It’s not a secret that we don’t cover much EBM or electro-industrial from Latin America here at I Die: You Die. A part of that is due to a lack of time and resources, but primarily it comes from a lack of knowledge; like many folks I went through a Hocico phase in the early part of the millenium, but little of the music that draws from (or slavishly copies) their template has appealed to me enough to investigate further. Enter Engraved Ritual, a US based label whose mandate includes a hand-picked collection of artists from South and Central America in an attempt to go beyond the scant handful of harsh electro projects from the region that have crossed-over to the larger industrial scene. One of their key acts is Mexico City’s God Destruction, a duo who have found an appealing way to mix the tropes of harsh EBM with another long-time cult musical movement that has only found wider acceptance in recent years; namely black metal.
That crossover of sounds defines the best moments of God Destruction’s debut CD Illuminatus and when it works – which it should is often, if not always – it’s bracing. Opening track “Lvzbel” comes replete with the stabby leads and movie samples that define Mexican electro, but the huge synth pads, synthesized orchestral breakdown and huge sustained chords that appear at its climax invoke the majesty of influential Norwegian BM act Emperor with shocking clarity. It’s a trick Satan Imperor and Charles Black have down to a science; by rendering elements of black metal from synthetic tools and nestling them firmly within the context of harsh EBM, they’ve achieved a kind of alchemical suspension, where both elements maintain their strength and serve to deliver one another. The absolutely crushing “Become Death” builds with assurance before the organic sounding drum patterns and choral sounds give way to siren synths and four on the floor kicks, where “Anticristo” expertly switches back and forth between each genre’s signifiers, nailing each transition with a cleverness belied by its demonic subject matter.
For all that it does right, the album does have some fairly glaring weaknesses in the production that serve to derail it. While neither tradition that God Destruction draw from is traditionally noted for being particularly studio-savvy (in fact many black metal acts unfathomably made a point of crap-sounding recordings for years), it has to be noted that the palette of Illuminatus feels somewhat limited. Choral, lead and drum sounds are often indistinguishable between songs, if not reused directly. I suppose there’s an argument to be made that it gives the record a kind of sonic unity, but it has the unintended effect of making the LP feel front-loaded, with late album cuts like “Son of Satan” and “Armageddon” feeling like retreads of earlier, more successful numbers. Secondly (and this has always been a sticking point for me in the world of harsh body music) the vocal processing has the unfortunate effect of flattening out the screams in the mix, often making them lifeless. Recent efforts from acts like Distorted Memory have demonstrated that a cleaner, more organic approach to BM style vox can work well in industrial; in GD’s case their reliance on effects have robbed them of weight. Still, there are moments like on the portentous “In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas” where the Spanish lyrics come across with the undeniably evil sound they’re shooting for with flying satanic colours, presumably red.
You know, I mightn’t have ever checked this record out if not for the endorsement of numerous folks I respect at some of our fellow webzines (namely the good people at Coma and Brutal Resonance) and the dedication of Engraved Ritual label-head Jason Anderson who sent me the record with a note acknowledging the fact that we don’t normally cover albums like it. I’m quite glad to have heard Illuminatus, and while it’s flawed in spots it has enough going for it that my interest in God Destruction and their singular take on genre-blending has been piqued. A recent exchange with Anderson indicated that their next album will focus even more heavily on black metal, and I find that idea intriguing; it’ll be interesting to see what form the beast takes in its next manifestation.