Review Summary: An album that creates a void of unpleasantness few have the strength to suffer through. While less intentionally abrasive sounding than acts like Whitehouse or Merzbow, Innerwar carries an overwhelmingly oppressive atmosphere few can rival.
Brighter Death Now is the brainchild of Roger Karmanik, the intellectual deviant also responsible for the excellent but oft maligned Cold Meat Industry record label. For those not familiar with CMI, they are a Swedish label specializing in sonic art of the highest and darkest order. Dark ambient, Death Industrial and Neo/Apocalyptic Folk call CMI home, and those of us with a taste for audio sado-masochism each occupy our own section of blood-drenched squalor right alongside them. Mr. Karmanik’s bastard spawn fall at the Power Electronic/Death Industrial end of the CMI spectrum. “Innerwar” was my first true exposure to music of this nature and even though I am now familiar with acts such as Deutsch Nepal and IRM, similar sonically to BDN, this release remains one of unrivaled horror on my playlist.
Honestly, I thought I had found the end of the musical black hole when I first heard “Innerwar”. I was already a lost cause to most of the musical world. I had spent years wallowing in the misanthropic depths of Black Metal and I loved the cavernous and introspective soundscapes of Dark Ambient. But while both of these genres remain unabashed favourites, nay essential to my ability to enjoy life, I had an insatiable urge to hear something even more gruesome and unsettling. Well boys and girls, with this album, I found it! This is a primal scream of almost unbearable evil; a pure sonic representation of man’s most despicable impulses.
The sound is composed primarily of harsh, pulsing static and heavily distorted mechanized throbbing. While there is no clear “bass” or “percussion” so to speak, the album retains a clear rhythmic feel. This allows it to still feel like a cohesive musical entity rather than just a wall of Merzbow-clone noisiness. Vocals, and I use the term loosely here, play a key complimentary role to the sonic attack evoked the musical elements by allowing us as listeners to discern between several different states of human horror. These are: the realization of the loss of control, the acceptance of the psychotic break and the acknowledgment and reflection of the human atrocity.
The first stage is evidenced by the opening minutes of the album; a wavering hum of feedback over which is played a loop of a man plainly stating:
“I have got to keep myself together, I’ve got to stay calm, I’ve got to keep my presence of mind, because as long as I do that, I’m going to be good-“
It is important to note that “Good” in the above passage is chopped off before the word is completely finished, which indicates the inevitable collapse of the individual’s capacity for reason. Stage 2 is represented numerous times on the album by a series of monstrously distorted shrieks. The words themselves remain indecipherable and these vocals are almost always present during high-intensity moments. When the ‘music’ is at its most chaotic so is the vocal delivery. These are not screams of agony or fear but rather hatred and violence; the loss of the self to state of the rabid animal. Without a doubt, the most unpleasant moments of the album are represented by vocal stage 3. Track two, “American Tale”, is the most haunting example; a pitch-shifted man calmly recounting the details of a child molestation court case laid over a dull, mechanical whine and metallicized heartbeat. I have exposed myself and become desensitized to all varieties of misanthropy and negativity in my music but listening closely to this track still has the power to make me nauseous.
Brighter Death Now’s “Innerwar” raises the bar for dark music. By its very nature this album is a challenge to review and describe. The elements that come together to construct the “music” are almost incidental to the relentlessly oppressive mood and atmosphere the finished product embodies. While most of my dark music retains a certain theatrical quality, there is something frighteningly genuine about “Innerwar”. Even among the other BDN releases I have listened to, this one stands apart as a rare breed. If black metal is about adversarial blasphemy and dark ambient is about sullen isolationism than Brighter Death Now is about inflicting pain. You do not ‘enjoy’ Brighter Death Now, you survive it.