I slept much later than usual this morning, and to compound the problems that created for my NCS duties, I had barely started writing today’s SHADES OF BLACK column before bedding down for the night, though I had at least finished the job of picking what I wanted to write about. And then when I finally did rouse myself from what seemed like a deep hibernation and had inhaled a gallon of coffee, I decided to take a quick peak at Facebook before turning back to today’s column.
And the first thing I saw was a pair of messages from two generous sources of musical recommendations, starkweather’s Rennie and my Serbian acquaintance Miloš, both of whom were pointing me to a big surprise that did far more to set my nerve endings alight that all that coffee I had poured into myself: Without warning, No Solace released a new Kriegsmaschine album today.
That was an exciting surprise, but did sort of fuck up my plans for completing today’s SHADES OF BLACK post, because of course I had to go listen to that album without delay, and having done so, I have to write a few words about it. After doing that, I’ll try to get back to what I originally planned to write for this Sunday, and it will become Part 2 of this SOB.
Everyone who knows what’s up knows Mgła, but I think far fewer people are aware of Kriegsmaschine, another guise for Mgła’s two members M. and Darkside (joined by second vocalist and bassist Destroyer). More’s the pity, because although Kriegsmaschine truly is a very different guise for these creators, the music is damned good. In my case, there are some Kriegsmaschine songs (this one is a leading example) to which I’ve become so deeply addicted that they regularly pop into my head at unexpected times and I have to go listen to them again because mere memory isn’t a strong enough fix (and I really don’t revisit anyone’s past releases very often because I’m constantly flitting around among new ones).
This new album, Apocalypticists, spans more than 50 minutes, and I’ve only listened once, and I’m feeling kind of rushed for the reasons described above, and so I can’t really dignify these few paragraphs as a “review”. They’re just some immediate impressions and a hurried effort to explain why you should find 50 minutes of your own time to devote to this — because Kriegsmaschine have taken some unexpected twists and turns compared to what they’ve done before.
Kriegsmaschine still have their finger on our pulse and our fast-twitch muscle fibers, displaying a mastery of how to make their listeners move reflexively. While past Kriegsmaschine releases have depended more on industrial drives, these rhythms have a primal, tribal quality, invoking deep-seated ancestral memories of lurching and dancing in perilous ecstasy around blazing fires when everything beyond the glow was trying to kill us.
But the rhythmic propulsions in these songs are also modern, in the sense that they display a bewitching inventiveness and become as much a source of surprise as a means of putting your head and body in motion. The drumwork and bass lines in the opening track provide an immediate example. The drumming is especially marvelous and remains a vital, attention-grabbing ingredient throughout the album (at least to my ears, Darkside seems to employ Latin American and African rhythms at least as much as others).
Speaking of things trying to kill you beyond the edge of the bonfire’s light, the vocal proclamations are both imperious and blood-freezing in their near-bestial savagery. I didn’t focus on the lyrics in my one listen to the album so far, preferring instead to just let the music wash over me. But based on M.’s prodigious talents as a lyricist, I have no doubt it will be worth reading them (the lyrics are available on Bandcamp) and then paying closer attention to them again in the next turn through the album.
And speaking further of things trying to kill you, the chiming and swirling dissonance of the melodies, which are cold yet gleaming, spellbinding yet unnerving, conjure nightmare visions of terrible grandeur and plague-like doom. Disease strikes down our loved ones like dessicated stalks of wheat before the scythe. Winged demons rise in eminence through the light of pale moons. Lost spirits gibber and wail through the porous fabric between their dimensions and ours. The rhythms are full of blood-pumping life; the vocals burn with hatred; the melodies open our minds in fear to the vast hungering maw of extinction.
In truth, the album is relentlessly eerie and oppressive. As transfixing as the music is, the sense of gloom and terror it generates seeps ever more deeply under the skin as the minutes pass. Apocalypticists is the name of the album, and an equally good name for the people who made these songs.
Digipack CD and digital editions of Apocalypticists are available now. The band say that a double-LP version will be coming in 2019.