The sound of Deathstench is a blacker-than-black choking miasma, a caustic cocktail of hissing, seething white noise, ice-cold black metal ambience and dark cavernous nocturnal magick that writhes like a sack full of venomous snakes and freezes the blood in the veins. Their boiling malevolence is thrown into contrast by the sinister minimalist crawling fog-bound martial ritual drone of Trepaneringsritualen on the flip-side of this 12” picture disc release, with the only real touch-points being the air of malign intent, and the use of submerged vocals and Tibetan instrumentation – singing bowls for Deathstench and throat-singing for Trepaneringsritualen.
Of course, if you’re not an afficionado of noise or Power Electronics both artists are pretty much going to sound like pained needling shrieking and half-heard ominous murk, but, trust me here, both Deathstench and Trepaneringsritualen are head and shoulders above the vast majority of the same-old same-old ‘transgressive’ noise crowd, by virtue of their understanding of dynamics alone. In fact it would hardly be technically ‘correct’ to even apply the label of ‘noise’ to the occult subterranean thrum of Trepaneringsritualen, but nevertheless this will most likely be the label most commonly applied to such non-linear a-melodic sounds.
For the first track on their side of the release, ‘Damnum Minatum’, rather than hammering the point home with repetitive bludgeoning white noise hiss, Deathstench vary their attack, mixing waves of blistering aural shrapnel with rumbling bass notes and buried black metallic guitar scree. Vocalist John Paul Whetzel’s inhuman roar is firmly embedded within the razor-edged tornado of frenzied guitar and screaming noise that he and bandmate Darea Plantin conjure forth, sounding not unlike an untuned radio transmission from the depths of hell. ‘Damnum Minatum’ is a white-hot blowtorch of a track that will scorch the ears of anyone listening.
Changing tack for their second track, ‘Temples Of Dust’, Deathstench show their mastery of dynamics by incrementally building a tense, unsettling atmosphere around chiming harmonics, tolling bells, kaleidoscopic treated scratching, grinding sounds and what sound like looped and buried crow caws and animal sounds, before the crazed, throaty shriek of OLD/Khanate/Gnaw vocalist Alan Dubin joins the fray and things take a turn for the really unpleasant.
Dubin’s unearthly yowl cuts through the brooding malevolent storm like a buzzsaw through squirming flesh, even as Whetzel and Plantin turn the screw tighter by piling on the noise and looping Dubin’s own treated vocal beneath him. Deathstench with Dubin is very much a match made in, well, a significantly more sulphurous place than heaven.
Over on the reverse, Trepaneringsritualen put forth one emanation to Deathstench‘s two, the creeping death industrial dread of ‘Åkallan Mímir’, an agglutination of dubbed-out slow-motion martial thud, pulsing bass and half-submerged overtone vocal chant that gradually evolves into minimalist lumbering sinister drone topped with close-miked hoarse semi-spoken vocalisation not unlike a skeletal Godflesh, circa Streetcleaner, being heard through the nightmarish filter of a fever dream.
The work of Thomas Martin Ekelund, previously of Dead Letters Spell Out Dead Words, Trepaneringsritualen brings an obscure, occult approach to the way the sounds used are deployed and utilised. ’Åkallan Mímir’ seems to exist within its own hermetically sealed environment, one that carries the scent of strange incense, the echoes of strange cloaked processions along darkened cloistered hallways and unspeakable rites.
Ekelund’s enshrouded hermeticism sits comfortably alongside fellow walkers of the abyss Arktau Eos and Halo Manash, much more so than it does next to the harsher blackened tones of Deathstench. Where Deathstench seem to revel in their abrasive nature, the impression is given that Trepaneringsritualen is still a work in progress, ever being alchemically refined within the alembic of Ekelund’s imagination and experience – particularly if you have been following their path over the last three years of regular activity, as I have.
Split releases like this function as a taster of sorts when it comes to acts of this ilk, allowing the listener to formulate an opinion as to whether they think they could stomach a full-length release before taking the plunge, or not. Impressive and powerful as Deathstench are within their two tracks contained herein, I can’t help but wonder if a forty-five minute long album would start to grate long before the end – although in some ways that may well be the point. There has long been a quest for more extremity within the noise/experimental music scene which has culminated in the dead-end that is Harsh Noise Wall, but this restlessness doesn’t seem to have been a reaction against the static (no pun intended) nature of noise, but more of a bloody-minded embrace of it. With Trepaneringsritualen, Ekelund is already light-years away from such an attitude and heading off on his own esoteric path, and where the road between the two forks, I’ll be following Ekelund for sure.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson