Label: Throatruiner Records
Woe unto thee, underground record released in December. Such is the nature of music journalism and blogging that the last few months of the year are almost inevitably more focused on retrospectives and lists, rather than paying as much attention as usual to new releases. This is why the debut album from Violent Magic Orchestra, Catastrophic Anonymous, passed me by. It’s a shame that this record wasn’t released at a time more receptive to coverage. Comprising Japanese metal band Vampillia, Paul Régimbeau (Mondkopf, Extreme Precautions, Autrenoir), and Pete Swanson (formerly of Yellow Swans), Violent Magic Orchestra have unleashed something that lives up to their name.
As you may expect from the line-up, Catastrophic Anonymous is far from an easy listen. Taking in the darkest, most ominous side of techno, avant garde metal, harsh noise, and even a few aspects of post-rock, it is a dense, challenging, LOUD album. The vocal contributions from Chip King (The Body) and Attila Csihar are in line with this, and the two vocalists lend their distinctive styles to different tracks; Chip King’s contributions to opener ‘The Beginning Of Fortune’ are especially note-worthy, starting the album off in spine-chilling style.
Not that these guest spots are needed for the album to stand out. There is constant movement throughout, often at tempos that are barely comprehensible, with individual elements buried in a swamp of ultra-fast drum machines and harsh noise. Third track ‘In Favor Of Cruelty’ is an excellent example of this, with the song racing ahead at tempos that makes most grindcore seem sedate by comparison, whilst also possessing traces of blissed-out melody that somehow manage to rise out of the din at points. This movement isn’t confined to the tempos, either (and nor do the songs simply rely on breakneck speeds; see the slower, more ominous ‘At The Bank’ for evidence); they shift and curl, folding in upon themselves and changing direction with barely a moments notice.
God-damn though, is it ever intense. The constant volume and aural punishment makes Catastrophic Anonymous an incredibly difficult album to get to grips with, and there are absolutely no easy ways in. But what treasures there are that await those with the temperament and patience – not to mention mental fortitude – to weather the initial storm and keep exploring what is offered. It might seem tempting to write this off at first as an excuse in using volume and noise to mask a lack of talent, but nothing could be further from the truth. Like all good noise-influenced acts, Violent Magic Orchestra use volume and texture as an instrument in itself, with the production every bit as important as what the individuals concerned are playing.
I can’t help but sense that the true magic of Catastrophic Anonymous is impossible to put in to worlds, though. The band name is apt – as violent as this album is, there is something other-worldly and magical about it, as if this were music created by and for creatures with different senses and perceptions to our own. It defies any attempts at meaningful categorization, and stands as an example of what can be created when diverse sounds and musicians come together with a common goal. If nothing else, it will make almost everything else in your record collection sound ordinary; and if that doesn’t convince you to give this record a try, I don’t know what will.