The world was a dangerous place in the decades building up to the middle of the 20th century, a time in history that many in my generation have quickly forgotten the lessons of as they’ve (thankfully) not experienced horror and loss on that level in their lifetimes, nor had to bear the scars of its memory. We all know the human drama that unfolded in those years; global wars had broken out and death, fueled by the onset of exponentially more sophisticated technologies, grasped the planet in a way that it had never before experienced, bringing entire countries, West and East alike, to their knees — not by the hands of some cosmic force or Earthly nature itself, but by the foolish will of man. That same race for newer and better technology gave rise to some interesting anomalies, however; secret places that were out of the reach of civilians and unexplainable phenomena that were inevitably linked to these places that were suddenly cut free from prying eyes like a piece of a jigsaw puzzle simply removed and pocketed for safe keeping. The most famous of these sanctuaries of reticence is obviously the legendary Area 51, which has both inspired and haunted imaginations the world over. However, overshadowed by the fame of this hotbed of extraterrestrial activity, nestled firmly within the far Western Federal Subject of Russia, Astrakhan Oblast, is Kapustin Yar, a similar pivotal center for military might and, coincidentally (or not), strange happenings.
Enter experimental musician Antonio Gallucci, known otherwise for his work in Architeuthis Rex (Utech Records), whom has drawn on both the mystery and aberrance of this location, as well as the bleakness and violence of the time period for inspiration within this project. Further darkening the idea around the release is the album’s specific subject, the influential 15th-16th century German occultist and skilled cryptographer Johannes Trithemius, whose legacy has been the Steganographia.
The album’s opener, “Breathless”, acts as a relatively quiet intro into the album. Clocking in at just over a minute, the track represents a side of the project that takes on a bizarre style of death industrial before being overtaken by the oddly percussive / bombastic “Dirge”. The track, again, displays a level of death industrial qualities but underneath of an ever-moving march that eventually descends first into a tribalistic fervor, and ultimately into complete psychedelic chaos. “Collapsing Palace” feels more like a true dirge, broodingly humming with feedback and minimalistic trudging doom that is textured by a familiar flanging sound that continues to pop up throughout the album. Despite the interesting sound, this one perhaps drags on a little too long, never quite evolving to a climactic moment and instead simply fizzling until it eventually faded out. In a way, this gives new life to the closer on this side of the tape, “Antipalus Maleficiorum”, named after the text of the same name by Trithemius, which features a heavy dose of heavy doom, hypnotic percussion and purling synth waves.
“Skinless” is an atmospheric work of dark ambiance and scattered electro-percussion; haunting whispers pierce an otherwise lifeless void, eventually becoming enveloped by a warm, slightly melodic bass tone the eventually gives the track more traditional structure. “Sea Altar” is the most structured and progressive of all the tracks, featuring a tribalistic psych jam-out between rhythmic guitar, fuzz-dominated bass and nearly hallucination-inducing floods of processed tones. “Зкзорцизм” can only be described as a surreal excursion into a dimension of feedback and disembodied voices while the title track that closes out the album, “Trithemius”, is more of the same and sums up the album quite nicely as a percussive take on drone doom and death industrial; a sound both hopeless and foreboding to suit our not-so-distant past and the inevitable present that it gave birth to, that has been tainted by a primitive nature, something from our distant past — or, perhaps, something from another reality all together.
I wouldn’t call this an incredible effort on the part of Gallucci, but the obscure/occult, psych, and paranormal references/tendencies all come together to make an interesting experience out of music that could stand to be more elaborate or structurally sound. The good gentlemen behind Locrian whom curate the Land of Decay label have shown themselves to have good taste in the past, and though it isn’t perfect, this is one more to add to that growing pile of exceptional tapes from unknown and perhaps under-appreciated artists.
A3) Collapsing Palace
A4) Antipalus Maleficiorum
B2) Sea Altar