WASHINGTON, Sept. 20, 2011 – The Axis of Perdition’s music creeps, crawls, and goes bump in the night. Begun in 2001, it’s a soundtrack tribute to squalor and grime, embodying the last gasp of dying industries and failing societies. Fusing disharmonic, jarring metal and mechanical sound effects, the resulting aural experience reflects gradual societal deconstruction. If urban decay has a sound, it’s this band.
“Tenements (Of the Anointed Flesh)” is no exception to the way this band trends. Yet its title reflects a newfound purity of sound and spirit in The Axis of Perdition’s performance. The group’s aural abrasions still include a blend of eerie narrations, industrial field recordings, and metal blasted out in jagged, uncomfortable time signatures. Glimmering amidst the musical wreckage, however, is the band’s newly discovered melodic sense. Ironically, this fresh juxtaposition of tradition vs. chaos has rendered the band’s music more disquieting than ever.
“The Sleeper,” for example, instantly raises goose bumps on your arms. Soft ringing sounds provide a backdrop for a querulous voice that asks, “Am I dead?” With mocking solemnity, another voice responds, “of course not…this is only the beginning,” while air raid sirens wail in the background. The seeming normality of this creepy conversation draws the listener in, hinting at a world gone dangerously awry.
“Unveiled” then rumbles into life like some newly-awakened monstrosity, seething against the crosstalk of static and drums that roll on in endless, inhuman loops like gears grinding and turning in place. Emerging onto the aural canvas are guitars that lurch and stumble, their queasy melodies producing a sickening symphony that strains against the lunatic howling.
“Unbound,” for its part, wafts in on otherworldly guitar riffs before erupting in a deluge of drums and screeching. From there, alien melodies whirl chaotically up and about, like a gigantic ash cloud trapped in a whirling vortex. These disorient and confuse, leaving listeners vulnerable to massive guitar grooves and frightening incantations shouted out in preparation for the journey ahead.
“Sigils and Portents” is the first stop on this journey, and it’s a world of smothering guitar tones and downpouring blastbeat drums. Soaring harmonics bubble out of the murk, yet they seem both leering and futile amidst such a desolate soundscape. As if to prove this theory correct, the emerging tune soon dissolves into hallucinogenic guitar grooves that gut any earlier impression of beauty.
“The Flesh Spiral” is the next track, a flurry of ringing cymbals clashing with lightning-quick melodies. Drums circle ominously around the clash, while vocalist Brooke Johnson rants and raves in the background. The entire musical scenario builds into sonic whiplash, violent stop-start riffs that rudely and violently jerk listeners and their mindscapes back and forth, heedless of rules, conventions, and safety.
“The Dark Red Other,” which follows, is classic counter-programming. It’s a necessary respite from “The Flesh Spiral’s” onslaught, a brief interlude of dark ambient music suspended in a vacuum. When “The Changer” emerges from the shadows, its soft, gothic guitar notes seem almost like a fluid transition. Gradually, “The Changer” swells into hazy guitar chords and relentless, tapping cymbals that tick with clockwork precision. The atmosphere becomes choked with aural smog, while chiming funeral bells evoke a sense of dread—one of this album’s most palpable emotions. The end result of this track is a harrowing endurance test for the ears.
“Disintegration” is equally epic in scope, writhing in a frenzy of percussion and sonic distortion. Angular, chugging guitars surface for air amidst this musical insanity, revealing a cacophony of desperate, frantically gibbering voices. This deranged chorus eventually gives way, swallowed up by the song’s dramatic onslaught before fading back into warped radio transmissions before drifting into the pall of nothing at all.
Up next, “Ordained,” is a revelation that emerges from the preceding madness. Beginning in hushed keys, it tortures the band’s mangled notes into beautiful, lingering melodies. The vocals – so often anguished and mutilated elsewhere – are also transformed into somber but moving song. Last but not least, the unerring repetition of the guitars and drums is stripped away, allowing a finale that is triumphant in its use of harmony and velocity.
“Awakened,” the final track, almost feels like an afterthought, its humming ambience and strange chanting seeming to function as little besides a bizarre coda to all that came before. When “Tenements” is taken as a whole, however, it soon reveals that The Axis of Perdition carefully plotted every step in this album’s trajectory. Its cliffhanger ending is proof that these masters of malevolence have many more musical tales of terror left to tell.
“Sigils and Portents”
“The Flesh Spiral”
“The Dark Red Other”
Rating: 9.5 out of 10.
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