From Musique Machine:
As I'm typing this I actually do have a headache while angry power electronics come soaring out of the speakers. The bio of this project founded by Michael Page speaks of catharsis... well, indeed.
From the first track on you'll find yourself in a grim maelstrom of unforgiving distortion. The kind of sounds that take you to dark industrial landscapes under pitch black skies where rain comes poaring from coaly clouds, the only light coming from tarry puddles that caught fire. Mostly white noise, but in Fissures In The Lining there's a bit of pitched sounds but they provide no comfort at all. It's just another glass cutting frequency to forcefully push you further to the edge. The attack continues relentlessly until the last track The Least Of Our Errors, for which Lautréamont's infamous Maldoror provided the lyrical content. Not that you can actually make anything out of them, as the vocals are distorted into something unintelligible but undeniably angry, buried under layers of harsh noise.
I/CON is a merciless attack on the senses. Nasty, dark and violent to recreate the darker aspects of humanity. Page gives the listener little room to breathe and the suffocating 45 minutes will likely leave you gasping for air. And in that, it succeeds in its ambition.
US based outfit F/I/T/H has moved to eastern Europe for his latest disc, Lithuanians Autarkeia fulfilling the label role this time out which makes sense considering the act's ever increasing cross pond tour schedule. I'm not sure if all the border hopping has had an effect or what but viewed through these Canadian eyes this latest full length sounds refreshingly global in scope and contemporary in sound.
Physically "Icon" works the tactile angle nicely with the slick tri-fold digipak sporting Cloisonné like Christian themed insets and a tasty matte finish that I have trouble keeping my grimey fingers away from. This doesn't change the impact of the sounds of course but I'd be a liar if I tried to claim otherwise that I'm a sucker for spot on case design. What we are not provided with is a plethora of information beyond the basic track titles and credits. No lyrics or manifesto are offered so you will have to decide on your own whether the religious themed cover art actually has any connection whatsoever to the disc contents (in some cases I have my doubts).
The material breaks down into two jagged archetypes: sustain based thronging; forward moving new school power electronics. Pieces like "Of Rape And Rapture" mostly just hang in the air with layers of FMish white noise, power supply sourced mid-range ugliness and backwards vocal swoops creating a steady motion, lively yet constant. Tracks like "Retreat" however build up a contemporary PE structure using tools like looping resonant hum, caustic swipes of an ultra nasty filter cutoff and an undecipherable authoritarian vocal attack ripe with modulation and delay. There are a few sections on tracks such as "Intravenous Incendiary Device" where some of the beds (soiled mattresses more like it) almost sound guitar based and once in while ("Learning To Breathe") near melodics creep in though these thankfully never truly break out of the realm of texture and skillfully avoid too much direct exposure. One odd thing about the general track structures are that when a wall is in between you and the speaker, I swear it sounds like you are listening to the muffled woof of technical deathmetal. Really odd when you walk around the corner and realize what is actually playing (says something about the compositional approach I guess).
What is consistent through all of the tracks is a grey and dusty character (think later Steel Hook Prostheses or colder Control), partially due to the reliance on reverb and feedback but also coming from the high end acoustic density (in my MP3 player this disc has an outline like it works the pole at a stripper bar). Conceptually a lot of the tracks sound like they have seen multiple passes through an exciter into comb filter chain: saturated yet rarified. Other than the one obvious abstainer (the bad date how-to "Sewn Shut [Torn Open]") it's a cold, barren sort of sound profile that lacks almost any moment of warmth - as if all of its blood has been drained out and replaced with the ghosting and static from a cheap black and white CCTV monitor. I like.
Despite this, F/I/T/H manages to keep overall discernability in the tracks here which is important when you have comparatively intricate structural layering involved (I'm picturing smoke pouring out of an overworked DAW). Part of that is the use of stereo placement but mostly my money is on Michael Paige happening to have a hugely fucking accurate ear. This also is not what I would call an up close and personal disc. This is not a Deathpile like headlock or Grunt style forced intrusion. No, this is all oppressive concrete towers with high powered PA speakers, sub-zero temperatures and wind storms. Even when it is going for internal monologue it's like it is being broadcast into your skull from far away schizophrenic style.
Michael Page seems a fan of evolution over constant stylistic creationism and here again with "Icon" we see a refining of technique as opposed to drastic wheel re-invention. With the zoom setting at maximum it is not so obvious but when you pull back from the F/I/T/H discography a bit you can clearly see how the emergence of a distinct identity for the act is now complete. "Icon" successfully blasts out its own stylistic niche via signature stereo effects treatments and blistering vocal attacks. It is a thoroughly modern best of breed PE release that is tightly packed, perfectly paced and ultimately all enveloping. In other words highly recommended.
From Blood Ties:
FITH. Fire in the fucking Head is back! Well, ok he wasn't ever "gone" but here is the latest from this prolific power electronics rough rider and he certainly hasn't grown complacent with age. Icon is as harsh and heavy as any that has come before it, with yet another unique sound, in terms of production this very much reminds me of the material from the You Too Shall Burn 3" CDR released on Nil By Mouth. There is a kind of reverb applied to many of the tracks giving them a spacious feel and taking just a bit of the edge off, but it gives it a character that separates itself from some of the other F/I/T/H material.
All the tracks here are solid work, I can't think of one I don't enjoy, but there are a few forgettable ones as well. The bulk of the disc deals with searing, screaming-high frequency drenched noise with a metallic sheen. The sound almost is a little digital but doesn't really detract at all from the overall power of the recording.
"Learning to Breathe" opens Icon with a heaving, pulsating classic power electronics F/I/T/H style as it digs under the skin, to a place where Mike can operate, and truly gain access to your vitals. Once there he presents "Of Rape and Rapture" which is a solid track, but I'm not much of a fan of it's digital style sound, just a bit tinny and weak to me. Although it's not bad it is the lowest point on the album, but it doesn't last long and once it's over we're on the really good stuff.
"Written in Her Own Blood MK. II" is another great track of dense layered static and drones with screams mixed in the background as well as scathing vocals placed at the front of the mix. The drones are creeping, shifting and undulating, not rhythmic at all, which almost makes this sound more like "loud ambient noise" then power electronics, a unique feel. This description applies to several of the tracks here though, even the following "Fissures in the Lining" which has some alternating noise frequencies in the background along with a more metallic, phased feel to create a very subtle slow alternating rhythm in the background.
Not to be ignored are the concepts here, I love the song titles, all are well thought out, and some are just downright cryptic or even profound. Unfortunately there are no lyrics in included with the release, but I'd be very interested in reading more of what Mike has to say because religion is a pervading theme in F/I/T/H's work.
F/I/T/H also throws in a few surprises this time around the first with "Retreat" which is perhaps one the most original track here. Slamming you upside the head with what sounds like an extremely loud alarm going off it's like a futuristic bulldozer plowing bodies into a mass grave. Glassy textured noise swirls around the rhythmic center that flails and seizures like it's on fire. After a slightly weaker track "Speaking in Severed Tongues" which although it misses the mark a little bit, mixes together some varied elements in an interesting way, we are exposed to the brutality that is "Your Scars" which is based around a vocal loop of pure screaming, but is a blistering inferno of churning destruction, my only qualm is that I wish it lasted a bit longer.
"Intravenous Incendiary Device" opens the space up a little more with some nice industrial drones and atmospheres leading into dynamic noisy and experimental layers that weave in and out of each other. For the first couple listens I felt the album was a bit static, but after going in deeper I find that the variation of sounds and atmospheres here, combined with the very intelligent compositions and sound arrangements really make Icon and album that can be revisited with layers that are peeled back to expose new ideas and details that were missed before.
"Father Knows Best" opens with another Jim Jones quote (he was featured before on You Too Shall Burn) which isn't mixed very well because it's just about the loudest fucking thing on the album, but it leads into another washed out wall of alternating noise. We are then taken for one last PE hoorah with "Sewn Shut [Torn Open]" a more chunky skittering sound accompanied by vocals and led into the outro track "The Least of Our Errors" taking a slightly more subdued turn and instating a collage-like composition structure, similar to "Speaking in Severed Tongues."
Icon is an album that succeeds on almost every level, deep subjects explored tastefully, scathing and detailed compositions competently designed to be enjoyed over repeated listens, a cohesive production and mastering job that hits where it needs to, and all this encased in classy packaging that includes embossed artwork on a fancy digipak with exceptional and succinct offensive artwork.
I/CON is the album, released in 2007 under the flag of Autarkeia. It is one more promenade through the darker side of human, non dividably linked with religion by power electronics artist from USA Michael Page. The album (in becoming a standard of Autarkeia golden CD) lasts for 45 minutes and is packed in nice, gray digipack with messiah or disease, or cursed one, whatever, I mean Jesus, on the cover. Inside of digipack - the nun with blood, running from her eyes, sitting in the bed. And here the grotesque, brought by F/I/T/H begins. From the very first minute - it is powerful and brutal charge, detonating explosives of hate straight to the ears and brains. It would be very interesting to read the lyrics of the album, but there are none and one needs to try to catch fragments of vocal of Michael Page under heavy effects in order to understand some words. Anyways, there are places where vocal is clearly heard through all the noise. The sound of album - "hard" and strict. Somehow the word "diamond" sits on the edge of a tongue. Sharp and cutting almost through the whole album. Songs varies from conditionally calm pieces with drone'ish elements to outbursts of aggression, to complete impassable dismal. Together with the constantly changing effects on vocal, this conditional change of mood creates one "piercing through" state. I don't think there is a need to write about all the pieces separately - each and every of them is in one's own way interesting and different, with huge amount of sound layers and the same sick and dark mood. Despite these and the fact, that there is almost no rhythm in the album, apart from few pulsating drone'ish/noise'ish sounds, this is no chaos. The overall sound does not irritate or dispel. Sometimes during this album I'm catching myself straying from analyzing words or sounds, somewhere deeper. To take a walk through my thoughts or simply buoy in thoughtless space, by that opening the path for Fire In The Head to fire his intentions straight to the head and unconscious mind and letting him do with me whatever he wants. And still... I'm cutting and cutting the title of the album. I/CON - I CONtrol ? Through ICON? Let it be my nonsense talking without any base, but by this album, the feeling is just that. I simply could not review this album clearly soundwise or technically - it is something else. Those who have heard it, will understand, for the others - there is no need to try to describe. Well, how could you describe "bitterness" to the person who does not understand it. By biological processes? No, I'm not doing that.
From Dead Angel:
The latest release from FITH (on the Lithuanian label Autarkeia, limited to 500 copies) is an obsessive exploration of religion as mental illness by way of harsh, grinding power electronics and processed voices. Eleven tracks of hallucinatory sandstorm electroviolence pave the way for a vision of religous mania as its own special form of hell, and while the intensity of attack varies -- from the brooding, near-ambient wind-tunnel drone of tracks like "Written in Her Own Blood Mk. II" and "Fissures in the Lining" to more forbidding exercises in earhurt like "Speaking in Severed Tongues" and the swooping, dive-bombing drones of "Intravenous Incendiary Device" -- the full-on commitment to complete audio dread never does. This is scary-sounding stuff, made even more frightening by the addition of frightening vocal snippets and dense layers of chaotic sound. The cumulative effect is even more forbidding in light of the fact that, unlike many harsh-noise acts, the attack is not constantly full-on; rather, there are long stretches of brooding, dark-ambient noise that occasionally burst into explosions of noise shrapnel and overmodulated grind, creating a paranoid atmosphere in which the listener is constantly waiting for rising jolts of terror that arrive at the most unexpected moments. The result is paranoia incarnate, a bad trip of epic proportions. The disc comes in an elegant three-panel digipak that folds out to reveal some truly disturbing artwork entirely appropriate to the religious theme.
From Heathen Harvest:
Fuck religion. I have no time for that shit in my life. The belief of, and in the worship of, a God or Gods is laughable at best. Anyone who believes in that crap needs their heads examining. If anything can fuck up a weak willed susceptible person its religion. Just look at the nut cases in America and Iraq for proof if you need it. Wars have always been created in the name of religion. Millions have died. Billions more than likely. Many more will surely follow. Holocausts in the name of religion never die out of fashion. They just take on a different name and faith. All in keeping with our self interest motives to wipe each other off the face of the planet. Ever since the first concept of a God was written down or spoken about man has gone out of his way to use religion as a valid reason to kill and conquer. Its Gods will don’t you know. Only whose God is the one true God has never been properly decided. There’s a lot of fuckers out there who have got it totally wrong otherwise. But of course no-one is admitting to that. That would become one less reason or excuse to decimate people if everyone believed in the same God. Even normal, everyday, peace loving people eventually turn to religion. It offers them a hope for the future. A buy out clause in effect. Old people turn to it in their droves because they fear that when they die their useless, utterly forgettable, lives will have all been in vain. Check out all the old crusty cunts going into church on a Sunday morning and see what I mean. Dressed in their fine refinery, like the choice of clothing is that fucking important, they sit on wooden benches singing shit old age songs with a gusto whilst throwing tons of money into the, always, proffered silver plate or wooden box. Imagery is everything. There’s money to be made out of religion and don’t we know it. All this praising this and that all for a happy hereafter where they can sit at the table with God. Repent your sins and the rewards are great. Give all your money to the church and your rewards will be greater still. Or so they think. Pathetic fuckers one and all. But then who am I to knock these people? Everyone is entitled to their believes and I to mine. If they are correct then I’m the one booked onto the expressway to Hell already for writing this opening paragraph. God does not exist. He / she / it never has. Please all go and smell the fucking coffee for once.
How nice to find that the latest release from F/I/T/H is based around
religion. The last time I managed to vent my spleen on the subject was over an atrocious piece of fundamentalist Christian Industrial music, as bad as it sounds, that I got sent into review a long time back for another website. Boy that was fun rattling those cunts cage. So shit was it that I can’t even recall the acts name. A blessing best kept buried. Unlike ‘I/CON’ which should be on the national curriculum of all schools worldwide to stop our next generation falling into the religious mind traps set by the priests, clerics and clergy in general. This latest, and as ever damn essential, piece of music recorded by, your friend and mine, Michael Page has to be heard to be believed. Taking the stand that religion is, in many ways, a festering disease that corrupts and leads to pathological problems the eleven tracks and 45+ minutes of voracious sounds nails religion to the cross marked ‘contemptible liars’. Those of you who don’t believe that religion can adversely effect the mind obviously don’t remember how many cases have come to court where the accused uses the classic ‘God told me to do it’ as a get out clause. Brainwashing. That’s what religion is good at. Manipulation through the Bible, Koran, The Tanakh and, even, the Buddhist Bible…now there was as guy who ate all the pies. By reading into these different tomes of religious guff a meaning to an end can be sought to suits their needs. ‘I/CON’ reflects the destructive power that is inflicted upon an individual all in the name of religion. This being a F/I/T/H release means of course that the path to enlightenment is a torturous affair to reflect the psychological impact that religion can impose upon the mind and will. ‘I/CON’ mixes dark and heavy Industrial and Power electronics music, with fleeting noise elements, to throw the listener into the claustrophobic paranoia and screams of redemption from a corrupted body. At the heart of this ball busting piece of music is the verbal assaults, suitably altered and manipulated, to represent the screams of torment of free thought fighting and rallying against the shit it has been force fed since childhood. As a veritable hurricane of sounds surrounds the ears your gut reacts to the wails and painful vocal delivery and your blood pressure increases in tune to the music as your heart squeezes tightly into a knot. The music is as thick as tar and densely laired giving you this crushing oppressive sense of utter disillusionment and despair. After listening to I/CON you might just think those Norwegian church burning wankers had the right idea after all. Even though they did their acts for a different reason altogether
Having reviewed, and listened, to so many F/I/T/H releases it becomes difficult to mark out which is the best recording Michael has ever produced. Each one represents a different stage in his artistic development and as such they are all superb in their own right. ‘I/CON’ typifies this. A spellbinding recording that tackles a topical subject in a way that only he can produce. ‘I/CON’ is the anti crusade. A fight against all that is so wrong with religion as a whole. For once this is a crusade worth joining and standing up for. Sign up now whilst you still have the chance. Give me that old time religion. Go fuck yourself.
I/CON is a limited to 500 copies only release. Housed in nicely presented digi-pack the inside cover panels features a rather fetching picture of a nun covered in blood, the old stigmata blues, whilst the central panel includes said bleeding tart surrounded by a halo of thorns. Iconic and ironic all at once. Bad taste has never been so good.