Review: Gospel – Shrapnel (Phage Tapes, Oct 22)

Chock-full of sharp, scalding sounds as coldly synthetic and casually incendiary as the unsettling artwork, Matt Hex’s newest tape under his Gospel alias is a rapturous caustic nightmare. Shrapnel, true to its title, plays with textures that could just as well have been wrested from rusty machinery, slaughterhouse tools, or an overheating furnace chamber than a chain of pedals, objects, and effects. The opening “Incineration Angel,” perhaps the name of the seraphic figure featured centrally on the cover, is a brutal, uncompromising introduction that sets the stage for the particular sort of noise we’re dealing with here: artificial and lifeless, the passive abstract residue of industrialization and militarism rather than gestural blasts revealing the presence of their deliverer, and yet still tearing to life, or whatever it is (and staying there) with the vicious force of a whole network of volcanic eruptions. “Pivot Pin” is what initially brought slaughterhouses—things I usually prefer to avoid thinking about—to mind; its uncanny slowed utterances and distorted electronic interference already feel plenty gory and pestilential, but to top it off the short track concludes with a skittering loop of what sounds like a slim blade being sharpened by a shaky hand. “Hand and Hoof” seems precariously balanced between digital and tactile abrasion, a volatile, vivisected current of shuddering static and scraping, scratching scrap metal, and the whole tape seems to lead up to “Barbaric,” which builds from what sounds like a mashup of a particularly active Haters set with disaster footage clips to an extraordinarily loud, searing conclusion. Intense, violent, and unfeeling: BE NOT AFRAID.

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