A batch of discs turned up and I was immediately drawn towards Process Of Guilt from Portugal having heard of them before and been intrigued about giving them a proper listen as they are described as a mixture of doom, post and industrial metal. Having put out 3 albums prior to this one along with compilations and splits with the likes of Caïna and Rorcal I couldn’t wait to press play and when I did everything got rather strange and surreal. With the haranguing clamour of first track ‘(No) Shelter’ grimly belting out at me the otherwise cloudy sky turned a rusty shade of orange, the winds picked up, things started to fly across the sky outside my window (plastic bags, leaves, bits of tree, balloons, birds flying in the wrong direction and the occasional small child) and I wondered just what the hell was going on? Had Process Of Guilt conjured up the apocalypse, it certainly felt like it and I was not sure if lunging for the stereo and turning them off and hiding under a table was the best course of action. Nope I battened down the hatches, took some pictures of what was going on outside and hung on for dear life. In reality playing this had coincided with the sudden arrival of storm Ophelia but combined with the music and the name of that track it was kind of like they had set about turning the earth a very strange shade of colour even if it was orange and not black.
Thankfully repeated plays have not had this phenomena recurring although apparently storm Brian (He’s not a storm He’s a very naughty boy! Now, piss off!) is on the way and it’s bound to turn up whilst I am listening again but let’s get to the task at hand before it does.
What we get here are five lengthy, dense and windswept tracks that bounce and bruise away with a rugged grit and determination about them. There’s a bit of a Neurosian heft about things and vocalist Hugo Santos barks away as the jagged musical onslaught surges around him. There are some wrought out elongated notes stretched to breaking point in the slower moments and there is certainly industrialised wreckage about the overall tone. I think it is fair to say Godflesh are a serious reference point here and this becomes even more evident as things continue. Although not quite as embittered there is a definite vibe belonging to great albums such as Streetcleaner hanging over this. The doomier sludgy parts are just as hefty as when the band are chugging at full speed and machinery is being flung about and there truly is little in the way of shelter given here. As the vociferous yells of “your icons are gone” tumble out it’s very much a case of ‘No Gods No Masters’ in a crusty embittered way. Momentous tribal bombast makes its mark around ‘Feral Ground’ and the earth shakes, rattles and rolls in its devastating impact. Some gothic sounding arcane guitar textures make it all the more atmospheric and this is a high-impact musical quake. It’s left to the drums, slow guitar riffs and barking vocals to strip back things on ‘Servant’ and the result is powerful enough like this before everything else is marched out and expanded into the mainframe. The spirit of early Killing Joke and Amebix is all over the title-track a beast at almost 12 minutes long. It rears up and bites hard, drums thumping, guitars squealing and vocals continuing their distempered, hateful, angry assault. There’s something quite hypnotic about it all and it doesn’t need to be fast as it relentlessly crushes all in its path. It’s left to last track ‘Hoax’ to get its groove laden slow churning tempest on and finish off everything that’s still standing. It’s a suitably bleak finale and one that gives absolutely no doubt that any clean up operation is going to be near impossible when silence descends and any survivors stagger out to look upon the devastation that has been so solidly wrought.
So Black Earth has been well and truly worth weathering as far as I am concerned. Although the Godflesh worship going on is none to succinct the band do it very, very well and if you like them you are going to pretty much be in your element here.
(8/10 Pete Woods)