Posts Tagged ‘Nihilism’

Bleak Recordings/Division Records – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Black Earth is pitched as and expansion on their previous releases, and as ‘a sonic mammoth that pushes their music even further into new dimensions of heaviness, harshness and despair.’ We also learn that ‘the lyrical themes are directly related to the presence and function of men in the planet and, particularly man himself.’ Given that man has pretty much singlehandedly fucked up the planet – creating the ‘black earth’ of the title, it’s small wonder that this is a work of seething fury edged with self-loathing and guilt.

‘(No) Shelter’ hammers out an industrial metal trudge reminiscent of Godflesh and perhaps even hints at early Pitchshifter, the mechanised drum explosions slicing through a wall of low-end grind that’s countered by tripwire guitars with some attacking treble. From the relentless, rhythm-driven maelstrom, vocals howl pure blackened nihilism. It’s a punishing eight and a half minutes and a brutal way to open an album.

‘Feral Ground’ plunges deeper into doomy drone in the opening bars before a pulsating throb of battering ram percussion and churning guitars and bass blended into a thick wall of sonic clay. It’s all about the chunky chop ‘n’ thud, stuttering, stop/start riffs, the trudging grind. One can trace a lineage of brutally nihilistic music which achieves absolute catharsis by simply bludgeoning the listener with brute force, and which possesses a tangible physicality from Swans’ initial phase, through Godflesh and Pitchshifter via Earth to Sunn O))). It’s within this context that Process Of Guilt introduce elements of Neurosis’ gnarly organic enormity to the slow pounding fury of their precursors.

On ‘Servant’, the guitars shriek in tortured anguish, the notes bent out of shape into howls of feedback while the rhythm section pounds on, hard. The twelve-minute title track is a relentless succession of sledgehammer blows, tearing guitar chords and straining feedback, and provides the album with a towering centrepiece.

The fifth and final track, ‘Hoax’ is a trudging dirge of a tune, nihilistic fury distilled and dragged to around 60BPM.

Black Earth is bleak, and it’s heavy, and it feels like the end of days.

AAA

Black Earth Cover

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I’m Not From London Records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a fucking miracle Arrows of Love are still here, let alone that they’ve managed to nail a second album. But then, to watch them play live, it often seems like a fucking miracle that they can make it to the end of a set. Everything about Arrows of Love, from day one, had had an air of precarity, teetering on the brink of implosion. Every song carries that same sense of danger. It’s their wild volatility that sets them as one of the most exciting bands of the last decade, but ultimately, it’s the songs that matter. They’ve always had songs: sprawling, messy, noisy, fucked up and perversely challenging songs, underpinned with some lean grooves.

Product has been a long time in coming and the line-up on this, their second album, is quite different from the one which recorded their debut. In the period between the delivery of aforementioned debut the nihilism-in-a-nutshell noisefest that was Everything’s Fucked (May 2014) Arrows of Love have evolved, and perhaps some of it’s a natural progression and some of its… not so much an increasing maturity as a refocusing of energy, and some if it’s a result of the personnel changes. One obvious shift is the absence of shared vocals: Lyndsey Critchley’s departure has certainly altered the dynamic of the band in that sense (bassist Nuha Ruby Ra’s vocal contributions are a lot less prominent, and she only leads on one track, the surprisingly sultry and almost tender ‘Come With Me’), and Product is a lot less direct and attacking than its overtly grunge-orientated predecessor.

That doesn’t mean that Product is any less confrontational or antagonistic, and the nihilism which drove Everything’s Fucked is apparent in the subtitle ‘Your Soundtrack To The Impending Societal Collapse.’ Moreover, the use of the definite article shows an absolute confidence in what lies ahead – Arrows of Love are certain we’re past the tipping point and freewheeling toward the end of the world as we know it. Product is certainly a darker, more claustrophobic affair than its predecessor, and finds Arrows exploring wider, deeper territory in the process.

‘Signal’ is dark, dense, disturbing, and desperate, and is heavily hung with a curtain of goth which drapes over the violent (post)punk energy. ‘Did you ever see this coming?’ Nemah challenges through a fuzz of distortion ‘Let the lunatics run the asylum,’ he spits, and we know that this isn’t the future he’s predicting, but a plain observation on the present. The tension builds into a squalling racket and the vocals reach fever pitch as the track reaches its explosive climax.

It feels like an eternity since ‘Predictable’ first aired on-line – and while the band articulate their ennui at the daily shit that is life in the 21st century, as a musical work it’s anything but predictable. The vocals transition from drawling boredom in the verse to screaming mania in the chorus, while the guitars lurch and swerve every which way.

Marking a change of pace and direction, ‘Desire’ is dark, brooding, stripped back, introspective. At near the six-minute mark, it’s a seething mess of emotions: Arrows of Love are a band who’ve always emanated a gritty sexuality, but this channels it in a very different way, and it’s not comfortable or snuggly.

‘Tidal’ is perhaps the most overtly ‘art-rock’ song on the album, as well as being the most classically ‘grunge’ composition, with its quiet / loud verse / chorus juxtaposition. At the same time it encapsulates the dual character of Product, and album that swings – quite effortlessly, and thus with maximum impact – between classic post-punk trappings and raging noise, with exploratory experimentalism informing the process.

‘Beast’, which premiered some months ago now, is a swampy, squalid mess of seething abrasion a throbbing mess of bass that sonically calls to mid Melvins in places but ultimately stands as the soundtrack to a riot. The shrieking ‘Toad’ is equally uncompromising, and ‘The Parts That Make the (W)hole’ comes on like a hybrid of The Fall, Shellac and The Cooper Temple Clause. ‘Restless Feeling’ captures the dark, dirgy doom of Swans circa 1984 and makes for one hell of a low ending to the album: if anything, it’s the sound of society after the collapse as its low-end swell builds to an all-consuming tsunami of noise.

Product bridges the gap between Bauhaus and Nirvana, but ultimately, any comparisons are but signposts to an album which is unique in its standing. Product avoids pretence and overblown portentousness: it doesn’t make lofty statement about the future, but instead stands as a painfully intense document of the present. If any album of the last five years articulates the dizzying, anxietised state of contemporary life, it’s Product.

AAA

AOL - Product

Helen Scarsdale Agency – HMS039

Christopher Nosnibor

We live in a world of noise. We live in a decaying, post-industrial world. The so-called developing world is on an inexorable trajectory toward the same calamitous end, a world of tertiary industry and a level of noise – literal and metaphorical – which the framework of postmodern hinted at and but failed to fully appreciate the totality of its eventuality. To contextualise Natural Incapacity requires a certain grounding in postmodernism and the idea of a society defined by information overload. But, to reframe my comment on the shortcomings of postmodern theory, it essentially fails to account for the impact of the culture on those who find themselves existing in that culture. What have we done in making such technological leaps with so little consideration for the psychological consequences? Has the human mind evolved at a pace correspondent with the technologies we’ve made? What does the infinite noise actually sound like in the middle of that blizzard of information?

Natural Incapacity is an immense work, with a total running time of some two and a quarter hours across its two discs. Housed in a hand-rusted cover produced by Jim Haynes, this is serious art. The album soundtracks not the external noise so much as it does perhaps the internal noise, and the experience of the collapse of everything into an amorphous cyclone of everything happening all at once. The human brain simply isn’t built for the world in which we find ourselves. There’s so much talk of ‘white noise,’ but ultimately, total overload is an entirely different kind of noise, an explosive noise, simultaneously conveyed as the sound of collapse, of panic, anguish, and screaming despair.

Disc one is the shorter of the two, with has a running time of an hour and two minutes. A dark, quiet rumble soon breaks into a dense, harsh wall of sound. Tidal waves crash and planets explode in slow-motion, creating layer upon layer of textured noise that pounds the senses relentlessly. This is heavy, brutal stuff. The violent turbulence is punishing, effecting a psychological disturbance. The moments of calm are but brief and heavy with tension, the suspense of how and when the next wave of noise will erupt. And erupt it invariably does, tearing the fabric of the atmosphere, an annihilative volume of atomic force.

There’s no obvious shift moving onto disc two, but the effect of so much oppressively dense, murky and irredeemably inhospitable noise is cumulative. As the time crawls on, one senses the walls slowly moving closer, the light and oxygen gradually being pushed from the room and the life slipping from one’s soul.

Hums and whirs offer cold comfort in this funnelling fermentation of foul decay as factories collapse in slow-motion under the weight of so-called progress. The absence of vocals renders this even more disturbing, in that there are no obvious signs of human life to be discerned in the churning melee. As such, were reminded of our ultimate obsolescence, and there can be no bleaker prospect than that. Natural Incapacity is nihilistic in the absolute, a soundtrack to the end of time.

 

Relay for Death - Natural Incapacity