Whilst the focus of The Sound Not The Word might be on the underground, let’s be real for a moment: Nine Inch Nails are one of the best bands around. There’s good reason that they’re so popular, with a catalogue of accessible singles and well-crafted albums. Yet there’s also a wealth of B-sides, remixes, and soundtrack contributions worth taking note of too, that most fans might not check out. To keep things accessible to all, I’ve intentionally limited the songs on this list to ones that can be streamed via Spotify, and excluded those that appear on standard CD versions of albums. Sure, that vinyl-only version of The Fragile: Deviations 1 contains some excellent versions of songs, but at about £65 a copy, it’s hardly something most people will buy. So, with that in mind – and because they’re one of my favourite ever bands, and why run a blog if you can’t write about what you love? – here’s what I feel are five of the best NIN deep cuts, presented in chronological order of release.
The first release from Rabitrup, SWVMPS, was a nightmarish journey of industrial noise and damaged melody, as addictive as it was difficult to listen to, with emotional gut-punches to go along with the musical ones. The follow-up, SWVMPS II, is a slightly more accessible listen, but it’s still a difficult twenty minutes. Ineligible screams emerge from beneath hyper-speed drum’n’bass rhythms, along with waves of piercing noise and brutalised guitars, all emerging from some ruined, yet still human, psyche. But as overwhelming and challenging as it can be, SWVMPS II is a rewarding EP, offering a kind of catharsis that is as physical as it is emotional.
Of all the records to have come my way recently, Governance by Birmingham band khost is probably the most punishing. Combining harsh noise with an industrial stomp and muscularity, Governance is far from an easy listen; but at the same time, it’s one that’s relatively easy to sink in to. Whilst khost may excel at creating an atmosphere of utter darkness, filled with horrific malevolence, they do so in a way that includes just enough shades of light to make the darkness all the more effective, whilst also stopping it becoming overwhelming. This sense of contrast is vitally important, and helps make Governance be such a success.
In the increasingly populated world of extreme music, it gets harder and harder to stand out. There’s only so many novel ideas out there, and there’s no guarantee that musicians have the requisite talent to properly convey what they have to express. It’s this context which helps make american seem an all the more startling prospect. Their mix of black metal, industrial, and harsh noise already sounds exciting on paper, but what Violate And Control demonstrates is that the duo have both the ideas and talent to take this combination in to strange new places. This results in an album that feels remarkably fresh, even as it indulges in some of the most horrific music committed to tape whilst still remaining listenable.
Sometimes, the most disturbing aspects in art are the most human. Whilst extra-dimensional Lovecraftian creatures and blasphemous demons may have their own type of power and horror, they can be as nothing when compared with a well-placed spoken word sample. SWVMPS by rabitrup is proof of that were any ever needed. The music itself is powerful enough, mixing industrial, harsh noise, and even dubstep elements in to a challenging listen. But what really makes this three-track EP horrifying are the spoken word samples, which give the music extra context and power. If you’re feeling emotionally fragile or downcast, this is a record to avoid; but, if you want an experience of staring in to the void that is humanity, press ahead.
As of late, I’ve been feeling quite disheartened about the creative emptiness of much black metal. For sure, there are plenty of worthwhile, ambitious releases out there (as well as those which aim to stick to their chosen style, and absolutely nail it); but finding them amidst a sea of generic corpsepainted, tremolo-picking, Satan worshiping clones is quite the task. It’s that which makes the discovery of a band like Balance Interruption all the more heartening. Theirs is a black metal that does not give one single fuck for orthodoxy or the constraints of genre and their third album, Door 218, is a devastating tour-de-force of industrial, progressive black metal that deserves to be raised above the mediocre masses and praised for the damaged genius that it is.
So, October has been pretty busy. There’s been quite a few big, exciting releases – not least of which are the new albums from Darkthrone and Planes Mistaken For Stars – and I spent a few days travelling around the country to see SubRosa on their first UK tour. Their shows were every bit as incredible as I hoped, and if you get the chance, I recommend you go see them.
For this month’s short review, there’s eclectic hardcore from Death By Fungi on In Dearth Of; psychedelic doom by Cities Of Mars with Celestial Mistress; discordant post-black metal by Simulacro on Echi Dall’Abisso; harsh soundscapes of Perennial Disappointment byConcrete Mascara, which is anything but disappointing; raw death/doom with black and folk elements onSangreal by Cóndor; and one of the most uncomfortable pieces of sludge/hardcore I’ve heard by Cowards on Still. Enjoy!