The exact line separating death industrial from pure noise can be difficult to ascertain, especially when the former grows particularly dense and overwhelming. It’s not the most empirical metric, but there’s an underlying mood, part sardonic, part misanthropic, which at least for me, characterizes death industrial in this regard. Whether that takes the form of a record’s historical or philosophical framing or is just an unquantifiable meanness, the sense of control and drive (even if ultimately futile) which characterizes death industrial endures even amidst densely layered cacophony. That malevolent spirit serves Norway’s Dødsmaskin in good stead on their third LP, keeping all of Fiende‘s unearthly noise in uncanny order.
Dødsmaskin’s sound is churning, machine-like, and relentless; fitting given their moniker. Beyond the more classical machines of death industrial of all stripes has been concerned with for years, Fiende is apparently a meditation on the threat of strong AI, but the squalling throes of “Blod Fra Helvete” seem to speak more to primal faults in humanity which predate such contemporary anxieties (I can’t speak to the substance of brief spoken passages). A recurring motif throughout the record are drones, blasts of static, and subterranean pads seemingly being left free to roam but offset by rhythmic industrialized clatter. Whether through mixing techniques or arrhythmic quirks, these beats often feel out of phase with the rest of the composition, producing that aforementioned tension between chaos and structure. Are the klaxons which scream out over “Syndrom” emerging forms of AI attempting to get out from the shackles of their programming at the rhythmic base of the track? What’s the connection between the cricket-like pulses of “Den Nye Døden” and the power noise-styled pummeling which occupies so much of its mix? Damned if I can tell, but it’s all effectively unsettling.
I’d like to make some hay of the fact that Dødsmaskin are releasing “Fiende” on Cyclic Law after having their previous LP issued by Malignant, but I’m not exactly sure what this signifies. While the latter certainly seems an environment more in keeping with the duo’s harsh and unremitting style, could there be some hidden flourish to Fiende‘s style or construction which made Cyclic Law’s dark ambient ethos a more welcoming haven? If so, I’ve been unable to detect it. Even when closer “Posthum” brings some lamenting harmonic pads into the fold in the record’s closing minutes, crackling distortion ultimately prevails, effacing the briefest moments of calm into ash.