“A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now.” - Thomas Pynchon, Gravity’s Rainbow

In the early years of the comic strip Foxtrot (which coincided with the best years of The Simpsons in terms of portraying a nuclear family that felt authentic), there was a storyline in which academically precocious but otherwise shortsighted fifth grader Jason Fox wrote a 900-page essay on a bet. His final, D-graded work was a “running first person-account of what goes into writing a 900-page essay,” with the stirring first sentence of “This is my first sentence,” all to win a 50-cent wager.

I’m not going to strain the analogy any further to find links between a comic strip child and noise maestro Dominick Fernow (aka Prurient). However, with his latest addition to his seemingly bottomless discography, Rainbow Mirror, stretching fifteen tracks across four discs (and seven LPs) in three hours, one has to brace themselves. Will this be a captivating epic, or one that’s grandiose in duration, but otherwise completely hollow?

Fernow’s 2015 album and first for Profound Lore, Frozen Niagara Falls, was also time-consuming, though its 90 minutes spread across two discs was a breeze compared to his latest. Despite being shorter, that album felt twice as epic as Rainbow Mirror does. It was certainly one of his more accessible albums, with tracks like ‘Greenpoint’ and ‘Cocaine Daughter’ that could make a non-noisehead curiously ask “What’s this?” rather than disgustedly wonder, “What is this?” However, it was also something daring and emotionally resonant, in that it could draw someone into his world and astound those who were already devotees.

Put simply, Rainbow Mirror is not the first album to show to new Prurient listeners. It might not even be the second or the third. This is disregarding the length, as I would compel someone to check out Frozen Niagara Falls before a version of this album. It’s a demanding listen due to how purposefully drawn-out it is. If you don’t initially care for what Fernow’s doing on one track, settle in, because not much is going to change. Even in terms of noise albums with tracks that overwhelmingly break the ten-minute mark, Rainbow Mirror takes its time. It was recorded live with a trio composed of Fernow, Dual Action’s Matt Folden, and Lussuria’s Jim Mroz, but it sounds so incredibly singular in construction, much more so than Frozen Niagara Falls.

With three hours, Fernow pulls out all the stops from his bag of experimental/noise tricks. The low end is throbbing, rumbling and on the continuous verge of inflammation. Synths are detuned and decayed as far as possible. Percussion acts as a means of showing how forceful Fernow’s sounds can become. There are also crackles, buzzes, and otherwise unplaceable sounds akin to a ringing phone laced with LSD on ‘Blue Kimono Over Corpse.’ The metallic hisses of relatively short opener, ‘Barefoot God’ are like being sprayed with a firehose, like a warning for those approaching this unprepared.

Despite being the Prurient album with seemingly everything, it’s missing one of the project’s strongest aspects: Fernow’s voice. I noticed vocals (or what could be vocals) on two tracks: ‘Okinawan Burial Vaults,’ where they act like an occasional choir of ghosts, and ‘Naturecum,’ which sounds like a monologue being immolated as an aerial bomb falls and falls, seemingly never able to reach its target. Fernow’s wounded bark is one of the greatest attributes of any noise artist, but while its absence is disappointing, Rainbow Mirror is much more a dark ambient album. There are pockets of dullness that could’ve been enhanced through him sounding like he’s about to bite right through a pair of contact mics, but there are also plenty of thrills through the sounds he, Folden, and Moore conjure.

The best disc here (and indicator that this could be a surprise near-masterpiece that barely arrived in time for list season) is the first. It starts well with ‘Barefoot God,’ takes a turn for grim futuristic drone-doom with ‘Waking On Dehydrated Coral’ and then becomes legitimately frightening with the eerie textures of ‘Midnight Kabar.’ This all sets the stage for ‘Chaos-Sex,’ an incredible creation that compacts sounds furiously and effectively.

While the monumental lengths let some tracks become fully-formed giants, others feel burdened by their runtimes. The 15-minute ‘Falling in the Water’ starts to drag around the five-minute mark, regains traction but can’t keep up the momentum, falling back too easily on a haunted-sounding synth melody. The first half of ‘Cruel Worlds’ is rather astounding, like having a drawbridge lowered on you (only the rickety incline movements of ‘Lazarus Flamethrower Sleepwalk’ has it beat in terms of anxiety exacerbation) but its back end is incongruous and unable to maintain intrigue. Another masterful track, ‘Path Is Short’ is a triumph largely because it’s one of the few here to gain power as it winds down.

Twenty years into his career as Prurient, Fernow could rest on his laurels wearing his favourite leather jacket and just puke out something that sounds like puking out something. Rainbow Mirror is immersive, exhausting, and decidedly flawed. However, the strengths are more than enough to carry it forward, and the flaws are just a reminder that Fernow is at his best when he’s not holding back. Vocals or not, he’s still screaming across the sky, an incomparable force of his discipline.