Searching for death

IN SEARCH OF DEATH: II

Release year: 2022
Label: Steinklang Industries

In the wide, amorphous and ambiguous field of all things industrial and post-industrial, it’s often a venture doomed to failure to attempt to pinpoint too exactly what niché an artist falls into. Where for outsiders most everything will likely sound the same – “But this is just noise! There’s no melody here!” and what have you – when you start immersing yourself into the field of industrial, the impossibility of pigeonholing becomes all too apparent.

Belgian In Search Of Death is case in point. I’ve seen them labelled as old school industrial, as dark ambient, as death industrial and probably quite a few other tags as well. But as anyone in the know will know, depending on how you define each, these can be highly contradictory descriptors.

So what is In Search Of Death then?

Well, it’s industrial music. With tones of dark, foreboding ambience. And whilst it’s certainly unmelodic and focuses on mechanized sounds rather than on conventional instrumentation, it’s not particularly harsh or abrasive. Of course, I’ll add my usual disclaimer here: by definition, any kind of noisier industrial is pretty harsh comparing to just about anything else.

If I had to choose one tag, I’d probably go for death industrial. If for no other reason, then because after listening to II, I had a strong urge to spin some Brighter Death Now. And that right there is a pretty strong indicator, right? But joking aside, the album’s sound, which relies on buzzing, humming, throbbing and droning synths, cold metallic percussion and the occasional moment of disturbingly harmonious sweeping synths – disturbing in how it contrasts the more eerie, foreboding elements – is too “active” to be dubbed dark ambient, but far from the abrasiveness or aggression of bona fide industrial noise.

But ultimately, what’s the point in fixating on whether music like this is of this or that sub-subgenre? None. Suffice to say, II is an album of eerie forebodings, an unnamable darkness on the horizon, those nightmares that can’t be put into words, and a claustrophobic fear of… something. Death? Destruction? You decide.

An interesting element on the album, which to a great extent disrupts the dark industrial atmospheres, are the plentiful excerpts of old (WWII era?) German march music and speeches. Pieces of pompous, belligerent and fiercely patriotic pathos are interlaced with nihilistic, inorganic industrial. This creates a tension, especially as some of the lyrics of those old marches seem controversial to put it mildly. How to interpret them? Certainly not as endorsements, I would say. Instead, to me at least, the tension creates a juxtaposition: heroic odes to soldiers marching off, to which the artists responds, in a way, with cold, nihilistic soundscapes of death that negate achievement and heroism. In the end, all that iron youth marching off to war – end up as corpses under white crosses, all their dreams and aspirations reduced to nothing. For nothing.

It is this bleakness and nihilistic nullification of life’s value that to me characterises the album. II’s soundscapes emanate the futility of life when faced with the certainty of death. It’s not an album of losing courage in the face of death, or of giving up, but an album that confronts the listener with the fleeting, futile nature of life when faced with the eternity of death. Stating a fact.

Recorded in the early 2000’s, but released only now with mastering done by Peter Anderson of Raison d’Etre, II does not come across as outdated or antiquated. The sound is quite clear and crisp – personally, I wouldn’t mind a little more filth in the mix – and especially the metallic percussion sound at times massive. Stylistically, this kind of industrial is pretty much timeless: it could be from any past decade, or from this year.

And qualitywise, which ultimately is the one thing that matters, II certainly is worth releasing even after such a long time. It’s perhaps not a coming classic of the genre, but definitely an album fans of darkly atmospheric, old school industrial should check out.

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