Posts Tagged ‘dark’

Cruel Nature Records – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Having raved about Pound Land’s second album, Can’t Be Arsed back in March, I was pretty thrilled to find the follow-up landing so swiftly. What with the exponential rise of Benefits, and acts like Polevaulter emerging, it seems that now is a good time for angsty, angry music with noisy tendencies and gritty sociopolitical leanings. Of course it is: it’s a sign of the times, and besides, it’s not a good time for anything else, unless you happen to be a non-dom billionaire or a CEO at an oil company.

If Sleaford Mods set a new template for the paired-back duo setup as being in vogue before the pandemic, the combination of lockdowns and crippling economic circumstance has rendered this an operational necessity for many musicians.

Pound Land may be up to their elbows in grimy dishwater and wading through excrement in streets where the drains and sewers are backed up due to torrential downpours and a lack of council funding, but they share little common ground with Sleaford Mods, and that’s despite favouring repetitive monotonous Krautrock-inspired grooves over dynamic structures: Pound Land are far doomier, dingier, lugging their way closer to sludge metal than anything you could possibly dance to.

The Stockport duo’s third album is a monster slab of punishing, gut-dragging, bass-heavy grimness, and one has to wonder how much to read into the title. The people are weary, ground down: will they rise up, or curl up and give up?

The blurb points out that the album finds the Stockport band pushing their ‘post-industrial kitchen-sink drama preoccupations even further on Defeated, exploring the dark comedy of everyday life in the dismal land of eternal recession. Sometimes the vision expands out of shitty Britain too, ‘Drone’ recounting the wearied observations of an electronic device as it traverses the globe… You’ve got to laugh, because if you don’t you’ll kill yourself. Or somebody else.’

The laughter is pretty dark and pretty hollow, though, and derives as much from the keen observations as any particular knack for a punchline (a line about mobility scooters with Northern soul stickers on stands out as particularly pithy) and the stark musical backing isn’t especially musical, more of a pounding trudge that provides a backdrop to an endless stream of vitriol and bleak depictions of the everyday, from pavements caked with dogshit and news items about rising fuel prices and their effect in the average household. If it sounds mundane, it is, but then we need art that speaks to us about life as we experience it, and the majority know far more about scrabbling for change to buy a loaf of bread than luxury cars, watches, and clothes.

‘Violence’ is their equivalent of Public Image Ltd’s ‘Theme’, a brutal, sprawling, brawling, squalling monster that opens the album with a relentlessly heavy battering ram of a racket, like Sunn O))) with a howling harmonica and sneering Lydonesque vocal. It crushes your skull, before it fades out swiftly and unexpectedly, which somehow works. But maintaining the PiL comparison, it’s Metal Box that is perhaps the closest similarity, in that the album as a whole is diverse, fractured, unpredictable.

‘Carry On Screaming’ sounds like The Fall in a three-way collision with Yard Act and Melvins. It’s a mangled mess of drum machine beats and psychedelia and noise with a monotone vocal drawl.

Against a thumping dirge of a noise, a grating mesh of distortion and dolorous drum, the title track is a gnarly hybrid of early Swans, and elsewhere, as on ‘Sick Day’, it becomes less about songs and more about spoken word narrative delivered against a backdrop of mangled noise, and at times, it’s pretty harrowing. Lyrically, Pound Land don’t pretty things up. Sonically, they don’t either. It’s magnificently raw and un-produced, and this is no more true than on penultimate song ‘Pathogen’, a dirty slow stomp that’s pure rage and invites comparisons to Uniform. And it sounds like it was recorded on a phone from the next room.

‘Drone’ sneers and snarls like Lydon at his best, closing with a venomous refrain of ‘fucking twat’ delivered in a thick, spitting Manchester accent.

Defeated may only contain eight songs, and only a couple of them extend beyond the five-minute mark, but it’s feels immense, and experience that’s exhausting both physically and mentally. Listening, you feel the weight of the world condense and compress as the angst and anguish press down ever darker, ever denser. It’s a bleak, suffocating document of everything that’s wrong right now. This is the sound of broken Britain, and it’s a harrowing insight into just how fucked everything is. But in this channelling of nihilistic anguish, you realise you’re not alone. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s something to cling to.

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FVNERALS have released a video clip for the track ‘For Horror Eats the Light’, which is the first single taken from the dark doom duo’s forthcoming new album Let the Earth Be Silent, which has been scheduled for release on February 3, 2023.

FVNERALS comment: “The track ‘For Horror Eats the Light’ is a lament about giving up all sense of hope, embracing the absence of light and a forced return to barren lands through devastation”, guitarist Syd Scarlet explains. “The song is about contemplating our lives coming to an end while accepting that nothing can save us and nothing should. It was written to include several movements that each mirror an emotional stage. The title of the song was inspired by a quote from Thomas Ligotti: ‘Not even the solar brilliance of a summer day will harbor you from horror. For horror eats the light and digests it into darkness’.”

Tiffany Ström adds: “The video was created by Simona Noreik, an amazing artist with whom we had previously collaborated on our live visuals”, the singer and bass player writes. “Simona’s artistic vision really complemented the apocalyptic nature of our song perfectly and she managed to portray desolation, extinction and nothingness with grace.”

Watch the video here:

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Septaphonic Records – 7th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While Dystopian Future Movies’ ‘difficult’ second album, Inviolate, took a full three years to land after debut Time, their third, War of the Ether crashed in after just over two, and it’s an immense sonic documents that the Nottingham trio have compiled in this time.

Back in the spring of 2020, I wrote of Inviolate that ‘Everything about Inviolate is bigger, bolder, more pronounced and yet more nuanced, shaper and more keenly felt and articulated. And every corner of the album is imbued with a sense of enormity, both sonic and emotional: Inviolate feels major-scale, from the driving riffs to the heartfelt human intensity.’ That amplification is again true of War of the Ether. Dystopian Future Moves’ previous releases amply demonstrate a band with both an interest in and a knack for the cinematographic, the dramatic, so it stands to reason that they should extend these focal elements here.

This time around they’ve drawn inspiration from little-reported but truly horrifying events which took place at the former Catholic-run Tuam Mother and Baby Home in songwriter Caroline Cawley’s native Ireland, where 796 skeletons found in the grounds after suspicions were raised by a local historian in 2012. As the press release explains, ‘to hide the shame of pregnancy outside of wedlock, women were sent to homes like this all over the country – forcibly separated from their mothers, many of the children died in infancy due to neglect, and some were trafficked for adoption to the US. The country is still dealing with the fallout from these discoveries.’

War of the Ether is not a joyful record. It is, however, a record with real depth, and imbued with real emotion, as well as an aching sense of tragedy. And, as has been established as Dystopian Future Movies’ signature style, it’s an album which balances riffs and restraint, and is built on atmosphere and menace. They promise an album that ‘explores a wide range of genres from prog and shoegaze to doom-metal, noise-rock and folk,’ and don’t disappoint.

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War of the Ether opens – somewhat daringly – with the ten-minute spoken word crawler that is ‘She From Up the Drombán Hill’. For the most part, it’s sparse and spare, tingling guitars gently rippling behind the narrative – but there are bursts off noise, and it swells and grows and when it kicks in, it kicks in hard with piledriving riffage. The dynamics absolutely blow you away – exactly as intended. ‘Critical mass’ is appropriately titles, starting out with a haunting, echoed clean guitar and delicate drums rolling in the distance as a backdrop to Cawley’s aching, melodic vocal as it stretches and soars, and ‘The veneer’ is a magnificent slow-burner that builds to a shimmering sustained crescendo which unusually fades at the end. Against the weight of the subject matter and brooding instrumentation, it feels somewhat frivolous to focus on a fade, but it serves to highlight the many ways DFM are outside trends and exist in their own space. This is never more apparent than on the dreamy but serrated buzzing shoegaze of the title track.

For all its darkness, War of the Ether is a remarkably accessible album – not on account of its myriad hooks and killer choruses, but because it is simply so strong on melody and so utterly captivating. And because, as they demonstrate admirably on ‘No Matter’, the album’s shortest and most overtly structured song – they do have a real knack for snagging the listener with the combination of tunefulness and megalithic riffery. And then, the final track, the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘A Decent Class of Girl’ brings together all aspects of the album in a powerful accumulation of sedate, strolling psychedelia and climactic crescendos that optimise the impact of both.

Magical, majestic, and immensely widescreen, the scope of War of the Ether is simply breathtaking, and leaves you feeling stunned. Awesome in the literal sense.

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Lupus Lounge – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s catharsis and there’s catharsis. Extreme times heighten the tension and anxiety, and increase the urge to purge. This split release from Tchornobog and Abyssal – a truly international effort, with Tchornobog hailing from Portland, Oregon, and Abyssal representing the UK with their brand of Death/Black/Doom Metal that explores, according to Encyclopaedia Metallum, themes of oppression, and decay.

Tchornobog take this approach to catharsis and purging completely literally. As the press summary notes, ‘Any track opening with a multi-layered recording of a number of vomiting sessions is bound to continue on the darker side of the musical spectrum.’ And so it does, delivering on the threat / promise that “The epic song ‘The Vomiting Choir’ delivers 24:08 minutes that form a descending spiral into a bottomless pit filled with a mostly dissonant sonic miasma of pure negativity and surprising complexity.”

The sounds of regurgitation, guttural coughs and choking and spluttering echo on for a good minute and aa half before the band piledrive their way into an extended workout that finds them burrowing deep into the thick sods of the earth towards the molten pits of hell.

It’s relentless and brutal, and proper old-school: the lyrics are impenetrable and so are the guitars, as a thundering, grey blast of impenetrable distorted guitar blasts away hard and fast and dark and heavy against pummelling percussion, and delivered at a breakneck pace, there are rasping, dead walker noises. There are tempo changes, and mood shifts. And there is deep, dark, anguish and throbbing pain. ‘The Vomiting Choir’ is dark, dark, dark, heavy, and oppressive. Thirteen minutes in it feels like an eternity has passed, an entire album’s worth of anguish squeezed into an excruciating document of torture. But no: there is more, much more, as the next wave and the next movement crash in. For a moment, around the 14/15-minute mark there’s a feel of Joy Division being covered by a black metal band, and the piece drives on and on, ever harder, ever darker, toward the piece’s crushing conclusion with a heavy, throbbing riff of swirling hypnoticism.

Abyssal offer no relief whatsoever, not that you’d really want them to. ‘Antechamber of the Wakeless Mind’ could well be summary of my lifetime as an insomniac. There’s no chance of sleeping through this twenty-four minute barrage of jolting, jarring metallic rage, where everything blurs in a blizzard of fretwork and drums faster than an industrial knitting machine.

It’s a truly exhausting experience; after just five minutes of busted-lunch growling and wheezing against a screeding backdrop of mangled guitars and beats that explode like machine-gun fire, the experience is exhausting – but also exhilarating in the most primitive, purging, cathartic fashion. It’s an extended release, one that’s punishingly intense and physical as well as cerebral.

As a pairing, this split is truly harrowing, mentally and physically draining, dragging its way through the darkest depths.

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Clever Recordings – 21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of ‘No Chains’ in the summer, Sleep Kicks follow up with ‘Neptune’ as we fade into autumn. And there’s something of an autumnal feel to the reflective feel of ‘Neptune’.

‘Was it an act of spite / Or was it the unrelenting time / That pulled you away that night?’ Terje Kleven questions contemplatively at the beginning of the song against a warm, rolling bass and rhythmic blend of piano and chilly synths. The vibe here is distinctly early Interpol, and it suits the band, and the song, well.

Kleven’s moderate baritone rides some deftly chiming guitar that breaks into a strong chorus where the synths come to the fore and sweep upwards to forge something uplifting while still tinged with a taint of melancholy.

Yet again, Sleep Kicks have dropped a killer tune that balances darkness and light, depth and immediacy, in an example of outstanding songwriting craftsmanship. Or, put simply, ‘Neptune’ is another great tune from a consistently great band.

Delivering a resolute punch with an acerbic sting in its tale, new single ‘Stamp You Out’ sees the Manchester band return to the spotlight with commanding form and typically uncompromising style.

From its blistering post/punk guitar lines to its punishing percussives, ‘Stamp You Out’ creates an impending atmosphere of anxiety throughout. With Adam Houghton’s trademark baritone vocal booming with all the force of an omnipotent autocrat at the lectern of a police state; it makes for a powerful statement of intent that instantly envelops listeners back into the shadow-strewn world of IST IST.
Speaking about ‘Stamp You Out’, Houghton says:

“[Stamp You Out] tips its hat to the previous IST IST where the modus operandi was to try and make an impact in the most forceful way; pounding drums and bass and repetitive lyrics. I remember watching a news report where a politician, whose name I forget, just kept saying: ‘we need to stamp this out’. I was thinking ‘we need to stamp you out’, so I wrote an aggressive fight song and a call to arms about it.”

The single is accompanied by an official video that sees the band deliver a voltaic performance of the track against a flurry of incandescent lights. Watch it here:

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Of the video Keating adds: “We felt like the track is a straightforward rock song which required a straightforward video and we didn’t want to over-embellish the visual aspect. For existing IST IST fans, it re-affirms what we’re all about, and for anyone new it tells you everything you need to know.”

The new single is also accompanied by the announcement of IST IST’s third studio album Protagonists, out 31 March 2022 via Kind Violence Records. After securing their status as one of Manchester’s most exciting acts with their 2020 debut Architecture, and then consolidating the title with its 2021 follow-up The Art of Lying; new album Protagonists arrives as something of a new dawn for the four-piece. As Andy Keating says:

“This was our first straightforward album, which sounds strange given it’s the third one. Our first album was a little bit of a back catalogue, and the rest was written in the same vein to have a coherent record. The second album was a stab in the dark and written and recorded during lockdown restrictions, but it broke us into the top 100. ‘Protagonists’ feels like the first album where there’s no pressure.”

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An album all about new beginnings, with a nod to the trials and tribulations of love, tricky family relationships and the feeling of being trapped by the past, ‘Protagonists’ arrives as an attestation to a band sure of their own identity. With the time and space to experiment in order to solidify their own sound, Keating adds:

“We originally started just exploring sounds and textures which appealed to us, and it evolved into fully-fledged songwriting. There are some elements which hark back to our ballsy days of a heavy sound, but we feel like this is a band expressing themselves how they want to.”

Owing its title to songwriter Adam Houghton’s magpie-like method of writing, Protagonists finds the frontman taking prominent characters that have caught his imagination, whether fictional or non-fictional, and transplanting them into dystopian worlds with new and uncertain outcomes. As Hougton explains:
“My process has always been taking inspiration from everything around me including but not limited to TV, Books, Movies, Newspaper, Articles on Wikipedia, Crime Documentaries etc. I then use these sources to craft fictitious stories around an imagined persona. The title ‘Protagonists” seemed to work with this method.”

Blurring the lines between fact and fiction and traversing a broad spectrum of genres, tracks like “Nothing More Nothing Less” — a  “simple love song written from a woman’s perspective” — take on a gauzy and ethereal pop-tinted quality, while slightly more menacing moments like “Fool’s Paradise” and “Trapdoors” find closer alignment with the band’s brooding, brazen rock roots.

From future favourites like “Something Has To Give”, a jittering guitar track about “a stick or twist situation”, to fully fitted-out classics like the anthemic “Emily” (a live fixture from the band’s earliest days, which has finally found its place on this record), ‘Protagonists’ will provide plenty to pore over for fans new and old.

Recorded and mixed by Michael Whalley and IST IST at Milkshed Studios, the album was mastered by the legendary  Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound (The National, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol).
A compulsive, character-driven record from a band hitting their creative zenith, IST IST will release ‘Protagonists’ in Spring of 2023.

To mark the release, IST IST will be playing a special hometown launch show for the new record at the Manchester Ritz in March next year – details below. There will also be a small preview tour before the end of 2022, with dates in London, Birmingham and Hebden Bridge. Standby for further UK live dates soon.

IST IST UK LIVE SHOWS

NOVEMBER 2022

3/11 O2 Academy 2, Islington,
4/11 The Rainbow, Birmingham,
25/11 Trades Club, Hebden Bridge (Sold out)

MARCH 2023

31 – Manchester Ritz

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Who are we? Where do we go? These are the kind of existential questions that have arisen for many of us during these last years and that have also been haunting DISILLUSION during the process of creating their fourth full-length Ayam. Without a chance to perform live and their personal lives also being affected by many restrictions the focus of the German avant-gardists shifted fully towards their band and the creation of new songs as well as recording. The effect is audible: Ayam sounds richer, even more multi-layered, and fully matured compared to the already highly praised previous releases. Yet the intricacies of their music are never just a means to an end, but more than anything all the complexity is subjugated to serve the inner feeling and cinematic aspect of each song itself. 

The thematic questions and multi-dimensional layers of the songs are also reflected in the album title Ayam. The word derives from Sanskrit and means "This One". Pronounced in English it sounds like "I am", while reading it backwards turns it into "Maya", which is neither an accident nor explained by the band that obviously likes to offer riddles.

While DISILLUSION stuck closer together, they were also searching their hearts whether it was time to change old habits and try out something new. This led to the excellent decision to leave the mix of the album to different ears than the bands’ for the first time. Their choice could not have been better as renowned producer Jens Bogren (OPETH, KATATONIA, MOONSPELL) once again worked his exciting magic and enhanced their already unique sound by shining a sonic spotlight to the most important aspects such as the vocals.    
Founded around singer and guitarist Andy Schmidt in the East Germany city of Zwickau in 1994, DISILLUSION pulled the rare trick of already becoming a staple in the field of avant-garde melodic death metal with the release of their full-length debut "Back to Times of Splendor" in 2004. The Germans have always been driven to seek new challenges and find new ways to evolve their music, which was exemplified by the following album "Gloria" that took radical musical steps in several directions at the same time. "Gloria" was far ahead of its time in terms of composition and sound, which becomes apparent when compared to GOJIRA’s masterpiece "Magma" for example that came out a decade later.

Despite their early success, DISILLUSION took a creative hiatus until suddenly returning in 2016 with the single "Alea" and a new line-up that had changed in several positions. Quite likely even to the band’s surprise, a large and loyal fan base had formed during the decade of their absence, which showed in sold out shows and a highly successful crowdfunding campaign to realise a new album, which the Germans repeated for Ayam.

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When The Liberation was released in 2019, critics described the album as a logical continuation of Back to Times of Splendor. Its songs reflected 15 years of additional experience in the musical development of Andy Schmidt. "The Liberation" turbo-charged all of DISILLUSION’s best qualities: the perfect interplay of massive metal with moments of pure euphoria and quiet introspection that create a sonic rollercoaster ride of passionate emotions.

With Ayam, DISILLUSION again sail among the stars to new stellar constellations of heavy sounds. While staying true to their general course, the German avant-garde pioneers also continue dropping anchor to explore new planets sparkling in space with a multitude of radiant sounds. "Ayam" offers exciting evolution rather than radical revolution, and DISILLUSION’s new musical forms and means are most beautiful and astonishing to behold. This album is a golden ticket to join the extraordinary journey of a life-time. Please feel free to check-in anytime you like!

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Electro-industrial band KRATE is back and once again teams up with a number of incredible talents on their fourth endeavor, It’s The Hope That Kills You.

The general theme of this release is hopelessness. No matter how hard you try, in the end nothing else matters as all matter is destined to die. Your prayers will be lost while you watch the horizon sink. There is no one to blame but us. We reach for the needle and ask ourselves one last time, "Where do we go from here?" Absolutely nowhere.

Songs like the hard-hitting title track featuring Anatoly Grinberg (Dead Voices On Air) & drummer Dan Milligan (The Joy Thieves). Other tracks feature members of Bow Ever Down, Slighter, Liquid Black Goo and Numbered Men.

Five tracks of electro – industrial spanning the full  spectrum of what this subgenre encompasses; from nightmarish beat-driven to heavy orchestral/industrial. The Hope That Kills You is available now on all digital platforms including Bandcamp. Listen to it in full here:

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KRATE was born in late 2017 when Chris Shortt (VERIN) and Roland Zwaga (Acidrodent, Construct) began discussing a collaboration.

The initial concept was to compose a dark ambient project between the two. After the first stems were exchanged, however, they both quickly agreed that a rhythmic element would be required to augment the sounds thus far created, leading to the abandonment of the original ambient goal.

Dark electro/industrial beats were submerged in deep cavernous, rumbling structures that were later complemented by an ever growing roster of collaborators.

As the songs originate from the input of such a varied group of artists, the music virtually spreads itself across the entire spectrum of electronic music, all the while managing to craft a cohesive and singularly focused sound.

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9th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Brooklyn-based blood and gore and dark-fixated industrial metal act GLDN keep on mixing things up with their singular and innovative take on industrial / metal / electronica, and the first single released ahead of the upcoming album Hemophilia, released early October, is another genre-smashing blast of excitement.

At the start of the video, front man Nicholas Golden is wearing a minidress on a mock-up of a slightly fuzzy-looking VHS clip, and while in itself it’s not edgy, it’s both resourceful (can’t afford actors for your promo? Do it yourself) and parodic in setting a dystopian tone n a retro setting. The trouble with retro dystopias is that, as we’ve come to find the hard way, is that the projected future which is now the present is actually worse. 1984 no longer reads like fiction, but reportage. What do you actually do with that knowledge? How do you live with that grim realisation? You too could be the owner of an obelisk…

The lyrics pick at social media and Instagram perfection, and on reading the lyrics, I remember with a slow sinking feeling how I read on a daily basis in the tabloid media how professionals – nurses, teachers, name it – are taking to OnlyFans to make ends meet and in no time they’re quitting their stressful, shittily-paid dayjobs in favour of coining it in to pay off their mortgages:

Got no flaws, no imperfections

The unachievable is my new obsession

Can’t get enough, I’m never satisfied

I’ve got to whore myself out just to feel alive

‘I’d rather be dead than be irrelevant’, Golden concludes, and it’s a stark yet fair reflection: people crave the attention as much as the money, and the bottom line is that the system is fucked and society and culture is fucked.

Coming on like an electro-infused black metal cross between Placebo and Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails, ‘Suicide Machine’ finds GLDN in darkly abrasive form, peaking with a blistering climactic finale that’s utterly punishing. Bring the album.

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Cruel Nature Records – 6th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

These are interesting times for Nadja, the ‘ambient / experimental / doom metal’ duo comprising Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker. Luminous Rot was recorded during lockdown, and found a home on the legendary Southern Lord label. Released in the spring of 2021, it’s a veritable beast of a work, which combined metal with post-punk, cold-wave, shoegaze, and industrial.

Lockdown feels like something of not so much a distant memory as an unreality, and if by May 2021 it felt like life was returning to normal, the truth is that the wounds were still raw, and any attempt to move on as if life was back as it was before was simply a wilful act of delusion to stave off the effects of the trauma.

And with every trauma, there is some residual hangover, and you might say that Labyrinthine is the product of that. As the accompanying notes detail, the material was recorded during the pandemic and concurrently with Luminous Rot, and ‘explores themes of identity and loss, monstrosity and regret, extreme aesceticism, the differences between labyrinthes and mazes, taking inspiration from Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, and Victor Pelevin’s reinterpretation of the story of the minotaur and Ariadne, The Helmet of Horror.’

When a band chooses to self-release an album, it’s no longer an indication that it’s substandard or not worthy of a label release, and the case here is that Labyrinthine, which ‘this might be Nadja’s heaviest, doomiest album to date’, it’s clear that rather than consisting of session offcuts, it stands alone as a separate project from Luminous Rot, featuring as it does, a different guest vocalist on each track, and it’s worth listing them here:

Alan Dubin – legendary American vocalist from O.L.D. and Khanate and, currently, Gnaw

Rachel Davies – vocalist and bassist from the British band, Esben & The Witch

Lane Shi Otayanii – is a Chinese multi-media artist and vocalist in Elizabeth Colour Wheel

Dylan Walker – American vocalist from grindcore/noise band Full of Hell

With such a roll-call of contributors, it’s in no way possible to fee short-changed by the fact there are only four tracks, and ‘only’ is somewhat redundant when the shortest of these is almost thirteen minutes in duration. This is an album alright, and it’s an absolute fucking monster at that.

And while the CD release is on the band’s own label, Broken Spine, there are limited cassette versions by several different indie labels from around the world: Katuktu Collective (US), Cruel Nature Recordings (UK), Bad Moon Rising (Taiwan), Adagio830 (Germany), Muzan Editions (Japan), WV Sorcerer (France/China), Pale Ghoul (Australia), and UR Audio Visual (Canada) – and it’s perhaps noting that the running order differs between formats,  and I’m going by the Cruel Nature tape sequence here rather than the CD. It may be more intuitive from a listening perspective, but limitations off format and all…

This co-operative approach to releasing music is highly commendable, and seems to offer solutions to numerous problems, not least of all surrounding distribution in the post-pandemic, post-Brexit era where everything seems on the face of it to be fucked for any band not on a major label with global distribution and access to pressing plants and warehouses worldwide.

The title track is a lugubrious droning crawl: imagine Sunn O))) with drums crashing a beat every twenty seconds in time with each pulverising power chord that vibrates your very lungs. And those beats are muffled, murky, and everything hits with a rib-crushing density, that’s only intensified by the squawking, anguished vocals that shred a blasted treble in contrast to the thick billows of booming bass sludge, and it’s a truly purgatorial experience.

And then, here it comes, and it all comes crashing down hard over the course of the most punishing nineteen minutes in the shape of the brutal behemoth that is ‘Necroausterity’. In a sense, the title speaks for itself in context of a world in lockdown, and it’s sometimes easy to forget just what terrifying times we endured, watching news reports of bodies piling up in New York and elsewhere while governments and news agencies fed a constant stream of statistics around cases and deaths. It felt truly apocalyptic. And ‘Necroausterity’ is the sound of the apocalypse, tuned up to eleven and slowed to a crawl, the writhing torture of a slow, suffocating death soundtracked by guitar and drums do dense and dark as so feel like a bag over the head and a tightening grip on the throat. The recording is overloaded, distorting, and it’s a simply excruciating experience. And it simply goes on, chord after chord, bar after bar, slugging away… and on in a fashion that makes SWANS feel lightweight in comparison. It’s relentless, unforgiving, brutal, and punishing.

‘Rue’ broods hard with dark, thick strings and a heavy atmosphere, but it’s light in comparison. It’s dense, and weighty, but Rachel Davies’ ethereal vocal drifts gloriously within the claustrophobic confines and conjures another level of melody that transforms the thick, sluggish drones into something altogether more enchanting. It builds to a throbbing crescendo that is – perhaps not entirely surprisingly – reminiscent of Esben And the Witch or Big | Brave.

Wolves howl into the groaning drone of ‘Blurred’ and the guitars slowly simmer and burn: no notes, just an endless am-bleeding distortion before the power chords crash in and drive hard, so low and slow and heavy so as to shift tectonic plates and shatter mountains. Amidst the raging tempest, Lane Shi Otayanii brings an otherworldly aspect that transcends mere words, making for a listening experience with a different kind of intensity as it trudges and churns fir what feels like a magical eternity.

The sum total is the sound of hellish desperation, and while Labyrinthine may offer absolutely no solace in the bleakest pits of deathly despair, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an album that better articulates perpetual pain and anguish better than this.

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