Finnish duo Carnial Noire came onto our radar with all the subtlety of an elephant trampling a bagpipe band with their self-titled 2015 debut. A clear and sustained homage to the classic electro-industrial which is still indelibly tied to Vancouver to this day, it demonstrated a deep and wide appreciation for all eras of Skinny Puppy’s work and plenty of other related acts. The core ethos of Cardinal Noire hasn’t changed with follow-up LP Deluge, but its force and the fury has focused on creating pummeling barrages of post-industrial percussion which level up the act’s already punishing sound.
Without ever breaking from the most studied and straightforward forms of electro-industrial, Kalle Lindberg and Lasse Alander add weight and gravity to familiar sounds and textures by stacking up walls of programming and opting for a raw and bludgeoning mix. The chord progression used in “Controlled Addiction” is dead simple but communicates a huge impact owing to the sheer force and weight behind it. “Community Collapse” tucks deft sequences in the pockets between drum patterns which seem to be constantly changing iteration but holding beat. Even when things are slowed down, as on the somewhat spacier “Plague Evacuation” the kicks themselves are so pronounced that the broad pads or subtle changes in Lindberg’s vocals are at constant risk of being blasted out of the mix. While their debut moved back and forth (sorry) between the more outré and freeform moments in Puppy’s catalog and their more straightforward tunes, Deluge often opts for the form of the latter but uses the excess of the former.
The payoff for that creative decision is considerable, as the album’s constant drive forward lends it both energy and dynamics. The breakdown late in the game on the cyclic horror-movie-on-fast-forward banger “Useful Idiot” only serves to make its metallic percussion bang harder, its warped synths bend further and its thudding conclusion all the more final. Similarly, “No Reformation”‘s slabs of guitar are arranged around the blasts of rolling percussion, pushing the tempo up ’til it burns itself out at the song’s climax. The moody mid-tempo title track or the ringing dirge of closer “Bury My Heart in a Landfill” are still imbued with a distinct sense of movement, as the sparser use of kicks and longer gates on the reverbed snares only adds to the inevitability of each hit.
For an album defined by sonic aggression and and a relentless drive forward, it’s pretty remarkable how compulsively listenable Deluge is. Without seeming too brief or leaving anything on the table in terms of song sequencing, Cardinal Noire have crafted a record which can be listened to on repeat without becoming wearying. Some of that quality comes from the general brevity of the songs (most clock in at well under four minutes), but a lot of it comes from how well the duo zero-in on their best ideas, play them out with gusto, and then move on to the next ones. That canniness pays off for them, as they blast rote imitation to bring a new and welcome energy and excitement to a well-worn template. Recommended.