Aaron Turner was pushing the boundaries of what was "metal" during his time in Isis, and his side project work, such as Greymachine and House of Low Culture, has done this in an even more dramatic fashion. After a slew of split and collaborative releases, many with Mamiffer (a project spearheaded by Turner's wife Faith Coloccia, who also plays here), Poisoned Soil is perhaps his first true "album" as HOLC in nearly a decade. That period of collaborating with others has paid off, as the album is a complex one that showcases Turner’s strengths within a tight, focused approach.
Across three long pieces, Turner blends together disembodied electronic blasts, obvious and obscured guitar, and a careful, effective use of vocals. "Spoiled Fruits of the Kingdom" initially lays out a shrill test tone and what sounds like glacial strings in a slow, drifting drone. Subtle buzzes and reverberations entwine with what may be guitar, and eventually chanted, ceremonial vocals appear, giving a healthy dose of drama to the work. Turner's use of loud/quiet dynamics is quite effective, with dramatic swells paired with uneasy spaciousness. The latter moments blending guitar and piano notes definitely feels like a nod to Mamiffer, but HOLC is its own beast entirely.
"The Ladder that Leads to Nowhere" picks up where the previous left off, paring echoing passages with nuanced textural layers, mixing hellish, roaring feedback blasts and disquieting vocals hiding in the background. Eventually the piece launches into full on harsh noise before pulling back, leaving just the shards of guitar and piano before coming to an end.
The longer, final "Inappropriate Body" begins with layered, wooden percussion that entwines in a blackened roar, made even more sinister by what sounds like a distant, inhuman breathing off in the distance. Layers of squealing noise become the focus, with ghostly vocal chants giving it an even darker color. As the monolithic piece comes to a close, the combination of actual chugging guitar riffs and pounding drums almost seems to signify a rock-oriented blast occurring, but never happens.
Poisoned Soil bears the bleak, yet innovative and experimental touch Aaron Turner brings to all of his work, but here it is given free reign to expand out and engulf all that is around it. While each of the three tracks bear that overarching sense of darkness, the variations and drastic evolutions of each piece keep it from being simplistic or predictable.