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Mika Vainio/Joachim Nordwall, "Monstrance"

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cover imageThe name of the game is "metal" for this collaboration between Vainio (Pan Sonic) and Nordwall (Skull Defekts, Sons of God), both in the genre and literal sense. Fragments of Sunn O)))'s deconstructed riffs, plate reverbs and Einsturzende Neubauten's earliest days all show up here, in a wonderfully cohesive, oppressively dark recording that is surprisingly organic, given all its metal trappings.

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The long "Alloy Ceremony" is where the genre of metal is at its most overt. Dark bass guitar rumbles and resonating noises insinuate what eventually comes forth: an overt guitar part, with nearly Tony Iommi riffs. Rather than Sunn's monolithic repetitive style, it instead more varied and dynamic. The notes are spaced out over the robotic bassline, and eventually transition to a more improvised, grinding style that recalls the best of Big Black.

Beyond this, the guitar is more understated, reappearing as tortured outbursts on "Live at the Chrome Cathedral," amidst roaring electronic and nasal noise surges, leading to a monolithic wall of noise. There is a bit of fragmented six string playing on "Promethium" as well, as scrapes and plucks, coupled with the more sparse and open mix it sounds more free improvisation than metallic in nature.

Metal as an instrument is more noticeable on "Midas in Reverse," which processes scrapes and grinding noises into a collage-heavy mix riddled with ghostly noises that appear all around. On "Irkutsk" it is far more obvious, in the forms of banging and clattering noises over a basic bass guitar rhythm, reminiscent of Neubauten's earliest, most dissonant work. Which makes quite a bit of sense given this album was recorded in the legendary band's own Berlin studios.

On "Praseodymium," things are a bit lighter, even with the distended passages of feedback and hollow, metallic noises. What almost resembles a xylophone can be heard, and the greater emphasis on the midrange sonic spectrum gives it a more distinct warmth than most of the other compositions here. Similarly, "In Sheltering Sanctus of Minerals" closes the album in a drastically different mood than "Alloy Ceremony" opened it. Perched atop a low end, resonating organ, the piece is far more about sustained tone and almost hints at melody at times. Bits of feedback slowly rise to the surface, but never become too much, ending Monstrance on a more pensive, contemplative note.

Not a light recording by any means, Monstrance is an intense, rumbling piece of jagged metal that, even in its lighter moments is unsettling and uncomfortable. But despite its iron trappings and serrated surges of noise, it is indisputably organic, a sensibility that is rarely associated with Vainio's output. It comes across as natural though, and results in this bleak, moody recording that excels in its darkness.

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Last Updated on Monday, 02 September 2013 01:55  


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