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Noise Not Music #5: Trap Them, Godflesh, Thou & The Body And More

Friday, 04 July 2014 Written by Ben Bland

It’s that time of the month again… Noise Not Music is back with a selection of glorious heaviness, spread across all the word’s many forms. From power electronics to drone to doom and industrial, it’s all here in this edition, so sit back and prepare your ears for a solid beating!

New Releases 

Cremation Lily - ‘Fires Frame the Silhouette’ (Alter)

It’s nice to have a solid dose of good ol’ power electronics sometimes and Cremation Lily (Zen Zsigo), while not the most savage purveyor of what remains one of music’s more controversial and oft-hated subgenres, is pretty effective at what he does.

There’s nothing startlingly new here, but the bleak urban atmospherics upon which the style so largely relies are put to good use, especially on the title track, which is subtler than most of the other efforts here. Not one for those who can’t stand power electronics in any form but, for anyone who misses the days when Dominick Fernow shouted and screamed instead of layering beats, this might be worth a shot.

Daniel Menche / William Fowler Collins - ‘Raised Coils of the Giant Serpent of Eternity / I Heard Only the Eternal Storm’ (Sige)

Daniel Menche and William Fowler Collins are two of the leading lights of the contemporary drone/noise scene and this split record sees both emphasise precisely why they are so consistently highly rated. Menche’s side is an ominous 20 minute exercise in pacing, gradually mutating from warm ambience into dark sonic atmospherics. He illustrates perfectly his mastery of subtlety and progression over the piece’s duration.

Fowler Collins provides something that feels more static, despite being sonically busier. His unerring ability to create an aura of calm is slowly shattered as the conclusion is reached, and you suddenly realise that the sound consumed you long ago.

Godflesh - ‘Decline & Fall’ (Avalanche)

Just when extreme metal needed a kick up the arse to remind its various protagonists that heaviness is a philosophical as much as a musical concept, Godflesh have returned to the fray with ‘Decline & Fall’, a four track EP to tease us all before new full-length ‘World Lit Only by Fire’ arrives later this year. Avoiding any hint of disappointment, messrs Broadrick and Green sound like they’ve never been away and this is as essential as anything in the band’s back catalogue.

It’s not Godflesh at their most original, that much is true, but ‘Decline & Fall’ is Godflesh at their most remorselessly hard-hitting. Ringer and the title track, in particular, are almost unbelievably potent efforts coming from two men in their 40s, and it’s worth remembering that Broadrick has been focused largely on more reflective, less extreme musical offerings in the intervening period between ‘Hymns’ and ‘Decline & Fall’. Ultimately, Godflesh don’t need to do things they haven’t done before, as the return of their punishing industrial metal remains more than enough to satisfy.

Serpentine Path - ‘Emanations’ (Relapse)

Now featuring ex-Winter guitarist Stephen Flam as well as everyone who used to be in Unearthly Trance and ex-Electric Wizard/Ramesses man Tim Bagshaw, Serpentine Path are well and truly confirmed as doom metal’s ELP. Thankfully, they don’t spend as much time pissing about as Keith, Greg and Carl did in the ‘70s. This is straight-up, resolutely predictable death/doom from a group of musicians who sound like they don’t really have anything whatsoever to prove, which I suppose they don’t.

Having said that, the first two tracks make for a pretty mundane introduction. Essence of Heresy sounds half finished and House of Worship is spectacularly plodding for a track barely stretching past four minutes in length. Thankfully, things do pick up and, in all fairness, while I’d prefer it if Ramesses and Unearthly Trance were both still active and doing their own things, this is about as engaging at this rather tired metal sub-genre can get nowadays. Flam’s addition makes for some nice guitar work on Disfigured Colossus and, when all is said and done, every track bar the opener has plenty to recommend it to those who like their metal to be of the crushingly slow variety.

Thou & The Body - ‘Released from Love’ (Vinyl Rites)

Oh, a collaboration between Thou and The Body…that’ll be lovely won’t it? WRONG. This is utterly horrible music that sounds like it was made by the residents of Shutter Island the week after the medication supply got cut off. I’ve featured both of these bands in this column before, and their respective 2014 albums are among my highlights of the year. Fortunately, this EP-length effort is up there as well. To be honest, I’m glad that there are only four tracks here because by the time Coward brought the record to a suffocating conclusion I felt like going off to bury myself in the back garden.

To be clear, this is a fully fledged collaboration between the two groups and not a split, so it’s effectively the disorienting extremity of both groups turned up to 11; in fact, at points it feels like each band are goading the other into even more vicious territory than is usual.

It’s also vinyl-only, so you might have to be a little - ahem - “creative” if you want to hear it but don’t have a turntable or can’t afford the shipping costs from the US. But it’s more than worth seeking out and please do purchase if you can (or buy the back catalogues of both bands at the least) as these two groups are among the very finest operating in extreme music today and deserve your support more than most.

Tombs - ‘Savage Gold’ (Relapse)

If there’s one thing you can say about the proliferation of sludge/post-metal in recent years it’s that, for every great band that turns up, there are 50 that lack anything even remotely interesting or distinctive about their sound. Tombs have always been better than most of their peers, largely because of the atmospheric black metal leanings that are a prominent part of their approach.

‘Savage Gold’ sees the New York quartet in stubborn mood. This is very much a maximal reconfiguration of the group’s sound, with everything that made up 2011’s ‘Path of Totality’ still present, albeit in a more clearly defined and obvious manner than before. On one level this makes ‘Savage Gold’ slightly less exhilarating a listen than its predecessors but it’s hard to fault the craftsmanship on show here.

If you’re going to bother making this type of music then you may as well commit to sounding as massive as possible and, especially on tracks like Seance, Deathtripper and Severed Lives, Tombs deliver that mission objective with consummate ease. At 70 minutes it could do with a little bit of trimming, but there’s more than enough conviction here to ensure that Tombs continue to stand well out from the pack.

Trap Them - ‘Blissfucker’ (Prosthetic)

My how a new Trap Them (pictured, main) album was needed. It feels like an age since 2011’s ‘Darker Handcraft’ crept out of the shadows to remorselessly batter the living daylights out of almost every other band in existence. ‘Blissfucker’ is, if possible, even more exceptional. Gift and Gift Unsteady, Savage Climbers and their ludicrously fantastic opening riffs make this album a worthwhile listen on their own but, in all seriousness, everything here is so exciting that I find it inconceivable any fan of heavy music could not succumb to its (stupendously heavy) charms.

All the Kurt Ballou produced post-‘Jane Doe’ acts out there are entertaining enough but ‘Blissfucker’ is definitive proof that Trap Them are better than all the rest of them. No other band around, with the obvious exception of Converge themselves, mixes sludge and grindcore as ferociously and as brilliantly as Trap Them. At 45 minutes in length this is the group’s longest effort to date, but that just means more greatness - all killer, no filler.

Wreck and Reference - ‘Want’ (The Flenser)

I have to be honest, I’m not quite sure what exactly it is that Wreck and Reference do…but I do know that I wish there were more bands doing it. There are definite hints of fellow Flenser label act Have a Nice Life in the genre splicing that ‘Want’ has at its centre, but Wreck and Reference are ultimately a harsher beast, as much Prurient as they are Swans.

‘Want’ is a curious record in many senses, seemingly rejecting any obvious routes to extremity by instead meshing together a hybrid collection of sounds from disparate styles in a genuinely disorienting fashion. It’s not strictly accurate to say that ‘Want’ is ever heavy in the traditional sense, but it’s definitely noisy enough for anyone reading this column. It’s an uncomfortable listen for sure, but a rewarding one, not least because after a good few spins you still won’t really have a clue what’s going on half the record’s duration. More of this sort of thing please!

Phew, if that’s not enough to keep you going for the next few weeks then your extreme musical greed knows no bounds. Until next time, adjø!

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