One thing about Trent Reznor, he never seems to get complacent. Part of that is the artist inside of him won’t allow atrophy of his creative muscles very long. The strength of his need to keep growing forward and evolving, Reznor continues an over decade long hot-streak of new and varied output either as a solo artist, entrepreneur, film composer, visual artist, fashion designer, his other band projects such as How To Destroy Angels and of course with Nine Inch Nails.
While not exactly a household name even in underground Metal, Kevin Hufnagel’s CV covers an impressive range of some of the more interesting and experimental bands and albums in modern Metal. His time in Dysrhythmia, Gorguts and Vaura shows a creative, ambitious player who’s not prepared to settle in one place for too long – so it’s hardly surprising that his new solo album leaves behind even the flexible restrictions of those bands to engage entirely with his own creativity.
The music on Kleines Biest (self-released) is a little outside Ghost Cult’s usual comfort zone in terms of labels and references, but if pushed I’d describe it as a kind of abstract composition, drawing on elements of Noise, Dark Ambient and other electronic forms, alongside occasional uses of Hufnagel’s guitar. The eleven tracks are instrumental, and each focus on a particular style or atmospheric theme, covering a broad range from sinister to reflective. There are aspects of Hufnagel’s compositional approach that are suggestive of Scott Walker’s post-Tilt (Fontana) work, but without Walker’s voice and skewed “song-writing”, it takes on more of a background role.
At its best, Kleines Biest is genuinely both daring and engaging collection of tracks from a musician who has clearly set out to challenge himself. Perhaps the most successful parts – certainly from the perspective of most Ghost Cult readers – come when Hufnagel brings his guitar to the compositions, employing abstract, atmospheric riffing that highlights how the trappings of Metal can be used to achieve unconventional results. Like a lot of “background” music, however, it can sometimes slip into meaningless abstraction and hollow sounds – at its worst, Kleines Biest is little more than more adventurous lift music, and the album perhaps outstays its welcome at times, especially during the more ambient or contemplative sections.
A largely successful experiment in stepping beyond the boundaries of Metal, then, for a musician who has spent his career pushing and testing those boundaries, but most people reading this are likely to prefer his work within the more structured format of a band.
Sometimes bands come along shrouded in mystery and intrigue. Information on Tacoma’s own Tummler And Solomon points towards talk of the paranormal and the bizarre following their live showings. Fabricated or truth it is unclear, but what is apparent is that this is a far more engaging side than their music on the showing of their debut.
Predominantly You’ve Worn Out Your Welcome (Self-released) has a doom and sludge construct, based on slow, very low toned guitar riffs and a morbid nature. It also has sprinklings of psychedelic nuances, impressively incorporated but without making this any more engaging. The driving force should be its slow and heavy rumblings, but the riffs on display are so one dimensional and repetitive that they are indistinctive from not only most other bands of this ilk, but even from one another. Vocals are reduced to a monotonous and completely inaudible drone, which sounds like they were recorded in a tunnel (perhaps intentional as a failed attempt of adding oddity).
Things seem to take a corner in the song writing stakes with ‘Righteous Offering’ and its organ passages but even this proves far too late on the second to last song and still does not help with the album’s far too drawn out duration.
It’s of course easy for things to not entirely click in a band’s fledgling stages, but for the most part this not only sounds dull and messy, but also feels almost lazy in its execution. An apt album moniker all things considered.
Sometimes you get an album and wonder why you’ve never heard of the protagonists before… This fourth long-player from Canadian quintet Psychotic Gardening (they’ve obviously seen my wife when a frog appears from the undergrowth, mid-weeding) certainly belies the satanic lyrical bent, with some diverse influences steering the set gleefully in every extreme direction.
From the outset of Hymnosis (Self-released) the scything staccato riffs of Canadian underground legend Chuck Labossiere veer between doom and thrash, while Gillishammer’s penetrating scour conducts the simmering ensemble. There’s early variation and a show of future intent in the death-doom of the Paradise Lost-like ‘Re-Hybridized Strain’, Andrew Wiens‘ howling leadwork accompanying a mournful organ and crushing riffs on the album’s first real show of strength. Rather than a mish-mash of styles, each track is different but not in a disjointed fashion, seeming to flow in expressing the chapters of the story. The rampant death groove of ‘Mindfold’, for example, displays brutal tendencies, whilst a dirty bounce and lead operates ‘Genome Degradation:’ a slow, brooding yet crushing monster with unusual chord structures heightening the addictive sound. ‘Searing Cital’ is almost funereal, the throat like an angry Treebeard and maybe Peter Jackson would’ve loved its tolling heaviness and menace as the soundtrack for the trees heading to destroy Saruman. Doom is taking hold at this point; it’s easy to dismiss the title of ‘Garden Raiding’ as violent whimsy but the track is almost moving, its doleful threat possessing stunning leads at the close. There’s an almost prog structure to the cover of Death‘s ‘Open Casket’, the longest and most inventive track, rarely breaking a canter as the superlative guitars are accompanied by powerful, dictatorial drums and some impressive screams. Closer ‘Journey to the Sun’ obviously reflects the coda of life, and that album title; occasional choral effects and the eventual marching beat sandwiched by an emotive piano
It’s an amazingly tight, affecting close to a set which constantly surprises, filling the listener with joy, sadness and angry euphoria in equal measure. Don’t let the name put you off, there’s little humour but plenty of integrity here.
8.5 / 10