Bastard Noise vs. Brutal Truth - Axiom of Post Inhumanity [Relapse - 2013]Venerated masters of extreme political music Bastard Noise and Brutal Truth have come together to create what for me is a dream release, the split "Axiom of Post Inhumanity". They've chosen to release two separate versions of the album on CD and vinyl, each containing entirely exclusive tracks. For the purposes of this review, I will be discussing the tracks found in both editions, which in total slightly exceed 90 minutes of music. Being that Bastard Noise (formerly Man in the Bastard) has roots both in harsh noise and power violence, while Brutal Truth plays a more technical death metal informed form of grind, I was curious to see where this album would fall, stylistically.
As it turns out, there is no grindcore riffing on this album. Both bands, it would seem, collectively decided to make a record of bleak, dystopian ambience, spaced out noise, and droning distortion texture. While I'd kill to hear the grind split these two bands would produce, "Axiom of Post Inhumanity" is an album of powerful, haunting success in all respects.
Bastard Noise's first track on the CD release "The Duel of the Ant and the Dragonfly" unleashes their familiar synthetic siren shrieks with a stereo call and reponse, sweeping filters through harsh resonances and dwelling on gritty clashing frequency modulations. A blank, dull murmer of bass persists in the backdrop. The style is 'harsh noise' but gaps of silence and long reverb tails create a more listenable and spacious environment than your average cassette release or 90's Merzbow CD. The piercing pure tones employed also have a particular colorful vibrancy that gives the sound a more melodic or tonal quality even as the pitches waver in and out of tune. Their constantly modulating tones are much like wailing voices.
With the muffled, subdued sound of the following "The Horizon on Lynx", we are approaching a dreamlike spirit realm territory more familiar to Lustmord than Bastard Noise. The luminescent, cave-like glow of this piece is captivating. The tone in the background is organic and hollow, like a slowed down recording of a flute or wind instrument. Subtlety, diversity and creativity was always what set this group above others, and made their countless releases worth collecting.
With "Horned Beetle Conflict", further storm clouds brew over the empty grey landscape, and the noise textures takes the form of an electrical storm. By this point the Bastard Noise half of the album is showing a very cohesive tone and trajectory, completed by the fourth track "Mantis Colony", which contains the most alienating chorus of annihilated synthesizer bleats thus far. I'm reminded of the homemade machines of KK Null. The sharpness of the noise gives it more immediacy and powerful psychic effect that your average passive ambient music, and it is truly like being stranded in a hostile extraterrestrial environment, and the sounds are not dissimilar to that of hulking industrial machinery, either.
Bastard Noise's 3 tracks from the LP version are surprisingly contrasted to the noise exercises of the CD version, due to the inclusion of the kind of black metallish snarls and deep gutteral grunts that have occasionally appeared on other recent Bastard Noise material (see the excellent split "The Red List" with The Endless Blockade). Alone amidst the desolate ambience (which is toned back to make room for the voice) these vocals feel like a warning, a feeling corroborated by the title "Preemptive Epitaph for the Living". This is a real nightmarish / hellish vibe, and it's evident here and in the album title that the apocalyptic theme is intentional.
Brutal Truth's side of the album is occupied by different versions of a single lengthy track, roughly 20 minutes, on both the vinyl and LP versions. The music presented is utterly different from anything else in their recorded output. Actually less harsh than the Bastard Noise side, the track starts slow, layering ambiences and sounds, some of which are clearly processed guitars and others that are more like ethereal and pure synthesizer tones, as well as a muffled drone with a didgeridoo-like quality. Guitar feedback later enters, and the texture becomes quite thick. The opaque cloud of sound is gradually infected by somber chords as well, and shadowed ghosts of sounds that could be voices or instruments. The drummer erratically enters with some spastic jazzy playing, and the disembodied voice of an opera singer can be heard faintly amidst the din. The sound seems to have an infinite number of crevices and spaces, and has a profoundly sad tone to it. Perhaps the most affecting part is the ending, in which a dark, smoky doom metal bass tone snakes into the grimy distance, seething, primordial and vaguely rhythmic in the way of artists such as TenHornedBeast.
In the two versions of the track, the ordering of the sounds that enter and exit is changed, but in general the versions are not drastically different. The "Peace is the Victory" mix, found on the LP, is perhaps a more dismal, unpredictable cloud of gloom, undergoing many fades and transformations, where the longer CD version keeps a gradual, minimalist trajectory, attaining more density as it progresses.
"The Stroy" is a 7 minute Brutal Truth track unique to the CD version, which follows the "Smoke Grind and Sleep" mix of their epic track, "Control Room". It's a pleasant humming electronic resonance panning in a circle, while odd bird-like chirps occupy the middle and rustling wind textures percolate in and out. Without warning, this ushers in a devastating blast of doom metal, in which the band slams a massive chord down and holds it as the guitar cascades into infinity with a massive, unnatural reverb, made into a strange digital current by way of ring modulation. The surprise of this moment may be my favorite thing on this entire split. The impossibly fierce scream of "DESTROY! ANNIHILATE!" ends the album and reminds me again why I love Brutal Truth.
These two bands have created the ultimate dystopian noise ambient record in the two versions of this album, and I suppose I shouldn't be surprised. "Axiom of Post Inhumanity" is highly recommended to all listeners unopposed to a forboding soundscape, and it's certainly worth it to investigate both versions. My favorite Brutal Truth moment is on the CD version, while my favorite Bastard Noise moments are the vocal sections from the LP, so in my mind the versions come out even.Josh Landry