At some point in the distant future, the world will end. The end of humanity is coming ever-sooner, to the extent that human extinction within the next hundred years is ever-more likely. And then there’s the period after that ending, up until the expansion of the sun, consuming the Earth so that there is no trace of our species left. Between those two points, the broken machinery and ruins of cities will be our legacies – automated processes screaming in to the void, computers and robots toiling away uselessly until their circuits finally give way to an ending. It’s this bleak future that Burning ad Infinitum makes me think of, with the collaboration between Gnaw Their Tongues and Crowhurst combining noise, drone, and bursts of grinding metal in the most inhospitable and damaged of ways.
So, we’re a bit over halfway through 2018, and there’s been some excellent records released. Most notably, 2018 is shaping up to be an excellent year for death metal – bands such as Tomb Mold, Our Place of Worship is Silence, Memoriam, Slugdge, and practically everyone on the Dark Descent Records roster are killing it with top-tier death metal. Things aren’t quite so grand when it comes to black metal, but the new Immortal is pretty note-worthy, and there’s been a few other strong releases in the underground – including the final release by Cosmic Church.
Here, I’ll pick out ten of my favourite records released so far this year, in alphabetical order. Hopefully you’ll find something new here to enjoy, or be reminded of something you were in to earlier in the year. Enjoy!
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.
Within the realms of industrial black metal – a niche genre within a niche genre to begin with – it’s hard not to feel that Red Harvest are somewhat overlooked. Part of this is down to their eclectic nature – with influences including avant-garde thrash early on, and Neurosis later in their career – but perhaps their most accessible record is Internal Punishment Programs. The 2004 album was less intense than the blistering Sick Transit Gloria Mundi, but in some ways that works to the advantage of Internal Punishment Programs, with subtle hints of melody woven in with the industrial stomp.
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.
La Fin De L’ère Sauvage, the first demo from French band Woest, is an ugly piece of music. The industrial black metal contained within the record is harsh, aggressive, and possessed of a nihilistic, corrosive atmosphere, as if playing it will somehow cause your speakers to decay. Steeped deeply in a ritualistic aura, this record is an uncomfortable experience, that revels in the dark shadows it conjures as it combines black metal mysticism with dystopian industrial sounds.
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.