In a media landscape where seemingly every mainstream early-evening crime drama routinely features grisly post-mortem footage of dissected cadavers and high-definition CGI renderings of the paths of wounds and injuries being inflicted as seen from inside the body, is it any wonder that artists such as Gnaw Their Tongues want to push the sonic envelope of morbidity? Just as slickly-sick splatterfests like the Saw and Hostel series give gorehounds and the censorious alike yet more fodder for their prurient schadenfreude/distaste (delete as applicable), so the extremes where orchestral music, metal, noise and soundscaping meet become progressively more and more immersively shocking.With a title which refers to worshipping the dark with blood and the whip and a back catalogue dripping with disgust and delight in all things unwholesome and depraved, it’s inevitable that Gnaw Their Tongue’s latest offering makes for deeply disturbing listening. Mories continues his one-man endeavour of making misantrhopic misery come (back) to stumbling, horrific life before the ears. Once again, his take on the genre comes across something like a crazed aural giallo of the Dario Argento, Mario Bava or Lucio Fulci variety, but one reworked by the maniacal city-destroying human/machine hybrid of Tetsuo. But these are not imaginary soundtracks, instead offering up the whole experience entire, one instead where the grim imagery is for the audience to imagine vividly, closely, personally, rather than witness from the perspective of a distanced viewer onscreen; being drawn this close to the horror is undoubtedly by far the more unsettling experience.
There is much to the music which Gnaw Their Tongues inflict upon the world which stands comparison as the sonic equivalent of Jörg Buttgereit‘s evisceration of the staid, stylish, yet often vapid and essentially unthreatening late Eighties/early Nineties horror genre, taking it to new depths of believably twisted nastiness with his Nekromantik films. Mories does this by producing sounds which are overwhelming – and by any reasonable standard unpleasant to listen to – but from which some listeners cannot, will not, turn away. Listening to Per Flagellum Sanguemque, Tenebras Veneramus is like being thrust into a black mass being celebrated in the middle of a raging hurricane, one where blastbeats collide with industrial sheet-metal, a rusty scrapyard klang batterie buttressing the BDSM orchestral ministrations of a demented composer utterly intent on assaulting, bastardising and otherwise ritually torturing the listener in a welter of misanthropic cacophony. The discordant soundclash can be as deliriously overpowering as would (to ponder a slightly different environmental metaphor for extremity for a moment) being tossed down a raging waterfall while a symphony orchestra is piped blindly by an idiot alien god through a giant stack of amplifiers the size of a ominous black monolith. That is the sort of level of immensity being aimed for on this record, and achieved.What puts Gnaw Their Tongues severed head and dislocated shoulders above the great writhing congeries of darkling musical servants of the underworld nightmare sound which has been sweeping overgown cemeteries, tortured gardens and abandoned morgues everywhere like a plague of very popular and virulent diseases for decades, is that Mories’ inventive (de)compositions grab the listener’s attention and doggedly refuse to let go. This is largely by the intervention of cleverly-placed – sometime subliminally so – samples and vocal loops; little, unsettlingly intimate passages run into distressing levels of close-up horror; the sound of an extended death rattle, or the distorted voice of what might be a mangled confessional answerphone tape. Elsewhere, shivery horripilations are layered until the eardrums threaten to burst; what sometimes sounds like Satan’s own choir is chanting out the end of days as the apocalypse grinds across the land, spearheaded by a demonic mechanized division of possessed inhuman percussionists. Morbid it may be, but fascinatingly so, and unlike the glibly smug crime dramas (and implacably within the tradition of bleak horror fiction) holds out not a whit of a promise of salvation, whether blood sacrifices and votive offerings to the hornéd one are made or not. This is also demonstrated by the bonus CD, Per Flagellum Sanguemque, Tenebras Veneramus II, which offers up a further 25 minutes of unremitting bleakness to accompany Consouling‘s 2×10″ vinyl release of the album. “Knees Sore From Praying” juxtaposes earnest religious chanting with the irate rantings of an (obviously highly distraught and violently-inclined) man in the throes of threatening to stab his mother – needless to say, it’s the latter which grabs the attention before the immanent drone overwhelms the spoken layers with funereal orchestrations of miserable aspect and the sort of malevolent atmosphere which crowd the shadows in deeeper on headphones at night. Suitably enough, for the finale “The Spirited Light Was Drowned In Black Waters” morphs into an apocalyptic cacophony of industrial black metal which sounds not so much like the end of the world as the party held afterwards, demons spluttering as a virtual orchestra is engulfed by the collapse of all known things and their rebirth garbed in the hideous, frightful new aspect of dissolute strings and unwholesomely skittering dissipation.
Of course it’s just music; and naturally at its arrhythmic, foul heart it’s as much an entertainment as CSI: Hades would be, all red-eyed and darkly-cowled Inquisitors extracting painful confessions in tastefully blood-spattered digital detail from the damned… so just keep repeating, it’s only a record, it’s only a dream; it will all end… soon.