(NCS writer Andy Synn turns in his latest SYNN REPORT. It’s safe to say this is the most unclean of Andy’s reports yet.)
Decadent filth-mongers The Axis Of Perdition have been on an unholy mission for many years now, spreading their terrible gospel of sickness and depravity to all those disturbed or lost enough to listen to their ravings. Over the course of 3 albums and 1 EP (with a new record, Tenements, imminent) they have mutated and corrupted the minds and souls of their listeners, displaying a nauseating growth and spread which is as fascinating as it is disgusting.
Comparison to fellow British urban blackened grinders Anaal Nathrakh is inevitable (particularly comparing early AN and early Axis…) but whereas Anaal Nathrakh epitomise the superiority of the urban predator, perfectly evolved for maximum carnage, The Axis Of Perdition occupy the opposite end of the spectrum, the imperfection of urban decay, the collapse of progress into inevitable decline and pestilent rot.
The band also dabble and delve into occult themes and sickening blasphemies, stealing widely from Lovecraftian lore and the modern day computerised horror of the Silent Hill mythos to express their deep-seated antipathy towards the surface of things, beneath which lies another world of indescribable repugnance and shit-covered, drooling madness. (more after the jump, including disgusting songs from each of the band’s albums . . .)
The Ichneumon Method (And Less Welcome Techniques) – 2003
“A Ruined Nation Awakes” manages to be utterly unforgettable and disconcerting in equal measure, the terrible artificiality of the drums and shrieking, buzz-saw guitars overlying a subtle undercurrent of ominous suspense, as an unseen, malevolent force stalks the listener, finally showing its teeth during the cybernetically enhanced fury of “To Walk The Corridors Of Hell”, stripping the flesh from its victims’ bones with precisely targeted, inhuman levels of aggression.
As close to an anthem as you are ever likely to get from the band, “Nightmare Suspension” hammers home the point that this is the true sound of horror, the calling card of The Axis Of Perdition. Winding and labyrinthine riff-structures bely the otherwise remarkably catchy nature of the song, subtle moments of dark, evil melody adding a distinct element to the raging ferocity of the artificial drums and unsettling samples.
If the unbearably distorted vocals of “My Time, My Reign, My Tyranny” are the primal scream of a soul trapped in unbearable torment, the tightly layered and punishing instruments are the unrelenting gears of industry grinding down the human soul to nothing in order to feed its terrible machines. Contrasting this mechanical nihilism, “Forms On The Other Side Of Silence” is an ambient, tenebrous piece of viscous noise and horrified spoken-word vocals, a black mass summoning forces from the great beyond, a hymn to creatures whose form and substance is anathema to our own.
“Reflections Of The Underdark” continues this theme, its unnatural forms twisted into chaotic shapes and expressed as music which seems to bleed darkness and breed corruption. The band vomit forth a series of lyrical blasphemies over frenzied, blasting drums and guitars that grind and scrape like a knife gouging into bone. Quite aptly this is followed by “Born Under The Knife, Live In Pain”, an utterly abrasive and abjectly disgusting piece of work whose pneumatic drill guitar work seems designed solely to set one’s teeth on edge, whilst the vocals spatter and coil like congealed blood. Yet most terrifying of all is the calm, almost soothing vocal sample which closes the track, all the more unnerving for its eerie ambivalence in the face of the unconstrained agony all around it.
The album closes with the long, tortuous composition that is “Disturbance In The Perpetual Screen”, pushing all aspects of the band’s sound into the red. The furious blackened grind is a sand-blasting assault on the senses, culminating in an all too accurate declaration that “no-one is coming to help us” before the band unleash the full potential of their industrial noise, an apocalyptic melding of unbearable dissonance and soul-crushing despair.
Physical Illucinations In The Sewer Of Xuchilbara (The Red God) – 2004
The bleak future painted by The Axis Of Perdition is a terrible one indeed, a post-apocalyptic waste ruled over by newly risen gods of pain and disease. The 5 dark hymns on this EP capture the essence of this bleak prophetic vision using a mix of dark ambience and flesh-destroying metallic horror.
Deceptively restrained introductory track “Interference from the Other Side: Pendulums Pray” mixes choking, claustrophobic atmospherics with pure, expressive female clean vocals promising a paradise that will never come.
“Where The World Becomes Flesh” is as chaotic and confusing as the title suggests, an unnatural and unholy meeting of human anguish and mechanised, industrial fury. The vocals are far lower in the mix than on their debut, melding into the massive wall of sound and unholy noise the band has captured. The guitars display a stunning level of technical dissonance throughout, insanely fast grinding rhythms overlaid with skin-flaying explosions of anti-melodic lead guitar.
“Reopening Wounds of the Transition Hospital” is a longer, more drawn out affair that disgusts and debases just as much as it blasts and bludgeons. Squalling, incoherent vocals bleed through the noise while eerie layers of samples and effects strip any residual elements of humanity from the track. Discordant guitars dominate the proceedings throughout, ranging from lightning fast picking assaults to doomy, uncomfortable chord sequences that seem never-ending and inescapable.
Unsettling interlude track “Pendulum Prey: Reciprocating Horror” foreshadows the future progression of the band towards the use of longer, more complex ambient interludes to offset the blasphemous industrial cacophony which has become their calling card and leads seamlessly into “Heaving Salvation in the Paradise of Rust”, an epic 10 minute piece of anti-music, its early minutes dominated by slow, crawling chord sequences and barely coherent vocal ranting, before the song descends into bleak, wind-swept sound-scapes and calm, resigned vocals accepting of their inescapable fate. The haunting hiss of static fills the air as sirens scream out a warning, this terrible story of entropy and corruption reaching its inevitable conclusion in a volatile explosion of heaving guitars, overwhelming drums and demonic vocals.
Deleted Scenes From The Transition Hospital – 2005
A new level of inhumanity was brought into the light on Deleted Scenes…, an album largely concerned with telling the linear story of man’s descent into chaos and insanity. The story peaks sharply with moments of vicious intensity, yet also manages to wallow in filth and dirt through the use of longer tracks, which serve as extended expulsive releases of violent, abject horror, followed by shorter, more ambient pieces of relative calm and shadowy formless terror.
The creepy, unsettling beginning of “Deleted Scenes I: In the Hallway of Crawling Filth” overflows with a palpable sense of menace, a subdued undercurrent of harsh, industrial clamour promising violence yet never fully revealing its monstrous form. As with much of The Axis…’s work, the track carries a barely suppressed sensation of degraded beauty and innocence which makes the unutterable filth all the more sickening to behold.
Once the full distortion and dissonance awaken, the track crawls and drags itself through a sludgy mire of churning riffs and inhuman drums revelling in the exposition of long, dragging minutes of slow, aural torture. No respite is offered from the brooding, hellish atmospheres by (relatively) calm interlude “The Elevator Beneath The Valve”, whose metaphorical descent into the hellish depths of the (in)human condition is perhaps the end of all true hope for the listener who has set out on this journey.
There’s a chilling, compelling clarity to the opening bars of “Pendulum Prey (Second Incarceration)”, its lewd, almost sexual vibe delivered with the disturbing smirk of a devil about to get his due. Yet all too soon the visceral horror of the track bursts into un-life, aborted into creation, spewing gurgling death vocals and twisted, scratching guitars that build and entwine into a glorious tower of twisted flesh and broken bones. As always, the track does not bludgeon the listener; it strips them down, piece by piece, dissecting their soul until only a quivering wreck of naked, weeping humanity remains. Its extended, jazzy conclusion is the only point of light in the whole piece, offering a different, almost comforting sort of madness in which to retreat into when the horror becomes all-encompassing.
The wrenching disorientation of interlude “Isolation Cubicle 312”, all shuddering moans and newborn screams of anguish, bridges the gap into “Entangled In Mannequin Limbs”, an unflinchingly bleak exploration of claustrophobic, menacing atmospheres filtered through a prism of demented artistry and maddening, infectious stanzas of twisted riffage.
Crippling paranoia is given shape and form here, a slow-motion apocalypse that gleefully dwells on its own inevitable, inescapable nature. Through abstract, viscous riffs and pulsing, undulating beats, the track spreads a virulent strain of desolation, the demonically distorted vocals expelling a mantra of blasphemy and despair over sharp, grinding drill samples which set the teeth on edge and the skin crawling.
The diseased, chugging, mechanistic atrocity that is “This, Then, Is Paradise?” is succeeded by the ominous promise contained within “One Day You Will Understand Why”, whose whispered, seductive philosophy is a degenerate transgression against the moral self, a summation of corrupted values and contaminated thoughts.
The vaguely glimpsed, indistinct horrors that dwell within final track “Deleted Scenes II: In The Gauze-Womb Of The God Becoming” are perhaps best left unseen and un-encountered, the formless, yet familiar, shadows they cast throughout the track’s extensive atmospheric opening more disturbing than anything that has come before. After 7 minutes of harrowing, tenebrous malice and revolting samples, the song shifts forms with brutal, clinical efficiency, introducing a series of scraping, rusted riffs and heathen, godless proclamations in an orgy of repugnant, salivating madness. The end is nigh.
Urfe – 2009
With double album Urfe, The Axis… chose to conduct a grand experiment, largely abandoning the mechanical bludgeon of their previous records in order to produce what is essentially an audio-book story-telling the tale of one man (the titular “Urfe”) and his descent into an underworld of chaotic insanity and sexual depravity, guided by the mysterious figure known as “Pylon”.
Clear similarities in structure and direction can be drawn with the “Inferno” section of Dante’s infamous work Divine Comedy, the narrative voice intoning ominously that “the dominion of perdition is at hand” as our protagonist sets out upon his journey through realms of sin and punishment, guided by his unknown, yet all-knowing companion.
At times it is difficult to take some of the record seriously, the po-faced proclamations not fully capturing the horror they intend to evoke (perhaps due to the sheer limitations of language in capturing such terrible, abstract themes) and so come across as almost comical in nature. Yet this is not to say that certain tracks and certain moments of tracks do not work at all; often they raise a frisson of unnameable horror that sets the hairs at the back of the neck on end, and the blood pulsing in warped, unnatural ways. The morose, piano and synth led instrumental of “Grief Of The Unclean II” captures perfectly this sensation of unending loss and devastation that the lyrics have so far attempted to convey, while moments of screaming desperation in “Grief… III” manage to convey pain and violent disturbance through the use of words and voice alone.
All in all, I feel that a stronger story was told, more succinctly, on “Heaving Salvation…”, and that previous album Deleted Scenes… managed to capture the linear progression of madness and cruelty better without sacrificing the disturbing, maniacal, metallic sound which the band had developed. Second disc, “The Great Unwashed”, goes some way to addressing this, incorporating more metallic dissonance and aggressive sonic spasms into its predecessor’s more ambient recipe, with “II”, “III” and “IV” in particular acting as monolithic slabs of abominable cruelty and seething anxiety through their use of more concise passages of guitar-driven ferocity and pained, hostile vocals. The pure, almost uplifting, guitar melodies that pierce the gloom during the death-throes of “VI” may yet offer some hint of salvation, yet at what cost?
Overall kudos must go to The Axis… for wilfully and courageously attempting something so different with this release, subverting the dominant paradigm of repetition and reduction to create something so sprawling and mammoth, knowing full well how it would alienate a great many of their listeners. It speaks volumes about the band’s dedication to their sickening art that they have purposefully (though I feel not in a reactionary manner) side-stepped all expectations to deliver something so knowingly “difficult”, regardless of how well it fully succeeds in its (perhaps overly ambitious and diffuse) goals.
Recommended For Fans Of: Anaal Nathrakh, Blut Aus Nord, Aborym
PS: Keep an eye out for my review of Tenements, the latest aural abomination from The Axis Of Perdition, which will be defecated onto the internet as soon as I have recovered from this willing, musical rape which I have suffered through.