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Now, clearly I'm just rushing out a Halloween themed review, but the question I'm sure many metal fans may be asking is "If you're such a huge King Diamond fan, why not post something he was involved in like Fatal Portrait or Melissa? They both contain themes pertaining to Halloween". Well hypothetical reader, you're right, King has a fascination with this holiday that celebrates the dark and macabre like no other. But let's face it, though Halloween isn't really a "scary" day, in the days leading up to it, we all try to be scared. Horror movie marathons, haunted houses, getting blackout drunk and trying to take home Big Rhonda, we all do things that we hope will scare us. King is goofy as hell, I love him and you (should) love him too, but the dude embodies April Fool's Day more than Halloween. And that's why I've chosen to review the British industrial/black/ambient creatures in The Axis of Perdition, namely their second album: Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital.
I'm going to veer off track really quick and explain my thoughts on what horror truly is, what it is that genuinely scares people. Nobody is truly scared by slasher movies made post-1980, basically only Halloween and Friday the 13th have any real sense of dread, every other slasher movie since then has all been about the spectacle (unless you count the original Texas Chain Saw Massacre from 1974 as a slasher flick, then there are three acceptable scary ones). Haunted houses have a bit more emotional investment since you yourself are actually involved, but you know that you're just on rails and will be safe and sound in about a half hour, so there's no real suspense or danger about the people jumping out at you. When it comes to film, it's the ones that focus on what you don't see that are truly terrifying. The ones that build slowly and present a suffocating, claustrophobic atmosphere. John Carpenter's The Thing is my favorite movie ever, and I maintain that nothing else has ever had such a perfect balance of claustrophobic, paranoid terror, and the disgust grotesquery when things go downhill. I can't explain what makes Takashi Miike's Audition so great without spoiling it for you, but trust me when I say you should watch it pronto. Ju-On (what would be remade in America as The Grudge) was probably the last movie to truly scare the fuck out of me, and it's not even a good movie. It builds up for 80-90 minutes with awful acting and bland characters and shit I just couldn't care less about, but the climax makes you realize how well everything came together, and concludes with such a harrowing final sequence that my breathing was noticeably accelerated when it ended.
And then we have videogames. Yeah I realize it seems silly, but believe me when I say a videogame, when well done enough, can be the scariest fucking thing imaginable. The good ones take the slow building, helpless, paranoid atmosphere of good horror films and adds the tension of haunted houses by placing you in control. Yeah, you can turn the game off, but when you're invested and playing, you may not escape, you may not make it out alive. One bad choice and you may find yourself face to face with your own mortality. Most games pegged with "horror" are silly, as I'm sure many people think of the Resident Evil series, which is about as scary as a white sheet with eyes drawn on it, but you catch the right thing and you're in for some grade-A nightmare fuel. Clocktower, Fatal Frame, Silent Hill, Amnesia, it's series like these that make you feel helpless and alone and terrified of a malevolent something that wants you dead. Anybody who has ever played these games knows what I'm talking about. Hell I haven't even been able to find the balls to play Fatal Frame without being surrounded by friends, that shit is soul-draining.
Why the long diversion? Well part of it is because tangential tirades are as much a part of my shtick as food similes and toilet humor, and the other part of it is because The Axis of Perdition gets their inspiration from the darkest and most twisted of the aforementioned ways to scare the piss out of you, the Silent Hill series. If you're one of those people who can easily be lost in the imagery that music can create, then I beg of you not to drop any acid or eat too much cheese before listening to Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital. The band's cultural background of being from England seeps through as well, as anybody who watches Cracked After Hours like I do was recently reminded that English horror seems to center around urban environments. That's what Deleted Scenes truly is, the horror and madness of a long dead and abandoned insane asylum, roving with malevolent apparitions whose sole purpose is to mindfuck you so hard that you give mindbirth. To nightmares.
There is a strong black metal influence at first, but it seems to diminish as the album goes on, eventually ending more into unsettling ambiance. "In the Hallway of Crawling Filth" is pretty much the perfect opener for this kind of experience. Ten minutes of uncomfortable atmosphere, punctuated occasionally by the soulless, dead sound of insanity. The drum machine works well here as opposed to being distracting like it normally would be. The cold, dead sound really brings to life the lifelessness of the afterlife, if that deliberately confusing sentence makes any sense to anybody other than myself. The old, long dead spirits have no empathy, and could not give less of a shit for your well being. They are cold, dead, soulless beings that want to make you an ex-person yourself, and the frantic sound of the drum machine encapsulates that lifeless frenzy so much more than any warm, tonal human player ever could. And even then, it is used very sparingly, only a handful of times on the album is there ever any real explosions of traditional music. Most of the time it's the quiet sound of hooks swaying in the breeze, big steel doors being slammed shut, large, rusty generators churning for the first time in eons. It is an industrial wasteland that houses horror yet unseen. And as the album goes on, the frantic drum bursts and distorted screams of torture and dissonant guitars become less and less prominent, with the last big chunk of the album being predominately ambient.
What this creates is that terror of the unknown I mentioned earlier. It makes you anticipate horror behind every turn, but the more turns you take without finding that macabre wretchedness that you're expecting, the more it builds, the more it permeates into your very consciousness and tests the limits of your sanity. This is what makes a jump scare work, it has to be earned and not just something popping up into frame accompanied by a loud orchestra sting. It's a fear that embeds itself inside your very core. And my favorite part is that in the last fifteen minutes or so of Deleted Scenes, there is precisely one loud part, and it's not even the end of the album. That's what makes this stick with you like the slow building horror of Japanese films, even when the album is done, you still feel that anticipation, that cautiousness that behind this next door could be some other unspeakable Lovecraftian monstrosity. The near constant white noise in the background of the entire 55 minute experience tests your sanity and loosens your grip on reality. It shows a disconnect between the real world and this nightmarish realm you've stepped inside, and it's small touches like that that make this album work so well. Moreso than anything else in this style, the background noises are really what make this so harrowing. The screams, the clicking, the creaking and moaning, the monologue in "One Day You will Understand Why", everything strikes just the right chords within you and puts you in this nightmare you've created for yourself.
Now will all of that said, this record is not perfect. I find the metal parts really do distract the listener from the atmosphere of the ambiance at times. The buildup is great and the release is wonderful, but I find it goes on for too long. It does the right thing, it's not particularly fast or musical, it's more droning, dissonant chords and anguished moaning punctuated with hellish roaring which does keep the mood where it needs to be, but the quiet, ambient parts are just so much more effective that I wish the album was 95% entirely that. "Entangled in Mannequin Limbs" jumps between the two styles too much to really let my mind take in the imagery, and it suffers for it.
But even with that quibble, I'd still highly recommend Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital, as it's probably one of the very few metal albums that actually conveys a sense of dread and terror, even if the metal parts themselves are the album's main downfall. In a perfect world, this would be almost entirely ambient, consisting only of horrid noises and the occasional anguished cry from the depths of the unknown. But as it stands, it still manages to depict a world of filth and decay populated by the restless dead who envy the living to the point of hatred. I love the atmosphere, and the Silent Hill influence is rather strong when the imagery is at its best, and that alone is reason enough to give the album a listen.
Happy Halloween, kids!
Originally written for http://lairofthebastard.blogspot.com/
The Axis of Perdition plays their urban industrial black metal like no other band. Their music is a mix of truly eerie dark ambient passages, black metal riffs and harsh, often distorted vocals. "Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital" is my favourite release of TAOP to date, along with "Physical Illucinations in the Sewer of Xuchilbara" EP. This album easily captures an utterly bleak atmosphere of blood, rust and urban decay. It's far less extreme than their debut album "The Ichneumon Method", which is actually more in vein with Anaal Nathrakh. "Deleted Scenes..." is not an easy listen. The guitars are dissonant, the vocals are insane and the moments of multilayered ambient noise provide plenty of horrifying atmosphere. This piece of sonic hallucination is pretty aptly described as the musical equivalent of horror. Perhaps the most surprising part of is the climax of the third track "Pendulum Prey (Second Incarceration)" where torturous and evil vocals lead into both jazz piano and drumming, all while battling the static one would hear if they were listening to a radio station with poor reception. I'm a big fan of industrial black metal and enjoy such acts like Thorns, Dodheimsgard, Blut Aus Nord, Void, Darkspace or Spektr, but none of them creeps me out as much as The Axis of Perdition. My highest recommendation.
Favourite tracks: "Deleted Scenes I: In The Hallway Of Crawling Filth", "Pendulum Prey (Second Incarceration)" and "Entangled In Mannequin Limbs".
I picked this release up after being told that they were heavily influenced by the imagery of Silent Hill, one of my favorite video game franchises.
My verdict: Fucking. Awesome.
The Axis of Perdition isn't your average black metal band, and Deleted Scenes from Transition hospital isn't your average black metal album.... In fact, I'm hesitant to call them black metal at all. If you're looking for the likes of Mayhem and Bathory, you're in the wrong place; blazing riffs and screeching vocals take a backseat to TAOP's obscure creation of fiendish ambience so effective that at times you can forget that you're not in some horrible world beyond human comprehension instead of the safety of your own room like the pussy you are.
The sound of creaking metal, slamming doors, and grotesque imagery dot the musical landscape, with ghostly wails and terrified screams audible in between, accompanied by god-only-knows-what gives you the feeling that you are in some kind of machine factory gone wrong. One of the best part about this album is that it with no visuals in front of you, you are left to wonder, "Just what the hell could be making that noise?" Letting your imagination run free during tracks like "The Elevator Beneath the Valve" is quite effective. Play it at night, all alone, for best effect.
Vocal and guitar-based segments manage to slip in occasionally(and in one odd instance, a sudden shift to a jazzy saxophone), but unfortunately, they are nothing special. The singer ranged from monotonous moans to a more death-metal kind of growl, often drowned out by the thick, droning guitar. They do add a sort of personality to each song, but I usually found myself waiting to return to the disturbing painting that the more ambient sections were painting, and thus, I deducted a few points from my overall score.
All in all, even with the rather lackluster lyrical segments, Deleted Scenes from Transition Hospital is something that horror and noise music fans alike need to experience. It's obscure, frightening, and brilliant all rolled up in to one misshapen bundle. Traditional black metal fans, however, should know before jumping in that The Axis of Perdition is nothing like one might expect from a band in this genre.
100 percent?! What?! I love industrial. I love metal. I love industrial metal. I love innovative, original, thoughtful music. Blah blah, crap, etc, on with the review.
This'll be the fifth time I've listened to this album, and I still can't wrap my head around it. I still have no idea what in the hell is going on, and I don't think I want to, but this I have figured out: This. Is. Scary. Terrifying. Insane. Puzzling. ...Brilliance.
I certainly don't think this is something you'd want to listen to while walking through an old, abandoned asylum (as you do!) or a cemetery.
There aren't any catchy hooks to be found here. None. At all. I don't think there was ever any intent for there to be, which is good, because it just wouldn't be the same if there were. In actuality, it's really quite droning, but not the point of say... Sunn 0))) or similar bands. Occasionally there'll be drum fills and some slightly droning riffage, but riffage that is still instantly recognisable as black metal.
The vocals are one big monotone slur for the most part, but there are harsh vocals to be found, but it's nothing really impressive, and both types of vocals fit the music very, very well.
There is another type of music in here as well, yes. A kind of dark, droning, eerie ambient industrial that'll leave a sour taste on your tongue. But not the kind of "this is utter shit," kind of sour taste, "what the fuck is going on?!" would be more suitable.
... And, just when you're sitting comfortably in a moment of black metal or industrial, you're transported to ... a jazz lounge. Yes, a jazz lounge. I know, I know it sounds stupid, but it's really quite good, adds to the atmosphere and ambience of this release, it kind of sounds like it's being played through an antique gramophone or old transistor radio, you know that kind of fuzz you pick up with vinyl, or an untuned radio station? It's similar to that, and in the end, it all fits together so remarkably well.
Overall, I found this album far more scary than any horror movie (not that horror movies are scary anyway), in all honesty.. it's really quite terrifying. Terrifying in the sense that a bunch of people could make such inhuman music, as well as terrifying in the "oh shit, I just wet myself" sense.
If you're after something original, buy this. If you're after something terrifying, buy this, but remember: Listen to it with all lights out. And with headphones. Definitely with headphones.
This right here, this album is the most fucked up, creepiest, terrifying album ever. A simple review could never describe just how chillingly fucked up this album is. I acquired the album from the guitarist and founder of the group after a few exchanges of PMs. When I first heard about this band, and one of their biggest influences I was ill pressed to receive a CD of theirs. See I am a huge fan, possibly even obsessed with the video game series Silent Hill. From this point on the review will be split into two parts. The first part will be a simple as can be run down of the music contained on this album without spilling any of the Silent Hill influences. The second part will be an analysis of the music and it's influence. (that part will be posted later as I do more research.)
The best way to describe the music contained on this album is to not stress over it that much. I've heard this band being described as industrial black metal to Dark Ambient to noise. The best way I can describe this album is that it's half industrial dark ambient and half industrial black metal. All eight of the tracks have a sick unique blend of horrific noises and effects, but then just as you get used to the sickening filth of noise suddenly TAOP hit you with a wall of actual song structure. It really is enough to make you say, "What the fuck is going on here?"
The best example of this is the song "Pendulum Prey: The Second Incarceration." The tracks starts off as all the songs do with a cluster fuck of terrifying sounds and samples, and industrial noises before suddenly hitting you with some song melodies. It goes back to the atmosphere effects as before and soon you hear screaming, screaming coming from a man who's being tortured. When you think it couldn't get any worse suddenly...
...it changes to a Jazz piece! I know, what the fuck? That's what happens though. 2 minutes of screaming and industrial noise and the next thing you know you're in a jazz lounge. The noises are still there but they've been toned down quite a bit to boost up the jazzy part. The guy’s vocals have also become more toned down and melodic, almost like a demented lounge singer.
The other highlight song is "Deleted Scenes II: In the Gauze: Womb of the God Becoming." As is expected it starts off with a wall noise that makes you feel like you're in a certain place. Something is different about this piece though, soon you hear what sounds like a woman screaming in pain, and crying out in agony. The song melodies hit while the screaming and noise is going on. The screams stop for some moments only to start up again this time accompanied by ritualistic chanting.
Instrumentation wise when you can actually hear the musical parts it's damn good. I do admit that I downloaded a song off of another album and was a bit disappointed with that song I downloaded. I was expecting this album to be along the lines of blackened noise core. I'm happy that I was wrong though. The album consists of both noises and music. The noises are in the vain of the music and atmosphere in the Silent Hill games. (If you can play the game with the sound coming through a pair of headphones and you’ll know exactly what I’m saying.) TAOP would also like to take you to another place too though with these effects. The music can be described as a blend of dark ambient and black metal. Michael never gets too fast or crazy with the guitars and the drums actually hold real melodies and harmonies instead of going into the non-stop blasting field. The vocals are pretty low for black metal as they are not high shrieked. I do wish that the band would publish some of the lyrics since the only words I can understand are…
“I am so sorry, can you ever forgive me?”
"Walk the hallway"
"As are bodies mesh into one."
"I want to get out of here."
oh and "AAAAARGHHH!!!!"
I’m tempted to slow down the tempo of these songs in order to catch the lyrics, for my own personal benefit of course.
What brings this album down are the shorter songs which are somewhat dull pieces of industrial music/noise. For a story type of standpoint these parts are needed for the completeness of the album. You simply cannot go from a song about a guy being tortured and then sent into a Jazz lounge or possible a strip club to a song that sounds like a young woman screaming in pain while ritualistic chanting goes on in the background. Doesn’t work that way, sorry, and because of that aspect that is why the shorter interludes are needed. They take you from one longer song to another.
To end this part of the review I will end by writing that I love this album. I love the sickening filthiness of the songs, and the erratic bits of calm and peace that are spread throughout key parts of the album.
If you like albums that make you scratch your head and go “What the fuck is this? I like it!” Then I advice you get your hands on this album as soon as possible.
Axis of Perdition - Deleted Scenes from the Transition Hospital
Have you ever woken up in a hospital room covered in filth, only to find yourself venturing outside into a nightmare-filled world? Me neither, but that's exactly what the United Kingdom's Axis of Periditon seems to be about. Axis of Perdition is one of those bands that pops up out of absolutely nowhere, seemingless indistinguishable between the other underground artists, only to give you a sweet, sweet brick to the face filled with reality. Although they feature current Bal-sagoth drummer Dan Mullins, don't be expecting any symphonic viking metal here. This is a unique blend of black metal and dark ambient music. If you have ever played the Silent Hill series, you'll have a good idea as to what the band derives their sound from.
Instrumentally, the album is chaotic and over-distorted. The vocals at almost all times are audible, but not understandable due to the large amount of effects used. Guitars on this album are chaotic and don't seem to follow any certain rhythmic pattern. They used a drum machine for this studio effort which, for once, doesn't get in the way of the music. It simply adds more to the atmosphere. All in all, this album was probably never created to be a musical powerhouse. It accomplishes what it set out to do -- create an eerie atmosphere capable of getting the listener to breathe heavy in anticipation as to what may be around the corner. If you're into metal for the thrashyness, the grimness, or for the melodics, this album isn't for you. If you're interested in surrounding yourself with the most insanely bloody atmosphere you can imagine possible through music, this album is perfect for you.
Relevant band(s): Mine[thorn]
Recommended Tracks: (1) Pendulum Prey, (2) This, then, is Paradise?, (3) In the Gauze
[Originally written for the Pivotal Rage webzine.]