gruntsplatter-the-death-fires“The Death Fires” CD – Crowd Control Activities (2000)

5/5 – The personalization of Post-Apocalyptic Noise Grind: Gruntsplatter specialize in a form of power electronics ambience distinguished by roiling, turbulent sonic vehemence that rises from the center of the earth to a speaker rumbling perch overlooking the blasted, post-apocalyptic terrain. Always a step ahead, though, Scott Candey, the one man force behind Gruntsplatter, as well as head of the Crionic Mind label and Worm Gear magazine, has taken the foundation forged on cataclysmic ideals, and added a distinctly human element. I’ve read that Scott utilized personal loss in the construction of some of the music on The Death Fires. This key emotional element lends even more depth to an already multi-layered decimation of the earth. Not only is the earth drowning in the destructive forces that Scott unleashes, but now there are atmospheric textures and disparate tones that lie underneath, subtly signifying anger, denial, and melancholy. The mutated, corrosive, and wholly indistinguishable vocal loop that runs through “Against The Dying Of The Light,” as beaten on with feedback and fury, seems almost an exercise in frustration, an inability to help, a patchwork of incapacitation in a situation that demands response. “Struggling To Breathe” is drenched in contemplative tides brimming with increased distortion as the track progresses. Scott’s willingness to explore the inner landscape of torment and despair is featured here, as the thick, oppressive noise is like a straightjacket, forcing him to stay focused throughout the tenuous emotional venture. The subterranean fires that singe “The Resonant Soil” tonally highlight the shift the music has taken during The Death Fires eleven tracks, from day of apocalypse, to night; from a life lived, to the moment of sunset, the cooling embers crackling ominously, the moment before death takes one’s hand. For music intent on swallowing the earth, the scope of what Scott has accomplished here, in giving it heart and soul, is nothing less than astonishing. How else could one explain how this ‘roiling, turbulent sonic vehemence’ could also be described as, quite simply, beautiful? Inspiring work from a major force within the realm of dark, sonic expression. – JC Smith

8/10 – More excellent dark ambient power electronics from Gruntsplatter. There’s fantastic symmetry between harsh textures, grating feedback, and soothing undertones. Brief interludes of tonal synthesizers or vague notes (piano, etc.) add dynamics and tangible musical qualities at times. The use of seamless loops to create rhythm and movement is displayed well. “The Creeping Things” ends with great ambient sweeps that convey true feeling, very rare for a noise recording. Another outstanding track is “Struggling to Breathe”, where a bass heavy vibe creates infinite depth. The track titles really add dimension and direction to songs like “Against the Dying of the Light”, “Below the Stones”, etc. Again the layout is printed very dark, a perfect representation of the sounds within. Gruntsplatter is definitely creating some of the most thoughtful and well performed electronic noise of present. This comes highly recommend as some of the best in the genre.
[Notable tracks: Access the Blood, The Creeping Things, Against the Dying of the Light, Below the Stones]

Watching this group’s evolution from the early split CD releases has been an intriguing and rewarding endevour when considering the quality of his debut full length CD. Promise was definitely shown on the early split CD’s, further enhanced on the 7″ of last year, now amalgamating all experience in a coercive whole, to create an album that I knew they would eventually produce. While some of the earlier recordings were slightly marred by elements of lo-fi and muffled production, the digitized medium of this release has brought everything to the fore, and was mastered impeccably by one Thomas Dimuzio. While the tones of many of the noise layers are reasonably harsh and scathing the production has purposefully blunted the razor edge to create a deceptively ambient air – other wise described as “noise ambient”. Seething furnace fumes permeate “Black Toothed Mortality” along with a sparse keyboard tune, introducing a new and very positive elements into the Gruntsplatter sound. Probing, high pitched squeals introduce “Access The Blood” and waver in view throughout while crunchy sub-base textures grind away at the flesh of your inner ear. The bone grinding machinery is certainly cranked to full swing for “Against The Dying of the Light”, mixing the chaotic with a system of repetition. Crispy static loops and speaker imploding bass work particularly well in storming unison on “Fearbiter” as elements are added and subtracted from the mix at various points. As Spacious and drawn out “Struggling To Breathe” is it still contains a feeling of finite audible space, gradually closing in and engulfing the room in heavy ashen air. With the forcefullness of many of the preceding tracks the minimalist construction of “Below The Stones” provides an opportunity for a more detailed exploration of textural subtlety (including mournful drawn out chants), ensuring this is one of my favorite pieces on the disc. Comparisons could be made to the greats of the death industrial genre such as Brighter Death Now (such as the drawn out moments on the “Great Death” series); yet while BDN has a very European sound, I feel that Gruntsplatter has a very American flavour, matching up with the sounds beingfiery and suffocating mental imagery. Finally the cover art matches the atmosphere perfectly, in that the images are melded into a dark background, akin to being covered in black soot and ash.

Gruntsplatter’s is a one man project by the man behind the San Francisco label Crionic Mind. It is also one of the most talked about new dark industrial band from America. “The Death Fires” is its first full length CD, and the first chance to get an idea of the project’s music without having to dig for limited releases. Gruntsplatter sounds is very slow but don’t forget to evolve. Made of drones, distant noises and distorted soundscapes, it’s very oppressive but doesn’t have the repetitive side of more power electronics acts. To compare it with another recent good dark industrial CD, it’s heavier and darker than Heid’s Arktogäa but is maybe less flowing. An intensive amount of saturation is used, but without making the music sound chaotic. On certain songs, like the opening “Black Toothed Mortality”, some melodic tunes are played to reinforce the sad aspect of the CD. Atmospheric without being background-ish, “The Death Fires” are heavy and imposing. The songs are diverse enough, so you don’t get bored and the listening of the CD gets very enjoyable. Some tracks, like the very good “Against the Dying of Light” will bury you till you suffocate, while some other, like “The Resonant Soil” feature a very light tribal aspect in the way their noises are arranged in loops. The album is very well done, and you clearly hear that the man already has several other releases behind him. Potentially reminding of some other important acts (like the least aggressive moments of Stratum Terror or some Archon Satani), Gruntsplatter proves to be a name to keep in mind when you speak about very dark current industrial acts. – Nicolas

Even though this is basically a debut in the sense that it’s Gruntsplatter’s first full-length CD, the project has been around since early ’95. After a series of split releases, a 7″ on Troniks and numerous compilation appearances, Scott Candey has found a home on Crowd Control Activities. A lengthy hour of dense, haunting compositions, The Death Fires resides somewhere on the noisier side of dark ambient. The song titles reflect morbid themes that are inextricably tied to the project, with the ominous music becoming a perfect soundtrack to the death and darkness. It’s a conceptual undertaking. Textural sounds and drones flow in thick swells. Melody is faintly whispered, rhythm forgotten. It’s very subtle, almost minimal in approach, but the uncompromised effect Candey has achieved with this CD is extremely powerful. This is an intense listen; by the time it’s done I’m almost compelled to turn to something light and poppy as an antidote to the gloom. Gruntsplatter’s arrangement with Crowd Control has future CDs on the horizon, and The Death Fires provides them with a difficult act to follow.

‘The Death Fires’ is the first full-length album from Gruntsplatter after various split and compilation releases. Gruntsplatter’s sound incorporates dark ambience with piercing frequencies and washed noise with lowly set rhythms which all help produce a terrifyingly bleak glimpse into death industrial. The whole atmosphere of the CD is a one of nightmare washed realm in which a primitive driving forces of pain and isolation are prominent. Unsettling soundscapes of electronics tear from the speakers in a deafening slow pace which engulfs you into the living darkness that the tracks possess, without offering much in the way of a reward for the primal experience it bestowed on you. A dark and intensely noise ridden release that that will appeal the very dark at heart.

I was psyched to receive this disc, as I had heard a couple of Gruntsplatter compositions on different comps and they were always among the best. The brain-child of one Scott Candey and it fits loosely into the ‘dark ambient’ category, with each track more of a sonic tapestry than a traditional song. The only band I’ve reviewed in recent months even remotely similar to Gruntsplatter is Inanna and I’m pleased to say that The Death Fires is just as good, if not better. Trying to describe music like this is difficult, as it needs to be experienced. Unlike pop music, where the listener is generally presented with whatever emotion the songwriter is trying to get across, Gruntsplatter aren’t as blatant. Here, the emotions and images are evoked from within, exciting the listener’s imagination rather than dulling it. The sounds utilized on the various cuts are generally dark and obscure, with some wind-like sounds dominating most of the album. The sheer variety is impressive, yet the album never loses its cohesiveness. There is a great deal of noise here, too, but it is a subdued, brooding type of noise, not the chaotic brutality of power electronics. The overall effect is rather calming, despite the subtly disturbing undertone of the whole album. An atmosphere of gray death, a lonely vigil at a forgotten sepulcher. That’s what I got from my first couple of listens anyway. I’m sure others will have a completely different interpretation, which is the beauty of this album. Having tried my hand at music along these lines myself, I know just how difficult it is to do it well (I haven’t quite got there yet myself). What may seem like simple noise to the casual listener is actually very well thought-out sound placement, with the various elements layered in just the right way to make it work as a whole. Another winner from Crowd Control. [Daniel Hinds]

Dark image provoking Power Electronics with soundscapes devoted to misery, grief and an intolerable way of life. Thick bellowing lows and cascading waves of desperation, this paints a great picture for the end times that are to come.

Boy, oh boy is Scott Candey a busy man! This makes the second release to feature his work within the past two months. First, the Triage release, and now a brand new Gruntsplatter CD! Crowd Control Activities is proud to present THE DEATH FIRES, the first full length CD offering from Gruntsplatter on the label. Mixing elements of power electronics and death ambient into whirring, droning machines of the apocalypse, Scott Candey spins auditory webs of sound, which entangle the listener, holding you captive till the bleak and bitter end. As you would expect, Gruntsplatter’s THE DEATH FIRES comes highly recommended.

At long last, the full-length debut from San Francisco’s Gruntsplatter after a series of compilation appearances and split releases is an aural exploration of death and dying, a very personal look at the decay which eventually befalls us all. Strangely soothing at one moment and quite unsettling the next, “The Death Fires” is kind of a concept album of sorts, but don’t let that make you think of Yes or something equally nauseating. Rather, the concept is basically a personal journey with death, the thoughts and feelings of those close to death, the mourning of those who’ve passed, and visits with the ghosts of those whom Death has taken. From the calming synth lines of the opening “Black Toothed Mortality” to the death industrial rhythms of “Against The Dying Of The Light” to the subtle but ultimately overwhelming waves of sound on the disc’s closing piece, “The Resonant Soil,” this is noise intricate almost to the point of insanity; there’s so much boiling under the surface that even with several listens you’ll still hearing things you hadn’t heard before – voices almost wholly unrecognizable as human at times and at other times eerily similar to EVP recordings, Theremin- and Moog synthesizer-like phrases, horn-type passages, pseudo-percussive sounds floating in the miasma. This is creepy stuff, folks, but creepy with purpose and with intellect. The stunning melancholy of “When They Go,” the restlessness of “Waiting On The Body,” the looped strangeness of “Fearbiter,”… An excellent release overall. This together with the awesome “Pest Maiden” 7″ should definitely place GRUNTSPLATTER securely at the forefront of the noise scene. – Raúl

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