Good morning, afternoon, or night everyone. I hope you are all doing as well you can given the current circumstances. It’s been a while since my inaugural Lost Transmissions episode dropped, but I wanted to welcome you back to the fold with some fresh reviews of albums the From Corners Unknown staff has not yet covered. If this is your first encounter with my fledgling solo endeavor, it can be aptly summarized as me, all by my lonesome, reviewing three releases in a succinct five to ten minutes apiece. Actually, I’m pretty sure I already broke this “succinct” rule of mine as I went pretty in-depth with some of the reviews in this episode; regardless, the goal here is to share with you some gems that have been in my constant rotation for several weeks.
In order of discussion for this episode, we have three EPs from the Newark-based cybergrind trio, Quantum Zoology. This is followed by a discussion of Adaptive Emotional Use, the latest LP from the harsh noise/industrial/ambient project Death Kneel (of Tomb Mold kin). Lastly, we have Golden Horde, the second brutish offering from the hardcore-infused death metal quartet, Phalanx.
Below you will find the text of each review featured in this iteration. Included also are links to where you can support each of these artists if their sound strikes your fancy. Thank you so much for tuning in.
1. Quantum Zoology - I: The Swallowing, II: The Following, III: The Fleeting
Genre: Cybergrind / Harsh Noise
From: Newark, DE
Let’s start this episode off with a deep carve into the rich marrow of the obscure by talking about a genre I know jack shit about: cybergrind. If you’re an aficionado of the sprawling grindcore canopy, you may have heard mention of this subgenre in passing. My understanding is that this breed of extreme metal tends to make listeners wince, but I’m more than likely projecting my scant negative encounters as a generalized sentiment upon those who have come across it.
Unsurprisingly, my memory of perusing cybergrind artists is quite opaque. I bet I abandoned those thoughts and experiences as soon as they formed because, at the time, the “noise” I heard sounded like bone meal getting sloshed about a manger. But this is beside the point. Eventually, I heard whispers of the names of cybergrind titans trickling through the electro-infused currents: The Locust, Genghis Tron, Agoraphobic Nosebleed, and a gem of a band named Gigantic Brain, and it was through these projects that I discovered my genuine intrigue with subgenre. However, after a handful of months, I wandered toward other tonally extreme fringes of metal and left cybergrind by the wayside.
With all this preamble, you may be anticipating a sort of hefty revelation I had with the genre. Well, I didn’t. But my interest has been re-ignited via a trio branded by the moniker of Quantum Zoology. Comprised of Connor, Liam, and Stephen, this Newark, Delaware-based troupe cauterizes the repugnant entrails of cybergrind with noise, industrial, sludge, some black metal, as well as modicums of other perplexing timbres.
Now, the exact date of their project’s birth is not known to me, but in their brief existence thus far, they have crafted three sequential EPs. The Swallowing is number one, The Following is number two, and The Fleeting is… you get the point. Each EP dropped within approximately four months of its respective predecessor, beginning in October of 2018 and terminating in June of 2019. And since The Fleeting’s release, Quantum Zoology seem to have gone on hiatus, but that won’t stop me from recommending them to you.
What I find utterly enamoring about this band is their unexpected tonal transmogrifications. Insurmountable tension will be waxed upon your ears in swarms of machine gun electro-drums as guitar notes fester in troughs of caustic noise. Chirps, squeaks, bleeps, and feedback infect every molecule volleyed from their instruments, and all the while, vocals disgorge in chthonian throes. But it’s within Quantum Zoology’s dynamics where the heaviest concussive blast is typically felt, not necessarily within the individual shards of seemingly disparate shrapnel. These dynamic flashpoints litter the trilogy’s expanse, an example of which can be felt in chapter one, The Swallowing, where the near dance-like groove promulgated by the drums in the track “Oligarch” succumbs to the sludgy effusion of tempo decaying bile on “Feral”. There are other choice examples of these shifts that I’ll pepper throughout; however, I will caveat that dynamics are not everything in this trilogy, especially when we broach the final chapter, which I’ll address toward the end. That being said, let’s focus a little more attention on chapter one.
The EP’s artwork is of the first ever electric chair. Dating all the way back to its conception in 1881, it was first used as a “humane alternative” to hanging, and in 1890, it was used on the first human. This grainy image sutured to these thirteen minutes of disdain dredges a palpitating sense of confinement as its slow-burn opening unfurls with an incessant murmur of electric currents. After mere seconds, the kick drum punctures the veil of electricity and swells with anticipation. In tandem, a grooving riff carves into our wrists as wrist straps, pulled too tight, begin to stymie blood circulation. And within a kinetic spark a trem-picked riff throws the lever, leaving every iota of our being to be seized by clinical abandon.
There is more I could say about chapter one, but to remain within my self-imposed limitations, let’s swivel toward the other chapters. Within chapter two, The Following, we are laden in heaps of dynamic inflections. “Ape”, the chapter’s shortest track, harbors a brutish onslaught of piston-bursting jolts that cycle in intensity between cataclysmic barricades of bassy noise and lethargic industrial thrums. Seamless it bleeds into the subsequent track, “Vestibule”, which harbors what I would call the most delectable groove in the trilogy. Leaden it sustains each note in sludgy limbo and inside of the milliseconds that hang between each, you can taste the stench of a vile claustrophobia weighing upon your lungs. And when the track truncates after a mere two minutes, we are ensnared in a blizzard of howling strings that is rendered haunting by its gnashing percussive clop.
Thus far, I’ve been focusing on the grime and grease coating every fleck of Quantum Zoology’s anxiety-inducing turbulence; however, it’s in chapter three, The Fleeting, where the trio transcends the cybergrind meridian and journeys toward melodic horizons. The first two cuts writhe in discordant wavelengths similar to those heard in prior chapters, but when we arrive at track three, “Cardine”, Quantum Zoology wholly embrace pastoral bliss. Synths begin to wail with a heartfelt longing as the vocalist recounts his youth. Wandering through marshes, every simple joy of theirs was rendered corrupt as the weight of the universe’s indifference swelled upon on their psyche with each day that brought them closer to adulthood. Despondency seeps yet there percolates a yearning to taste, however fleeting, this unsullied innocence once more. And as the trilogy closes with its longest track, “Go Fetch Mother, My Love”, the trio immolates into an impassioned blaze, strewing tendrils of melodic crimson as cavalcades of shrieking frequencies and guttural retching yield poignant catharsis.
It is uncertain if Quantum Zoology will ever publish a follow up to this trilogy and though one may find this unfortunate, especially given their brief run, I do think this collection of chapters encapsulates quite a brilliant arc. So in the case that they never happen to never return to the fray, I am ecstatic that we have these gems to pour over for years to come.
2. Death Kneel - Adaptive Emotional Use
Genre: Harsh Noise / Industrial / Ambient
From: Toronto, Ontario
All right, so let’s continue to etch a loose theme I’m vaguely attempting to piece together in this episode by speaking about the experimental ambient/noise/industrial project, Death Kneel. Helmed solely by Max Klebanoff, this project, based on my research, has eight albums to its name in addition to two splits. His earliest release, titled Lilac & Benzine, dates back to September 2014, which was published by the label Aught \ Void. Since that time, Max went on to release another album on the same label in October 2017, though in-between this near three-year gap, he produced and released a bevy of albums across the Strange Rules, Summer Isle, and Total Black labels, the last of which harbors the highest count of his releases to date.
If folks are well-read, unlike me, on the individual members comprising extreme metal bands, the name Max Klebanoff may chime a bell. He is the vocalist and drummer of the Toronto-based death metal quartet, Tomb Mold. Now, I learned of Death Kneel via a wonderful label spotlight article on Total Black published by Bandcamp back in October of 2019. It compelled me to dive in the label’s discography and Death Kneel’s latest effort, Adaptive Emotional Use, was among the throng of albums discussed. To be frank, I hadn’t the slightest idea that Max helmed Death Kneel until one of the members of Tomb Mold made note of the connection via a Facebook post in mid-December 2019, but once the synaptic connection fired in my brain, my intrigue in the project grew. There is no discernable reason I can conjure that aptly articulates why I became more enamored at this point, but if I had to guess, it’s because the melodic ambient timbres trickling throughout several Adaptive Emotional Use cuts led me to wonder if Max wove the space ambient and other creepy textures into Tomb Mold’s latest LP, Planetary Clairvoyance. I cannot say with any iota of certainty that he indeed created these sounds, but I can dream. Anyway, let’s plunge into Death Kneel.
Adaptive Emotional Use is a thoroughly scathing yet sometimes soothing affair. Featuring a grainy edit of an individual that perished in an automobile accident back in the 1930s as its cover art, it partially braces you for what you can expect. Death, the mangling of flesh, a fleeting moment that could end your corporeal function are thoughts I pondered as I viewed it; you know, fuzzy feelings. Moreover, the two circular photos on each respective side of the vinyl seem to be of innards of the human body. I cannot make heads or tails of what parts these images are of, but I think that’s beside the point. For me, these gory snapshots provide a glimpse into the album’s thematic underpinnings.
No liner notes etch the album’s physical or digital release, save the macabre statement “Death hides the angels it makes in blue skies.” It is within this tenet where I will endeavor to expound upon this record’s essence, but I will note that these are my own perceptions and they do not reflect the ideas Max is cutting into. “Stripped to the Ivory Core” drops us into the jowls of broiling machinery. A baritone waveform fluctuates and stochastic resonances clamor. Amid the barbarous salvo, heavy breaths can be heard as if someone in panic is desperately attempting to break free from the wreckage. With no rhythm to be found, its opening minutes induce pangs of distress; however, the molten heap simmers to a brooding crawl. Industrial electronics begin to palpitate like twitching nerves and a foreboding cycle of ambient-tinged harsh noise oscillates. Soon the acrid frequencies are shed as we pass through blood and bone in search of our ivory cores and it’s here where the track begins to glisten with an estranged melodic resolve. Still those biting clangs gnash, but they are subdued and as they decay into the void, they are usurped by a calming drone. Frigid to the touch, the drone, like Novocain, numbs our body to bore holes in our flesh, separating ligaments from bone. Lights overhead wash out and we accept our fate. We drift into unconsciousness.
The surgical proceedings carry forward into the album’s title track. Illustrious veils of vivid ambient croon in waves of white light while mechanical warbles crest atop. “Trauma Martyr” blisters beneath scalding outpours of ear-tearing pandemonium, leaving us hopeless to scalpels wielded by blurry visages. The mastication is promulgated further yet in the track “Arterial Conduit”, though in lieu of the excising blades, every cell of blood is drained from our arteries. A deluge of searing dark ambient nectar flushes through our system. Glacial it howls as it purges every riverbed comprising our being. And from corridors unseen we can hear a petrified scream that sustains for what feels like eons. All of this culminates in the album’s final track, “Redemption Angel (Corpse Criteria)”, where a harsh noise wall sutures tapestries of dripping flesh to our shoulder blades. A congregation coagulates and as we ascend toward the boundless azure, radiant tendrils of a serene melodic ambience breeze across our new form. With arms linked, we knead ourselves into the amorphous horde of similarly transmogrified beings and we embrace our newfound cerulean salvation.
I know I got pretty abstract with my descriptions of this album, but I find it warranted as so many of the sounds on display are up to your own interpretation. I sincerely do not know how close or far off I am from Max’s thematic thrust with this endeavor, though it spoke to me in ways other harsh noise albums do not. The crossbreeding of scathing textures with uplifting ambient passages make for a tumultuous, if not perplexing listen. At times I feel a warm embrace and in others, I combat an overwhelming sense of dread. If I had to succinctly summarize my perception of this album’s theme, it is that through death, however painful it may be, we are reborn anew and we live on in a new of channel energy devoid of flesh that is unperceived by the human eye. Though my descriptions were grim, I found aspects of this album utterly elating. And in a weird way, I see parallels, at least thematically, between Adaptive Emotional Use and Tomb Mold’s Planetary Clairvoyance. I don’t have time to expound upon the similarities here, but I sincerely hope you enjoyed my dissection of Death Kneel’s latest effort.
3. Phalanx - Golden Horde
Genre: Death metal / Hardcore / Punk
From: Los Angeles, CA
So I may have fibbed a bit when I previously said that I’m etching a loose theme throughout this episode, at least as it relates to speaking about three harsh noise-heavy albums. But that’s the nature of my gelatinous gourd. Let’s just say I have a difficult time settling on a single theme because I simply enjoy sharing a breadth of timbres. With that note, let’s cap off this episode by discussing the fresh six-track album, Golden Horde, from the Los Angeles-based hardcore-infused death metal quartet, Phalanx.
Smelted by the hands and voices of Keir, Sean (also known as Lord Spew), and Josh in 2017, with Matt joining the group a bit later, Phalanx was forged as a razor-sharp, modern day blade that slices the fabric of time and ports us listeners back to eras of arcane warfare. Their first release, Varian Disaster, recounts the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest where Germanic tribes decimated approximately 15-to-20,000 Romans via an ambush back in 9 CE. It opened with a rather fitting war cry, one that called upon all soldiers to fall into the eponymous shield wall and spear hedge formation as javelins hailed from the sky, punching holes into the flesh of fear-riddled, unsuspecting bodies. The dust settled. Bodies were picked clean by carrion birds and bones were bleached, dissolved, and battered by the elements. The stench of death finally washed away and a couple of years passed. Then war horns began to beckon Phalanx’s return. Though this time they march us forward into the era of the Mongolian Dynasty.
The Golden Horde was a nomadic empire of the larger Mongol Empire that prospered throughout the 13th and 14th century. I won’t give you a lesson on their historical expanse as it’s extremely dense and long-running, but Phalanx’s selection of antiquity here is a genuine source of intrigue, not merely from a lyrical perspective but from a tonal one too. This quartet discharges a triple vocal attack whereby Keir, Lord Spew, and Josh, ravage your auditory faculties with ceaseless onslaughts of shrieks, repugnant gutturals, rallying cries, and a smattering of blood thirsty howls. They lurch and gnash in such a way so as to simulate the chaos and confusion of battle, usually clashing into each other to keep you disoriented and shell-shocked. And all the while, drum hooves stampede in tandem with eviscerating riffs that shatter your maw across blood-drenched soil.
Like an enemy lying in wait, when the opportunity to startle presents itself, Phalanx besieges with unrelenting ferocity. Not a single moment is wasted. “Sajo” fires a bombardment of terrifying screeches that collide with violent death metal grunts and a throaty rasp. Valiant they congeal to the berserk energy promulgated by the trampling blastbeat. In a blink we are slammed to terra firma as Lord Spew raises his blade overhead. A moment of calm washes over us. Bodies fall bloodied and tattered amidst what would be a peaceful vista. And in another blink, the blade drops as it gives way to a bludgeoning groove, splitting the delicate flesh and bone underneath. Disarray runs amok. Frightened warriors attempt to hold their ground, but Phalanx coagulate their spirit below the weathered banners of a mosh call. Grinding strings churn, swelling with anticipation, and when the army’s vigor begins to overflow from their kin-woven veins, Keir let’s out a litany of voracious wails. Mounds of jagged metal are thrust upon those enemies that remain. They are reduced to crumpled heaps.
There’s an innocuous statement I made moments ago that is worth expounding upon further: not a single moment is wasted. Every track on Golden Horde is rife with ruthless riffs. Their stamina is potent, their hooks are laden with savage barbs, and like the tides of battle that can shift in a mere flash, Phalanx adapt to thwart any exploit their enemies may locate in their fortified formation. This is to say that dynamics are everything for this troupe, implacable and brisk. No track leans too heavily into a single riff. They are in perpetual flux. One moment they slaughter with flurries of trem-picked spikes and in another, they boil the tempo down into march-like rhythms. “Goliath’s Spring” embodies this intoxicating revelry. Discordant undercurrents of confounding strings whorl with sneering fangs. Swift they boil in the magma spew from Phalanx’s throats as we are intermittently sloshed about by triumphant, punk-hued reprieves. And in “Baghdad”, we are torn asunder by grotty death metal thrums that stomp with monolithic cadence.
What’s more is that the quartet infrequently pocks their concise maulings with audio snippets that resonate of the Golden Horde era. A cavalcade of Mongolian warriors racing on horseback at break-neck speed into the jaws of battle or a volley of arrows so thick it blots out the sun, to name a couple. As the album sunsets with “Temüjin”, the birth name of Genghis Khan, the soothing murmur of Mongolian chants pairs with the warm resonance of an organ. Mounting for their final blow, Phalanx with fists white-knuckled around their hilts unleash into a fatal death metal trudge. Hooves rampant they plod with a virulent momentum and within a glimpse another mortal empire of Khan’s is compressed to dust.
All this is to say that for Golden Horde’s sub-17 minute runtime, there is much to relish. It grooves, it wallops, and it overwhelms, all simultaneously. It may even pique your curiosity in timeworn warfare. With only two EPs under their belt thus far and a rich historical tapestry of campaigns, death, and tribulations to explore, I can’t help but wonder where Phalanx will journey next. Time will soon tell, but for the present moment, we can bask in the history of the Golden Horde and all of its brutal splendor.
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You can snag digital or physical copies of each record above by visiting the hyperlinks to each label’s/band’s respective Bandcamp page. Thank you so much for reading and/or listening. If there are albums you’d like to hear me cover in this format, please feel free to send them along to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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