidence of the “eerie religious allusions” noted in the press release; it’s not quite as violent or aggressive as some of the other punch-fests on this CD, and even allows the listener some room to breath in amongst teeming blocks of steel noise…but once you do inhale you will find the air is actually poisoned smog from the chimneystacks of Hades. Buried in this ingenious layered mix of shapeless black noise, we hear the pale echoes (the ghost of a ghost) of a celestial choir singing mangled hymns, as if Burial Hex were striving to portray the utter annihilation of all religious endeavour, yet still mourning its demise, and attempting vainly to reconstruct an entire church from the fragments of a charred and broken icon. A very bitter-sweet 19-minutes of angsty despair, chillingly beautiful in its abject visions…this was the A side of From The Rites Of Lazarus, released in 2010 on the Italian Urashima label.

‘Armagiddion’ was also rescued from Italian vinyl, the 2009 release Bagirwa Hymn on Von Archives. This is even more subdued and atmospheric and with its ambient tones, guitar sketches and exploratory drones, it’s almost like a zero-gravity stroll around what’s left of the scorched globe after a nuclear holocaust…Ruby once again finds a strange beauty in the horrors of the void, staring intently into dark corners where few men dare to peep. The esoteric artwork for the cover is by long-standing collaborator Nathaniel Ritter. From 30 November 2016.

You’re Already Dead

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Here’s another scorching blast of intense negativity and doomified howl from Cadaver Eyes, the Israel-based duo of drummer-vocalist David Opp and noise-maker Eran Sachs who we haven’t heard since 2010 with their absolutely uncompromising release Mesarveem Lihyot Covshim. Like their blistering track ‘BaHoref Karrr’ on the 2008 comp What Pleasing The Lord Looks Like-Marriage, their primitive stripped-down take on the noise-doom genre fills me with a combination of fear, loathing, physical nausea and despair, and Class Mammal (HEART & CROSSBONE RECORDS HCB 058) makes me want to leave the room as soon as I play it. Better yet, I should head down to a concrete lined cellar where I can stick my head in a noose. Yet it’s also possessed of uncanny power, making one compelled to keep listening to it; how much further can these two push themselves over the ledge into the abysmal depths?

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Cadaver Eyes may not really fit the profile of generic doom rock metal…to begin with their music is essentially a free-form blast, not tied down by conventional rock drumming or guitars that play recognisable chords. There’s a drumbeat, for sure, but it’s more like the hammering of an insane coffin-maker building your wooden overcoat in front of your dead eyes, randomly thumping his mallet. There’s a howling, parched, voice, screaming and pleading in abject despair and utter exasperation, yet it’s a true and felt emotion, the bleeding raw wounds of a cut man growing worse and more infected as we behold the sight in horror. This isn’t nice, but it is something real…the average grunting and groaning of your basic fourth-rate Black Metal band seems stereotypical in comparison, an identikit feature of the genre. Cadaver Eyes are trying to push themselves right to the edge of the conventions, and find what they can on the extremities of the frontier. There’s also the raw electronic noise produced by Zax, a bitter snarl and untamed animalistic screech produced from his no-input mixer system which makes a mockery of a thousand laptop softies, preening away with their polite and over-manicured pre-sets. The whole of Class Mammal is recorded in a no-frills near-confrontational manner, probably capturing live performances in a single grasp…this is how it must sound in real life, with no studio craft to smooth away the abrasive edges.

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Released in November 2014, this CDR edition arrived here 12 February 2016; I think the fourth album by Cadaver Eyes. The cover unfolds into a set of cryptical doodles, including pictures of mountains, an upside down raincloud, a triangle hovering in the air, and series of words crossed out. The titles reveal very little, and use a mix of lower case and upper case letters to reveal extra hidden meanings. ‘Acetone’ is a cover of a Mudhoney original. Rani Z. wrote a poem about this record and concludes that “Cadaver Eyes Leads to Mental Erosion”, a sentiment I can only endorse.

Mortificatio

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Cover image without lettering from the Black Earth Bandcamp page

Another grisly and intense piece of work from the hands and brain of Miguel A. García…Black Earth is a diabolical trio in which García plays power electronics, as does Alejandro Durán (also credited with playing “chains”) and Alejandro Tedín contributes guitars, bass, vocals, and more electronics…the Unholy Threesome are joined by drummer Unai Arrese and bassist Txemi Artigas, plus there’s the lovely vocalist Marta Sainz 1…and yet more collaborators appear to guide this gruesome undertaking, if not in act then in spirit, including numerous talented Spaniards and our good friend Nick Hoffman from the USA, to whom an event like this must be part of his very lifeblood…lastly, García mixed and produced the entire abyssal horror, confirming his position as overlord and mastermind of evil Saturnine noise.

Black Earth don’t seem to have much of an existence outside of this single tape A Cryptic Howl Of Morbid Truth (GRACELESS RECORDINGS GRACE022), but even so it’s probably going to stand as a monumental example of all that’s depraved and evil, a landmark visible from space on the monstrous globe of filth…even Stephen O’Malley has allowed it to show up on his radar, and perhaps a vinyl reissue from his imprint is on the cards…the release embodies everything that’s both insufferable and great from the genres of Black Metal, industrial power noise, and deadly jet-black death-ambient, roaring forth its horrendous tones in a great belch of over-loaded, distorted, and exceptionally powerful grimitude. There are so many instruments piled up on the mixing desk that the competing tones are engaged in a life and death struggle…this fact alone is a sufficient metaphor for the millions of damned souls writhing in Hell, eating each other alive in an attempt just to snatch a breath of air or a place to stand apart from their neighbour. If you’re inclined to think of Hell as a solitary or lonely place, think again…Black Earth are convinced it’s the most over-populated locale in existence, and no matter how dark or extreme your sin, you’re going to have to share legroom with ten thousand devils and countless other victims of eternal damnation, who hate you for all eternity.

So far, so good…the supernatural / Devil-worshipping horror of A Cryptic Howl Of Morbid Truth is further indicated in the trajectory of the “journey” it describes, which is a two-part ritual expressed under the titles ‘Putrefactio Philosophorum’ and ‘Caput Mortuum’. Both parts of this wretched initiation which all would-be Satanists must undertake, according to the code of practice that’s spelled out on the Black Earth Bandcamp page… “This is the condition for wandering through the long saturnian night,” they warn about part one, while part two is even worse: “The consciousness follows the path of a severed head”. Further esoteric language is used in the individual track titles, evoking certain stations on this awful journey, some of them so occult as to be expressed in Latin (always a good stand-by technique to suggest that Black Magic / grimoire / alchemy vibe). One thing is certain, the road is as long and hard as anything envisioned by Dante, and the depressingly noisy, intense and overloaded sound doesn’t relent for a single second. Even the quieter moments – and there are some, after the full-on catacylsm of the opening cuts has subsided – are informed by a genuine and palpable sense of dread, that’s so convincing it’s as though the players had all faced Beelezebub, Belial and Behemoth in the face and somehow lived to describe the experience.

Very good indeed, if you have a taste for the morbid, the extreme, the misanthropic, laced with an unhealthy dose of curiosity for the doings of The Horned One…not since Blue Sabbath Black Cheer have I felt my mortal soul so imperilled and emblackened by sheer noise alone…cassette edition comes with a fine slipcase and excellent cover art…arrived here 2nd October 2015, one of many goodies from García The Cruel.

Pack shot from the Graceless Recordings website
Pack shot from the Graceless Recordings website
  1. Just the other day I was hoping for more recordings by Marta Sainz. Careful what you wish for.

Skaphe2: journey into the inner hell of a mind gone insane

Even the artwork is going insane …

Skaphe, Skaphe2, United States, Fallen Empire Records, vinyl (2016)

We’re just a couple of months into 2016 and already there’s an early contender for Black Metal Album of the year in US band Skáphe’s second release “Skáphe2”. This offering follows on from the first self-titled album with more hellish and punishing BM psychedelia fusion soundscapes. Howling banshee off-key guitars, insane pounding blast-beat drums and demon voices screaming and growling away, all in a deep underground pit from where there is no escape and no hope of ever escaping, dominate the recording from start to finish. Everything is shunted through layers of reverb which have the effect of running and bleeding the different sounds and textures created by the instruments into one another and all coagulating into one might formless and fluid giant monster amoeba that steam-rolls everything into flatter-than-flat schnitzels in its path. For all that, the sound of the entire album is amazingly clear and each and every instrument has its 15 minutes of fame under the, er, spotlight in this sprawling cloud denseness.

The music is cut up into six tracks but it’s best experienced as one continuous freak super-hurricane force of nature that tears up and destroys everything it touches. Occasionally there are brief moments where near-stillness reigns, the bass rumbling for a while, the screaming lapsing into quiet for once, but even these oases of brooding near-silence have an uneasy ambience, as any moment the torrent can hit hard like 10,000 tonnes of concrete slamming into you from 100 storeys up high.

The musicians sustain interest in this 36-minute charge into the deepest levels of bleakness and madness by mixing up elements of black, death, doom and dark ambient and by including long fragments of rhythm and riff structures, and bits of melody in search of one another. On some tracks there is a definite groove to the rhythms, as if even in deepest Hell there are demons who retain their old-time rock’n’roll memories. In other sections, guitars transform into long droning doom siren calls and drumbeats crash down continuously like bells tolling for all humanity to march into the black holes of non-existence. As the album continues, extended passages of quietly sinister atmosphere develop and brood over blasted landscapes where even bacteria and other microbes cannot live and thrive. Deep sadness, pain and anguish arise as well.

In the last few moments, the intensity and insanity ratchet up to greater levels, with drums threatening to go airborne at the speeds they go and the multi-voiced demon choirs screaming as they go through a harder maelstrom churn. Eventually it all hits the event horizon and what is left behind is disoriented space flotsam and jetsam.

The atonality of the entire work is what really sets it off and helps give the album a highly immersive quality, as does also the layered and complex if exhausting and suffocating nature of the music. There is a great deal to absorb from this album and it needs (and repays) repeat hearings. Few journeys into the inner hell of a mind gone insane are as terrifying as this one.

The CD version of the album will be released during 2016 by I, Voidhanger Records.

This Mountainous Abomination

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Mannequin Hollowcaust’s ‘Slow Infector’ (STAND UP TRAGEDY RECORDS SUT14 / HEAD DESTROYER MEDIA HD08) is a magnificent instance of industrial horror-noise with a message…we received a copy direct from Bryan Lewis Saunders, for which I am grateful as we’d never have discovered it otherwise. Saunders helped with the production in Tennessee, but Patrik Dougherty is the man with the ultra-pessimistic vision of doom which he unleashes on this terrifying record. “It is about how he lives right next door to a chemical factory,” reports Saunders. That’s the factual view, but Dougherty has a much less equivocal story to tell. “This record was recorded in the shadow of a giant BEAST a snarling & unrelentless MACHINE belching out its disease and spewing its filth into our land”…is how he begins his polemic, inserted as a text with the release, said text a combination of typewritten and hand-scrawled ravings indicative of a highly preoccupied mind.

Continuing, he speaks of death and blood perpetrated in the name of dollars, and how the entire town is kept in a state of permanent fear; as extreme a Marxist critique of modern industry as you could wish for. The cover images pick up this theme, particularly the back cover which superimposes belching chimney stacks with diseased skeletal zombie faces, eyes and mouth running with blood. Not especially subtle perhaps, but there’s no mistaking Dougherty’s impassioned and desperate message here. The sound of the record itself is pure industrial terror; it emulates the noise of factories, naturally, but it also clogs the air with poisonous toxins and evil sonic substances, creating psychic mayhem in your ears, and thus amply delivering the main bullet points of his polemic in aural terms.

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The B-side, titled ‘The World is a Wasteland’, indicates that this unstoppable force is no longer confined to his hometown, but has already laid waste to the entire planet. When I was in America in 1970, I recall that ecology was one of the strong post-hippy themes of the counter-culture 1, but that old-school beads, sandals and Mother-Earth imagery seems positively quaint compared to the monstrous ravages that are implied on this recording, suggesting strongly that urgent action is needed. A joint release on Stand-Up Tragedy and Head Destroyer Media, and very good indeed. From around 2013.

  1. One contemporary example of the prevailing ideology fro this time might be the LP cover to Steppenwolf’s Monster, a drawing by Rick Griffin that tells you more than you want to know about the military-industrial complex.

Fashion Police

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Two grisly episodes of slow-burning torture noise from Jeff Surak on his cassette tape Dillhole And Fashion Delete (ZEROMOON ZERO164). On side one he passes the subject through an experience resembling a body-scan device of some sort, except that this infernal machine is not for medicinal healing purposes and instead inflicts the victim with germs, diseases, and corpuscle-destroying entities. Once completed, you’ll be a ghost of your former self, lucky if you can shake hands with your own reflection. An exquisite low-key whine of sinister proportions, for sure. One side two we’re in a distinctly urban-industrial outdoor scenario, involving what may be a fruit-canning machine that’s in the business of parcelling what’s left of our bodies into food for the remaining populace. This side undergoes many changes presenting several ingenious nightmares of minimal electronic Hell, presenting an impassable facade of grim, unknowable horrors. Last heard from this Maryland stern-faced noisedroner in 2014 with his supernatural tapes Skull Cloud and Harmonium Bacterium; we always enjoy his restrained yet unwavering approach, fearlessly exploring dark zones of implied violence and subdued terror.

Descending Order

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Fine spooked-out harsh-noise-drone-o atmospherics from Rogelio Sosa on his daturas (BOCIAN RECORDS BC-ROG) album…I particularly like those moments when he shamelessly creates a miniature horror-movie in sound, even to the extent of using sound effects to help propel the vaguely-outlined story, on such tracks as ‘Diablero’ or ‘Visiones’. As well as boldly embracing narrative themes, Sosa is not afraid of using a melodic element if the situation demands it, adding a grotesque organ flourish to certain moments, and before long you too are sharing his nightmarish visions of gothic mansions populated by tall, creepy old people with gnarled hands and sulphuric makeup plastered over their craggy visages. Plus, he’s an A-1 noise guitarist; there’s his heavy-metal guitar slung over one shoulder, fed through a fair few distortion and grubuloid effect boxes, the better to induce grisly shocks as needed, juddering the spinal cord of listener.

Born in Mexico City, Sosa is an accomplished sound artist and composer with an impressive CV of awards and festival-curation actions to his credit, has won several prizes for electro-acoustic composition and found a niche in the professorial-academic strain of computer-composition as a taught subject. Daturas exhibits a masterful attention to detail, textures, and surface, and Sosa puts effort into making his frequencies work in a co-operative and contrasted way, to avoid the usual quagmire of blended, overworked, soggy drone music that so often emerges from a digital environment. His titles also suggest an interest in assorted dark ceremonies and ritual invocations, a “vibe” which is something of a cliché nowadays, but again Sosa is adept at avoiding the traps which ensnare more solemn and self-important droners. Pressed in clear vinyl, arrived 3rd September 2014.

Swallow It Whole

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Kiv Orchestra
Whole
AURIS MEDIA aum-017 / VIALKA via-014 LP (2013)
Edition of 520 in transparent yellow vinyl

The Kiv Orchestra sees the inspired team-up of two bands, both of them already highly unusual and well-established in furrowing their own particular grooves of madness. Vialka is the French duo of Marylise Frecheville (here appearing as “FrenchEvil”) and Eric Boros, while the ensemble Kruzenshtern I Parohod are the unclassifiable Israelis 1 who play a species of traditional Klezmer music mashed up with energetic hardcore rock, under the leadership of principal bassist, singer and all-round loon Igor Krutogolov, who also did the artworks of the naked green boxing goblin. While Kiv Orchestra’s previous outing seemed a little incoherent to Hannah Giles 2, this 2013 LP has found the right groove for the current listener, and it comes out blasting like a mad species of European circus-jazz, accordions and clarinets rubbing up against electric guitars while cheerfully owning up to all its influences taken from cabaret, Chanson, tango music, and “traditional Russian prisoners’ songs” – the latter being a sub-genre which has strangely passed us by. The tri-lingual lyrics (French, English, Russian) sweep the listener through a kaleidoscopic vision of an imaginary between-the-wars Europe that’s like an unholy mix of all the bad cinematic dreams of Eisenstein, Rene Clair, Orson Welles and Alexander Korda all tied up in a bag with eighteen cats, while some of the grand guignol lyrics surpass Nick Cave with their matter-of-fact bloodthirstiness and geelful implied violence. The arrangements may seem as ramshackle as something played by a Tom Waits pick-up band, but are in fact watertight concoctions allowing all players to exhibit their “black humour and tough punk attitude”, and two of the vocalists really shine forth – the excellent Marylise who seems as wound up as a Dayglo version of Edith Piaf with her sardonic Chanson parodies, and Alexander Liver, whose near-comic baritone is the centrepiece of the Russian song ‘Maki’. It’s exhausting, but great fun. Curious listeners may wish to investigate as far back as their 2006 split LP. This arrived 21 August 2013 and is pressed in yellow-ish vinyl, the colour of nasty medicine.

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  1. …whose previous releases failed to impress our Jennifer Hor.
  2. The current LP does seem to recycle most of the tracks from the La Roue CD, unless they’re re-recorded.

The Purloined Letters


Omnivore is Glenna van Nostrand from Cambridge, MA. On her self-titled LP (FEEDING TUBE RECORDS FTR072) the gimmick is that she records her voice through old telephones, whose small microphones presumably give her what she seeks in terms of an interesting filtering effect and a non-digital warmth. To advance that strategy, she records everything using amplified radios. Strip away that technology, though, and what we have is an odd album of acapella songs. I do like the way she has assembled her songs with much care and craft, overdubbing voice recordings to build a virtual doo-wop group out of her own personality, and making clever use of repetitions in these simple round-like compositions. She’s like a minimal version of Bobby McFerrin, even supplying her own percussion and rhythm section through voice. It would be nicer if she could manage a bit more variety in the vocals though. I’m not hoping for a Coasters-styled vocal group with alto, tenor and basso profundo effects, but everything Omnivore does is pitched at the same level, meaning that the songs lack musical depth and become monotonous. Her lyrics mystify me, but she’s plainly from the school of disaffected modernist poets, making a virtue out of inarticulacy. We are invited to enjoy the dislocating effect taking place as she apparently forms her thoughts before us, in real time. The cover image also tells us something’s wrong; but for the woman’s troubled face, it could almost be a faded snapshot from the cover of Better Homes and Gardens in the 1950s. (31/05/2012)

The double album Electric Cremation (GRAUTAG RECORDS GTR#003) by Pharoah Chromium was released in 2011. The performer may or may not be Ghazi Barakat who also records as Boy From Brazil. He did all the work here with some help from Timothy Gane, who added synths in places and recorded and mixed the album in Berlin. The large amount of material has been organised so that each side has its own distinct mood and flavour, as indicated by the titles “Atomic Side”, “Feral Side”, and so on. The record starts off with a song, and ‘L’Age Atomique’ is a splendid piece of bleak minimalist electro-beat, sung with perfectly calibrated icy precision by guest vocalist Becky Ofek. This gem turns out to be untypical of the remainder of the set though, which I would characterise as assorted forms of drone, synth sludge, distorted guitars, and noise. A few interesting sounds struggle to the surface of this swampy heap, but the cumulative effect of this formless music is smothering, and rather depressing. The generally apocalyptic tone is reflected in the track titles on sides A and B, which paint grim portraits of urban decay, ruin and pollution. I might add this is entirely in keeping with the aesthetic scheme of Nicolas Moulin, who is the curator of Grautag Records, and freely owns his preoccupation with boredom, depression and futility in the accompanying sleeve note, giving visual expression to his afflicted state 1 through his grey photographs of desolation printed on the gatefold sleeve. Meanwhile Pharoah Chromium moves on from the harsh and aggressive tones on the “Feral Side”, to wobbly and offbeat ambient drones on the “Ghost Side”, whose quasi-mystical titles represent a small window of relief from the general sense of occluded misery we have endured thus far. The closing “Arabic Side” is suitably tinged with Eastern intervals spicing up the guitar melodies. Not an uplifting album, and one which might have benefited from some editing to shorten the longeurs of certain keyboard passages, but as a coherent statement exploring a colossal sense of existential emptiness and futuristic dystopian nightmare, it takes some beating.

Tom Recchion brings us Proscenium (ELEVATOR BATH eeaoa037), his album of beautifully-crafted electronic music that is his first release since Sweetly Doing Nothing in 2006. The music has its origins as soundtrack for the work of a film-maker and puppeteer who was producing a theatrical adaptation of a story by Edgar Allen Poe, and at one level Recchion has no other ambition with these reworked versions than to create a set of suitably morbid atmospheres. Typically however, Recchion’s vision reaches farther than that and when realising that stage-bound experience, he staked a claim on the soul of each member of the audience, wishing to pass on a sonic experience that immersed them in abstract intangible murk while they were watching the play, and kept on deepening gradually until, without realising it, they were up to their eyes in bone-chilling liquid fog. Even as they went home and attempted to forget about it, this persistent globule of fear would cling to their clothes for days afterwards. A similar experience – Recchion calls it “an ongoing series of atmospheres” shall be unleashed if you dare to uncork this vinyl bottle, whose bounty extends to two sides of a thick and crusty long-player and a 45RPM single, the potent charms enscribed with evocative titles such as ‘The Haunted Laboratory’ and ‘The Mesmerised Chair’. Clearly, Recchion has studied his Poe well; music like this would make a most fitting soundtrack for M. Valdemar as we watch the decay and corruption of his mesmerised body as it is suddenly released from suspended animation. Naturally, this professional and well-burnished music – it has a presence as expensive and sleek as a black diamond – is some way from the more raw and experimental work that this creator produced as a member of the Los Angeles Free Music Society, but it still carries a similarly obsessive artistic charge. This is creepy music that stalks you, with the tenacity of a silent assassin. (24/07/2012)

  1. One of the proposals he advances is that we should adopt “Grautag” – literally, “Greyday” – as a day of the week in our calendar.

Standing Waves


Heavy dark drone of the day comes from Ural Umbo, the fourth release from this very productive Swiss-American team who continue to enact their uncanny studio-bound rituals and bottle the results like so much bubbling black tar. The Umbsters have always exhibited a predilection for peering into the dark occult realms through the magic mirror of their intensive pitch-black drones, but with Delusion Of Hope (UTECH RECORDS URLP070) the scrying activities seem to have taken a much more pessimistic turn. For sad visions of the end of the world, and constant reminders that all our hopes for improvement will turn out to be completely delusional, tune in here. While ‘Initial Magnetization Curve’ puts us in the required apprehensive mood in anticipation of things sinister, ‘Sych’ hints at violence and bloodshed with its cruel drumming and psychopathic electric guitar bursts, wielded like a sharp scimitar or claymore. Survive that slicing, and scan ‘This Dead and Fabled Waste’ for an utterly bleak and blasted heath of a landscape, a zone unfit for human habitation, and populated only by a nameless slime whose grotesque voice murmurs darkly and mumblingly throughout most of the track. After that dramatic opening, the remainder of the album offers mostly various shades of ambiguous drone music to salve our wounds, although ‘Self Fulfilling Prophecy’ has gritty textures and undertakes to give the listener a prolonged bludgeoning. In its grandeur and weight, this cut can be reckoned as a splendid example of the ingenious and excessive studio craft of Mader and Hess. Put simply, they add layers upon layers, paying no heed to the restraints of good taste. In this instance, the method produces a living thing that simultaneously crawls, groans, sings, writhes tentacles, and smashes ivory hooves upon the charred earth. It’s a sprawling bundle of wrath assembled from the parts of many creatures, escaped from both natural and mythological worlds; at their best, Ural Umbo put the theories of Dr Frankenstein and H.P. Lovecraft into grisly practice. The only thing missing from the package is the beautiful photography of Rik Garrett, who has been an important part of the visual identity of this band, but Alexander Binder’s “octopus” motif does exert a certain weird influence on the retinas. This is a vinyl release (my copy is a promo CD) but you get a CD version thrown in if you buy a copy. From February 2012.

Another grim and sinister dark music project which references H.P. Lovecraft is Kreuzweg Ost, whose Gott Mit Uns (COLD SPRING RECORDS CSR141CD) I happen to be spinning as I write these lines. Well, the reference is a bit buried, but this album was recorded in 2009 at the Miscatonic Acoustics studio 1. This Austrian trio is led by Michael Gregor who calls himself Silenius and might be better known as a member of Summoning, plus Oliver Stumming and Ronald Albrecht, and while they’re not exactly prolific (this is their third release in 12 years), it’s fairly evident they pour a lot of effort and imagination into the assembly of these bizarre, over-the-top hymns of darkness and dreariness. Every track is like an 8-minute excerpt from a wild horror movie, laden with voices, dialogue, sound effects, and dramatic musical shifts, which allow the listener to imagine incredibly vivid and elaborate cinematic visions 2. After hearing nine of these intensely theatrical concoctions in succession, your head will be teeming with gothic visions of flying vampires, dark-haired maidens whispering urgently, ruined castles full of spectres, oppressive stormy skies, insane chanting monks, and armies of desperate men on horseback equipped with swords ready to cut you into beefsteak tartare. You may also find yourself suffocating under the weight of the remorseless layers of synths, virtual choirs, martial drumming, and embittered minor-key melodies on this album, but it’s certainly an experience you won’t forget in a hurry. As title and sleeve art indicates, Gott Mit Uns is invoking assistance from Jehovah, but it’s a clearly a very vengeful Old Testament God they have in mind as they embark on their semi-occult Holy War against the forces of Evil. Not Black Metal as such, apparently it more correctly belongs to genres called “martial industrial”, “darkwave”, and “deep ambient”. Whatever the name, this is strikingly original and overwrought work. “It is I who say it – I!” 3

Heart Of Palm are the Cincinnati trio whose deranged take on avant-rock psyched-out freak-music has been a firm favourite with us since around 2008, a time when they were still called Hearts Of Palm. It’s enheartening to know I am not their only fan in the UK, since last year Ian Holloway of Quiet World released their Psychopomp (QUIET WORLD TWENTY FIVE) album. Holloway also publishes the online journal Wonderful Wooden Reasons, which we should have investigated ages ago as it’s a splendid resource replete with snappy reviews of records, books, and films. On Psychopomp, the core trio of Wilson, Davidson and Hancock are supplemented by the musicians Tim Moore, Mark Milano, Nebulagirl and Dave Rohs. Listen in amazement as they allow us to enter their private world. These 13 tracks document an almost fragile, living thing, a breathing laboratory of music where the slightest wrong influence (window left open or curtains not properly drawn) is apt to break the spell, and cause these benign agents of divine musicality to withdraw back to the Elysian Fields. Percussion, electronics, guitars, and voices – all familiar elements are being reinvented and refashioned as we behold, refracted and distorted through echo chamber, phasing machine, and other disorienting effects. Singers invent mangled glottal languages as thickened tongues refuse to unstick from roof of mouth. Musicians with silver fingers suddenly discover magical sequence of notes like alchemical secret, but it can only be played for 30 seconds and then vanishes forever from the earth. All creators involved improvise freely yet never settle for rolling around in a musical bed of infantile dribble, and many of the cuts are quite short – making their statement in two minutes time or less. The music is half-grotesque, half-absurd, always beautiful; you feel that nobody is afraid of making a fool of themselves, and all pretensions to high seriousness in art are dissolved in this almost ideal, ego-less atmosphere of free play. Given that it’s very difficult to make these music collective situations work at all, it always seem miraculous to me how Heart Of Palm manage to sustain the production of such gloriously demented and out-there music, that withstands replaying and reinvestigation. Highly recommended if you like early Faust, the original Amon Düül, Red Crayola, and Sun Ra Arkestras from the early 1960s. With suitably acid-fried cover art by Bruce Riley.

  1. The Miskatonic University was the fictional starting point for many of Lovecraft’s fantasies. Visit http://www.miskatonic-university.org/ for evidence of Lovecraftian fandom spinning out of control.
  2. As Harlan Ellison has remarked, listening to horror stories on the radio enabled him to conjure up visions of castles in his mind that were far more terrifying than any visual equivalent ever built, at enormous expense, in a Hollywood studio.
  3. See The Beetle by Richard Marsh.