BRIGHTER DEATH NOW: With Promises of Death LP/CD Familjegraven/Tesco Distribution
Roger Karmanik has a new label (his own) and his first new album in eight years to celebrate with, in the form of ‘With Promises of Death’.
Unforgiving and uncompromising as ever, BDN are back with a blistering array of unwavering Power Electronics, which surge and blast out at full force with the ever present and familiar punk ethos to the vocal styling of Karmanik, who is on top form from the word go.
‘Hate is for Beginners’ is an entirely different beast from the opening title track. With an almost distorted beat rhythmicity carrying a wash of delayed vocals and machine-like hums and samples. Dramatically different once again are the wire distortions of ‘Tempting Murder’ and heartbeat pulses of ‘The Cover-Up’; the latter driving a simulated hypnosis that draws the listener in, with throttling menace.
The chamber echoing overdrive of ‘Incomprehensive Evil’, plays with Dark Ambient sensibilities, whilst the multi-layered ‘To Die Lullabye’ takes things one step further and gives a spark of light that eventually fades as you fall into a chasm of sound. A modest and surprisingly meandering ‘In the Shadows of Death’ is lifted by the final track of butchered sampling that is ‘End of the 80’s’; and the famed Roger Karmanik sense of humour is once more present as with previous BDN works.
It’s good to see this project once more rear its ugly head and to re-take its throne at the top of the PE tree; although a trifle more serious than a lot of the projects past, but necessary in staking Roger’s claim as a force to be reckoned with where this genre is concerned.
TWA CORBIES: The Clamouring LP/CD Bollebouz Tonträger/Tesco Distribution
Tony Wakeford of Sol Invictus, Death in June and Crisis fame, joins Gernot Musch (ex Pilori) for this new project; with their debut album of 11 tracks that plays right into the hands of what both artists do best.
Neo-Folk is well worn and overused terminology nowadays, given that it is hardly ‘new’ at all; indeed most of the genre itself has become a little tired over the years due to oversaturation. Luckily, with ‘The Clamouring’, this duo have injected a new lease of life into the scene, with bunch of songs that are engaging and involving; with a keen ear for harmony and well constructed lyrics that have all the essential hook-lines for you to latch onto.
With particular interest to those that have followed Wakeford over the years, there are two songs on this release that should hold have them chomping at the bit. A reworking of Crisis’ first single ‘No Bosses’ (with the original lyrics that were eventually unused); and newly arranged ‘Laughing’. The former reeks of punk gusto and comes across with as much punch as the original, regardless of if its new acoustic format; and is a real highlight of the album.
From start to finish, Wakeford and Musch have produced an album of real quality and steadfast musicianship. With real chorus’ you can sing along to and heartfelt sincerity, ‘The Clamouring’ epitomises the genre at its very best, minus the controversy and tiring idiocy that follows some of the artisans of this scene like a cloud of black vitriol; a quality album, from start to finish.
SONNE HAGAL: Ockerwasser LP/CD Luftschutz/Tesco Distribution
It’s been a good six years since Sonne Hagal’s last album, ‘Jordansfrost’ and I had long forgotten just how good this act was.
‘Ockerwasser’ opens up serenely with ‘The Shapes of Things to Come’; and subtitled (wait for it) ‘A Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, Like a Fresh Draught From the Font of Universal Life!’ it doesn’t take an numbskull to envisage the nature of the tracks on this release.
Warm, inviting low-end male vocals, cascading pads and instrumentation, led with the gentle strumming of acoustic guitars; makes for some of the more quality driven Neo-Folk out there. Occasionally joined by other key artists within the genre, this trio deliver on every level, what they set out to achieve thematically. The poetic vocals hum like a chant across an autumn forest, breathing self-depreciation through an earthly vibration.
Tracks, such as ‘Silence’ say more about this album lyrically, in one fell swoop; “I am the Silence, the Eye of the Storm, I am Nothing, I am all”. It is this simplicity that makes SH work so well as a complete outfit. Never overstating themselves, they have once again delivered the goods, through a concise and collective understanding of musicianship with ever the watchful eye on production quality.
Apart from the odd delve into the “Hey Nonny Nonny” spectrum of folk music (which is to be expected I guess) ‘Ockerwasser’ is a solid, well constructed album that should appease their fans who have patiently waited a small age, for this to see the gloomy light of day.
BLACK LIGHT ASCENSION: Post Future Recordings CD Hau Ruk!/Tesco Distribution
The second album (and follow up to 2011’s ‘Ashes’) starts off pretty much where it’s predecessor left off, with the electronic machine beats and Post-Punk isms of ‘Ten Minutes to Midnight’. Gradually building in urgency, the key to this track is the pace dictated by layered electronic synths that give life to the intentional monotony.
Whilst being a trifle painful in parts, there is something beguiling to ‘Safe at Home’ with its 80’s synth and Ian Curtis-esque vocals; even if they are off a touch with their mimicry and are ultimately bettered on ‘Gerouge’, where the pop factor is turned up to 11.
‘Teeth’ really grabs the Joy Division obsession by the horns and makes a stab at reproducing something similar to Hooky’s bass lines. Whilst not being the most competent attempt I have ever heard, it did make me smile somewhat.
I am in two minds about Black Light Ascension; for the most part there is much on this album that appeals to me, even if some of it is badly composed. Part of me screams that this shouldn’t be happening; yet if I look retrospectively, in reality a lot of Post-Punk and genres on a parallel path have always been a little rough around the edges.
BLA are not without their gems, neither are they without their mistakes. In a lot of respects it’s the errors of their ways that make them that little bit more endearing.
HALGARTH: The Whole Path of War and Acceptance CD Cryo Chamber/Tesco Distribution
Cryo Chamber, a relative newcomer of a label is coming along in waves with an abundance of quality, impressive Dark Ambient releases; and with the backing of Tesco Distribution, fills some of the void left by the demise of Cold Meat Industry.
Halgarth are once again, one of those acts that have all the tools to hang around in the upper echelons of the genre. As ‘Acceptance of the Inner Self’ paces itself, the ranging pads ascend graciously and unobtrusively, whilst tympani beats slowly pick up the march, before slowly falling off the edge into the deepest of voids.
‘The Whole Path of War and Acceptance’ comprises of eight tracks that fill all corners of a room with no space to escape. Enveloped in inky rich bass frequencies that intertwine, Halgarth holds the listener on a tight leash that is given slack sporadically to appreciate the odd blast of cold air, provided by frosty pads at given moments in time.
There are momentary nods at brilliance along the way with classical ghost female vocals, as on the wonderful ‘Afflatus’; placing Halgarth on a pedestal right up there with their peers and crossing the bridge between straight up DA and the arcane.
Altogether an impressive release, this album amongst others markets Cryo Chamber as one of those labels that are ones to watch with a keen and eager eye.
SABLED SUN: Signals I-III 3xCD Cryo Chamber/Tesco Distribution
Simon Heath, the man behind the immense Atrium Carceri has been very busy indeed with his main project and this. On top of this he started the Cryo Chamber label up after the end came for Sweden’s CMI; a label with which he had found a home for his musical output.
Over the course of three tracks spread over three CD’s he brings three albums that were released previously on digital download. I despise digital only releases and I am pleased to see this as a hard copy and a worthy purchase that is value for money and as a product, to marvel at over three discs.
As expected, Sabled Sun provides an epic concept tale, narrated in rich, driving Dark Ambient in three stages. Comparisons have to be made with Heath’s other output from his Carceri project as this sits within the same genre; and some of the time it is hard to distinguish between the two, which I guess I to be expected, even if I am nit-picking.
Sabled Sun however, goes for the long haul and to swallow this whole release up, you will need a good three hours of your time along with some contemplation space, to boot. ‘Signals II’ is my favourite, where a lot of the pads resonate in the same way as Sophia managed on the incredible ‘Herbstwerk’; massaged into the ears with enriching, underwater-like bubbles of sound.
Individually, these ‘Signals’ releases are a great example of the genre in their own right. However, place them together and they collide as a truly monolithic release of grand proportions that should and most definitely will, be lapped up by any self-respecting Dark Ambient fanatic.
ATRIUM CARCERI: The Untold CD Cryo Chamber/Tesco Distribution
I will hold my hand up now and categorically state that I am a fan of Atrium Carceri and have been from the off. I have never been disappointed with any of Simon Heath’s releases under this banner and luckily, ‘The Untold’ matches my expectations; which I have to admit are always ridiculously high.
AC always sets a scene, a play, something to envisage within your minds eye. Opener, ‘The Expedition’ lifts the curtains on a backdrop that places the listener viewing images through sounds of a throng of people outdoors setting off on horseback through the wildest of weather, whilst accompanied by pads breathing as resonating horns.
Synth work on ‘The Untold’ flitters between analogue and purely electronic sounds; Heath however, manages to keep an earthly, medieval feel to the proceedings as though everything is purely natural and organic. There is a knack to this art and when the dramatic choral voices sift through the gloom of ‘Unlocking the Seal’, it is done to spine tingling effect.
‘The Untold’ is once again, Atrium Carceri at the top of its game and proving out and out to be one of the finest exponents of Dark Ambient within the genre. With an aural presentation that brings to life a tale that could only be written on parchment, there is a depth and maturity to this latest album that many, simply could not achieve. Enriching, invigorating, subtle, brutal in parts, horrific and majestic in equal measure, ‘The Untold’ approaches from the darkest of nooks and crannies; unnerving yet comforting, with hope filtering through the dimmest of candle lit rooms.