Review: Gnaw Their Tongues – Genocidal Majesty

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Label: Consouling Sounds

One of the most prolific names in extreme and experimental music, Gnaw Their Tongues (Maurice De Jong) is back with Genocidal Majesty, an album that delivers exactly what the title promises. Blending nihilistic black metal aesthetics with harsh noise, this is not an album to relax to. This is an album that sounds like death, filled with harsh and rumbling drones, tortured strings like shards of broken glass, and vocals drawn the deepest pits of human suffering – and that’s without considering the contributions from Chip King of The Body. Genocidal Majesty is an album where nightmares stalk the earth in the ruins of human civilization, constructing temples made of bone, where the choirs inside sing songs of damnation and suffering. Exactly what you’d hope for from Gnaw Their Tongues, then.

The discography of Gnaw Their Tongues is a varied one, embracing multiple forms of sonic darkness, and the marriage of black metal and noise has rarely felt as cohesive and convincing as it does on Genocidal Majesty. For all that the album is an oppressive, uncomfortable listen, utterly uncompromising in its onslaught, there’s something about it that makes it easy to lose hours to at a time, immersing yourself within the dark world it constructs and being held there by its power. Though split in to nine separate tracks, the album feels like a cohesive whole, each song (if that’s the right word for such examples of sonic extremity) flowing in to the next in superb fashion. It’s an album where the atmosphere is vastly more important than any single moment or song; and that atmosphere is of the darkest, most terrifying kind.

Part of what makes the atmosphere so successful is that Gnaw Their Tongues know when to shift emphasis, to introduce new elements to stop the noise losing its impact. The track ‘Cold Oven’ is the best example of this, being noticeably more spacious than the rest of Genocidal Majesty; by offering hints of light and the (false) promise of salvation, it makes the rest of the album seem all the more extreme and effective. Likewise, Chip King’s distinctive vocals add an extra sense of desperation to the tracks where he features, their high pitch contrasting with the deep, dark sounds surrounding them.

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As extreme and unsettling as it is, it can be hard to turn away from Genocidal Majesty. Undoubtedly, this record will not be for everyone – it is an album built upon foundations of harsh noise, with no real rhythms or riffs even when conventional instruments are used, and the black metal edge is there in terms of the world-ending, nihilistic aesthetics and devotion to darkness rather than tremolo-picked riffs or other musical tropes (though riffs can be found within the murk should you look deep enough, as on opener ‘Death Leaves the World’). Yet, once it has infected you with its darkness, it is hard to turn away from Genocidal Majesty, reveling in its sonic torment, teasing and testing the listener, asking them to see just how far they can go, and how well they can weather the onslaught. There is something rewarding and cathartic in standing up to the challenge of the album, as if, by making it to the end, some grand test has been passed, and some demon defeated. And whilst the “genocidal” part of Genocidal Majesty is very apparent, it’s the second part that gives the album lasting appeal. There is something grand about the visions of violence and apocalypse that are summoned here by Gnaw Their Tongues, as if death and extinction was only a prelude to something far greater.

Of all the works by Gnaw Their Tongues, this is the one I have found easiest to align my headspace with, and to lose whole afternoons or evenings to. Considering that this is a dark, punishing listen even by the commonly agreed standards of extreme music, that is quite an accomplishment. Long-time fans will be as pleased as ever by what is on offer, and for those looking to dive in to the considerable discography of Gnaw Their Tongues, this is an excellent place to start, and an excellent album overall.

Genocidal Majesty is available on CD and vinyl via Consouling Sounds, and digitally via Bandcamp.

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