Power by noise

MASCHINENZIMMER 412: Macht Durch Stimme

Release year: 1988/2022
Label: Mechanik Cassettes/Cold Spring Records

Known better in the stylized form Mz. 412, Maschinenzimmer 412 is without doubt one of the more famous acts within the realm of industrial music, and certainly one of those with the largest crossover-appeal. Best known for their 90’s albums which combined dark, grim death industrial and black metal, one can certainly credit the Swedish act with widening the audience of noisy industrial music by quite a bit.

The act, led by the extremely prolific Henrik Nordvargr Björkk, he of a gazillion projects, carved their remarkable place in the annals of industrial music in the mid-90’s, from the 1995 album In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas Luciferi Excelsi onwards, but trace their history back all the way to the later part of the 80’s. Macht Durch Stimme is the group’s first release, and those familiar only with the later sound are in for a surprise.

Of course, it should come as no surprise that Mz. 412/Maschinenzimmer 412 did not emerge from the proverbial womb fully formed and matured. But when I first heard Macht Durch Stimme, it did come as a surprise to me how big the leap from the early material in the 80’s to the “second coming” was.

There’s no black metal here. Obviously, considering black metal as it became known in the early 90’s did not exist then. But there’s also no occult, satanic imagery here, no darkness, death or gloomy atmospheres. Mz. 412’s roots lie not in any kind of primordial death industrial, really, but in a far more old school industrial sound.

The sound of the album is surprisingly stripped-down and understated. Often driven by rhythmic metallic elements and ample amounts of percussion, underneath these are sparse layers of looped, metallic jarring noises, clanking and rattling. Hell, I find myself thinking of early Einstürzende Neubauten from time to time. Definitely more of that school of industrial than early power electronics or death industrial, at any rate.

It can safely be said that between this early material and the mid-90’s material, Mz. 412 did a lot of evolving, growing and maturing. Fans of the latter “trademark” sound may well be put off or even disappointed by the stripped-down approach and rather clean sound of Macht Durch Stimme. Had Mz. 412 not become what they became, I doubt there would ever have been much fuss about them. Because, honestly, there’s nothing particularly captivating here, and no strong individual character.

The previous re-release of this album was 14 years ago, so from that viewpoint Cold Spring’s new edition justifies its existence. And though it isn’t a “forgotten gem” from the project’s early years, it does provide an interesting insight to where the Swedes came from.

So this is something for the more archaeologically oriented Mz. 412 fans, who want to discover the prehistory of the black industrial legends. And, sure, fans of old school industrial in general will probably like this too. Just be warned, that if you’re hankering for some prime occult black industrial… this ain’t it.

Visit Mz. 412 on Nordvargr’s website, their Bandcamp or Facebook

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