Death runes and poison snow

TOTENRUNE/SARIN SNOW: श्रवो अक्षितम् / Κλέος Άφθιτον

Release year: 2022
Label: Novichok

This split 7″ with the unwieldly title of श्रवो अक्षितम् / Κλέος Άφθιτον, first part in Hindi (I assume) and the latter in Greek, presents two tracks of uncompromising, abrasive power electronics and industrial noise, the A-side by Australian Totenrune and the flipside by Sarin Snow from the US.

Now, as to what the track titles mean… no idea. It’s all Hebrew to me. With that mandatory pun out of the way, let’s focus on the music. And, let me tell ya, though the playtime of the 7″ is limited, as tends to be the case with the format, there’s plenty to talk about here.

Starting with the A-side, which would seem to make sense: Totenrune offer what is essentially pretty standard, straightforward harsh power electronics. Rumbling low-end and hissing, buzzing static, the moaning sound of tortured metal. It’s nothing you haven’t heard before stylistically, but that doesn’t lessen it’s value: the A-side is a prime slice of static power electronics slash harsh noise. There’s not so much structure and progression here; rather, it’s the slowly shifting, evolving groaning of tired, worn-out metal giving in under stress. Covered in layers of rust, corrosion and broken equipment, Totenrune’s offering is nasty, dirty, abrasive and confrontational. Ugly fucking stuff, in the best possible sense of the words.

On the other side, Sarin Snow take a very different, but in no way less extreme approach to abrasive industrial noise. With percussive elements being very prominent, the B-side offers a far more dynamic and structured track. The percussion provides a backbone, over which what sounds like effect-laden metal sheets and a piercing, whining feedback add violence and an atmosphere of oppression. Compared to the rather straightforward decay of the A-side, the B-side offers torturous, haunting imagery of secret proceedings in ancient temples. And yet, it is no less extreme than the A-side.

Both Totenrune and Sarin Snow leave a positive impression with this 7″. With sufficient stylistic variation between the sides, both come across as having a definite character of their own. Totenrune’s grimy power electronics might be traditional, but it is also quite impressive. Sarin Snow’s approach is somewhat less conventional, but still highly effective. Qualitywise, the pairing is equal.

Apparently, a unifying theme of both tracks is – to quote the label’s promotional text – “blood, sacrifice, and death found in ancient sources”; with the track names referring to India and Greece, it’s of course easy to discern a context of the ancient warrior traditions and their mysterious death cults. With both tracks being entirely instrumental, the exact details left to the listener to interpret. But a safe bet is that neither project aimed for the epic, heroic and glorious alone: there is more than an undercurrent of darkness, blood and violence here. But as the insert states, “Only in the middle of death does everlasting life shine” – perhaps it is just the seeming contradiction of life through death, glory through the grim reality of violence, that is the blood-red current of this split.

Whatever the case be, this rather lo-fi looking and sounding release is a prime cut of extreme, but still atmospheric and evocative harsh industrial noise. As is the nature of the format and the genre, there is a lot about this release that is obscure, from the almost total lack of web presence perhaps even to where you can easily get your hands on it (considering it’s sold out from the label). But let me assure, it’s worth a little bit of effort to do so.

Visit Novichok’s website.

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