More ambient/noise at Ave Noctum? Indeed. At first unlikely bedfellows, the more you think on it, the smaller the step between a great deal of the atmospheric/depressive black metal and true dark ambient/noise. In fact when you think of artists like Gnaw Their Tongues or From The Bogs Of Aughiska is there even a step? I had my interest in this area stimulated by Inade’s bleak ‘Alderbaran’, Lustmord’s terrifying ‘Heresy’ and Black Mountain Transmitter’s unsettling ‘Black Goat Of The Woods’. The notion of music and noise with a structure other than that of the traditional (or even avant-garde) song seemed to fill a gap in my library and a need in my mind.
That’s the thing: Ambient speaks, shrieks and whispers directly to your imagination and despite whatever the PR sheet says encourages you to simply allow it to create a world your mind and a space for that to breathe based only on the titles sometimes, or the location of the recording if done in the field.
The guy bringing us Gog is Michael Bjella and he apparently recorded this in a 19th Century blacksmiths where family members had worked, a foundation and focus for his political intentions for the album about industrialisation, slavery to capitalism and the erosion of the myth of the American dream.
This is indeed a fairly relentless and bleak piece: Metal on metal pounding over a grey blanket sound, the feel of sweat and of tired flesh working beyond its limits. It’s music that offers no impression of reward for this toil, no pride, just the wearing down of the artisan to a single, tied and isolated sound as the implacable sound of the drone finally swallows even that by the final piece ‘Draw My Strength From You’.
It begins though with ‘1870-1906’, an almost melodic keyboard drone and piano over white noise and the insistent, rapid and productive light hammering. It almost approaches post rock in sound, a pre-dustbowl era sound that is quite captivating, oddly breathless, involving before the mechanistic darkness of ‘Tasks Which Destroy Body And Soul’ arrives. The melody is gone, the screech of metal and machine replacing it, odd single syllable sounds which might be vocals punctuating the noise like the slave-master beating out the pace. Craft replaced by production line perhaps, cacophony over melody. ‘God Says To Love You In Chains’ is the strangled cries of someone distant as the sound and eventually the patter of the machine closes over them. ‘A Promised Eternity Fulfilled With Cancer’ a bitter mourning. ‘Into Her, She Carved The Word Empty’ a hollowed out sound of things left behind.
This isn’t an aggressive album, not really. Its power is more in the way it suggests the inevitable and the relentless assimilation of individuality into a grey machine. The slow crushing of something more organic to lubricate the meshed wheels. I dunno, maybe I’m off the beam and too much in my own head (or, yes, up my own arse). But after all that it’s where the music takes me so it’s my truth at least. And it is fine work, too, with something real to say.