Hair Police - Mercurial Rites [Type - 2013]Hair Police return for their first proper full-length since 2008’s “Certainty of Swarms”. The trio of Mike Connelly (aka Failing Lights), Robert Beatty (aka Three Legged Race) and Trevor Tremaine have been crafting punishing industrial noise for over a decade now. While many of their contemporaries have abandoned ship for dance club beats, Hair Police pride themselves on keeping things grimey.
The artwork for Mercurial Rites is a collage piece not unlike the aesthetic of other mid-west noisers. This particular work seems rather fitting to the music at hand. Various city scenes are pieced together with a large face right in the middle being the focal point. The face looks like an artifact from some bygone epoch (I’m no art historian) crafted from stone (maybe metal). The face is hooded with long eyes, a nose, and no mouth. This is all mounted atop a black album cover with a thin red border.
I was never a very close follower of Hair Police and truth be told the only album I ever owned of theirs was the split with Vikki, so going into this review I had no expectations one way or the other. If you need a soundtrack to your nightmarescapes, look no further. Mercurial Rites takes us through 8 tracks of atmospheric and menacing industrial noise. Hair Police manage to do this without excessive volume or violence, much of Mercurial Rites feels very restrained, but manage to hit just the right notes to create a haunting “feeling” that permeates this album. The most effective horror films imbue the viewer with a sense of dread. The build up, the score, the framing makes almost what's going on in front of us irrelevant, because what’s been planted in our psyche is far more terrifying. This album has a very similar effect. The build up, the atmosphere, the carefully planted vocals, all create a chilling effect that even in the album’s quieter moments leaves us feeling that something bad is about to happen.
The opening track, “We Prepare” sets up the doomy atmosphere right from the start. We’re met with gong and chime beats, as dark sounding synths churn right under the surface. Further into the piece we’re hit with some thunderous percussion and vocals that sound like that of an angry goblin. The track segues perfectly into “The Crevice,” which is more electronics driven, featuring pulsing synths intermingling with well placed chirps. “Thief’s Springs” starts off with an eerie electronic sizzle, joined by keys and a minimally used guitar that further adds a chilling effect. The focus of instrumentation almost see irrelevant, as the atmosphere of dread remains constant.
At the album’s mid-way point is “Dilate and Inhabit.” The track is punctuated with a repetitive stream of exhaust fume releases joined by percussive thumps and other indeterminable crashes. It’s a harrowing track, not unlike being chased by a killer in an empty factory. No matter how much you run and hide, your fate has been sealed. The album’s 7th track “Scythed Wide” introduces some junk noise to compliment eerily plucked strings, a popping synth, and what sounds like the stream of consciousness ramblings of a madman. The track sounds very primal and perfectly segueways into the final track “Mercurial Rites”. Coming full circle, the album’s final track again emphasizes percussive elements along with the gongs and chimes from the intro track complementing muddled spoken word style vocals. There’s a quasi-eastern vibe that permeates the tracks without detracting from the album’s overarching mood.
Mercurial Rites is a deeply chilling and disturbing album. Hair Police manage to choose just the right palate of sounds to intricately pick at the fear sensors in our brain. Those with a hyper active mind might be cautioned from listening to this alone in the dark. I prefer to revel in the darkness, even if it does cause the hairs to stand up on my back.