Wednesday, 28 August 2019

Black Earth - Gnarled Ritual of Self-Annihilation

Album: Gnarled Ritual of Self-Annihilation
Artist: Black Earth
Label: Cyclic Law
Catalogue no: 134th Cycle

     1.      Doctrines of Dissociation
     2.      Abject Practises Beyond the Threshold
     3.      Behold the Serpent
     4.      The Sharp Blade that Mutilates the Void
     5.      Drowned under Seas of Coagulation
     6.      Lurking Hounds Stagger in the Deep
     7.      The Mourning Waters where Fire never Dwells

Imagine waking up one morning to find that the world has gone dark, and that the sky is an overarching canopy of black clouds that restlessly roil and churn. Somehow, between the evening of the previous day and the next morning, something hitherto thought impossible has happened: the machines we built to serve us have attained sentience, and are now on a death-march to trample and destroy their former masters. What had been a bright daydream of colour and lustre, has become a blackened, rotting nightmare of mechanical insanity, an oil- and blood-stained hallucination, a steel-bladed vision of horror and mass extinction.

This is the scenario that Spanish dark ambient/death industrial/death ambient/noise project Black Earth outline for us on this, their second full-length, after 2015’s cassette release A Cryptic Howl of Morbid Truth on Graceless Recordings (and subsequently released on vinyl on Silent Ruin Laboratories and Bestiarie in 2018). This isn’t simply a barrage of undifferentiated noise and static: if you listen carefully there’s a narrative thread running through it, a horrible, nasty, genocidal, and apocalytic end-time prophecy, written on the ripped skin of bloodied corpses and the skeletal frameworks of buildings that once stood proud and tall. Both nature and artifice lie in ruins, smoke rising up and hanging like mourners in a cortege, overlooking a funeral for mankind.

In spite of seven tracks being listed, this is in essence a diptych, one single composition in two parts, in line with this release not only appearing on the CD format but also on 12” vinyl. Side one details the machines’ initial assault, the massed armies of steel, iron, and silicon steamrollering their way through the fortifications and habitations of the human race with nary an effective defence arrayed against them. The weighty sweep of innumerable instruments of destruction and desecration roars, drowning everything out and flattening all before them, and from the moment it starts in the first few seconds of ‘Doctrines of Dissociation’ until the fading away of track four, ‘The Sharp Blade that Mutilates the Void’, it’s a raging torrent of jet-powered floods of pure machine noise, a cascade of howling, whirring, and unrelenting pandemonium, an unstoppable barrage of acidic effluvia and sludge, and a downpour of caustic, diseased rain. Structures which have stood for centuries, millennia in some cases, quail and capitulate under the tide of mechanised onslaught.

But it doesn’t end there – not by a long shot, because then follows the second sweep, the chasing down of any remnants of resistance. Side two is the aftermath, the desolation, the deracination, the elimination of anything that might possibly represent opposition, and the sweeping up of suspected rebellion. Earth has become a ruined, blasted, forsaken place, adorned with nothing more than burnt-out shells of what were once cities, some buildings still reaching up to Heaven with stretched fingers as if vainly beseeching divine intervention. The entirety of the land has been scorched of green, leaving behind thick carpets of soot and ash. The world and those it carried with it on its journey around the sun are now nothing more than memories, lost to time, and lost to the universe.

While the second tranche of pieces maybe quieter in volume, this in no way means that the horror has abated or lessened in any way. The planet is still smouldering, fires are still burning, and the land will forever be scarred, twisted into unrecognisability by animated hunks of metal with machine intelligence and lacking any form of compassion. Blood has been spilled, perhaps to fertilise the ground so that new life sprouts eventually, but the cycle may be repeated many times before stopping when the machines themselves begin breaking down and grinding to a halt.

Gnarled Ritual of Self-Annihilation is an apt title for this sophomore effort: after all, we built the machines ourselves, created computers capable of thinking and learning, and then we took our eyes off the ball. The sound created here is stiflingly heavy and oppressive, and whatever light there may be left has no way of getting through. The narrative can be taken in two ways: as a warning, telling us that we’re on the road to destruction by our own hands, or as a prediction, that this is the grim future that awaits us whatever we do, because we’ve come too far down this rocky road to be able to turn back and correct our mistakes.

A bleak but perfectly executed album, blisteringly dark in the musical, philosophical, and metaphysical senses. The prognosis presented here is bleak, but it’s also indicative of the blindness and arrogance inherent in our species’ genetic make-up. I shall be looking out for more of this outfit’s work in the future: for now, this certainly fits my mood in these current, trying times, and provides a startling reflection of the inadequacies of those we put in power.

Gnarled Ritual of Self-Annihilation will be released on 27th September 2019, as a download, a limited edition 12” of 100 copies in clear and black spattered vinyl, a standard black vinyl 12” in an edition of 200, and a CD. Pre-order now from either the Cyclic Law website:

or via the Cyclic Law Bandcamp page:

Psymon Marshall 2019. 

No comments: