Genocidal Majesty by Gnaw Their TonguesRelease date: February 9, 2018
Label: Consouling Sounds
In North London this Saturday, as part of the Deliquium Sound Art Triennial, Electrowerkz will host the first Gnaw Their Tongues performance of 2018, one day after the new album, Genocidal Majesty, drops. This is the 20th studio album in just 12 years from the Dutch composer of nightmarish soundscapes, although it has been 2 years (14 months if you’re a pedantic calendar-twitcher) since 2016’s Hymns for the Broken, Swollen and Silent. Which is sort of a relief – the one thing worse than having to wait decades for an album is suffering release fatigue from over saturation (I’m looking at Aidan Baker and Justin Broadrick in the mid 2000s here). Fortunately, despite the staggering quantity, the work of Maurice De Jong, who is now entering his 30th year of music creation, has not taken a dip in quality.
As you might expect, De Jong’s latest release is a cacophony of guttural shrieks, squelching thumps, and shuddering distortion from the off. Rattlesnake cymbal crashes jerk into popping snares as the chaos grows and there seems to be a competition between various examples of panicked, unchecked aggression to smother one another. The second track ‘Spirits Broken By Swords’ begins with a slightly more measured pace. Drums gradually roll up into the sound of scythed metal and smashed glass and Chip King of The Body makes the first of two appearances on this album. He brings his panic-inducing impression of an insane owl to this appalling sonic smorgasbord, inevitably ratcheting up any loitering anxieties as an overwhelming wave of vicious noise clears space for submissive, Penderecki-esque strings.
The title track follows this with swarming atmospherics and the patter of a poor hi-hat that must surely be under assault from a speed smuggler with a burst wrap inside them. It sounds like a riot in an insane asylum. Tumultuous bass synth lines force their way out like an armoured vehicle mowing a path through hordes of marauding undead. This is the noise that the dangling, flame-thrower-guitar guy should have been blasting in Mad Max: Fury Road. Hunting their prey down whilst these dying voices gnash.
‘Ten Bodies Hanging’ hardly lets up. Blast beats are applied in such a relentless and furious pace that the kick drum starts to lose its meaning. It becomes textural. Then GTT’s target switches to the snare and something animalistic rears its head from the frenzy, generating a recoil of horror that is akin to witnessing a throng of pulsing maggots devour shrieking flesh from living bone. But this terror is man made and the ritualistic chants reminding us of this cast an even darker shadow over the track. Ten bodies don’t hang without human intervention, no matter how inhumane it looks. This album is an emerging reminder of just how bloody relentless our inhumanity can be.
Underpinning vast swathes of Genocidal Majesty is a theme of anxious suffering. A trembling can be felt within the shifts between notes. Despite its apparent aggressive exterior, there is a fragility being protected at the heart of it all. Whilst De Jong is employing the supposed best form of defence, this sentiment cannot help but seep through. From the wide-eyed anguish of sonic gales to the transposing despair of processed electronics, a narrative of hurt blossoms. And when there are solely ominous sparks of digital glitches accompanying feral roars and the stomping of matted fur on drums, it almost feels like a respite. It would be a mistake, however, to let your guard slip as this is truly the heartbeat of hate’s unblinking face. This sounds much how one particular scene in Begotten looks. The section where you can’t really see what’s occurring but it gives the impression of heavy robed miscreants almost certainly doing wrong by someone’s corpse in a wasteland ravine.
The dungeon synths and eroded drums of ‘Cold Oven’ lure in false promises before paranoid screams of disquiet kick back in. A lurching rhythm is wiped out by throated vocals speaking of suffering. Those synths manage to persist, however, and they do not allow us to be dragged down into the mire just yet. There is a faint whiff of hope as they soar, only to be cut off by the crush of industry. The back half of this record, whilst absolutely no casual walk in the musical park, is relatively restrained. Agony, torment, and dread are all still present in vat-loads but the urgency has departed. These macerating tracks take their time. They let fear drift across their victims eyes and, much like a torturer howling with their captive, they know that they have all of the time and space that they need to inflict suffering.
But with time and space comes reflection. And on ‘Void Sickness’ there appears to be a threat, not of violence but of self awareness, creeping in. Attempts are made to decimate this recognition with howls and dwindling drum attacks and, at certain points, it almost seems like a hammer and chisel are enlisted to chip away at it but the soothing sounds of swelling strings still manage to outweigh the revolting bass squelch. Perhaps Mories has started to accept that this pain can be managed without rage.