Warring on with Puissance

PUISSANCE: War On

Release year: 1999/2020
Label: Fluttering Dragon/SkullLine

In terms of martial industrial and martial neoclassical music, I think you can safely call Swedish Puissance pivotal. No, they weren’t the first to do this kind of music, but it seems to me that at the latest since the release of their third album, Mother Of Disease (1999), there’s scarcely a band in the martial scene who to some extent haven’t been influenced by the Swedish duo. Add to that related act Arditi (not forgetting Leidungr either), and you’ve got a pretty significant body of releases in terms of martial post-industrial music.

War On, originally released in 1999, is a compilation of remixed tracks culled from the early releases of Puissance. Where latter releases would see a sort of pop-tinged musical aesthetic creep in at least here and there, this is pure 90’s martial music with an extremely nihilistic and misanthropic outlook.

Graced with new cover artwork, German SkullLine’s re-release is a nice package featuring two exclusive bonus tracks in addition to the eight tracks of the original. As such, especially when considering that not all of the early releases of Puissance are in print currently, this is a great way to get some early essentials into one’s collection.

Though the age and era of the recordings can be heard from the music and the production, Puissance’s early material has aged gracefully. Yes, the sounds are obviously synthesized and the used sounds do not approximate real instruments anywhere as well as some modern synthesizers, VST’s and software do. However, Puissance do not allow this to be a limitation to themselves, but work with it to create anthems of martial, neoclassical post-industrial nihilism from which the organic element has been diminished. A track like Light Of A Dead Sun with its sampled choirs, or Erlangen with its orchestral stabs, sounds positively apocalyptic in part due to the artifical nature of the sounds used.

Often dominated by militant, driving percussion, apocalyptic choirs and dramatic stabs of strings, Puissance’s music is bleak and, looking to the future, offers little hope of salvation, redemption or even equilibrium. Occasional vocals, such as on standout track In Shining Armour, extolling the glory of a new, nuclear god, only underline the quintessential nihilism of the music. Unlike many artists in the martial field, Puissance is not about the glory of this or that cause, era or war, but preaches the gospel and glory of inevitable mass-scale demise.

There was a time around the turn of the millennium – at the time when this, and more importantly, Mother Of Disease were originally released – that Puissance seemed to be a sort of favourite non-metal project of a lot of people in the black metal scene. Of course, ties to and co-operation with acts such as Octinomos and Sorhin helped make Puissance known in black metal circles, and certainly the bleak, apocalyptic imagery met fertile ground. Back then, though, I didn’t really see what was so special about Puissance – in my mind, industrial music was meant to be noisy, abrasive and harsh; noise and power electronics, in other words. It took me some years, and more than one spin of Mother Of Disease, before I started to appreciate what Puissance strove to do – and achieved.

Since then, however, Puissance has remained a steady part of my musical diet, as well. In retrospect, I consider especially their earlier works to be some of the finer items in the vast body of Swedish 90’s neoclassical and post-industrial music, along with Ordo Equilibrio/Ordo Rosarius Equilibrio. War On is a fine reminder of just how good, just how evocatively apocalyptic, and just how inspirational Puissance were back then. There is a form of brutality here, not in the music, but in the crushing conviction of the bleakness they paint.

Especially if you don’t own the releases Puissance put out in the 90’s, and probably even if you do, this is a nigh-on essential addition to your collection.

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