In Slaughter Natives – Cannula Coma Legio

I was fifteen when a friend played to me In Slaughter Natives’ second album, Enter Now The World. It was a revelation. I had never before heard something so powerfully atmospheric, so terrifying, and that spoke to me so much. Without Enter Now the World there would be no Hands of Ruin.

So a new In Slaughter Natives album is a big event here, particularly since they come along so rarely.

Cannula Coma Legio is apparently an appetiser for a forthcoming album, scheduled to appear in late 2014. It contains a mixture of new material and reworkings of older tracks. Several of these tracks were created for Chérie Roi’s fetish performances and there are some rather beautiful bondage photos on the CD sleeve.

in_slaughter_natives-cannula_coma_legioThe first three tracks are new, as far as I know. The album begins with Plague Walk My Earth. Slow martial snares build to heavier pounding percussion, while bells, orchestral sounds and manipulated opera samples create an oppressive atmosphere. Jouni Havukainen’s malevolent whispers are also buried in the mix. Definition of Being Alive contains a more mechanical rhythm, distorted vocals, and layers of noise over a simple two-note bassline, and Silent Cold Body alternates between pounding drums and the sounds of a nightmarish musical box.

The next track, Venereal Comatosem / Closed My Eyes, revisits a couple of tracks from Resurrection. It begins with a reworking of the ambient track Your Breed, and then goes into a new version of the The Vulture. This is a very nice reworking, taking the harpsichord melody from The Vulture and developing it further with additional percussion, vocals and piano. It makes me very happy to hear this sort of reworking which takes an earlier idea and fleshes it out with something new.

The next two tracks are also new. Left Arm Right Arm As My Path is a droning ambient track, with organs, a church choir, and the voice of a preacher all mixed together into a dense soup of sound. Then Gaudium et alia vita mixes dense ambient drones with some thumping drums and some rhythmic bashing on a prepared piano.

Ignis et scalpello / Angel Meat resurrects material from a very long time ago. Angel Meat originally appeared on Enter Now The World back in 1992. Ignis et scalpello provides an ambient introduction, before going into the reworked version of Angel Meat. The reworking is very slight, however. A few sounds have been laid on top of an earlier recording. This is somewhat problematic, since Angel Meat was recorded over 20 years ago, and while the production on Enter Now The World was superb, particularly considering when it was made, the types of sounds that In Slaughter Natives was using back then are very different to the sounds he uses now. This means that the sound just doesn’t fit together very well with the rest of the album. He’s added some extra percussion to the track, which goes some way to smoothing over the differences, but it’s not a complete success. All of which is a great pity, because Angel Meat is a superb track — one of his best — and a full reconstruction with Havukainen’s present, formidable production skills would be a wonderful thing to hear.

The album ends with another ambient track, Three Three Three. This lightens the mood a little with some more angelic choirs, before pounding again with some martial rhythms.

The new tracks on this album stick more to dark ambient territory than most of his previous work. Though there are martial rhythms emerging from the noise, these rarely build to full tunes. The sound design is superb. The ambiences are dense, with many layers of sound from many different sources: metallic screeches, speech, choirs, bells, rumbling drones, et cetera, et cetera, all combining to create a heavy, oppressive atmosphere. Everything sounds crisp and detailed. There are very few musicians who can create ambient soundscapes so convincingly hellish.

The lack of structure and melody, though, is the Achilles’ heel of this album. There’s nothing wrong with ambient atmospheres, and this is very fine dark ambient music, but I find it more powerful and more impressive when music contains some structure. If this were the work of anyone else then I would be satisfied with what it is, but Havukainen has created works of such magnificence that to see him making an album that falls so far short of his potential is very sad. Enter Now the World was filled with exotic grandeur, Purgate My Stain was powerfully malevolent, and this… merely meanders. Apart from the reworkings of old material, the strongest track on here is the first, but even there the melody feels simplistic. And the inclusion of Angel Meat is a reminder of how much is missing from his recent work.

If this were the only album In Slaughter Natives had made then I would love it. But this is not at the level of brilliance of Enter Now the World or even Purgate My Stain, and the curse of making something incredible is that people then expect you to do it again.

Midnight Rituals

Music for midnight rituals.

Midnight Rituals by C.Z. Robertson on Mixcloud

Tracklist:

  • Archon Satani – Mental Shiver Dispersal II
  • Kazeria – 93 Burning Crows (Lo-Fi Ritual)
  • Menace Ruine – This Place of Power
  • Lisa Gerrard – The Rite
  • Schattenspiel – Thirst
  • Aghast – Totentanz
  • L’effet c’est moi – Sol indiges – L’antico sole risplende ancora
  • Swartalf – Invocation
  • Inanna – Zonei
  • Ordo Equilibrio – Walpurgisnacht in the Grotto. Dancing with Lilith.
  • Arcana – Cathar
  • Hands of Ruin – Iudicium
  • Gor – Inno Al Demiurgo
  • Blood Axis – Bearer of 10,000 Eyes
  • Erntegang – Neidstange II
  • Jo Quail – Volcano
  • Dark Awake – Freya’s Aettir
  • Nagual Art – Seance 1931
  • Coil – The Golden Section
  • Regard Extrême – Amour te volerai
  • :zoviet*france: – Swelled Out Downward

The Hour of the King – Stories of the Lost – Mixes

Back in April, artists Malwina Chabocka and William Andris Wood held a joint exhibition at the Gasoline Rooms gallery in East London. In addition to doing a live Hands of Ruin set at the private view, I was asked to provide a mix that would play throughout the event. I wanted to choose music that would complement the paintings and also reflect the tastes of the artists. While it’s perhaps a little dark for an exhibition opening, I was satisfied that it suited both the space and the paintings. It spans a number of genres, with a focus on goth and shoegaze, but also branching out into folk, metal and electronica. There wasn’t much time to put the mix together, and it had to last several hours, so it’s not as polished as some of my other mixes. It’s split into three parts.

Part 1

The Hour of the King – Stories of the Lost – Part 1 by C.Z. Robertson on Mixcloud

  • Caliga Blue – The Azure Deep
  • Legion – Silverwing
  • Vangelis – Rachel’s Song
  • Beaumont Hannant – In Our Lifetime
  • Biosphere – Decryption
  • Angelo Badalamenti – The Bookhouse Boys
  • Japan – Cantonese Boy
  • Arab Strap – Last Orders
  • Depeche Mode – Behind the Wheel
  • Portishead – Machine Gun
  • New Order – Ruined in a Day
  • Kraftwerk – The Model
  • Ladytron – Cracked LCD
  • Scala – Wires
  • Scorn – Exodus
  • Cocteau Twins – Plain Tiger
  • Sam Rosenthal – Kathryn
  • Brian Eno & Harold Budd – Not Yet Remembered
  • Kate Bush – Cloudbusting
  • The McCarricks – Tango Money
  • Orplid – Schlaf im Mohn
  • Rukkanor – Vir Triumphalis
  • Desiderii Marginis – Inter Caro et Cinis
  • Coil – The Hellbound Heart
  • In The Nursery – Crave
  • Shinjuku Thief – Blue Octavo Notebooks
  • Coil – Neither His Nor Yours
  • Dead Can Dance – Xavier
  • Peter Bjärgö – Imprisonment of the Mind
  • Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio – In High Heels Through Nights of Broken Glass

Part 2

The Hour of the King – Stories of the Lost – Part 2 by C.Z. Robertson on Mixcloud

  • Emika – Sleep With My Enemies
  • Kryptic Minds – Stepping Stone
  • Lassigue Bendthaus – Lanternslide
  • Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross – Pinned and Mounted
  • Daren Seymour & Mark Van Hoen – Supermind’s Light Becomes Part of the Earth
  • Cocteau Twins – Blind Dumb Deaf
  • How to Destroy Angels – The Space in Between
  • Arcturus – Du Nordavind
  • Swartalf – Walpurgisnacht
  • Elhaz – Glory
  • Lycia – Desert
  • Coil – Titan Arch
  • Black Tape for a Blue Girl – Denouement – Denouncement
  • Lisa Gerrard & Pieter Bourke – The Human Game
  • Miranda Sex Garden – Wheel
  • L’effet c’est moi – Fors Fortuna
  • Cold Fusion – Octagon
  • Coil – Cardinal Points
  • Эдуард Артемьев – They Go Long
  • Venetian Snares – I’m Sorry I Failed You
  • Wardruna – IwaR
  • Arcana – Serpents Dance
  • Lisa Gerrard – Nilleshna

Part 3

The Hour of the King – Stories of the Lost – Part 3 by C.Z. Robertson on Mixcloud

  • Cranes – Clear
  • Curve – Doppelgänger
  • Joy Division – She’s Lost Control
  • Covenant – Greater Than the Sun
  • mind.in.a.box – Transition
  • CH District – Creep
  • Boards of Canada – Sixtyten
  • Bowery Electric – Psalms of Survival
  • Cranes – Wish
  • Spiritual Front – Ragged Bed
  • Leonard Cohen – Who by Fire
  • Heroin and Your Veins – The Trigger
  • Tom Waits – Everything Goes to Hell
  • Swans – The River That Runs With Love Won’t Run Dry
  • Dead Can Dance – Black Sun
  • Rome – The Accidents of Gesture
  • Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – Jesus of the Moon
  • Depeche Mode – Black Celebration
  • The Human League – Crow and a Baby
  • Suicide – Girl
  • Einstürzende Neubauten – Die Befindlichkeit des Landes
  • Coil – Meaning What Exactly?
  • The Cure – One Hundred Years

Martial Industrial Mix II

Martial Industrial II by C.Z. Robertson on Mixcloud

A bunch of CD purchases from Cold Spring have paid off, eventually, in the form of a mix focussing on martial industrial music. I actually put this one together back in September 2013 and had intended to upload it sooner, but life kept intervening. I think it’s a really nice collection of tracks, though, so I’m glad finally to share it.

Most of this music is relatively new – at least from 2010 onwards – but there are a couple of old Cold Meat Industry favourites at the end. I’ve previously reviewed Atomtrakt, Stricta Doctrina, Cold Fusion, and Kazeria. The cover artwork is by Malwina Chabocka.

Tracklist:

  • Cold Fusion – Architecture Part I: Firmitas
  • Spreu & Weizen – Marienburg [Imperator version]
  • Hands of Ruin – Empire of Ash
  • Stricta Doctrina – Retour à la tradition
  • Kreuzweg Ost – Geh Mit Gott
  • Rukkanor – Rivers of Light – Sea of Shadows
  • Der Feuerkreiner – Der Morgen
  • Durch Heer und Kraft – Der unbekannte Soldat
  • Kazeria – The Rising of a New Utopia
  • Sect – This Is Not The End
  • Atomtrakt – Festungsschlacht
  • In Slaughter Natives – Blood Testural
  • Sophia – The Seduction of Madness II

Live performance in London: The Hour of the King – Stories of the Lost

Exhibition flyer

The Hour of the King – Stories of the Lost is a joint exhibition by painters Malwina Chabocka and William Andris Wood that tells tales of solitude and emotional disintegration. I’m very glad to have been asked to contribute music for the private view, so I will be playing a live set of music chosen to accompany the images. If you’re in London on April 3rd, I’d love to see you there.

Malwina Chabocka is an illustrator and author who is currently developing her first graphic novel, The Hour of the King. It is a story about a relationship between a little girl and her grandmother who is slowly developing a mental condition and getting lost in the world of her visions and paranoias. Loosely based on Malwina’s childhood memories, it is a dark tale of emotional disintegration, seen through the eyes of a child who reaches out for the fantastical and the symbolic as a way to decipher the incomprehensible reality. The paintings, which are based on a 250+ image storyboard strip, range from semi-realistic, to surreal and near-abstract. Various portraits of the two characters are incorporated into dream-like landscapes and architecture.

William Andris Wood is a devoted figurative painter with the ethos and techniques borrowed from the Old Masters like Rembrandt, Goya, or Delacroix. His newest work, Stories of the Lost, is a series of portraits of people who have accidentally or purposefully gone off the beaten track, towards emotional solitude, denial or death. Drawing from his personal experience of depression, William has created incredibly moving portraits of a group of regulars from a shabby Oxford pub, which enable the viewer to take a closer look at people who day by day escape from their life and hide themselves behind a pint glass and a pool table.

I will be playing a live set of music selected to accompany the paintings, which will draw from Empire & Dust and Iudicium as well as some newer, unreleased material.

I would be very glad if you could join us for the private view:

3rd April 6-11pm
Gasoline Rooms
299-300 Fish Brothers Studios
Clare Street
London E2 9HD

Review: Phelios – Gates of Atlantis

Phelios is the dark ambient project of Martin Stürtzer, and Gates of Atlantis is the most recent album, released last year. The project has been active since 2006, but I first heard Phelios on the Dark Ambient Radio series of compilations. The track, Cloud Sector α, stood out as being a step above the general level of quality on those albums. I didn’t get round to giving the rest of his work any proper attention until I saw that he’d released this album, and I thought it would be worth my time to take a listen.

Gates of Atlantis

Gates of Atlantis sounds like it was recorded in deep space. (I know, I know. Space is a vacuum; there are no sounds. But you know what I mean.) Long reverbs and airy drones give the impression of vast distances and giant nebulae.

Most of the tracks combine this with tribal drumming. In the title track this builds up to fast, intricate rhythms. In other tracks, such as Hibernation, this is slower and more subdued. And there are some subtle melodic elements in all of these tracks too. Spiritual Possession has dark, menacing bassline, with subtle distortion, while in Gates of Atlantis, a gentle harp pattern combines with a slow chord progression.

A few tracks contain no drumming at all, such as Temple of Yith and New Stellar Age. These are my least favourite tracks on the album. The slowly pulsating drones of Temple of Yith sound like the breathing of the universe, but while there are subtle changes in intensity during this track, there isn’t quite enough movement to sustain my interest for the whole seven minutes.

The album ends with Ascension, which, with its major chords, brings in the only notes of optimism here. The celestial feel remains, of course, and there are some subdued bass drums softly beating in the background.

Also included in this release is a bonus alternate version of the opening track, Gates of Atlantis. To my ears though, it sounds so similar to the original that I’m not quite sure why it was included. Martin Stürtzer is clearly a man of subtle distinctions, though, so I guess that it made sense to him.

The production on this album is sparkling. Despite the layers of sound, the mix never becomes muddy. Indeed, it remains crystal clear at all times. There is plenty of space for every element. The quality of sounds is also superb throughout. The drums are mixed between acoustic and electronic, but always sitting together convincingly. And the drum rhythms have a natural, tribal feel, with some exceptional moments, such as the subtle off-beat tapping in The Shadow out of Time.

Gates of Atlantis is not as dark as some of the dark ambient music that I like. I’m a big fan of the Cold Meat Industry bands such as Raison d’être and Desiderii Marginis, and this release doesn’t have that sense of sadness and, as a result, doesn’t touch me quite so deeply as those musicians do. Nonetheless, this album is an effective piece of cold, spacey ambient music, and judged by those standards, it is a very fine piece of work.

Review: Cold Fusion – Architecture

cold_fusion-architecture Architecture is the sixth album by Cold Fusion, the solo project of Marcin Bachtiak. I’m familiar already with a couple of earlier Cold Fusion releases, Occupatria and Report, and while I find them listenable enough, I don’t think of them as being particularly interesting. But I’d heard a couple of tracks from Architecture and seen others giving it high praise, so I went ahead and picked up a copy, curious to hear how the project had developed.

After a quiet ambient introduction with some operatic voices, the album launches into a fast-paced and bombastic martial neo-classical track. This is very much the theme of the album. Hard drums and layers of operatic voices and orchestral instruments dominate. The next two tracks continue this theme, with the tense, restless rhythm and staccato strings of Part II: Ultitatis and the dark pounding of Colosseum.

Part III: Venustatis is a more chaotic affair, with densely layered melodic elements creating an intense disorienting effect. It’s by no means easy listening. The musical sophistication shown here outstrips much of the rest of the martial industrial genre.

Divina Proportio changes tack and goes into ambient territory. It’s a track of gentle wind-like swooshes and gentle drones. Half-way through, some hand drums come in, sounding a little middle-eastern. It’s not the most interesting track but provides a small rest for the ears amidst the bombast of the rest of the album.

The album quickly returns to that bombastic mood with the next three tracks, Iunge, Architecture, and City Streets. The latter track, in particular, goes back to the level of sophistication that makes this such an enjoyable album. Again, the tone is dark, the drums are heavy and insistent. But the subtle layers of brass and string instruments create a sad and ominous mood.

There’s a short ambient interlude and then Octagon ends the album with a slightly more pop/rock drum rhythm, but otherwise largely orchestral instrumentation. Then, as the track comes to a close, a buzzing synth starts to dominate. This track doesn’t seem to fit with the martial neo-classical style of the rest of the album, and I can’t help but think that the album would have been stronger without it. But it’s much like how the Amen break made it’s way into one of the tracks on Occupatria. Bachtiak doesn’t quite let go of an aesthetic that comes from more electronic music.

The production on the album is stunning throughout, with the small exception of a strange whistling noise in the Intro. Despite being densely layered at points, the sounds remain clear. The drums are bright and powerful. The orchestral instrumentation sounds convincing rather than artificial.

Ultimately, I find myself very impressed by this album. It is musically sophisticated, well-produced, varied in pace but (with the exception of the last track) consistent in style. It represents great progress from Cold Fusion’s earlier releases.

(The only other thing I’ll say about this album is to note that I also made a release called Architecture a couple of years before this one, and the similarity of the covers is a strange coincidence. Great minds think alike, apparently.)

Iudicium

I’m happy to announce the release of Iudicium, the new Hands of Ruin single. The story of this release is a long one. Back in 2010, as part of a challenge to myself to write five tracks in five days, I surprised myself by coming up with a track that made use of a palette of sounds that were unusual for me: starting with a base of darbuka samples and a droning sound made from slowing down a vocal sample, I came up with a track with a distinctly middle-eastern feel. I thought at the time that it was a strong track and I was proud of it, but I didn’t have anything else with that sort of sound so I didn’t really know what to do with it.

A few months later, encouraged by the success of this track, I tried to come up with others that made use of the same palette of sounds, but it’s one of the strange things about making music: sometimes I make all the right steps and a track can come together very quickly, but often I struggle for a long time and don’t succeed in coming up with something that I’d be happy for other people to hear.

When I met the artist Malwina Chabocka, we decided that we’d like to collaborate, combining my music with her visuals. While she was in Poland and I was in London I sent her my early version of Iudicium. She responded with some visual ideas, and once we were both together in London we put them together into the video. It was our first attempt at animation, and it took a lot of trial and error to put together. Next time we do something like this — and we do have some more ideas in the pipeline — we’ll do it very differently. Nonetheless, we’re proud of what we achieved.

At some point during the process, we decided to make life a bit easier for ourselves by shortening the track. The original was eight minutes long, but we cut it down to five for the video.

The other two tracks, Sententia and Absolutio, were two of the attempts to replicate the success of Iudicium. I’m happy with them now, but they took a lot more work and a few false starts before I got to the point where I was satisfied. In particular, it was only last summer when I had a bit of time to work on music while on holiday in Poland that I introduced the manipulated vocal samples from a recording of Rachmaninov’s The Divine Liturgy of St John Chrysostom into Sententia that give it the character it has now.

So this release collects both the video and original versions of Iudicium, along with Sententia and Absolutio, plus the video itself. I hope you enjoy it.

Review: Kazeria – Discipline of the Shadows

kazeria-discipline_of_the_shadows Kazeria’s Discipline of the Shadows was first released in 2008 as a CDr limited to 50 copies. It was then re-released in 2012. I’m not familiar with the original so I can’t make any comparisons. Instead, this review will focus on the re-release.

The album places itself very much at the industrial end of the martial industrial genre. Growling synths and distorted electronic kick drums provide the base of the album’s sound, while orchestral horns and snare drums mix with the electronics to provide the martial element.

The album opens with Discipline of the Shadows (I), which combines solemn drumming and slow horns to create a dark, ominous intro. Some of the subsequent tracks, such as Wolfmarch and Control Feeds Hope, are faster-paced. On the whole, though, the pace of the tracks is generally slow and sombre, and the album maintains a consistently dark and oppressive atmosphere. Some tracks, such as Endwiderstand, have a decidedly funereal pace. The album ends with a reprise of the first track, closing the album with the same slow menacing atmosphere that it started with.

The sounds on the album are varied, with appearances from church organs, air raid sirens, and even the strumming of an acoustic guitar (albeit sampled from Triarii and Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio’s collaboration, Roses 4 Rome). Unsere Schwärzesten Seelen features some distorted and menacing vocals.

My major criticism of the album is that, on the whole, the tracks tend not to go anywhere. A few percussion sounds will be introduced, a two chord sequence will come in, and then they’ll repeat for a few minutes with maybe a little variation but not much progression. The two tracks that avoid this problem stand out from the rest of the album: Konflikt, with its dynamic build up, and The Rising of a New Utopia, with its more intricate melody.

Overall, the album has many strong points: a variety of sounds and techniques, but with a consistent style and theme, and occasional tracks, such as The Rising of a New Utopia, that stand out in quality. Unfortunately, most of the tracks are too repetitive and lack any sense of wonder or excitement that could really elevate the album. It’s a good album, but it’s solid and consistent rather than exceptional.

Review: Atomtrakt – Artefakte des Verderbens

atomtrakt-artefakte_des_verderbens Atomtrakt is the martial industrial project of Christoph Ziegler, also of the black metal project Vinterriket. I wasn’t previously familiar with his work, but apparently he’s quite prolific. In addition to many Vinterriket albums over the last decade, he’s made a handful of Atomtrakt albums too. Artefakte des Verderbens is the fourth from this project.

The album is a dark and harsh affair, as perhaps you’d expect from someone who has been honing his skills in the genre of black metal. It sits at the noisier, more industrial end of the martial spectrum. But it has its moments of subtlety too, and it has something of the chill, haunting atmosphere of black metal.

The first track on the album, Triumphzug, begins with an intro that is a straight sample of a piece of classical music. (I can’t identify it. If you know where it’s from, please leave a comment below.) As an aside, I have to admit that I’m always a little troubled by sampling of this sort. I have no problems whatsoever with incorporating short samples into a new piece of music, but lifting four minutes of audio from somewhere else, without making any modifications along the way and without crediting the source, does seem a lot like plagiarism to me.

All that being said, when Triumphzug does eventually get started, it is a very strong track. The driving rhythm and cinematic chords are highly effective. The signature style of this album is pounding orchestral drums and cinematic synth chord progressions, with a heavy dose of noise, and Christian’s growling vocals. Mixed in with this are samples from Nazi speeches. Triumphzug features samples from Hermann Göring’s “Thermopylen-Rede”. Though my German isn’t good enough to be sure, I speculate that the entire album may be based on the theme of the Battle of Stalingrad.

There is a good mixture of tempos on the album. Some tracks, like Triumphzug and Stacheln der Vernichtung, are fast and energetic. Others, such as Trümmerfelder and Heimkehr der Verwundeten take a slower, quieter approach, and the album ends on an ambient note with Hungerwinter. Even with Christian’s growled vocals these slower tracks could in some sense be considered peaceful, but it is the peace of a battlefield after the war is over. There’s a sense of doom and despair that hangs over the whole album, and on these tracks in particular.

There is an appreciable amount of skill that has gone into this album. There are some nice, subtle touches in the choice of sounds. Stacheln der Vernichtung, for example, features the strumming of an acoustic guitar amid the noise. A number of the tracks feature pauses between sections of heavy percussion, at points going to fully ambient sounds. In these moments the slow chords and sampled speeches take over, building up the tension, before another explosive burst of drumming and harsh vocals.

Christian’s black metal influences are also audible, particularly in the vocals, which are delivered in the growling, rasping style of that genre. It’s interesting to compare Vinterriket and Atomtrakt. The songwriting style is much the same for the two projects, but Atomtrakt replaces the distorted guitars with synths and the drum kit with orchestral percussion. But the same styles of chord progressions are still there.

This album has quickly become a favourite of mine. It’s not an easy listen. The tone of the album varies from harsh and oppressive to despairing. But when I’m in the mood for something crushingly bleak then this album is perfect. I strongly recommend it for fans of bands such as Wappenbund, Kazeria, and Infestation and those who appreciate the more industrial end of the martial spectrum.