Emblems of Horror

We received a number of “Dark Dans” from Cold Spring Records this Autumn. Here are four of them which I have managed to find in my scattered boxes. Fire In The Head is the work of Michael Page from Massachusetts, and it’s an “industrial / experimental” project he’s been doing since 2004. Confessions Of A Narcissist (CSR120CD) blasts out 13 tracks of smothering, raw nihilism with considerable assurance; ignoring conventional song-form structure, the open-ended tracks roll forth relentlessly to accumulate numerous layers of compressed and reverbed digital filth, creating the effect of slamming into a brick wall. On the top of these rich and intense instrumentals, Page sometimes add narrated vocals describing scenarios which are probably as horrific as their titles – ‘Get The Rope’, ‘Home Invasion’ and ‘The Machinery of Death’. The same degree of grisly attention to detail has been poured into the shocking cover collage. Purty darn intense…

Goatvargr‘s Black Snow Epoch (CSR126CD) is the second full-length collaboration betwixt Swede Lord Nordvargr and the American player Goat (Andy O’Sullivan), and the album’s themes are replete with bloodthirsty antics, hunting expeditions, unpleasant weather conditions, and unholy alliances formed with certain key members of the animal kingdom (hint: one of them could be a goat). As the duo play with fire, occult destruction and mayhem is but one heartbeat away. Sonically, the musicians also opt for the anti-structure approach of Fire In The Head, but their strategy also includes the use of numerous pounding hammer-beats thrown in to make the listening experience as difficult and painful as possible. Plus feedback, hailstorms, fire and raging tornadoes added in. Quite an evocative cover suggestive of Satanic rituals, but this record is quite some way from Black Metal and leans more towards some strain of intensive industrial noise-filth.

Also favouring the blood and sweat of the primal hunting man archetype, tenhornedbeast offer us Hunts & Wars (CSR130CD) – the third album made for this label by Christopher Walton. About the most approachable item in this list, the record is a set of experiments in cold ambient and spine-freezing atmospheres that owes a great deal of its inspiration to the supernatural literature of Robert E. Howard and Lord Dunsany. In its own way however, no less claustrophobic than the records above. The high-quality foldout cover is decorated with the familiar emblems of forest, mountains, cryptic sigils and a detail from a Celtic bronzework, all to reinforce the Nordic roots of tenhornedbeast and suggest that he could go ten rounds with Grendel and still get home in time to down a flagon or two with Odin.

The bleak black record by MZ.412 is In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas Luciferi Excelsi (CSR136CD), a reissue of a 1994 record by this Swedish project whose previous efforts have somehow passed me by. This is all set to change thanks to the Cold Spring reissue programme, and those with a taste for this sort of violent, abject horror-noise should investigate the five-CD box set which should be out about now, or purchase the records separately one at a time. Henrik “Nordvargr” Björkk (see above) is the ringleader of this notorious band, credited with inventing the “black industrial” genre in the 1990s. Perhaps surprisingly, I found the music here not as relentless as this might suggest, in fact the overall approach to composition and construction strikes me as highly inventive and dynamic, pitching pagan drumming against smothering synth / electroacoustic passages that are about as lethal as nerve gas. This is music that can freeze you as instantly as stepping into a tank of nitrogen. The real stumbling block comes with the taboo subject matter (mainly expressed in song titles and taped voiceovers) that gleefully wallows in 18 forms of ritualistic Satanism and sexual depravity, violating all that’s holy with the remorseless attack of a rolling tank. Not hard to see how they achieved their cult status in short order!