Release year: 2021
Label: Steinklang Industries
You could be forgiven for mistaking Rottenverse for a black metal or death metal album at a quick glance. The logo certainly looks like it could belong to an extreme metal band. And whilst this is extreme music, decidedly so, metal is not what this is.
Industrial noise and power electronics are what German Bresthaft (who have connections to long-running power electronics project Flutwacht) are all about: dark, abrasive, disgusting and at times harsh walls of pulsating analogue synths, junk metal and enough audial grime to make the listener feel dirty.
Inhale the stench of rotten guts”, proclaims the inlay of the digipak. Adorned with dirty imagery, among others a picture of one of the members on a toilet floor with a plastic bag over their head, the tone of the album is set even before you pop it into the CD player. Urban decay, dehumanization, alienation, dejection, filth.
Bresthaft’s approach to industrial noise is a balanced mix between controlled noise and power electronics. There’s the occasional jab at more chaotic realms of harsh noise, but for the most part, Bresthaft keep things under control. There’s an element of structure here, even if nothing approximating traditional composition can be discerned; this never really degenerates into pure, uncontrolled and improvised harsh noise.
Some of the imagery – the aforementioned plastic bag photo and the picture of a toilet bowl on the disc itself – bring to mind Finnish masters of ultra-filthy harsh noise and power electronics, Bizarre Uproar, but in a more tempered form. Bresthaft peddle in dirt, decay and degradation, but do not go to the same extremes. The same, I feel, can be applied to the music: Rottenverse sounds dirty and abrasive, a constant layer of ugly distortion covering everything like a layer of caked, crusted blood; but still, there’s more sense of restraint here. Even at its noisiest, such as on the junk metal abuse based Suffocate, Bresthaft keep things under control.
To be sure, a track like Toilet Fix Boy does get pretty explicit with its imagery; describing in revolting detail a scene of a degenerate shooting up heroin mixed with toilet water, combined with a migraine-inducing constant high-pitched whine, the track is certainly as graphic and visceral as they come. But that’s a lone outlier: for the most part, even the vocals are buried under layers of distortion, making them hard to discern. This makes the music more abstract, but not any less effective. The vocals spew for hatred with such venom, that the misanthropic intent cannot be mistaken even if the words are not understood.
Rottenverse isn’t so much about violence and gore; there’s the threat of violence on the album, but it remains on that level. It’s like an unnerving descent into the public restrooms of subway stations, dark alleways of unsavoury neighborhoods and the cellars of abandoned, derelict houses, where the outcasts and unwanted live in their own muck and filth. It paints scenes of utter abandondment and dejection, with a constant background throb of desperation, where apathy has already overcome the need for action.
As far as power electronics and industrial noise goes, Bresthaft aren’t on the most extreme edge. There are acts out there that take both the music and the imagery to greater extremes. But, as I’ve said before, inherently these styles of music are pretty damn extreme. And as such, so is Bresthaft.
Rottenverse is a convincingly bleak, misanthropic and ugly piece of abrasive electronics. Dripping with distaste, hatred and contempt, reeking of rot and piss, the album is certainly recommended listening for fans of filthy power electronics.
Visit Bresthaft on Bandcamp