Phantom Cadaver - Realms of the Macabre [Altar Of Waste - 2016]'Realms of the Macabre' from Phantom Cadaver is the 427th release on Altar of Waste. It comes as a CD in a DVD case, with luscious imagery on both the outside and the inside. The outside depicts a darkly lit room in a faint reddish hue, a lone bulb swings from the ceiling as a person sits in the foreground with their arm to their chest and eyes looking upward. The inside is a bright and surreal mess of dark colours - blues, reds and purples.
The CD takes in one staunch eponymous track clocking in at 79:16. As the artwork would suggest, the cinematic exterior betrays an episodic approach, with multiple 'wall segments' slotting in to the total run-time. At just over an hour, and as a listener who has accustomed themselves to the weight-filled and powerful output of previous Phantom Cadaver releases, it easy to expect these walls to stand firm, with perhaps some pulsation here and there, and to present some prime candidates for total static immersion.
The initial wall begins with a sample - I would have to guess it is dialogue from a film, however, I have no inclination of what the source might be, and rather than go to the artist with questions, I personally like the idea of leaving this particular question unanswered and allowing the sense of mystery that this affords the release to sit within and stir up the static avalanche proceeding it. There is atmosphere and subject matter to be gleaned from the sample nonetheless, a gruff-voiced man talks to another who appears to be a figure of authority - "murder" and "Texas" sit amongst the dialogue as the two anchors of meaning that the listener feels compelled towards - two themes that resonate throughout HNW as though they were somehow intrinsically part of it. My mind is (for some reason) immediately drawn to the film Texas Chainsaw Massacre and the rich haven of dialogue-led samples that the film franchise offers not only the HNW genre but also death metal and other extreme musics. However, with this said, a sample from that film would be abrasively "cult", perhaps even cliché, whereas the sample we hear feels comfortably outside of this frame (although, as someone totally clueless, it may well not be).
The bass-heavy trundling smashes into the face of the listener after a fairly arbitray-seeming point in the dialogue, I caught myself re-running the conversation in my head as the weight of the wall moved through me, trying to pin down if I had missed something crucical but not really coming up with anything definitive. Only five or so minutes in I feel a tug in a new direction from the wall and was both surprised and startled, but ten minutes in and the tugging had never returned and the weight, continuously powerful, had already lulled me into a very trance-like, immersive state. Gradually, it did begin to feel as though the weight were slipping away - slowly but surely - the 'heat' of the wall was decreasing, the bubbiling and boiling broth was being lowered to a simmering rumble - and with it, the immersion falters to peaceful relaxation and quiet contemplation of the textural scrapes and sputters. The textures themselves feel glassy, as though they are encased - there is a wide range and yet every piece of high-end slather still seems to lack that singed and crispy crackle, preferring instead to engulf the listener in rust-like mids that swarm the ears, offering luscious textural carnage at one moment and muffled and obscured thudding the next.
Twenty minutes into the track and we have a clear dissipation, a moment of silence, followed by an ambient whirring hum. The hum ebbs soflty and eventually we rise into another quiet vocal sample - this one is much shorter but it appears to be from the same source. As a listener totally in the blue, I begin to imagine that there might actually be a film called 'Realms of the Macabre' from which this release takes its name, and that this might be the source, but as far as I'm aware this is not the case. This wall is much softer than the first and rises and lowers in a tidal fashion, a clattering and cluttering sound takes the fore which my own ear likens to heaving heavy slabs of concrete falling in a massive shower through a large chute. I find it interesting when I get these kinds of imagery associating with a wall which is perhaps meant to be 'dark' or 'macabre', as the outward signs would point towards - and wonder whether or not this really serves to undermind the artists intentions. It is my own, usually-held, assumption that artists in HNW take no issue with whichever way you decide to discern and decipher their work (as long as you don't seriously miss the mark, of course). The wall then circles in on itself and the whirring becomes a tight, rubbery clugging with a fiery crackle accompaniment. A part of the peaceful tranquility of its prior characteristics slips away, simultaneously tugging the listeners attention out of the trance once more and pulling them towards textural detail.
Overall, the release is a tremendous undertaking of perfectly traditional HNW - something to really get yourself lost in. Phantom Cadaver has proven to be one of the more resiliently high-calibre prolific HNW artists out there. While perhaps not quite so prolific as some of the "household names", the project has managed to really flood both their own bandcamp as well as labels with walls which smack of a "well-worn ear"; made by someone who has been paying attention for a long time and has reaped many fruits for the undertaking. I can't help but remember whilst listening to this, the amazing four-way split the project took part in on the HNW netlabel with Bad Algorithm, Dosis Letalis and Inanition. Each wall resoundingly emphasised the sense of time-tested sensibilities which makes its mark upon the walls of all four artists, placing each artist as appropriately interested in the others work and identifying a relationship of similarity in each in the way they approach their wallcraft - all four do so in a way that it is almost as though they have succeeded in embuing their personalities to static. As ever, Cory's fine curatorial ear has picked up on this and most likely specifically gone out of his way to approach the artist and have this featured on AOW - I cannot commend him enough for doing so! The release was out in a ltd. run of 15 and so I believe it is sold out by now, but there are some amazing catlogue items still for sale at the Altar of Waste store, I highly recommend checking them out.James Shearman