It doesn’t seem five minutes since I last reviewed Gridfailure when along comes another one. This time it’s a slightly older effort which originally saw the light of day back in August and is this; Gridfailure/S.C.R.A.M. Split EP. Regular followers of The Shaman will doubtlessly have already watched the EP’s two video premieres that recently featured on the site.
S.C.R.A.M. stands for Safety Control Rod Axe Man and is the brainchild of Oakland based musician Pranjal Tiwari (of cult doom metal band Cardinal Wyrm – which also features Leila Abdul-Rauf). The theme of Tiwari‘s tracks, according to the promo notes, it’s ‘a journey from the exterior to the interior, based around the event of a catastrophic nuclear reactor meltdown’. Hastily Improvised Exclusion Zone starts with the sound of footsteps that circle the ominously sounding low hum of the damaged reactor. The shortest track on the release, it’s no less effective at setting the scene for such an impending disaster. A Shroud Around The Core starts with a lush cinematic score before building the tension in a Nine Inch Nails fashion. The key to this track isn’t a concluding explosion of sound, but the omnipresent feeling that something very bad is about to happen. Like say the best horror movies where the implied threat is often more terrifying than the actual.
Reactor Pressure Vessel with its strangulated cries and relentlessly grinding beats is an ideal companion to any number of 1980s nuclear themed dramas ala Threads and When The Wind Blows. A Wikipedia definition of Oxidization Of Zirconium With Steam reads as ‘One disadvantage of metallic zirconium is that in the case of a loss-of-coolant accident in a nuclear reactor, zirconium cladding rapidly reacts with water steam at high temperature of above 1,500 K (1,230 °C’. In layman’s terms its deadly and the accompanying dark John Carpenter synth score highlights perfectly the horrors of the consequences which would follow such a combustible chemical reaction. Cesium 137 when deposited to the ground becomes a radioactive fallout, and the final S.C.R.A.M. track The Loneliness Of Cesium 137, ends the split on a post-apocalyptic resigned note.
Where S.C.R.A.M. provides the outline and general plot, Gridfailure focuses on the colours/shades…
Gridfailure, aka David Brenner, needs no introduction, his tracks comprise the remaining four on the EP. The promo notes once again inform us that ‘burst from between the tense atmospheres of the S.C.R.A.M. tracks, offsetting the tension with a barrage of explosive post-industrial, apocalyptic annihilation’. Systemwide Anomaly is an absolute barrage of creepy lo-fi sound effects and shrieked black metal style vocals that summon up the helplessness and uncertainty that one would feel during a Chernobyl style nuclear accident, while Basophobia (the fear of falling) features pouring rain, growled vocals, and an omnipresent sense of claustrophobia and panic.
Special Dead has a death metal sensibility, it’s gruesome, unforgiving, and by extension absolutely brilliant. Lyrically it reads like Friedrich Nietzsche’s Thus Spake Zarathustra and his ‘God Is Dead’ theory. It also reminded me of Henry Rollins belief that there is no afterlife and once you’re dead that’s it. A terrifying thought but then one would be forgiven for having a grim view of religion when confronted with an agonizing nuclear extinction. Howling Everyday Existence the final Brenner contribution is clattering Industrial madness and wailing feedback, hardly the most restful of pieces, but then one doesn’t listen to Gridfailure for a life-affirming experience.
Where S.C.R.A.M. provides the outline and general plot, Gridfailure focuses on the colours/shades and by proxy the more personal experiences, thoughts, and emotions of the unfortunate protagonist(s). Both artists complement each other brilliantly on a release which I’ve had on repeat since its release.