Dret Skivor – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The island of Poveglia in the Venetian lagoon, where plague victims were sent to quarantine – and die – is commonly known as ‘plague island’. But the ‘unprecedented’ pandemic that has circulated the globe in the last eighteen months or so has created a new ‘plague island’, where almost every element of dystopian fiction has become a reality.

There’s no question that this is a political album. The cover alone says it all: this is not some fictional place, but an album that’s explicitly inspired by a specific island that is – sadly, for many of us – very real. The UK, the tiny island with one of the highest death tolls in Europe from the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed a plague island – an island ridden with not only literal plague, but metaphorical plague, its seedy government the worst exponents of capitalist excess, and widely reputed as being more corrupt than the mafia, its racist, jingoistic bullshit-by-the-dozen prime minister with more children than he can account for, tossing money at his mistress while in a position of power, slinging multi-million pound contracts to associates to cash in on the pandemic, and misappropriating funds for a lavish refurb on his flat while unable to find the funds for more than a 1% pay rise for medics… A prime minister who would ‘fuck business’ but would still rather let ‘the bodies pile high’ than shut down and further damage his precious economy’. That’s a plague on a plague, a pestilence on an international scale, and also an absolute fucking disgrace.

It’s an island that also seems to have forgotten how small and isolated it is, both by geography and, now, politically: it’s forgotten it doesn’t have the empire it once did, and so, cut loose from the EU, isn’t an economic powerhouse on a global scale… just a tiny pathetic spec on the map, deludedly flexing its muscles and posturing while plunging further into debt by the hour. It’s a scabby scummy pit of self-importance and irrelevance, where the ruling elite trample the rest every second of the day purely out of self-interest. It’s a hellhole of division and decline that would rather cut off its face to spite its nose, all in the name of reclaiming its borders and blue fucking passports – and all of this is neatly encapsulated in the album’s opening blitzkrieg of noise overload, ‘Wading Through the Dead Bodies to Feel the Sovereignty’.

Because words alone cannot articulate the violent disgust at the country’s policies on immigration, welfare, child poverty, this barrage of cranium-crushing overload is the perfect expression of the rage and the fury – fizzing static and electronic sparks fly through a stammering buzz and headlong collisions of explosive distortion. It’s ten-and-three-quarter minutes of sonic annihilation that’s almost unbearable in its intensity and sheer abrasion. It’s weight and intensity feel like being trapped underneath a tank stuck on a mudbank. You’re clinging on as it tries to run you over the edge, where you can only hope to find a sleazy, lying scumbag lying dead in a ditch before you.

The churning earthworks continue unabated on second track, ‘Bring No Pestilence back’, which dissolves into a babbling, streaming gurgle that accelerates in pace and tapes to a treble as a thin, scrawling drone extends out over its final minutes, before fading to silence. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable, and clearly intentionally so. For all that, it’s not as unpleasant or uncomfortable as living in post-Brexit Britain in a semi-lockdown state and knowing that the future offers no hope on the horizon.

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