Monday, June 16, 2008

Folkstorm - Sweden (2004)

This album is billed as the very last Folkstorm release, although the project itself has been scheduled to end on no less than two previous occasions. Flanked by charcoal-style sketches of noble peasants, slaves, slavemasters and agricultural rebellion, this CD - limited to 1500 copies and delayed for over two years - is a fitting epitaph to the Industrial legend that won't go away. Like a stubborn Michael Myers at a Hallowe'en bloodfest, Lord Nordvargr simply refuses to lay down and die.

There are a total of ten tracks on this album, each completely nameless apart from the fact that they have been listed as Roman numerals. Accompanied by an electronic fizzing, 'I' opens with a sweeping boom effect like a macabre ferry departing for the gates of the Underworld. This is following by a soundscape of scrambled power, rumbling its way through the track like music from a radio that has been dropped in the bath. There's Noise, but there's also rhythm. 'II', meanwhile, is deeper in tone and moves from ear to ear with venomous intent. It's a scratching Enola Gay flypast combined with robotic lyrics. Metal Mickey with tonsillitis and a bad attitude problem. An inexplicable squeaking reminds me somewhat of 'Tardyon Storm' on the new Merzbow/Nordvargr collaboration, 'Partikel', before the growling throat returns to bring the track to a close. At first, 'III' is a drifting cloud of hushed ambience combined with a riff-like drawl. After 90 seconds, however, it becomes a scathing blast of electronic intensity as a series of communicative beeps try to control the headlong rush into Noise purity. Several of them, it seems, attempting to imitate wayward ambulance sirens on their way to cause an accident or perhaps even force a pinball machine into one of your ear canals.

'IV' sounds like a cross between a fucked-up cartoon soundtrack and a musical hall novice prior to being shown the door. This soon escalates into total chaos, as though one hundred wurlitzers were being played simultaneously by a madman on the verge of missing the last bus. 'V' approaches slowly, a humming wall of darkness pock-marked by a metallic graffiti of tiny ripples. But not for long. The sound of a drum kit being kicked down a flight of stairs soon breaks the ambient monotony. For twenty-eight seconds 'VI' rises into yet more ambience, before a sudden change in direction leads to one of the more brutal moments on the whole album. Surging power and snarling vocals are fused together in a bombastic ode to revolution. 'VII' is sinister and restrained. Like the footsteps of a one-legged man in a minefield of sound it carefully picks its way through the ethereal minimalism, before a slight movement can be heard tearing its way from the gluey landscape and emptying its wicked contents into the atmosphere. Like a torrent of aggression, it unleashes itself on your senses like a swarm of angry wasps. As someone who prefers to avoid wasps altogether, I found the similarities rather unnerving (damn, now They'll know what to put in Room 101). 'VIII' is a more traditional cacophony of power electronics. An indescribable mush of tortured frequencies put through a mincer and served up on a platter of discord. It does pause from time to time, quite inexplicably, but then tends to carry on in the same unrepentant vein. There are even attempts to maintain a semblance of rhythm and consistency, always difficult when the objective is to frazzle your brain in a microwave of agony. Towards the end a few more robotic utterances can be heard pushing their way between the barriers of din, but Kraftwerk it ain't

'IX' seems to momentarily imitate a standard club beat, a theme that returns slightly afterwards, but this trend is regularly kicked into touch by a cutting breeze that often evolves into a high-pitched scream. As the track slows down, 'X' is phased in almost immediately. This has an almost-mystical quality to it. Odd backing chants quickly evaporating into sharp eruptions, yelling vocals, gurgling violence and accelerating trains of savagery. Hideous, out-of tune, samples muscle their way in like stereophonic gatecrashers. Ten tracks are listed on this album, but surprisingly there is an eleventh. Again, there is an uncomfortable buzzing sound like a nightmare lunch in a pub garden when you just so happen to be covered in the sweetest raspberry jam known to humankind. Towards the end the sneering vocals ('Europe States of Europe? United Trash of Europe') and a selection of Eurovision-style anthems take over completely, with spasms of Noise punctuating the proceedings alongside committed Hitlerian rants and rapturous Nuremberg applause. This is a very interesting album, not least because the finale is rather similar to early Nurse With Wound, with Nordvargr moving from Noise to Experimental in one fell swoop.

Review taken from S Y N T H E S I S.

01 - I
02 - II
03 - III
04 - IV
05 - V
06 - VI
07 - VII
08 - VIII
09 - IX
10 - X
11 - XI


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