Oct 26, 2011
Noscrape - Soundtrack to a Post-atomic Landscape EP ...
The band started back in 2001 in a small village lost in the countryside not far from Milano, in Northern Italy, although the guys converted to the “cult” only in 2007, when the band abandoned the initial grunge/punk and stoner-oriented sounds (expressed in the early recordings and demos) and steered towards heavy music and experimentation.
After some internal changes, the present-day line-up includes Dario (vocals & guitar), Tirlu (guitar), Dag (bass) and Zana (drums, percussions, plus synth, keyboard and effects).
Those who followed the Sludge Swamp will remember this band as their tunes were hosted on the blog and were included in the Swamp Comp Vol. 2 compilation.
In particular, Noscrape is one of the bands well known to the Italian underground music fans religiously following the Perkele portal. One of the reasons for Noscrape’s popularity is that its line-up includes musicians active in other appreciated bands. It is for example the case for Dario and Zana militating also in the drone/doom project Vøid, connected to another heavy creature, the grindcore band Hungry Like Rakowitz.
The continuous exposure to different musical experiences and personalities, and the involvement in the various events in appraisal of “His Heaviness The Megawolf” has surely had a substantial influence in moulding the style of this band even during their second, heavy period. The latter is marked by the release of the self-titled EP in 2008 and, especially, of the new EP “Soundtrack to a Post-atomic Landscape”, out during August 2011.
The 2011 EP “Soundtrack to a Post-atomic Landscape” is available on Bandcamp.
Well, with Noscrape the word “EP” is a bit tricky as the band’s EPs are normally slabs easily lasting or even exceeding one hour of music.
Noscrape’s activity is completely DIY, as it is the case for most underground bands in Italy, and not only in Italy. The quality in the output of many underground bands in general shows that passion is part of the treasure paying the bills.
Noscrape have been addressing their sound towards more experimental territories in these last years, maybe also thanks to the “technical” collaboration with Adamennon. As a matter of fact the 2011 album “Soundtrack to a Post-atomic Landscape” was recorded and mixed at Adamennon’s SFR Studio.
However Noscrape’s own imprint can still be recognized in the new album, and so, I would say, a substantial powerful band is definitely established because the new release, said grimly entitled “Soundtrack to a Post-atomic Landscape”, is an impressive output devoted to a blend of doom/sludge heaviness and drone/post metal alienation with a whiff of psychedelia.
The eponymous opening track, is an instrumental-only suite covering almost 21 minutes and starting with a “low profile”, in a rather minimalistic and mellow way via a acoustic guitar solo leading a somber, melancholic melody, until some sinister, dissonant keyboard and synth notes appear as flashes and stir the seemingly quiet atmosphere. In the meanwhile the background is invaded by a disturbing, fluctuating buzz. With or without the thread of the guitar this is the sound accompanying the listener in this post-atomic environment which is not particularly menacing until when the combined charge of distorted and downtuned guitars and bass and of a weird, unpleasantly hollow-sounding drumming is unleashed for the first time. Distorted heavy charges and mellow acoustic guitar-driven parts alternate and create a contrast which is more anguishing and melancholic than horrifying. The second part of this long and varied, but all in all somber track sees the band soon abandoning heaviness and exploring the territories of ambient space/noise psychedelia by means of delicate sounds where synth is ruling and guitars and cymbals act like pegs around which the airy melody is built up. The heavy distorted refrain comes back only in the last 2-3 minutes like a gloomy ghost to fade away soon into silence again. This first track is surprising because it is so different from the normal style of the band.
The second 14 minutes-long track bears a solemn but also menacing Latin title, Hic Sunt Leones, something like “here are the lions”, a sentence attributed to the ancient Romans when they were going to Africa to get fancy animals and also to colonize and turn the local proud populations into their slaves. So you know what to expect, i.e., the mammoth distorted wall of sound of guitars and drums growing from the silence like a storm from a distance. Bass, guitars and the weird drumming build up a slow, plodding doom-sludgy melody possessing some degree of groove and in full hommage to Sleep, Om, Ufomammut, Lento, Electrozombies and so on. This time vocal parts are introduced as short, tortured invocations emerging from a “dense”, annihilating background. After several minutes sudden accelerations come as a surprise and remind of Melvins when they “go punk”. In the second half of the track the band hints to some post-metal dissonance but without exaggerating. Towards the end of the track the band includes a “patchwork” of excerpts from some unfortunately well-known violent, racist and offensive public talks of one of the most famous and infamous Italian politicians that all Italian doomsters will recognize. But the even most embarassing and, well, disgusting thing is to hear the amount of clapping and cheers with which many many people salute this politician’s obnoxious talks. So you realize that the “post-atomic landscape” is not caused by any bomb but is made by the people themselves in a smooth way, with their vote. Terrifying and hopeless …
Terror and oppression by the mob, hopelessness and grimness go with the gut-tearing intro of probably the most powerful track of the album, Concrete. This third track is the shortest of the EP, “only” slightly longer than 12 minutes, and is an impressive, devastating doom-sludge ride which is occasionally interrupted by some short intervals where the sound of the guitars becomes more intimate. These are essential elements in the style of the band and represent islands of calmness into a noisy doom/sludge/industrial sonic nightmare where, again, vocals emerge with supreme efforts. As expected at the end the crushing charge fades away into the silence.
As to the vocal parts, even if they are not so frequent, they add an important contribution to the overall sound and atmophere. You can recognize two different styles, either harsh, roaring if not barking, or else clean but sounding quite distorted as if by pain, almost wailing. The two vocal styles can be found in the same track and seem to hint to the presence of a belching oppressor and a suffering victim of whatever is happening in this nightmare.
The story ends with the +15 minutes long, concluding track Annihilation, where the band displays their twofold style widely, thereby varying continuously between the distorted crushing, doom-sludgy wall of sound and those charming soft, almost space-desert parts. There a warm and reverberating guitar sound trembles in the silence and sets the leading melody then reprised by the following distorted charge. As previously heard, the heavy distorted intervals host the tortured dialogs and invocations of singer Dario. After the last explosion of distorted fury the sound drowns into a vortex of synth-driven sonic effects fading away like a bad dream dissolves when the sun rises …
I previously addressed the drumming as “weird” because it sounds peculiar: the cymbals are recorded and rendered with a very neat and almost crispy sound whereas the drums sound a bit dumb, disturbing as the noise of a hammer on a box of wood can be. So the drums are sources of noise more than a sound and seem to be recorded as in background. At the very beginning I didn’t like the effect but then, where the heavy sludgy distorted parts dominate, such disturbing, hollow hammering sound of the percussions fits.
The oscillation between heavy noisy sludgy blocks and minimalistic, somber to spacey psychedelic intervals makes up a quite repetitive sonic scheme which helps inducing a general hypnotic effect. However in each “block” or “interval” the band’s guys introduce or knit a good number of small range variations that help in wading through these long tortured suites in an unexpectedly easy way without getting bored.
Noscrape guys have always worshipped molasse-like heaviness and their 2008 self-titled demo had been duly described as a concentrate of “radical, “palaeolithic”, ominous, acid heaviness, pure sound nihilism which leaves no hope and makes no prisoners”. You can still recognize their reference stars, like Sleep, Om, Melvins (with whom they toured back in 2009) as well as Ufomammut, Lento, ect.. However in this new release the band has started defining their own style more precisely, I would say “grow as a band” into maturity by definitely getting rid of excess groove deriving from the early stoner-grunge background and keeping on experimenting with rich sounds (including synth and keyboards) and crushing heaviness. The band is probably still in evolution but the path they entered is winning.
This EP wins the battle, the coming full-length will win the war …. 8.5/10
Review by Marilena Moroni
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