Earlier this year, Marc Richter aka Black To Comm released Seven Horses for Seven Kings, the most eerie, unsettling and frankly soul-shredding album since the Sunn O))) masterpiece Black One. This album, Before After, follows soon after, and is considered something of a companion EP of tracks that didn’t make it onto Seven Horses; but this is not an album of leftovers, rather a complete work that stands alone and is perhaps even better than Seven Horses. It is certainly as good, that’s for sure. It’s an immersive listening experience that crawls and shifts and challenges the listener. It is anything but comfortable. But if, like me, you regularly walk down darkened alleyways whilst listening to Pharmakon, then Before After is for you.

‘Ètats-Unis’ begins with a morphing, twisting Gregorian style vocal chants and sweeping choral intonation that swirl in and out of focus and are evocative of György Ligeti’s ‘Requiem’ (you know, the spooky and intense choiry bit when the monolith is found on the moon in 2001: A Space Odyssey). There are some deep rumbling orchestral chords in the background, and indiscernible yet intrusive noises over the top, of scrapings and bashings and scrawling. It is entirely unsettling, yet beautiful, in its unerring and incessant menace. If the album’s opener unnerves, then a whole other level of deep haunting absurdity makes up the other seven tracks on Before After.

The oxymoronically titled ‘They Said Sleep’ (you won’t be able to after hearing it) is cinematic in scope, a soundtrack to the most disturbingly dystopic Cronenberg/Lynch piece of miasmic wonder. The track begins with warped, distended singing and discordant piccolo wails; the disturbing and anguished foreign language mutterings of a woman over the top of some quietly building noise bring a sense of disconcerting voyeurism as the listener is thrust entirely out of their comfort zone. It’s like that moment when you drive past a traffic collision – you know you shouldn’t look yet you can’t help yourself and there is a certain macabre thrill in the knowledge of what you are about to experience. Before After is all that and more.

If there is a theme running through Before After then it is likely the wonder in dissonance. The eight tracks are more like collages of noise, sound sculptures that assemble atonality, rather than songs in the traditional sense, but there remains an obvious presence of craft here, of arrangement and of the building blocks of sonic disquietude. ‘Océans’ is the most “musical” track here, with seemingly sporadic and haphazard piano phrasing over some orchestral strings and vocal notes. It is unstable as it resists settling into a discernible pattern and it is in this reluctance to allow the listener to understand that its depths are revealed. Something so seemingly simple is in actuality demanding and pleasingly bereft of formula.

Neo-classical drone takes centre stage on the wonderful ‘Othering’, with the deep thrums in the background providing the spine for some weaving brass and strings to elevate the music to a heightened state of dread. Richter has a tendency to blur the instrumentation in his work so it is hard for to identify every sound source correctly, as he melds and moulds the aural soundscape as he sees fit. This is a part of the appeal of the netherworldy fun to he had here. ‘Seven Horses’ continues this marriage of drone with siren-esque trumpet squeals, like the escaping residual lung volume in Ornette Coleman’s exhumed corpse.

Before After closes with the lush ambience of ‘Perfume Sample’, which serves as something of an epilogue to the unsettling harshness of what has gone before. It soothes where the other tracks have stunned and exudes where the others have exhilarated. It’s like the hypnotist’s gentle command back to the real world, as you start to once again distinguish between calculated cognition from the sheer visceral masochism that Before After represents. It’s a rewarding musical journey, but only really for those with the stomach for it.

Go home and tell your parents everything is going to be okay.