Pharmakon - Bestial Burden
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An all too common, cynical take on culture is that there's nothing new going around, and there's no truer target for that statement than the stale conservatism it represents. Nevertheless, it's easy to feel frustrated with the musical landscape - the impression that there's little out there willing to push boundaries, or even maintain the pretense of doing so. The latest from Pharmakon, Bestial Burden, instills a very welcome sense of the opposite.
Pharmakon, aka Margaret Chardiet, has utilised dense, distorted kick drums to pound and punctuate at various tempos throughout. They are slow and steady, militant, martial, rousing, and complemented by decaying feedback and grinding synths. The thumping pauses occasionally, leading into quieter, differently-threatening intermissions. Some tracks go by without vocals at all and others play out as a vehicle for Chardiet's caustic screaming, putting almost anything that's been in Terrorizer for the past five years to shame.
Bestial Burden will fairly be filed under the highly subjective umbrella of 'noise'. As a point of reference, and acknowledging that pigeonholing ambitious music has a certain stench of negation to it, there are moments that are fondly reminiscent of the hay-day of industrial. Think of the experimental, foreboding tape loops of early Coil or Throbbing Gristle or Whitehouse or Current 93. At other times, of music that is more firmly rooted in black metal. MZ 412, or Burzum, or Diagnose: Lebensgefahr. Crucially, what Pharmakon shares most with any of these acts is not aesthetics but the urgency of the delivery, the violent uprooting of musical conventions into a more subversive medium.
At just under 30 minutes long, the record is as brief as it is uncompromising. Just before drawing to a finish, the titular closer starts as a sombre spoken word affair, set to white noise and a bass-laden synthetic loll. "I don't belong here" are the repeated parting words Chardiet leaves us, with before mutating into unsettling pronounced laughter, and then blending into harsh industrial discord. Her mantra couldn't be further than the truth. The world in 2014 feels all too much like a wasteland - thoroughly in dire need of a record like this.
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