The Black Noise Thread

First Post September 08, 2022 08:53 AM

Yes, that's right ladies & gentlemen! I'll be conducting another subgenre deep dive that kicks off tomorrow! This time I'll be spending the next couple of weeks attempting to categorically answer the age old question of whether black noise is a real black metal subgenre that needs to be differentiated in the Metal Academy database. You can watch my progress here at this thread. Wish me luck!

September 09, 2022 09:03 PM

Wold - "Screech Owl" (2007)

OK, so let's kick off with one of the more blatantly black noise releases in the 2007 sophomore release from Canadian artist Wold (can't you tell by their logo on the cover?). If you were thinking that black noise is likely to be an extremely lo-fi take on black metal then you were 100% correct as you won't find a more intentional attempt at audio degradation than you'll find here. In fact, the fading intros & outros of many of the thirteen tracks give hints at what the original music might have sounded like before it had the levels strategically blasted up into the realms of extreme distortion in post-production, all in the quest for a greater textural & atmospheric layer of hideous noise. So, does it work? Well when Wold get it right it certainly does but those moments are so few when you take into account that this bloated release stretches out to an unbearably lengthy 73 minutes in duration.  The ultra-grim black metal vocals of Fortress Crookedjaw are certainly very appealing for extreme metal aficionados like myself but the instrumentation is often lacking in any sort of musical quality, instead taking the form of battering & offensive distortion more than something you'd find genuine pleasure in listening to. When Wold hint at melody through their more ambient excursions though you can clearly see the attraction to this sort of music. They just haven't got the balance right at all here.

The clear standout tracks are the super evil "This Is How I Know" (which is by far the best example of the black noise subgenre included here & is a piece of work that has slowly snuck up on me over several listens before finally encouraging me to label it as a masterpiece) & the super-repetitive & trance-inducing thirteen-minute black ambient/noise closer "Undying Fire Of Urian" which absolutely carry this album. Sadly though it's not enough to make up for the clear failures like the God-awful "Nervosa" & "I'm The Chisel" which are pretty close to as dumb as extreme music gets. The couple of traditional noise tracks included also offer nothing at all from a musical point of view, failing to create any sort of dark atmosphere that you can grab on to. I think it's fair to say that I'm not the target audience for a record like "Screech Owl" but I still have my doubts that it'll be sitting at the top end of the subgenre. If it was then I'd have to think that the incredibly poor cover art would likely taint the entire subgenre & scare off many potential listeners.

But is "Screech Owl" a metal album? That's a very good question. The basis of these tracks is clearly black metal but the music has been brutally warped far enough that the original recordings are pretty much unrecognizable. The black metal vocals definitely reel it back in a bit though & the atmosphere is identifiably black metal for the majority of the run-time so I'm gonna say that, even though this release clearly sounds more like noise music with black metal vocals layered over the top, I'm comfortable with it residing in The North under a black metal subgenre. On the evidence of this release I'd suggest that Black Noise is a subgenre of black metal too. Let's see if I maintain that opinion over the next couple of weeks, shall we?

For fans of Gnaw Their Tongues, Sutekh Hexen & Затухание.


Here's an example of black noise that utilizes synth melodies to offset the ugliness:

September 12, 2022 05:26 AM

La Torture des ténèbres - "IV: Memoirs of a Machine Girl" (2017)

The second phase of my Black Noise deep dive saw me tackling the fourth full-length album from Canadian solo act La Torture des ténèbres (French for “The Torture of Darkness” i.e. as opposed to the wholesome, family-oriented & generally fun garden variety of torture presumably). “IV: Memoirs of a Machine Girl” is an 81 minute marathon for the senses that’ll see your mental stability being well & truly tested so I’d steer well clear of it if you harbor any concerns around your mental health. La Torture des ténèbres is the brain-child of Jessica Kinney; an artist whose creative vision originally began within the more familiar realms of atmospheric black metal but over time has seen her expanding the scope of her metal roots with “IV: Memoirs of a Machine Girl” showcasing a much more expansive array of sounds & possibly even having transcended the confines of metal altogether.

“IV: Memoirs of a Machine Girl” is an absolute beast of a release featuring six very lengthy pieces that all comfortably exceed the ten minute mark. Jess obviously doesn’t care all that much for the vinyl or CD formats of my generation because it almost seems like she’s intentionally extended the album’s run time so that it’s just too long to fit on a single CD. Whatever the reason for it may be though, the run time definitely overstays its welcome a touch & I challenge anyone to actively listen to the entire duration of the album without experiencing some sort of mental fatigue. Personally, I feel that it would have benefitted significantly from the omission of the final track which would have seen it finishing at a still quite indulgent 68 minutes. That’s not to say that closer “Lysol, Scrub Away Your Sanity” is weak in any way but I’m not sure I needed yet another sensory barrage after the first five tracks had seemingly achieved everything that Jess had set out to do.

There are a few different elements to the La Torture des ténèbres sound that are repeated across the tracklisting. The first is the beautiful, dreamy & very Mazzy Star-ish downtempo sections which have layers of effects applied to them in order to give them an eery & sombre feel. I get the feeling that Jess could actually be a very talented performer in that space if she focused her powers on good rather than evil. Then you have the over-the-top noise sections which are much more prevalent & generally see a guitar part providing some sort of melody under a huge & overbearing wall of artificial noise. The first couple of tracks see the instrumentation hinting at a black metal atmosphere but the noise dominates proceedings to such a degree that I’d be reluctant to label this as anything metal related. Outside of those first two tracks I struggle to see the links to black metal though with the general feel of the base music leaning much more closely towards the dreamy post-rock of Sigur Ros. In fact, I’m not even sure the guitars have had any pre-mix distortion applied to them in all honesty so (unlike Wold’s “Screech Owl” that I kicked off my Black Noise deep dive with) most of “IV: Memoirs of a Machine Girl” just doesn’t feel remotely like black metal & I doubt it was ever intended for the black metal audience. The thing that probably sees it being tied back to black metal though are Jessica’s tortured & psychotic screams which sound very much like they could have been taken from a depressive black metal release. They’re relentless in their negativity &, when combined with some pretty twisted samples, ensure that you will find no form of light or empowerment in this music. It’s an ugly wasteland of disgust & disconsolation.

When all of these elements are combined, the result takes the form of a noise release much more than it does a metal one & I tend to think that labelling “IV: Memoirs of a Machine Girl” as a metal release is a bit of a stretch. That’s not to say that it’s not a rewarding experience for the metal audience though. Given my taste profile I’m not surprised that I find the first couple of tracks to be a little more enjoyable than the remainder of the album. The atmosphere of those two tracks hints at a majestic blackened darkness that I find more appealing than the slightly less imposing post-rock driven material but that’s not to say that there are any weak tracks included because there’s not. It’s a very consistent record that could maybe have done with some trimming from a pure indulgence point of view but would also have benefitted from the six tracks having proper endings instead of simply cutting them off dead when they were still in full flight. Overall though, I’d suggest that “IV: Memoirs of a Machine Girl” is a very respectable noise release that seems to sit pretty comfortably under the Non-Metal tag in our database.

For fans of Gnaw Their Tongues, Utarm & Nahvalr.


Here's an example of La Torture des ténèbres at their most blackened:

September 13, 2022 12:39 PM

Μνήμα [Mnima] - "Disciples of Excremental Liturgies" (2022)

Greek outfit Mnima has been around for a good few years now & have put out ten zillion EP's in that time but this debut full-length is the first release I've committed to checking out. For a supposed "black noise" release, I've gotta say that it offers bugger all in the way of genuine noise music though. In fact, this is really just a very raw & particularly lo-fi black metal release with vocals that sound a lot like Burzum mastermind Varg Vikernes & musicianship that's left at the door for the sake of demonic authenticity. The first half of the release is actually pretty decent with the admittedly generic tremolo-picked riffage possessing some reasonably enjoyable melodic hooks. Unfortunately the B side is noticeably weaker which taints the whole experience for me & I'm left wondering how my black noise experiment has found me venturing here in the first place. "Disciples of Excremental Liturgies" is nothing to write home about & there are much stronger black metal releases out there this year.

For fans of Black Cilice, Candelabrum & Burzum.


September 13, 2022 09:20 PM

Abruptum - "Obscuritatem advoco amplectère me" (1993)

The debut album from this cult Swedish artist is one of the weirdest & most ambitious metal-related releases you're ever likely to hear. It comprises of two enormously challenging 25+ minute pieces that seem to be completely improvised. If they're not then I have no idea how they were composed. They also bring into question the concept of what constitutes music because there's some absolutely random shit going on here & it often has nothing whatsoever to do with traditional musical theory. The idea of calling this a black metal or black noise release is questionable at best in my opinion too. There's no doubt that the First Wave of Black Metal sounds of early Sodom & Hellhammer (particularly "Triumph of Death") played a big role in Abruptum's DNA but there's simply so much more that falls WWAAYYY outside of conventional metal ideals going on here. In fact, I'd hazard to describe "Obscuritatem advoco amplectère me" as experimental/psychedelic noise rock meets avant-garde metal. Much of the admittedly pretty doomy guitar work is comprised of feedback & dissonant attacks on open strings which leaves the aesthetic sounding far more Bauhaus than Bathory while a lot of the drumming sits closer to rock than it does to metal. But then you'll get these sudden bursts of unaccompanied blast beats here & there & psychotic vocals that remind me of the Japanese extreme metal scene or a very young Tom Angelripper (Sodom). It's certainly noisy stuff but can I really say this is black noise? I don't think I'd say it's genuine noise music OR black metal to be honest. I think people are simply clutching at straws in a vain attempt to label this musical cacophony which is far more interesting than it is enjoyable.

For fans of Emit, Gnaw Their Tongues & Enbilulugugal.


September 14, 2022 11:02 PM

Gnaw Their Tongues - "Genocidal Majesty" (2018)

I first encountered Surinamese producer Maurice de Jong & his Gnawing Their Tongues moniker upon my return to metal back in 2009 & have had a long & often stormy relationship with him ever since. At times I’ve found it almost impossible to relate to his music which tends to be completely devoid of anything humanly relatable while at others he can create one of the purest soundtracks to the apocalypse you’re ever likely to encounter. For this reason I generally appraoch his releases with a level of caution & self-preservation, just as I have on this occasion with his fourteenth album “Genocidal Majesty”; a record that I’ve committed to investigating as a part of my Black Noise deep dive.

Gnaw Their Tongues’ “music” can be quite an intimidating prospect for the uninitiated. You see, it can often sound completely foreign to your average listener given that it’s very much at odds with the concepts that traditional music is built on. For example you’ll find very little melody here, if any at all. Instead you can expect to be assaulted with buzzing swarms of feedback, scraping metallic abrasions, ear-piercing static, high-pitched electronic data transmissions & big farty dubstep-ish bass tones which often amounts to the unpleasant experience of a close-range encounter with breaking glass. It’s futuristic & inhuman, cold & desolate. And when it’s all over it tends to leave you with a bleak outlook of pure loneliness & despair. Humans inherently need hope in their lives & you’ll find very little of it here in an industrial landscape that’s purely electronic & brings to mind images of suicide & torture. But just like a car crash, I find it so hard to look away because there’s something so visceral & powerful about this art that captivates me in a very different way to your average heavy metal anthem.

“Genocidal Majesty” is an extremely consistent record. Its run time is kept short at just 31 minutes with the entire tracklisting maintaining a very high standard & a finely honed sense of focus. There’s very little doubt that Maurice knew his sound very well by this point in his career as the album represents a fully realised & beautifully executed creative vision. There’s really very little reference to metal here though. The are no guitars or any other form of organic instrumentation included so the record sits far more comfortably within the realms of industrial music than it does within metal. In fact, you’ll rarely find a release that so perfectly fits the description of the Power Electronics subgenre so it very clearly belongs under that banner. Maurice’s insane screams are a definite highlight & offer a lot of appeal to me. I assume that this is where the links to black metal are drawn from but in truth they could just as easily have been lifted from a metalcore record. I could probably have done without the guest vocal contributions from The Body’s Chip King as I’ve never been a fan of his atonal, high-pitched squeals which don’t even sound like they’re vocals to tell you the truth & only end up contributing yet another uncomfortable & unnerving component to what is essentially the soundtrack to a horror movie that’s yet to be made. There’s a strong sense of cinematic drama about “Genocidal Majesty” with the rare appearances of synth pad sounds offering some minor relief from the relentless industrial battering you’re receiving from the remainder of the run time (see the bonus track on the Spotify release “Void Sickness” for example which is perhaps unsurprisingly my favourite track on the record). Given the general professionalism of the overall production though, I have to say that the snare sound could have done with a bit of work as it tends to remind me of chip tune a lot of the time which isn’t a positive comment.

I’ve been really impressed with “Genocidal” Majesty”. Its quest to alienate & isolate the listener has been unanimously successful so it certainly isn’t for everyone but those that seek refuge in the uglier side of underground music in order to take them as far away from every day suburban life will likely find a strange sense of pleasure in the universal unpleasantness of the experience. As far the Black Noise sound I came in looking for goes though there really isn’t much of a connection to this fine example of Power Electronics. I think us metalheads sometimes think we have monopoly on extreme music & like to draw everything in that bracket in under our metallic banner but I think it’s a stretch too far with this particular release.

For fans of The Body, Utarm & Spektr.


September 16, 2022 08:53 PM