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Noise Not Music #11: False, Abyssal, Pale Chalice And More

Wednesday, 24 June 2015 Written by Ben Bland

Photo: Josh Martines

If you thought last month’s Noise Not Music was packed to the rafters with amazing records then you’ll be delighted to hear that there’s just as much quality to get through this month. Due to limited space I have had to miss out two excellent records on the basis that the artists behind them are probably a little too well known to merit inclusion. The two in question are the exceptional new album, ‘Grievances’, by Sheffield progressive hardcore quintet (and long-term Stereoboard favourites) Rolo Tomassi, and the rip-roaring newbie from Matt Pike-led stoner doom trio High on Fire, ‘Luminiferous’.

New Releases

Abyssal – ‘Antikatastaseis’ (Profound Lore)

Surprise, surprise, more gold from Profound Lore. This time it’s their first release working with UK progressive death metallers Abyssal. For the uninitiated, Abyssal’s unique approach has yielded two very fine records to date. In fact, ‘Novit Enim Dominus Qui Sunt Eius’ was one of the finest metal records of 2013. ‘Antikatastaseis’, though, trumps anything this mysterious collective have produced to date. A veritable feast of guttural vocals, haunting riffs, wonderfully placed ambient interludes and dank atmospherics, fans of Portal, in particular, will be blown away. The highlight is probably the incredible closer Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas, which showcases all the most wonderfully inventive aspects of Abyssal’s sound. An undoubted contender for metal record of the year.

Akitsa – ‘Grand Tyrans’ (Hospital Productions)

Long-running Quebecois black metal project Akitsa have been controversial over the years, not least for a split with infamous NSBM act Satanic Warmaster – to his credit, main man Outre-Tombe has vocally denied any extremist racial beliefs in a recent Noisey interview, which puts him one up on lots of other acts in the black metal underground – and their prominence in an increasingly regional nationalistic scene. ‘Grand Tyrans’ continues the general methodology that the duo has always espoused: ultra-raw black metal with a heavy dash of punk thrown into the mix. But this album is also something of an exception to the norm. In the case of second track ‘Le feu de l’abîme’ there’s even some (relatively) clean production as well as obvious classic metal influences on display. Still, it’s a typically feral release from a band who are becoming subterranean luminaries of the most respected kind.

Author & Punisher‘Melk En Honing’ (Housecore)

I’m not sure that Tristan Shone is ever going to win any awards for subtlety on the basis of his work as Author & Punisher, but his hybrid of industrial, noise, drone and metal stylings is plugging a gap few others are working in at present. This is a bit like what Prurient might sound like if Dominick Fernow had learnt more from Nine Inch Nails than Whitehouse. There are scabrous slabs of noise, mechanical rhythms and inhumanly distorted vocals, but at times it feels that the emphasis on crafting noise into discernible “songs” is a weakness rather than a positive.

Container – ‘LP’ (Spectrum Spools)

Ren Schofield sure as hell isn’t going to die wondering. The former God Willing man, who switched harsh noise for minimal techno half a decade back, is back with a third unimaginatively titled LP for Spectrum Spools. Given the increase in what could, loosely, be referred to as “noise techno” in recent years, one could be forgiven for thinking that the third Container album might sound a little less distinctive than previous efforts. You would be wrong. Schofield’s response to the upsurge of noisy techno artists is to produce his most minimal, and visceral, record to date. The pace barely lets up for even a second, threatening to dissolve into glitch at the album’s most ferocious moments, such as Colossal or closer Calibrate. Despite its brief length – seven tracks across twenty-six minutes – this is as exhausting as Schofield’s thrilling live shows.

False – ‘Untitled’ (Gilead Media)

Much like Container, Minneapolis’s False have a thing for extremely unhelpful album titles. Thankfully, also like Container, False’s music more than makes up for their obtuseness in this department. ‘Untitled’ is a stunning display of black metal at its progressive and violent best. This is pretty widescreen stuff – although as False are a sextet this perhaps isn’t wholly surprising – and there’s an air of majestic triumph running throughout each of the five lengthy tracks on offer. But this is as corrosive at its core as any of the nastiest black metal LPs you could care to think of. It’s this juxtaposition that has often defined many of the genre’s true greats, a position that False could find themselves in if they produce more records as savagely stunning as this one.

Florian Hecker & Mark Leckey‘Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera’ (PAN)

I’m a couple of months late off the mark with this one, but there’s not going to be another ‘Hecker Leckey Sound Voice Chimera’ anytime soon so I’ll bend the rules slightly just this once. A collaboration between two interdisciplinary artists – Vienna-based noise guru Florian Hecker and British artist Mark Leckey – this three track LP from PAN has its origins in a Samsung fridge (no, really) but you wouldn’t guess it. This is an unhinged, perhaps even chilling, reflection on not just 21st century sound but the never ending slew of “noise” that is a constant part of contemporary life. A bit like falling headfirst down the stairs in slow motion. Highly recommended.  

Mamaleek – ‘Via Dolorosa’ (The Flenser)

Mamaleek are a band like no other, which is rare praise in this day and age. Comprised of two anonymous brothers, they’ve been doing their thing for around seven years now, but it was only with last year’s ‘He Never Spoke a Mumblin Word’ that they began to threaten to gain more attention. That record was noisier – and had clearer roots in black metal – than this, but that’s not to imply that ‘Via Dolorosa’ is an easy listen. The claustrophobic atmospherics and ear-bleeding screams are very much still in attendance. It’s hard to put into words exactly what the album sounds like, but Portishead playing lo-fi black metal might be somewhere vaguely near the mark. Mamaleek aren’t going to be the next Deafheaven. This is defiantly underground music in every sense of the word, but they are certainly the sort of band that fans of the weird and the (bizarrely) wonderful really ought to be championing.

Pale Chalice – ‘Negate the Infinite and Miraculous’ (Gilead Media)

Sometimes I worry that there’s not enough genuinely great old school black metal being produced nowadays, a sentiment seemingly shared by the members of US group Pale Chalice. With Ephemeral Domignostika (best known for his work as Mastery) behind the microphone it’s correct to assume that Pale Chalice have a little more to them than simple Scandinavian BM worship, but there’s a wonderfully defiant streak of tradition at the heart of ‘Negate the Infinite and Miraculous’. If someone told you this record was from the mid-’90s you’d be hailing it as a lost classic. As it is, with its punchy production, fantastic riffs, top drawer vocals and serially amazing basslines, it’s one of the finest USBM records released in many a year. Much like the aforementioned False album – also on Gilead Media – Pale Chalice should appeal to those who like things “kvlt” as well as those who believe that black metal should move with the times. Where’s that repeat button?

Retribution Body – ‘Aokigahara’ (Type)

‘Aokigahara’ is pleasant enough on its first side. Sea of Trees is comprised of huge, but vaguely warm, bass drones and the odd bout of twinkling piano. Sea of Stars is a different proposition, seeing Retribution Body (the work of Boston’s Matthew Azevedo) reach more punishing levels of sonic excavation. This isn’t as simple as being a work of two halves – the whole is a disarmingly sinister proposition once absorbed in full – but it’s a delightful display of manipulating listener expectations and, in a very pure sense, the deepest recesses of sound.

James Welburn – ‘Hold’ (Miasmah)

It’s hard to believe that anyone could make Godflesh sound tame, but that seems to be a modus operandi that both the aforementioned Author & Punisher and James Welburn have in common. The latter is more of a sound artist than the former and ‘Hold’, which features Tony Buck (of legendary Australian jazz trio The Necks) on drums, has its foot more in instrumental industrial drone than in metal. This is an astonishing sounding record from beginning to end, with Welburn’s stupendous sustained tones combining with Buck’s punishing drum parts to produce a remarkably powerful six tracks. It all comes to a close with the title track, which is reminiscent of latter day Swans in its majestic percussion sounds and soaring drone. It is difficult to think of ways anyone could make a record like this any better. Top marks.


When – ‘The Black Death’ (Ideologic Organ)

If you thought things got weird round about Mamaleek then this should have you even more rattled. When is the work of Lars Pedersen, a Norwegian artist who has gained a reputation for sound collages, which is exactly what you get with ‘The Black Death’. This album, initially released in 1992, was a favourite of numerous musicians in the burgeoning Norwegian black metal scene at the time, and is set to win a new generation of admirers now. Originally composed as a soundtrack to Theodor Kittelsen’s series of paintings of the same name, Ideologic Organ describe it as “the missing link between Arve Nordheim and Mayhem”, which is probably about as accurate as you’re going to get. Full credit to Stephen O’Malley for getting this the reissue it deserves.

That’s your lot for now folks - expect another packed column next month. For now, adjø!

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