ARKTAU EOS: Catacomb Resonator LP/CD/MC Aural Hypnox

ARKTAU EOS: Catacomb Resonator     LP/CD/MC   Aural Hypnox

From an oversized CD wallet to the LP/MC/CD boxed set, Aural Hypnox really are making waves with their output now; and all are gloriously hand printed and customised as well.

The album itself is one long 37-minute track (broken up for vinyl with extra tracks on the cassette); and is minimalistic in its reverberated approach to the genre, which is for the most part, quietly ominous.

‘Catacomb Resonator’ comes across as one long sonic movement as such; and requires the volume turning up a notch to fully appreciate what is at play here.  Sparse and desolate, there is a definitive flow that goes into rise and fall over its duration.

Whilst driving an ultimately different approach to previous work, there is much to become engrossed in here, even if it just falls short of previous output in the variation scheme of things; feeling much more akin to traditional Dark Ambient and lacking a touch of imagination because of it.

Overall though, this is a decent slab of DA and should be sought out if you are a follower of the genre as a whole; and my misgivings are only highlighted because of previous releases, which I would suggest you also listen to and compare.

7.5/10

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AEOGA Obsidian Outlander LP/CD Aural Hypnox

AEOGA Obsidian Outlander       LP/CD Aural Hypnox

The solo project of Antii Haapapuro has gained great momentum output wise, with a continuous flow of engaging Dark Ambient that grinds into motion with the gripping ‘Initiatory Boil’, teetering on ritualism with its rumbling percussive elements.

These clatters of sound make a vague appearance along the path this album treads; but subtlety is the key to this releases effectiveness and Aeoga plays to its genre hinged strengths.  Layers of drones are unexaggerated, giving life to key waves of ambience as they gently glue themselves as one.

Where space is required, Aeoga dares to hinge here, on the lightest of touches that prepare the tale to come.  It’s this attention to detail that makes this one of the better releases to come out of the Aural Hypnox stable; and one, which sits the artist along similar scales of artists from larger labels within the scene.

As usual the artwork is second to none; and the vinyl version comes in two editions (silver or gold print).  Given the format, this also tells the tale in the length of this release; which ultimately assists in the impact (and its main strength) of the album as a whole.

9/10

HALO MANASH: Elemental Live Forms MMV-Initiation CD Aural Hypnox

HALO MANASH: Elemental Live Forms MMV-Initiation     CD Aural Hypnox

First things first, the packaging on this album is splendid.  Housed in a screen-printed cardboard cover, the CD is accompanied by an eight-page booklet alongside eight postcard inserts in a stamped envelope, ultimately feeling quality; and value for money.

Comprising of nine previously unreleased movements, presented only once as a live ritual; this was the first ever performance of Halo Manash in Finland 2005.  Overall, this feels less restrained than their ‘studio’ work and ultimately feels oiled and relaxed, with a greater degree of actual musicality; coming forth no doubt from the live instrumentation factor.

Intensity shifts throughout the proceedings, which ebb and flow nicely; and I am sure this would have produced a greater effect on any listener should they have been in attendance that night; as they get swept away into the hypnotic flow that permeates the output.

Given the drive that this act portray across all their works, it has to be admired that this performance doesn’t feel improvised in any shape or form; and that in itself has to be commended, given the nature of the songs they construct.

I am not a great lover of live albums as a whole, if truth-be-told.  Unless the listener was in attendance then I rarely see the point in obtaining the recording. However, these are the only recordings of this ritual expression, so there is validity and worth in keeping the collection complete if you’re an avid fan.

7.5/10

ARKTAU EOS: Mirrorion CD Aural Hypnox

ARKTAU EOS: Mirrorion    CD   Aural Hypnox

Being devoid of electric instrumentation gives this album a distinct analogue feel; but then a lot of Aural Hypnox’s roster approaches their Dark Ambient in this manner.  Given the title and the artwork (especially the limited version), there is a feeling of light breaking through the dark clouds that are spewed forth from the bowels of this act; and it is refreshing to feel this as short bursts of a frost-tinged breeze, with maybe a hint of the coming of Winter.

Seventeen tracks come in at just over an hour, so this is definitely one for the patient; but then, the audience this is aimed at should have this in abundance.  The ritualism comes as a subtle nod to the arcane; and the undercurrent of chimes and vibrations of sound work well in applying this thematically, without force. Indeed, it all feels vey natural and understated.

As stated, this is a lengthy affair; and I feel this album would have benefitted from shortening its time span into two parts for the overall effect.  However, whilst this may in part feel overworked because of the endurance factor, there is a lot on here that is a pleasure to digest; and indeed some genuine musicality, which came as a surprise.  Occasional acoustic instrumentation drags this album away from the Aural Hypnox ethos somewhat; and treads water where many a Cold Meat Industry artist wades (which is of course, no bad thing at all).

8.5/10

HALO MANASH: Haudattujen Valvoja CD Aural Hypnox

HALO MANASH: Haudattujen Valvoja    CD   Aural Hypnox

Another album in the “Sublunar” series of Halo Manash’s prolific output; exploring the nether regions of ritual ambience and pitch black persona, which appears to be their overall forte full-stop.

Creeping and desolate, there isn’t that much to differ between releases; and this groups ethos seems to be that if it aint broken then why try fix it; either that or they have reached the pinnacle of their limitations.

Layering is as clean as always with the mob giving each area of instrumentation and sound the required space to breathe; and this is done with a heavy death rattle of throbbing bass, that shudders along through the mists of forests and caves accompanied by dripping water and ranged sonic interruption.

To dig too deep into the albums of Halo Manash would inevitably draw more on the concept and spiritualism as a whole that blanket all their releases.  Musically speaking, where one album ends, another picks up the candle; proceeding through their endless caverns of gloom, donned in the heavy cloak of pure misery.  It’s engaging stuff as always, but I just wish they would step out towards the light a little (even if from afar) to provide a different perspective.

8/10

AEOGA: Triangle of Nebula-Devourers & Palace For Vultunales CD Aural Hypnox

AEOGA: Triangle of Nebula-Devourers & Palace For Vultunales    CD   Aural Hypnox

Effectively this is a reissue of two EP’s first released in 2005, repackaged and brought together as a compilation album; which seems to be a standard thing to do nowadays when the initial releases were in a limited format.

For those that have not heard these previous affairs, this collection draws on ranging drones, tribal percussion and rich deep and gritty ambient that pulls on every corner of the listener’s psyche. There is of course a tendency to play on the obvious now and again, with the occasional chanting monk vocal; but given when these were initially released it can be forgiven.  Nowadays, many an act would steer away from this medium as time brings a progression in sound; but it does give an old school feel to the proceedings nonetheless.

A raw approach to textures give an abrasive edge to the overall production and this in turn brings a distinct visceral scratch to the senses; and there is a distant impression of agony and despair that permeates these two releases when they are taken on board as a whole collective.

Overall, this is worth any lover of Dark Ambient and ritualism giving it some ear time, as this will take them back to a simpler stage in the evolution of the genre, even if Aeoga were out of step somewhat, way back then.

8/10

INFEST – 23rd to 26th August 2018, University of Bradford UK.

INFEST – 23rd to 26th August 2018, University of Bradford UK.

So, it’s been twenty years; twenty years of an annual pilgrimage to the University of Bradford, which is lovingly termed as “Industrial Summer Camp” by many here in the UK.  Twenty years since three students cobbled together the first ever event and not many of us could back then, have seen it still being here now.

Under the guidance of Terminal Productions, Infest is simply the only real event of this nature on these shores; and this year, in celebration of such a milestone, they extended the length to physically crippling four days.  Some festivals abroad may actually go on longer than this normally; but the folk over here know how to give it some and I knew this was going to be an exhausting, but exhilarating experience as always.

DAY ONE – 23rd August 2018.

Completely flummoxed that it was actually a Thursday I headed over with my usual throng and ran the usual yearly catch ups with folk before considering more drink and of course, the bands.

The difficulty with anything coming before tonight’s headliners were that they were always going to be somewhat brushed off ever so slightly as the eagerness set in for the main act.  The North West of England provided us GRAVE DIGGERS UNION, who promised eclectic drones and Post-Punk.   Unfortunately though, these guys didn’t get the juices flowing at all. A mix of steady drums, pondering monotone vocals and B-Movies synth lines left me far from enthralled; and when one friend proclaimed (much to my surprise) they were “better than on record” and another “They’re like the worst of 4ad” we left the floor for more beer just a few tracks in, shrugging our shoulders.

Completely consumed in chatting away and vast amounts of alcohol we were caught completely of guard with the start of female fronted ZEITGEIST ZERO.  Another band claiming the overused terminology of Post-Punk, for me they showed little influence to justify the tag; however, they were thankfully infused with an energy missing from tonight’s openers, with a brash mix of heavy guitars, percussion and a smattering of trance-like keyboards.

The main coup of the weekend was the headliners PETER HOOK & THE LIGHT; and we were definitely not missing one moment of this.  I have seen Hooky and his cohorts a number of times now and will be doing so in the future as well; and I was quite surprised by just how many people here hadn’t bothered witnessing him live before.  With a set that mainly played to the strengths of Joy Division we were treated to an invigorating show that capitalised on a lot of the crowds age, with ‘New Dawn Fades’ and ‘Transmission’ to name just two.  The New Order elements of the show picked up the audience with ‘Temptation’, ‘True Faith’ and ‘Blue Monday’ and we were all jumping around like maniacs.  Closing the show with ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’, I noticed there weren’t many dry eyes in the house; and people were singing their praises for the rest of the weekend too.  A truly amazing set, by a truly amazing bloke and his slightly altered band for the evening; this was probably one of the best performances I have seen in all twenty years at this festival.

Completely buzzing from the headline show, I didn’t really want to watch any more acts that night; but Infest had other ideas, with the odd placement of club filler EMPIRION, which were there to lead people to the dance floor into the early hours. I get it, but Hooky and co were just too good to follow; and after watching one song we elected to stay outside for a couple and then head home, to get some rest to store the reserves for the rest of the weekend. Not being a fan at all of these guys I didn’t take much persuading.

DAY TWO -24th August 2018.

Earlier in the day I had convinced myself we had to be there early doors.  Of course, it crept up on me later that it was actually Friday. After oiling our bones with alcohol we made our way to the front to catch the enthusiastic duo of DEF NEON.   Shouty, riotous vocals, Rickenbacker Bass in hand with an accompanying heavy guitars and samples, we were treated to an enthralling set that felt like the soundtrack to the 80’s pixelated ride of ‘Outrun’.  The sound guys needed a slap here as they turned it down two tracks in, but the sheer energy of the guys on stage counteracted any issues provided there; with vigour and infectious enthusiasm abound.  Great stuff overall and just what the doctor ordered to get the evening rolling. I doubt they will get away with the latter songs being allowed on record though due to copyright issues that will arise from the samples used. Brilliant nonetheless.

SIVA SIX only managed to get a couple of tracks in before I headed outside. Their rather bland version of harsh electro simply isn’t up my street and has been done boringly to death; and I wanted to save myself for later.

I have been following Yann and his mighty ISZOLOSCOPE for years. Yes, he is just one man on stage and could have done with some visuals tonight; but the guy is the epitome of energy and this definitive Powernoise stalwart commands nothing but respect.  The beats and ambient blasts of noise that weave their way throughout his structured rhythms, never fail to get a crowd moving and tonight was no different.  Yann will always be awesome; Iszoloscope is awesome.

The return of CUBANATE recently has provided much excitement amongst the scene as everyone loves their older bands to still be relevant; and still be accessible as a figurehead for a genre.  The crowd were going crazy, the pit was as hilarious as it was in parts brutal; and the songs were battered out with absolute fury.  There were no pints in hand at the front as Heal and Barry (tonight joined by Reza Udhin on drums) literally crushed the audience with a set riddled from dance floor crushers ‘Body Burn’ and ‘Oxyacetylene’ amongst others; and the responsive audience were a sea of sweat and smiles all round. The lesson here is; old school is always the best school.

 

DAY THREE- 25th August 2018.

Feeling somewhat bedraggled and worn out, being a day ahead of myself was always going to be challenging; and it took a few drinks, food and watching people churn their insides up on a bouncy castle outside, before I was ready for tonight.  Due to lack of pacing myself, I had unfortunately missed my chums FLESH EATING FOUNDATION (who I have already seen) and was only there in time to catch the tail end of ADAM IS A GIRL, whose sultry vocals and downbeat guitar led rhythms could have actually been right up my street at that time of day if I hadn’t felt so rough and had a comfy chair to sit on.

YURA YURA provided the rhythm from the Hands label offering for the weekend.  I struggle to put many albums on from the stable nowadays as time goes by, but overall, most of their acts always give an audience just what they need at a given time in a festival.  Hypnotic beats that grind and pulse away to get the body moving (or groaning in my case); and whilst they will never set the world alight, they got an approving nod from me.

Vancouver’s’ ACTORS are really making a name for themselves and another band tossing around the Post-Punk banner, but actually the term is quite fitting in a White Lies sort of way musically.  I was a bit of a mess at this point I have to admit; and my attention wasn’t what it should be, but a sturdy set gave them a bit of an edge tonight that is ever so missing from their pleasant recordings, that require just a bit more grit to truly grab me. This means they’re most likely going to make it quite big.

From Daniel Myer’s unending, exhausting list of projects, LIEBKNECHT was up next.  A colder edged techno vibe going on here and a fairly decent one at that overall; but that’s basically all there is to say about it.  I sometimes wish Daniel would cut some of the ties to other outlets and concentrate on the main ones as not to spread himself so thinly.

I have a soft spot for Bristol’s finest, MESH, especially live; and tonight’s headliners were just what I needed. Stood with my friends we chanted out chorus after chorus, with lots of hugs all bouncing all round.  Yes the lyrics can be a touch cheesy and some people can’t get over the beany hat (idiots); but the bands longevity and ability to create a hook cannot be denied.  You will all know the songs by now and that in itself speaks volumes.  The first time these guys headlined, they left everyone a bit down, but tonight we were all smiles and full of appreciation for a worthy top spot; and everyone one was feeling quite emotional during ‘Friends Like These’, accompanied by a stream of audience selfies and whatnot.

Once again, Infest decided to throw a support act in to bridge the gap between show and club; and whilst the masked SARIN churned out beat after beat, I simply wasn’t in the mood and didn’t want to be brought down from the elation of dancing with friends to the main act whose lyrics were still pumping round my head.  Much drinking, chatting and judging a taxi ride home were all that was left to pursue.

DAY FOUR- 26th August 2018.

Today was always going to be hard and with only one band on todays bill I like, it was a real struggle to get motivated.  Barely making it from my pit I was down on numbers of friends as people were dropping like flies. Either way, after a couple of drinks and lots of grunts and moans from mates who I assume felt as bad as me; we re-arranged body clocks to try get a second (Third? Fourth?) wind, to get through the evening.  The victims of this zombie lethargy were PROMENADE CINEMA and MASSENHYSTERIE, who I watched through a veil of swamp like fog of my own doing; and I have to admit everything was rolling into one at this point with the synth pop and dance beats of female led acts becoming cluttered in my head, thinking back.  Both appeared to be decent, but I have to be honest and apologise, even though they were dramatically different, it’s all but lost on me looking back now.

VALHALL came on stage just as I was perking up somewhat.  Flying the Witch House banner as a genre was enough to spark my interest.  Musically they were on point, but my friends and I gave up midway, once we realised the vocalist couldn’t hold down a note, even if her life depended on it.

The pop musings of synth driven ELEGANT MACHINERY were decent enough.  Not exactly my cup of tea; as I didn’t have a hook to latch onto, but were worth a shout for a few tracks due to their competency live.

STRVNGERS got an enthusiastic response from the audience; and many people have been singing their praises since witnessing them.  I am not going to knock their professionalism, nor their ability to write music, but once again, something didn’t sit well enough for me and I am struggling to put my finger on it now.  The songs all seemed to have something distinct about them that made them different from the last; but regardless of the changes, my mind screamed “Emo!“ (even if they’re most likely not) at me and I had to walk away.

Thankfully a band that I love came to the stage to save the day. THIS MORN’ OMINA tore into a blistering set full of tribal rhythms and dance driven electronics with Mika playing his part as the consummate frontman.  Long gone is the Powernoise tag that was incorrectly thrown at them years ago and now they are a fully-fledged band.  This is an act I have seen a number of times and they never fail live. For the first time of the night I got to have a jump around and even the security guard on the steps loved them too; singing along to an array of indistinct powerful chants as the beats cut their way through the noise.

Now; my major gripe of the weekend. I put my hand up when they were announced and still stand by what I said then. AESTHETIC PERFECTION don’t seem like a fitting headliner to the end of a weekend such as this for me. We already had Hooky, Cubanate and Mesh fly the flag at the top of their respective nights by this point, but a Sunday headliner should always be huge for me; and whilst these guys have done well and sell a fair bit, they do not command what the other headliners do in the clout stakes. I saw a bit and wandered away as I am not a fan of their songs; they performed well and I will leave it at that.

Conclusion.

So that’s it; another year and Happy 20th Birthday to Infest. I partied and wobbled into the night, catching up with all my friends from all over the UK and beyond for another year.  This year was a mixed bag of acts and whether I liked them all or not is irrelevant.  We all have our likes and dislikes and some will like other bands that I do not; and I wouldn’t change that for the world, as the one thing that Infest always provides is variation.  I would be bored senseless if all the bands were the same; and love the challenge of exploring something new.

Next year has already started with pre-sales going up at the weekend, with Nitzer Ebb already announced (and who wants to miss that?!).

Thank you to the tireless effort of the Infest crew for bringing us this weekend year in, year out. Thank you to my friends for making the weekend what it always is. I will however struggle if it’s anything more than three days next time out as I am still recovering now; with a smile on my face of course.