KFJC 89.7FM

Lord Gravestench

“…And The Loser Still Is…/Untitled” [coll] – Roedel Records

Lord Gravestench   11/19/2019   7-inch, A Library

Agathocles – Belgian crustgrind institution active since 1987. Body odour, dumb politics, and a respectable level of sonic brutality. Think Extreme Noise Terror or Phobia. Bellowed and gargled lyrics cannot be made out. First track has some voices speaking a European language, maybe Flemish, possibly newscasters. This side was originally titled simply ‘…And The Loser Is…’ (not ‘…Still Is…’) so I don’t know if this is a bootleg or a reissue or what.

MPG – Pomona CA grind/fastcore founded in 2004. High-pitched androgynous vocals a la Antichrist Demoncore. More samples than the Agathocles side, including Magic Johnson talking about his AIDS on the first track. Lyrics are once again unintelligible. 

Photo finish split on red seven inch vinyl, with Agathocles as the winner by a greasy hair. Originally released in 2015.

Sutekh Hexen – ‘Sutekh Hexen’ – [Cyclic Law]

Lord Gravestench   11/16/2019   12-inch, A Library

A fixture of the Bay Area experimental scene, Sutekh Hexen has purveyed solid ‘black noise’ fare for close to a decade, typically compressing ragged metal riffs and murky ambience into challenging walls-of-sound. 2019 saw the release of their self-titled 4th full-length, brought to you by the German-based label that has recently functioned as the de facto foster home for Cold Meat Industry artists orphaned by that Swedish label’s sudden dissolution six years ago. I’m not sure that S.H. is the first American band to release on Cyclic Law, but nonetheless, this double LP constitutes a significant moment in the transatlantic partnership that has long defined the industrial noise scene. S.H. had displayed an affinity for the Euro milieu even before their collaboration with Sweden’s Trepaneringsritualen, which was performed live deep in the woodlands of the Pacific Northwest at 2013’s Stella Natura festival. The group’s fusion of black metal guitar stylings and nonlinear experimental soundscapes is very compatible with the aesthetic sensibilities of our friends on the old continent (MZ.412 and Paysage D’Hiver come to mind). 

On this magnum opus, for which recording first commenced way back in 2012, S.H. seem to have both tightened up their compositions and broadened their palette, perhaps owing to a new and expanded lineup. For whatever reason, longtime member A.C. Way (AKA Thoabath) is no longer involved; here core members Demian Johnston (Great Falls, solo as BLSPHM) and Kevin Gan Yuen (Circle of Eyes, Disgust) collected contributions from Nathaniel Ritter (Burial Hex), Bay Area art-drone luminary Jim Haynes, Jim Kaiser (AKA Petit Mal, and sadly R.I.P. as of 2017), Mackenzie Chami (Terror Cell Unit, Disgust, solo as Koufar and Crown of Cerberus), Jason ‘VENIEN’ Ventura (founder of seminal Bay Area black metal group Von), Ryan Jobes (Grave Babies), James Martinez (provenance unknown), and Vial Magazine editor Patricia Cram. There will be a quiz after this review, so try and keep up.

A Frankensteinian agglomeration of black metal, dark ambient, deep drone, harsh noise, death industrial, electroacoustic, field recordings, and ritual music, ‘Sutekh Hexen’ is a vicious beast indeed, reflecting its diverse contributors’ varied approach to soundcraft. At times brooding and at times extremely violent, it impressively realises the promise of earlier releases and brings the project to a new artistic peak, one with perhaps a wider appeal. Be ye headbanger, noise junkie, Mills College avant-gardist, or dark ambient creeper, Lord Gravestench advises that you drink deeply of this silver-hued nightmare.

Blood of Chhinnamastika – “Promise of Delusion” – [Fusty Cunt]

Lord Gravestench   7/28/2019   A Library, Cassette

No-brakes Power Electronics from San Jose’s Dario Puga, who also runs the noise label The Pet Goat. 

In some senses Blood of Chhinnamastika is a continuation of Dario’s previous work as Botched Facelift, but upon that foundation he has built a distinctive new edifice of damaged sound, as cartoonish as it is bleak. Dario is also a free jazz musician (check out his old band A Fashionable Disease for proof), and brings a touch of jazz-like complexity and spontaneity to his industrial noise work. On this 2018 tape, his first release on the delightful Fusty Cunt label, he assaults the listener head-on with constantly metamorphosing juggernauts of spastic and stuttering synth severity, tethered lightning bolts of feedback, diabolically sliced-up samples, and scornful outbursts of Black-Metal-influenced shrieking. Frequent and violent terraformations occur, the artist’s supply of psychotic tones seemingly inexhaustible.

Botched Facelift was a terrific project, but the B.O.C. “makeover” (to quote Lexi Glass) really came into its own on this release, picking up the Power Electronics genre where the experiments of people like Slogun, Con-Dom and Sutcliffe Jugend left it and carrying it forward into even stranger nightmares. His performance in the KFJC pit (5/28/2019, alongside Microwave Windows) really drove home just how much precision and effort goes into maintaining control of his sound. Afterwards he told me he considers noise the easiest genre to fuck up. Whether or not that is the case, B.O.C. definitely does NOT fuck it up here. A scorcher.

SOOT – “A General Theory of Tears” – [Obsolete Units]

Lord Gravestench   7/27/2019   A Library, Cassette

SOOT (stylised in all-caps) is the experimental project of Oakland, CA’s James Livingston, who has enjoyed a long working relationship with KFJC as proprietor of the eclectic Black Horizons label, on behalf of which he has brought numerous exotic bands into our live pit. SOOT is a fairly new act, seeming to have debuted on a 2017 split with Thoabath, and although he has played in various bands previously, this is also a new direction for James’s personal musical endeavors— although by no means outside the aesthetic turf of his label. Keywords for this 2018 debut album could be Death Industrial, Musique Concrète, Dark Ambient, or Sound Installation. Influences might  include Brighter Death Now and Stratvm Terror, but not only these.

Power Electronics methodology but with a Dub-inspired low end preoccupation, generally eschewing harshness in favour of murk. Deep drones just above subsonic ranges, moaning cavern draughts, fidgety clanking of metal, and anguished vocals pitch-shifted down to inhuman levels, all creating an impression of some demonic creature shackled miles underground to bellow eternally for its revenge. Percussive but not rhythmic. Abstract but purposeful. Often quite minimal. Vocals on every track but A1, ranging in delivery from flat recitation to crazed scolding. “No more masks“ on the devastating finale, where he drops the heavy voice effects, then proves he doesn’t need them to make an impact, delivering a fiery and affecting sermon that smacks of genuine hurt.

As the title suggests, the album’s themes are dark and personal, but they are never presented overbearingly. Lyrics on several tracks are drawn from the writings of pessimistic philosopher Emil Cioran, and on A5 from tragic Austrian poet George Trakl. SOOT is not without a sense of humour, however — on t.7 (B2) he is joined by Echo Beds for a sonically perverse interpretation of a Ranking Dread song! Speaking of reggae, SOOT (in a double bill with Obsolete Units founder Rust Worship) played the KFJC pit on 4/20/2019 at exactly 4:20 PM.

Misery Ritual – “Searing Blood” – [Obsolete Units]

Lord Gravestench   6/20/2019   A Library, Cassette

Misery Ritual is the work of an angry and disappointed young man from Los Angeles county — no, not that one. His work under this name first started appearing around 2015 as far as I know, and although his career is gathering momentum, he’s still a fairly obscure artist within SoCal’s oversaturated harsh noise pandemonium. The first Misery Ritual release added by KFJC, 2015’s superb ‘A Victory Over Suffering’ cassette on the Dungeon Dweller label, isn’t even on the almighty Discogs yet.

It will be, though, because (as various others have already noticed) this is a definite artist to watch if you are a CA extreme noise fanatic; for proof look no further than this very satisfying 2018 tape on Rust Worship’s Obsolete Units label. Some people call Misery Ritual a power electronics project but I wouldn’t really describe it that way; it’s more like American-style harsh noise with slight industrial elements and some limited use of raw human vocalisations (mostly on the third piece, a live recording from L.A.’s happening Coaxial venue). A lot is familiar in the basic palette, but the artist exhibits a devastating sense of control even in his most improvisational-seeming ‘harsh bop’ cable-came-unplugged moments. This electronic racket conveys anxiety, catastrophe, and finally despair as the psychological defences come down for good and the anti-gnostic demons flood the brain, delighting fans of Sickness, The Cherry Point, and early Prurient.

My favourite track is the first one, where a world-rocking pulse of gravelly white noise, like deep breathing from some colossus of living stone, is soon joined by Danger Will Robinson robo pants-pissing and everything settles into a nice groove. Kill yourself… (Not you, Misery Ritual — not yet.)

Blue Hummingbird On The Left – ‘Atl Tlachinolli’ – [Iron Bonehead Productions]

Lord Gravestench   6/8/2019   A Library, CD

“Blue Hummingbird on the Left” = English translation of Huitzilopochti, the name of the Aztec god of war, sun, and human sacrifice. Also the name of this Mesoamerican racial nationalist Black Metal group from southern California, part of the storied and controversial Black Twilight Circle, a close association of mostly Chicano musicians orbiting the Crepusculo Negro label. The BTC has included bands such as Arizmenda, Dolorvotre, Tukaaria, Odz Manouk, Volahn, Axeman, The Haunting Presence, Kallathon and many more. Personnel frequently overlap, and there may even be more bands than individual musicians associated with the BTC at this point.

BTC founder Volahn is joined here by 4 other players to create, as with all his other endeavours, a fairly distinctive and infectious take on raw Black Metal, in this case blending Death Metal influences with homages to the more aggressive Slavic pagan bands like Astrofaes (check out t.s 5+7) and Nav. Frantic, aggressive guitar lines of slasher thrash, bizarrely mournful lead riffs, very aggressive War Metal-ish structure at times, at others suggestions of the murderous punk gallop of Crepusculo Negro affiliates Bone Awl. Rather odd war yips and tribal drums on a few tracks. TFW your ancestors were eating each other a mere 500 years ago. Volahn really does shit gold. Dig it.

JFK – “Weapon Design” – [Fourth Dimension Records]

Lord Gravestench   4/20/2019   12-inch, A Library

Ani DiFranco — er, sorry, ANTHONY DiFranco — is a current member of Ramleh and former member of Skullflower. You will also find a few albums in KFJC’s library that he recorded for the Freek label under the sobriquet AX. JFK is another solo project, working in a broadly Industrial mode. He seems to have first recorded under this name in the late 80s for Ramleh’s Broken Flag label, resuming operations a few years ago following a lengthy hiatus. The tracks on this 2018 LP could be lazily segregated into Industrial Techno and Death Industrial (although, despite having done a split with The Grey Wolves, I’m sure DiFranco would scoff at the latter designation). 

The tracks I’m arbitrarily dubbing (pun intended) the Techno tracks are vaguely similar to Hospital Productions artists such as Vatican Shadow and Ron Morelli, but with focus shifted from atmosphere to listener alienation. Perhaps Hands Records mainstay Winterkalte would be a better reference. Comprising A2, A3, A4, B1 and B3, the beats account for the majority of the material here. A2, B1 and B3 are built around stuttering, off-kilter drum machine rushes and sound not unlike Footwork made by zombies, while A3 flirts with Dub Techno. A4 unnervingly goes full four-on-the-floor, definitely danceable but also definitely soulless, like Daft Punk’s ‘Robot Rock’ following attack by a serotonin vampire. It would spin better in the control room of a CIA drone base than on the dancefloor of a nightclub.

A1, B2 and B4 are in more familiar (to me) Rhythmic Noise territory, rich in a sense of imminent doom. I was reminded of Deutsch Nepal and, specificially on B2, the fetishistic sequencer sound of Britain’s Iron Fist Of The Sun (a project actually not unknown to dip into Dub-inspired frequencies itself). The sonic pallette is consistently experimental across the whole album, though, and my rubric for thus partitioning it is largely tempo. It’s all dark shit, but it goes down fairly easily for all that. I suspect this one will have wide appeal among KFJC DJs.

Striations – “Collection 1” – [Oxen]

Lord Gravestench   4/19/2019   A Library, CD

Striations, active in the underground Noise scene for nearly a decade, is Oakland’s Mike Finklea. He has performed twice on KFJC, on one of those occasions hosted by yours truly. This 2019 CD on LA’s Oxen label compiles two cassette releases: 2018’s ‘Trauma Code,’ originally on the Gutter Bloat label, and ‘K.P.’ (‘Killer’s Party’) his 2017 effort for Oxen. In the liner notes, Finklea writes that these recordings are “of an exploratory nature,” significant because his usual M.O. involves obsessive control over the structured chaos of memorised compositons. This is indeed more free-form and improvisatory in sound than other works, conforming more to the Harsh Noise stylings of artists like Macronympha and K2. That said, these pieces are at least more Power Electronics than Harsh Noise in that they focus on sustained tension rather than sludgy textural fetishism. “None of this material is what I WANT Striations to sound like.” The liner also includes special thanks “to all hazmat and first responders.”

‘Trauma Code’ (t.s 1+2), mastered by Miscreant’s Sam Torres, is inspired by car accidents. Each 25-minute track passes through balanced phases of relative restraint and full-blown sonic assault. Baleful low-end drones, abject metal-scraping, earsplitting feedback. T.1 begins with synth piece possibly sampled from the score of a 70s or 80s film. Later there’s a sample of a medical examiner calling for the clearing of highway shoulders to reduce crash fatalities. It’s a public health problem, she says. I certainly found myself driving more carefully when playing this in my car. T.2 continues the exploration of scrap metal, hissing static and uncomfortably high frequencies. There is a ‘Red Asphalt’-like sample from a crash scene where it sounds like some girls are trapped in a burning car. In a possible pun on “auto fatality,” the second sample on this side is another medical examiner(?) discussing the most extreme/unusual suicide cases he’s encountered. “Someone who takes on a speeding locomotive at 70MPH is not one of those people you’d expect to be calling for help.“  According to the artist, second and third instalments in the ‘Trauma Code’ series are in the works.

‘K.P.’ (t.s 3+4), recorded by M. Chami (Crown of Cerberus, Koufar), concerns the death of Junko Furuta, whose 1989 murder at the hands of 4 Yakuza-connected classmates scandalized Japan. Imprisoned for 40 days, she was raped hundreds of times and tortured until unrecognisable before finally dying of her extensive injuries. Close to 100 people had knowledge of her imprisonment, but due either to complicity or fear of retribution, none reported it to police. Her body was eventually discovered encased in concrete. Although perhaps more synth-driven, both of these 15-minute pieces continue in an aesthetic vein similar to ‘Trauma Code’: nonlinear, screeching, throbbing electronic/concrete noise. Maybe some distorted vocals. No samples on these ones, but plenty of implicit violence all the same.

‘Collection 1’ is a ghoulish encounter with the biological truth of death, up close and personal. Hear, see, feel, smell, taste the end.

Uniform – “Uniform” – [Beggars Tomb]

Lord Gravestench   3/15/2019   12-inch, A Library

Uniform is an industrial duo from New York City. Brooklyn hipster trashlord Ben Greenberg (of Archaeopteryx, Coca Leaf, Little Women, The Fugue, Zs, house engineer/producer for Sacred Bones Records, oh yeah and involved in some band called Bloody Panda…) and Michael Berdan (various cooler bands KFJC doesn’t have) collaborate on paranoiac central nervous system attacks with a debt to classics like Suicide and Iugula Thor, and perhaps specifically to The Guilt Of…, the industrial project of EyeHateGod’s Mike Williams. This 2014 45RPM EP was their first release. One track per side.

Greenberg’s insistent drum machines, shuddering synth textures, and fuzzed-out guitar merge with Berdon’s frantic, hardcore-inspired vocal delivery. Insanity-inducing New York despair. The rent may have gone up but the drugs have gotten more expensive too!

Bone Awl – “Almost Dead Man” – [Klaxon Records]

Lord Gravestench   3/13/2019   12-inch, A Library

Active since 2002, KFJC live mic vets Bone Awl are definitely one of the best Black Metal groups to come out of California. The duo of He Who Crushes Teeth (briefly in Morbosidad) and He Who Gnashes Teeth (see my review of his solo project Amofas from our add last year) derive their names from possible English translations of Tanngrisnir and Tanngnjostr, the appellations of the goats who drive the chariot of my lord and master Odin. These guys create killer raw BM in the tradition of Ildjarn, adding a distinctive touch of broken-sounding D-Beat punk to the proceedings, not unlike Hellhammer.

This 2018 45RPM 12” is a reissue of a 2007 single-sided demo cassette. Klaxon Records, which released both versions, is run by one of the two Bone Awl dudes. Ultra-primitive, dirty, necro shit. Short songs except for A1 which is a repetitive but oddly hypnotic instrumental. B-side amps up the aggression somewhat. Fuck yeah is all else I have to say.

Trepaneringsritualen – “Septentrional” – [Hanson Records]

Lord Gravestench   3/5/2019   A Library, Cassette

Trepaneringsritualen (which presumably means something to do with drilling a hole in one’s head) is Tomas Ekelund from Sweden. Since 2008 Ekelund has prolifically practised his highly theatrical (or ritual, if you prefer) school of traditional Swedish death industrial. Despite his intense image, he spent the decade previous to founding TxRxPx in the highly emotive (but, as he would hasten to point out, equally gloom-ridden) dark ambient project Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words. It is interesting that Ekelund’s body of work inverts the traditional industrial musician’s paradigm of going from ‘confrontational and ugly’ early on to ‘contemplative and pretty’ later in the career (see Genesis P-Orridge, Michael Gira, etc.)— this is heavy and not at all friendly stuff.

This 2010 cassette on Aaron Dilloway’s Hanson Records captures the raw early stages of the project. Heavily inspired by fellow Swedes Brighter Death Now and Nordvargr (and others on the Cold Meat Industry label), this is pulsing, sinister industrial noise with overtones of dark Norse spirituality (‘Septentrional’ means ‘Of the North’). There is a repetitive and simplistic approach to these tracks, but with an artfully organic presence that evokes a bleak environment of cursed machines rather than an impression of mere lazy looping and layering. There are three tracks on each side. A1 and B3 are creepers with unhealthy-sounding and unintelligible vocals. A2 and B2 are exemplary rhythmic noise pieces in the vein of early Genocide Organ. B1 is a more minimal dirge stalker with frightening serpent-speech somewhere between black metal and Bob from Twin Peaks. A3 is a spacier piece with a muted sample that may be Aleister Crowley. All tracks are good, so take the black pill, don your exit bag, and turn it up.

Circuit Wound – “Symbiotic Cannibalism” -[Oxen]

Lord Gravestench   3/4/2019   A Library, Cassette

Circuit Wound is the solo noise project of LA’s Jay Howard, who also records as part of the groups Bacteria Cult and Wire Werewolves, and with Bob Bellerue in a duo called Redwound. Howard has been causing headaches with Circuit Wound since at least 2001.

I think he is one of the more reliable LA harsh noisers, because his pieces tend to be very dynamic, i.e. they very much retain the impression of whatever constant effects manipulation was necessary to keep the sonic fracas flying. 

On his 2018 effort for Oxen, this peddle-torquing Torquemada gives no quarter; the Angeleno sonic torture progresses from side A to side B leaving only skidmarks and tangled ruins. There are many layers of excellently recorded chaos to explore and it definitely doesn’t sound anything like radio static or any of the other tropes employed by harsh noise detractors. I’m not going to sugar-coat this: it sounds like R2-D2 being tortured at a Disney black site. The A side starts off a little more slowly and the B side gets right to it. Ten minutes each. Enjoy.

Unaussprechlichen Kulten -“Sign The Book of Death” -[Apocalyptic Productions]

Lord Gravestench   3/4/2019   A Library, CD

Unaussprechlichen Kulten were one of the sickest bands featured on KFJC’s live broadcast of Nuclear War Now! and Iron Bonehead’s Never Surrender Festival in Berlin last year. The name of the Chilean death metal group is German for ‘Unspeakable Cults,’ and also happens to be the title of a fictional black magic text featured in the works of both Robert E. Howard and H.P. Lovecraft. U.K. refer to their music as ‘occult death metal’ and it appears to be heavily inspired by Lovecraft’s mythos.

This 2018 CD compilation from a Chilean label contains a limited selection of tracks from U.K.’s 4th album ‘Keziah Lilith Medea (Chapter X)’ (2017) (t.s 1-3), their 3rd album ‘Baphomet Pan Shub-Niggurath’ (2014) (t.s 4-6), their 2013 EP ‘Lucifer Poseiden Cthulhu’ (t.s 7-8; frustratingly, the compilation leaves off only one song from this) and their 2012 split with the American band After Death (t.s 9+10). The remaining 8 tracks are live material; for most of the live songs a studio version can be found earlier on the CD, although not t.s 14-17.

This is monstrously heavy death metal, akin to a thick black smoke clogging your accursed speakers. Fire follows smoke in touches of strong melody wrought by the dual guitar interplay of ‘Herbert West’ and ‘Joseph Curwen,’ but always with a demented, demon-summoning twist. Many songs begin by grooving around a deceptively simple phrase before revealing the fuller tentacled complexity of their nameless horrors. The grindcore-inspired drumming and Curwen’s deranged Spanish death-gurgles round out this insanely suspenseful take on death metal. U.K.’s gloom-ridden riffs and unforgiving song structure, owing something to both Immolation and Autopsy, make for a style that goes well with Nuclear War Now!’s roster of sulphur-seared diabolical DM artists (e.g. Ignivomous or Dead Congregation)— although these guys have been playing this style for 20 years, which is quite impressive. All Hail true Chilean death metal.

Disinhibition – “Demo 2012” – [Self-released]

Lord Gravestench   3/3/2019   A Library, Cassette

Crusty fucking Grindcore from San Jose, featuring drummer Chad Gailey (in between his tenures in Bruxers and Necrot, later also Vastum and Mortuous) and guitarist Colin Tarvin (Mortuous). This is balls-to-the-wall grind in the mold of early Earache releases, extremely well-recorded. The first two tracks are originals, and the next two are covers of Napalm Death and Repulsion, respectively, although the Repulsion cover (t.4, of ‘Eaten Alive’) is retitled as ‘Napalm Deceiver’; perhaps this is in reference to how Napalm Death stole the riff from Repulsion’s ‘Stench of Burning Death’ for their own ‘Deceiver’? Anyhow, the whole thing clocks in at six minutes which is just fine. Killer grind, recommended if you like having your head beaten against a brick wall.

Disco-Mortem [coll] – [Releasing Eskimo]

Lord Gravestench   3/1/2019   7-inch, A Library

The Releasing Eskimo was a Swedish noise label active out of Gothenburg from ’94-’98, specializing in low-budget releases. This triple-7” compilation from the label’s final year is an excellent sampler of the three most esteemed noise/industrial scenes: the USA, Europe, and Japan.

Disc I: The Europe Disc

Side A: Manchester, UK’s The Grey Wolves, a manifestation of the cultural terror network. This anti-establishment, left-wing duo whipped the hypocritical punks into a fine froth for more than a decade by pretending to be hardcore fascists. A foundational group in death industrial and one of the greatest industrial noise projects of all time. Their track is bleak and 2-dimensional, a maximum confrontation with the experience of death by sarin gas (for real, not like those falsified attacks in Syria). “The Future Belongs To Those Of Us Still Willing To Get Our Hands Dirty.”

Side B: Gothenburg’s own No Festival of Light. Satanist death industrial from the man who also brought you Demogorgon and P/D(B). One of the great unsung talents of Swedish industrial noise constructionism. His track is a maddening dialogue loop picking up atmospheric toilet static over time in a resonant crypt through some kind of effect. All together now, kids: *who* will control the entire world?

Disc II: The USA Disc

Side A: Macronympha. Pittsburgh, PA harsh noise innovators and annihilators. Perhaps more rhythmic than their usual fare. Many layers of pulsing bursts of migraine pain tones interspersed with glitchy stammering.

Side B: Hands To. Who is this? I suppose it’s Jeph Jerman, based these days in Tucson, AZ. Anyway this is the least interesting track on the compilation, slipping immediately out of one’s memory as soon as it ends. Low key petri dish bubbling; and yet I feel there may be a genius touch here that I am simply missing.

Disc III: The Japan Disc

Side A: Merzbow. The Tokyo harsh noise master should require no introduction. High pitched as fuck at the start, wheeking into synth/effect textures. He never disappoints with the range of sounds he is capable of producing with his e.b.t.-kitchen-sink approach.

Side B: C.C.C.C., AKA Cosmic Coincidence Control Center, from Yokohama. This was the duo of Hiroshi Hasegawa and his now ex-wife, former bondage porn star Mayuko Hino; perhaps assisted by others. The group is still active nowadays, roster different with the exception of Hasegawa. Divorce hurts noise projects. This vintage gold is solid, wall-thick cosmic power drone that will blow your grandmother right out the fucking window, you stupid idiot.

Comes packaged in a plastic bag with individual sleeves for each 7”. They look like Hitler Youth on the cover but I think they might actually just be Boy Scouts. Go figure.

Sleepwalker – “Ichi-go Ichi-e” – [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

Lord Gravestench   1/22/2019   12-inch, A Library

This post-metal band’s actual name, pronounced something like ‘Muyuubyousha’ consists of four Japanese characters and does indeed mean ‘Sleepwalker.’ Confusingly, there also exist both an American Black Metal band and a Japanese Jazz group of that name– and THIS Sleepwalker, unconnected to the other two BUT featuring Japanese and American members, might be described as a Black Metal/Jazz combo. The guitar/bass/percussion trio collaborate remotely, having never met: one from Japan, one Russia, one America. This 2018 LP is their second release. Its title translates as ‘For This Time Only, Never Again.’ The phrase is a Japanese proverb or cultural concept based on treasuring the ephemerality of one-time meetings with strangers, or so this gaijin believes after a quick Google search (is there any other kind).

Frequently surprising without being jarring, ‘Ichi-go Ichi-e’ manages not to sound stitched together even though it literally is — members improvise their parts and combine them via remote collaboration, following the melancholy dream logic of their collective vision where it takes them. The finished product seems to draw evenly upon Depressive Black Metal, Japanese Psych Rock, Avant-Jazz, Trip-Hop, Morris Minor’s Prog 8-tracks, and traditional Eastern musics of various kinds. While comparisons to certain other BM vivisectionists may be apt up to a point (Mamaleek, Diapsiquir, Oranssi Pazuzu, Clouds Collide) they have a pretty unique sound going on, exploring a vast breadth of style on this fairly brief album. I was nodding my head to a jaunty Jazz lick one moment, then splattered by nocturnal slashers the next; and that’s how people grow up. Vocals, like important thoughts, are mostly howls and whispers. Like a heroin addict’s last shot, this shit works much better than it ought to. I guess that must mean some amount of consideration went into it. Play it for everyone you’ll never get to know.

Being – “Hydrocracker” – [Oxen]

Lord Gravestench   12/7/2018   A Library, Cassette

Active since around 2006, Being is the Harsh Noise project of Dayton, Ohio’s Luke Tandy. The artist’s biblical namesake may have been the wimpiest evangelist, but like just about everything else on LA’s Oxen label, this is texturally rich centi-pedal aural destruction, excellently recorded and produced, and a head-splitter of the first order. Hyperabstractive audio sewage mixed with rusty sawblades in an old clawfoot tub; the radio, perched precariously at the edge, tuned between stations. This material explores a wide range of pitches, to put it mildly. Mr. Tandy likes to ‘hold his high notes,’ if you take my meaning (particularly on that A side track, gee whiz). The two impressive performances on this 2018 tape will satisfy noise fiends and probably confuse everybody else. They may even exceed the comfort level of some who think, based on this review, that they will be able to deal. Side A is live recording, side B is studio, but they sound vice-versa. An admirably singleminded exercise in sonic obscenity, mining the same deep vein as neighboring Pittsburgh’s genre-defining master musicians of Macronympha. There are other artists to whom I could compare the sound, but…

BTW, hydrocracking is apparently a part of the petroleum refining process, “by which the hydrocarbon molecules of petroleum are broken into simpler molecules, as of gasoline or kerosene, by the addition of hydrogen under high pressure and in the presence of a catalyst.” So now you know.

Forn – “Rites of Despair” – [Gilead Media]

Lord Gravestench   11/27/2018   A Library, CD

The brand new CD from Boston’s Funeral Doom frontrunners, whose legendary show at the Sutro Baths in 2014 (alongside Akatharsia and Badr Vogu) won them many admirers around these parts.

There’s a LOT of shitty ‘Hipster Doom’ out there these days–I’m not going to name names– BUT Forn absolutely is the genuine article. Take it from someone who’s picky about his Sludge/Doom (as Encyclopedia Metallum so authoritatively describes them). I googled ‘Hipster Funeral Doom’ and the only thing that came up was a 4chan thread where the term was deployed against Ahab, a band I actually love, and not a bad touchstone in this case, really.

Given their city of origin I think everyone half-expects this band to start sounding like Grief at any second, but there’s truly not much Sludge to be found on this release (except maybe the incredible grooving riff on t.5, one of the best songs). The largely creeping pace, echoey psychedelic guitar work and profusion of delicate interludes impart a certain thoughtfulness to this forward-thinking champ of an album, and here the band have earned the right to be mentioned in the same sentence as American Funeral Doom saints like Asunder and Evoken.

Accomplishing so seamless a merger of tenderness and brutality is no easy task for any metal band, much less one formed a mere 6 years ago; having two guitarists is of course an integral part of their complex sound, as is their fondness for sudden shifts from soft to loud. Tasteful Death Metal touches, including quite surprising ones on t.s 6 + 11, do not detract from the sense that Forn are a Doom band first and foremost, in love with stupidly big, slow, heavy riffs. Growler Chris Pinto, who once came over for some reason to the house in Boston where I lived for a time, is a versatile extreme metal vocalist and his spirited performance is also integral to this band’s sound, much in the way that the Bay Area’s own Swamp Witch couldn’t exist without Jimmy’s distinctively guttural interjections.

Speaking of the Bay Area, look for KFJC pit veteran Jessica Way (Worm Ouroborous, Barren Harvest) delivering an emotive, Current-93-esque performance on t.10, in what seems to herald the emotional climax of the album. This track, along with t.s 1, 4 + 7, is among the aforementioned delicate interludes and may appeal to non-metalheads also.

No track listing or lyrics included with the sleeve, but it’s safe to say ‘Rites of Despair’ is not coming from a happy place. Oh yeah, and Forn is Old Norse/Icelandic (same thing lol) for ‘sacrifice.’

Renoir – “Broken Tongue” – [Endangered Species]

Lord Gravestench   11/26/2018   7-inch, A Library

On this 2014 EP, their sole release, the Industrial Noize duo are trying to act like they don’t smoke pot– but we all know that they do. Side A has decaying monks like you might find in the ossuaries of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome, not far from the Via Veneto, where ‘La Dolce Vita’ was filmed all those years ago: monks trying to sing hymns as their throats crumble to dust. Seriously a lot of monks: hardcore Industrial fans already knew what I was talking about. OK it might just be A2 but it feels like both tracks. Side B is definitely more acoustic and less ‘ugh, I put my hand in something foul’; also, fewer (no?) monks: The Death Industrial Kraf-Twerk machine beat shows no sign of tiring its slow and dreadful progress as tortured sound sources are pushed to a climax. Mastered by Kris Lapke of Alberich and Furisubi. Plays at 33.

Sophia – “This Year Give a Share to Sophia” – [Lichterklang]

Lord Gravestench   11/26/2018   7-inch, A Library

Just in time for the holydaze, here is the 2017 Christless single from Sweden’s masters of hopeless, gothic Martial Industrial. Bring it back again for this year’s meretricious airwave revelries. Hit the killswitch and be better than human as you learn to fail with members of Cold Meat Industry superstars Arcana, who bring you two hammering battlefield ballads of holiday blues resignation and distinctly Scandinavian moroseness. This material is more song-based than some of their earlier work, and perhaps even more so than the lyrically-driven compositions on 2016’s devastating ‘Unclean’ album. Peter Bjargo, the head Sophian, is also married to Arcana/Sophia siren Cecilia Bjargo. Continuing the 50s theme, hear Him on side A and Her on side B, both in full bah-humbug mode. More of an elegant Martial Pop sound on side A that gets into Allerseelen territory. Side B is the lurching, too-drunk-at-the-Christmas-party spiteful (Lina?) Barbie doll. Both sides are genius because this band can do no wrong. Plays at 45.

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