While at a gym, I put on my iPod, got on one of the bicycles in the room, and began a 20-minute workout. However, nothing prepared me for what I was about to experience. I decided to put on one of the albums I had recently received, and began to pedal. Within seconds of the ambient opening, I ended up becoming immediately tired while trying to keep up with the speed of this particular music. I sweated viciously, my heart raced, and my entire body was in pain. By the time it was over, I couldn’t even think straightly for the rest of the day. It was a very intense and ferocious experience. Now, why am I telling about a day at the gym in context with music? Simple: music can be a powerful tool. Let’s face it: dance music works well in the gym, but most of the time, the top 40 hits are played, which aren’t necessarily suited to get you into the mood. What I heard, however, pushed me within striking distance of what would be humanly impossible. If only everyone else around me heard the same music, because at the end, everyone would have been tired for the rest of the day. What I heard was the 20-minute long, 7 track-EP, “Super Death Explosion Kittens”, by the Aviemore, Scotland-based project Achenar, run by solo member Duncan Hemingway since 2003. The music itself is hard for me to describe. Whereas it could be described as a experimental crossover between industrial music and technical death metal, still, it doesn’t quite describe it enough. From what I know, Achenar takes in such a wide variety of influences that it ignores genre restrictions, and utilizes whatever elements are appropriate, which often is a combination of traditional organic instrumentation and electronic sounds. This can be heard some of the time, but most of the album is stripped-down to the bare bones, and sounds about as raw as possible. The album sounds gapless, going from one track to the next, and much of the time giving listeners a huge shock before the next piece or section is introduced. This is an intensely frightening and absurdly fun and noisy album filled with a lot of chaos and aural anarchy for the listener to soak in.
The short, 44 second opener, “Arise, Minions!”, begins with the atmospheric sounds of feedback and tuning radios, before diving head-first into a massacre of sledgehammer beats, gritty basses, and atonal noises. It leads to some rest, before the sound of a bleep signals the beginning of the next track “Vocal Opposition”, which is filled with even more sonic anarchy. From the huge break-beat-like death metal drums to more of the gritty basses and high pitched melody lines, this is obviously a track that does not let up easily from beginning to end. It sometimes returns to the main theme of the song, but most of the time, it is a violent storm of drums and noise, before going into a technically complex rhythm at the end, fading out into ambience, and then being rushed again to the track “The Enthralled”, which for the first time contains growled vocals in the chaotic mix. However, the middle of the song introduces us to a death metal inspired section, featuring less noise and more bass, more epically screamed vocals, and huge, sludge metal beats. The ending is also amazing, featuring hugely fast beats and stuttered noises, sometimes dropping out to hear the reverberations before being thrown back in again, but then it ends out with dark ambient drones. The interlude “Liberation” contains samples that actually remind me of something straight out of a video game, featuring dark sound design, industrial sounds, and a darkly humorous conversation between a man and something that sounds like a machine, in which the machine wants the man to give him death, and does so as the machine dies away.
“Neon Storm” is pretty much the perfect title for the track, because it sounds exactly like that: a neon storm. The beginning contains quietly growling and electronically processed vocals before moving yet again into a massacre of sound, featuring more noisy, high-pitched atonal melodies and extremely fast drumming that sound like a cross between extreme metal and drum and bass. There are also some interesting sections in this as well, where there is some complex drumming, another sludge metal-inspired section containing minor bass melodies with more processed vocals, and an almost steady rock rhythm at times. “God Agog” is about as melodic and accessible as the EP gets, with the beginning featuring some very distinctive melodies and semi-intense drumming before moving into yet another ferocious drum and noise breakdown, with yet again some complex rhythms that slow down, stop, or speed up in place at times, making for a whole lot of insane fun for the listener, before eventually ending out again with ambient noises. The last and longest track on the EP at about over 5 minutes long, “Born Into Steam”, is an epic finale, featuring a complex but moderately fast drum rhythm and more of the intensely dark noise textures that the album already has. Some actual melodies can be heard, as well as clean vocals, though sadly, they were sort of buried in the mix at the beginning, and I couldn’t understand them much. However, it drops out to introduce for the first and only time on this EP an orchestral section, along with some nice reverberated vocals, before eventually going back into the noisy madness. The breakdown in the middle of the track actually reminds me somewhat of an epic battle or fight, along with some delightfully minor and dark melodies and clean, folk-like vocals, which actually remind me a bit of Ulver’s work, though a bit noisier and not as ambient. The track, however, ends out on an ambiguous note, in which the previous section reached its climax, but only ends with the strange ambient sounds of, I believe, a fridge vibrating against shelves of glasses, in which at this point, the EP ends.
Overall, Achenar’s “Super Death Explosion Kittens” is an insanely fun and enjoyable listen, featuring extremely noisy synthesizers, epic orchestration at times, vocals ranging from beautifully clean to harsh screams, huge heavy-metal inspired industrial beats, and a whole lot of variety in the rhythms to keep the tracks alive. Though I would’ve preferred to have heard some variety in the synths used, as well as maybe some of the sounds of beats used, still, the addition of the vocals throughout and the orchestra in the last track sort of make it up. Also, the production for the most part is top-notch, as are the atmospheric sounds throughout the album, though I was a bit disappointed in that I couldn’t quite make out what the vocals were saying at times, since the chaos of the track buries it. Luckily, there is an album booklet available with this containing lyrics and some notes on the philosophy behind the album which makes the album as a whole even more interesting. This is an album that actually deserves to have a new genre to categorize it. Or perhaps, there shouldn’t be a label assigned to it. Maybe the music just is what it is. If you’re into this type of music, or just enjoy insanely chaotic and fun songs, then this album will probably appeal to you. Heck, even if you’re not into this, I highly recommend at least checking it out.
Title: Super Death Explosion Kittens
Genre: Technical death metal/industrial/electronic/experimental
Released in 2011 by Earthen Records
You can buy the album, as well as take a look at the artwork, lyrics, and download free MP3s here: http://www.earthenrecords.com/sdek/