On the album’s cover, Margaret Chardiet aka Pharmakon is photographed eating a plaster cast or a white chocolate mask (it’s difficult to tell which) of her own face. The theme of self-cannibalisation runs throughout Devour as a metaphor for the current crises we find ourselves facing as a species. Noise will eat itself, if you will.

With the Amazon rainforest on fire, a self-proclaimed Chosen One in the White House, and an increasing effort by a global political cabal to nurture a rising tide of insular nationalism, self-cannibalisation is not only an accurate analogy for our current times but possibly all we will have left in the not too distant future.

Pharmakon records contain little by way of comfort for the listener as Chardiet unsettles, transfixes and cajoles us into a genuflecting stance before her all-encompassing altar of noise. Her musical world is not one to enjoy, but to surrender yourself to. It’s an immersive listening experience, if done properly, and one which transcends the usual expectations that many of us have of music – something pleasant to distract us from our existential being and awareness of the futility of it all. Pharmakon embraces the feelings of entrapment of suffocation that self-awareness brings and melds these feelings into a bloody mesh of raw, visceral energy.

‘Homeostasis’ kicks things off in glorious fashion. Devour was recorded by Uniform’s Ben Greenberg, and this is most telling on the album opener as Chardiet’s vocals are smothered in the same vocal effects that Greenberg’s Uniform buddy Michael Berdan uses. It’s mechanistic and animalistic in equal measure, harsh and abrasive and full of rage. The feral nature of Chardiet’s voice is juxtaposed with a persistent and metronomic thrum of noise which underpins the track and suggests a conflict between austere machines and vibrant humanity. We are at war with ourselves and that which we have created.

‘Spit It Out’ has a disorientating whirl throughout, which knowingly hinders the listener’s focus. It’s a rallying cry, with Chardiet spouting her lines in an almost free-associating manner, and the track brings to mind the genius of Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse. It’s seven and a half minutes of pure energy, life affirming white noise and spiritual invocations, as Chardiet hollers in tongues in an alarming manner. ‘Self-Regulating System’ follows and has an actual melody running through it, albeit a strained and unnerving one. There is an industrial tone to this track with a beat developing from the clanging of the machines at the heart of the music, and therein lies the crucial aspect which separates Pharmakon from a lot of her noise contemporaries – there is heart here. All too often, noise artists get lost in the pursuit of sound which is otherworldly or too raw to process, yet Chardiet has always been able to instil a sense of flesh and blood and soul in her work.

The album closes on career highlight ‘Pristine Panic / Cheek By Jowl’ which feels like a distilling of every Pharmakon moment to date. Harsh and distended noise, a feeling of delightful nausea, the soundtrack of your grimmest nightmare. Chardiet’s vocals sound like the dark ruminations from the deepest parts of your buried subconscious, twisted and flailing yet also frustratingly restrained. Much like Steve Albini’s work on Sunn O)))’s Life Metal, the production on Devour has an earthy tone which places Chardiet slap bang in the middle of the crises that she sees – hers is not the position of some distant narrator, her anguish is all too evident as a participant in the end of days. Greenberg’s role as producer has brought a more grounded approach to Pharmakon’s sound, it seems more assured of itself and less rushed.

Chardiet produces body horror music – unpleasant by nature but impossible to draw your attention away from. Devour is the first Pharmakon album which was recorded live in the studio, and there is a sense of organic creation to it which is pivotal to the ideas layered within. The warmth of the production separates this album from her previous three, perhaps even suggesting a sense of hope for humanity in the face of overwhelming odds which are stacked against us. Devour is an album aware of the natural world and how humans are destroying it. This planet isn’t dying, we are killing it, and Pharmakon may well be the perfect soundtrack to its demise.