Posts Tagged ‘Stabbing Westward’

COP International – 5th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a blast from the past. Ungod was one of those albums that really grabbed hard when I encountered it on release back in 94. They were exciting times, and even the most cursory scan of album charts or any lists of albums released in 94 evidence what an incredible year it was. But that was simply the time, that brief spell in the early 90s where a whole host of new alternative styles emerged and broke through.

With three versions of ‘I Am Nothing’, this EP very much has the feel of CD single releases from the 90s – something I can’t help but feel ambivalent about. Major labels were particularly guilty of this, keen to eke out as many formats and releases from material as possible (preferring to release a second album than an album’s worth of B-sides across singles and EPs).

‘I am Nothing’ in its original album form is a full-gritted beast of a tune, driven by a dense, snarling bass rattle and a phat, sludged-out guitar riff. With a strong chorus – dare I even say anthemic – it’s vintage Stabbing Westward (and the choice of John Fryer, who produced their first 2 records, may have contrinbuted to this).

Chris Hall’s ‘Replicant 2021’ remix goes all-out on the industrial disco groove, and while it’s got that dancefloor-friendly rush about it, it strips out much of the power of the original in favour of making it something to bounce along to. Go Fight’s ‘Taiko Sludge Remix’ is slower, more paired back yet more detailed, and also moodier-sounding, making it the more interesting of the two mixes by some margin.

The three versions are wrapped up with a ‘2021’ remake of ‘Slipping Away’, the final track from their 1996 sophomore album, Wither Blister Burn & Peel. A minute shorter than the original, it places the emphasis very much on the synths aspect of the sound; if the original was reminiscent of Downward Spiral ­era Nine Inch Nails, this reworking is more Pretty Hate Machine. Propelled by a stomping beat, it’s got no shortage of attack, and it will be interesting to hear the direction of the forthcoming album, Chasing Ghosts.

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Blind Mice Productions – 18th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As the liner notes to Australian electro-industrial band SHIV-R’s fifth full-length album explain, ‘there is a Zen teaching that if you meet God on the road, you must kill him… What the killing of God means to each listener will be a unique and personal revelation. In a world full of gatekeepers and figureheads whose only interest in you is to tell you what to do, illusions will need to be shed and those who profess to have all the answers will need to be confronted’.

The title track launches the album with some harsh metallic guitars pitched against a pounding technoindustrial groove, where beats and synthesized bass are melded together perfectly. And while a lot of bands in this vein – even the likes of KMFDM to an extent – peg the guitars back in favour of pushing the synthesised elements of the instrumentation to the fore, to give a harsh, but ultimately slick, digital vibe overall, SHIV-R to crank up the guitars, and they punch hard, providing a strong counter to the danceable, mechanoid beats and throbbing low-end.

While growly or distorted vocals are common to the genre, it’s often strained-sounding or raspy, whereas Pete Crane has a rich, full-throated metal roar that has real depth and proper guts. That said, on ‘Spark’ and ‘Promises of Armageddon’ where they slip into grinding electrosleaze mode, evoking Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails and mid-90s PIG, Crane shows a cleaner tone that’s poppy, but dark – which is a description that fits the slower pace of the Depeche Mode-like minimal electro of ‘Blue Turns to Black’. It’s well-placed at what would conventionally mark the end of side one – and highlights another strength of Kill God Ascend: it feels like an album in the classic sense, with ten tightly-structured and concise tracks that are sequenced in such a way as to drop the tempo, and conversely, slam in with an absolute banger, at just the right time. More than anything, it’s reminiscent of Stabbing Westward’s debut – but at the same time, Kill God Ascend is very much an album with its own identity.

Sixth track, ‘Empire’ is exemplary, kicking off virtual side two with a dark stomper on which Crane snarls, “I’m on my own path. Get the fuck out of my way.” He sounds like he means it, too.

There are some solid hooks, and Kill God Ascend sustains the angst from beginning to end – even when they bring it right down for the brooding penultimate song, ‘Valley of Death’, it’s as a prelude to the epic finale, the dark, slow-burning ‘Turpentine’ that’s gnarly and hefty and brimming with twists, turns, and glitches, a track where the machines finally devour the human components in a mangles mess of rust and dirt, blood and guts. And it’s at this point, you realise that god is indeed dead.

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