Third Wave Holocaust: blackened noise industrial soundscapes too muddy to be truly scary

T.O.M.B., Third Wave Holocaust, Black Plagve Productions, CD (2013)

One of a recent generation of black metal acts that combine BM, noise and industrial, this Philadelphia-based one-man band treats urban environments as his natural territory, perhaps more so than most BM bands treat nature as theirs. The tracks on “Third Wave Holocaust” have all been recorded in various locations in Pennsylvania and New Jersey that have some historical or emotional significance either to T.O.M.B.’s main man Jack Gannon or the people in the areas surrounding those venues: derelict buildings, decaying churches, places where people have died or have been murdered or places that for some reason emit negative vibes or have a dark and horrible history. Whether these places have good acoustics is another thing however – from what I have been able to find out about this project, it seems that Gannon chooses particular venues to record and gather field recordings of their sounds so as to imbibe something of the spirit or mood of that place and transmit or release that spirit and its energy through his music.

The result is an album of bleak cavernous space from which strange murky and often frightening sounds emerge. The album is best heard as loudly as you can stand to get the full sonic effect of all the sounds that come streaming (and often screaming) through the headphones or speakers. Sound quality varies a great deal and often the noises are muddy and blunted. Though the music is divided into 10 tracks, it’s actually best heard as one continuous work: there are no vocals, no melodies or rhythms so you might as well just let it all rip from Track 1 “Antagonizing the Unknown” onwards.

You can let your imagination take you where it will with this recording: “Electric Exorcism” is a journey through a vortex of harsh grating junk metal sandstorm noise while “The Great Venerat Insult” pops you into a slowly simmering and bubbling cauldron of initially cold liquid metal that will soon overwhelm and dissolve you molecule by molecule. Though Track 3 is a relatively quiet piece, the background is constantly alive with unknowable malevolent forces. A ritualistic element is introduced with sonorous chanting in “NA LA GORE NA” and for many listeners this might be the most terrifying track of all as the echoing disembodied voices are accompanied by a storm of withering, scraping noise drone that steadily erodes even the most solid granite and basalt. The rumble that is “Vulgarity” sounds like something the Japanese noise musician Merzbow might serve up with its crumbly textures that roam about looking for human victims to crush and gobble up, along with a foghorn sound effect and occasional sharp screechy skidding-brake tones.

Titles of the last four tracks suggest a celebration of a sinister ceremony with mass human sacrifices to dark deities as its culmination. The title track combines a repeating loop of washed-out ambient slash and a deep subterranean rumble. Later tracks bring more horror but very little that listeners haven’t already heard.

As albums of this genre go, “Third Wave Holocaust” is not bad but it’s a bit disappointing: while the sounds may be interesting and the darkness hinted at in several tracks is very deep and terrifying, those of us familiar with noise terror acts like Yellow Swans, Hair Police, Mammal, NRIII and Sutekh Hexen don’t hear much new that those and other bands and projects haven’t already delivered. Some listeners may even anticipate the ritualistic aspect hinted at by titles like “Electric Exorcism” and “VOM VOODOO”. The cavernous echoing ambience that’s present throughout has the effect of not only muddying sounds but distancing them from listeners and the album is not nearly as confrontational as it could have been. A record such as this needs one or two moments where the sounds become absolutely clean, sharp and close in a way that listeners only have to extend a finger out a little way and the noise could chop off the entire arm. Later tracks become quite monotonous in their samples and atmosphere. In a genre that I predict will soon be jam-packed with blackened scrap-metal industrial noise terrorism projects started up by every kid and their dog, T.O.M.B. (the name stands for Total Occultic Mechanical Blasphemy) needs to create much more distinct soundscape works than what it has done here.

Contact: Black Plagve Productions

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