Even by the standards of extreme music, this split is pretty harrowing. Clawing blend dark ambient soundscapes with Matt Finney’s spoken word contributions, which – if you’re familiar with his work – you know means that you’re in for an emotionally heavy time. Offerbeest is one of the aliases of Maurice de Jong, perhaps best known for his work as Gnaw Their Tongues. His tracks here are no less devastating than those released under that well-known moniker, being filled with harsh noise and industrial oppression, conjured via analog synths. Hardly an enjoyable trip, then – but it’s not meant to be. Instead, it is a split that forces you to confront your demons, to face what is haunting you, throwing yourself into the nightmare and hoping to emerge on the other side.
One of the real joys of underground music is watching bands develop before our eyes, going from promising early releases to albums that more than live up to expectations. Such is the case with the latest album from Abstracter, Cinerous Incarnate. The band have evolved, building on their earlier sounds, bringing further elements of noise and dark ambient to their already soul-crushing fusion of doom, black, death, and crust. It makes Cinerous Incarnate an album of utter despair and world-ending heaviness, filled with the kind of riffs that can collapse buildings and an atmosphere of the most haunting, searing dread.
Matt Finney has, through sheer hard work and determination, become something of a genre unto himself. His spoken word style is distinctive, both in its delivery – straight-forward, matter-of-fact, recounted almost without emotion at times – and also its subject matter which is, invariably, dealing with the bleaker parts of life. Such is the case with Clawing, which also features Austin Gaines and Jeff McLeod, and their debut release Spectral Estate. Over the course of forty minutes, the trio craft a record that is never anything less than unsettling, with its industrial/dark ambient soundscapes shifting and morphing in disturbing fashion, as if they were an expression of broken lives trying to piece themselves back together without success, all topped off with Matt’s spoken words. It’s horrific in its bleakness, but also deeply impressive and hard to look away from.
Gospel is the third collaboration (though second to be released) between Siavash Amini and Matt Finney, and the combination of ambient/drone soundscapes and confessional spoken word is every bit as emotionally devastating as you’d hope and expect. It’s not a record to be enjoyed in any conventional sense of the word; instead, it’s music as therapy, as a means of confronting one’s demons and trying to put the past behind you, no matter how Sisyphean a task that may seem. It picks up the thread (both musically and emotionally) from Familial Rotand not so much runs with it as it does stumble forward, hands reaching desperately for safety, fighting off demons and trauma that are more spiritual than anything else. It is a haunting, uncomfortable listen; but also compelling in its own way.
Welving is like little else I have ever heard. The music of Hadewych is impossible to pigeon-hole, refusing to conform to any single genre or style – the only tag that fits is that of avant-garde, in its original, forward-thinking form. Heavy with dark mysticism and creative bravery, Welving constructs an intricate web of industrial, dark jazz, black metal, and more besides – as if Coil, Bohren And Der Club Of Gore, and 666 International-era Dodheimsgard wrote a record together. Welving is one of the most captivating, refreshingly unique records I have encountered in some time; and also one of the most rewarding. This is the kind of record that, if you let it, could take over your life.
The solo project of Josh Graham, IIVII (pronounced “ivy”) have returned from 2015’s outer-space ambient fiction of Colony, with further tales from beyond our world. But whereas Colony told a tale of loneliness that emphasized the void between the stars, new album Invasion draws its fear not from being alone, but from learning that there is some kind of intelligence out there, and it does not come in peace. Though it is more immediate than its predecessor, and its narrative is more obvious, neither of these elements are to the detriment of Invasion, which is a strong continuation for IIVII.
Sometimes, there is comfort in the darkness. There are records out there whose content speaks of pain and misery, and wants you, the listener, to know that you’re not alone; to know that things will get better.
How We Lived isn’t one of those albums.
On their second full-length together, the duo of Heinali and Matt Finney have crafted something that may move with a damaged grace and sense of warped beauty; and there may be sounds that shimmer and dance in the haze; but more than that, How We Lived is an album heavy with the sounds of deep-seated sorrow, rooted in the everyday experiences that slowly build up until the burden feels insurmountable. It is a challenging listen, intense in a more emotional rather than musical sense, but it is also a deeply rewarding one, where the void in your soul may stare back at you, but if you’re strong enough to avoid looking away, How We Lived makes for one hell of an experience.