The five years from 1987 to 1992 was a profoundly pivotal period in time for Japanese Industrial/Noise music. Merzbow would be breaking through to international markets, performing in the USSR and United States, and then switching from analog to digital production. Kazuyuki Kishino (KK.Null) would start introducing Noise to prog-rock and hardcore audiences via Zeni Geva, and later tour with Sonic Youth. Fumio Kosakai began releasing records as part of Incapacitants in ’89 and form C.C.C.C. with bondage pornstar Mayuko Hino. Masonna was smashing his first pieces of gear on stage. And in the midst of it all, from the frenetic distorted frequencies to the hardcore punk rock guitars riffs of the aforementioned artists, Dissecting Table was the alchemical transmutation of the full range of what was going on in that time period. Consisting of two recorded live performances, this double disc relic titled “Industrial Document 1988/91” from Steinklang Industries documents a seminal moment in Ichiro Tsuji’s prolific nihilistic project and the sub-genre of Death Industrial.
The first performance, at the Explosion disco on April 2, 1988, takes place a year after the band’s first full length release, “Ultra Point Of Intersection Exist”, and the second performance, recorded at the renown Koenji 20000V on November 3, 1991, a year after their band’s classic sophomore album, “Between Life And Death”. The first 1988 performance starts off with 3 tracks from Dissecting Table’s very first EP, “Ultimate Psychological Description”, a maniacal set of panic inducing metallic percussion high pitched synth noise, and blistering electric guitar. Dissecting Table’s iconic Death Metal-esque gurgled screams are already introduced, an element that Dissecting Table would be known for in the coming years. “I Get My Slogan” borders on straight up Goregrind in its ferocity The next two tracks, “Rotation Of The Conflict” and “Kill The Bestial Function”, as far as I can tell only exist as live recordings in the band’s discography. The former slows down the pace with sludge-laden guitars and heavy bass, and on the latter double bass drums kick off another round of Industrial cacophony. Besides “Cosmic Death”, the rest of the first disc comes from the “Ultra Point Of Intersection Exist” album. “Cosmic Death” hints at a transition from the somewhat primitive dissonant sound on “Ultra Point…” to a more complex sound design, without sacrificing aural brutality. In all, the first disc captures a primal performance which would set the stage for what’s to come over the next few years.
The 1991 recording mostly consists of material from “Between Life and Death”, which displays a maturity in execution and structure. I should note that “Between…” is one of my first introductions to Industrial/Noise, so this material has a subjective influence as it crystallized as one of the most intense albums of my early teens. “Road to Death”, a fitting title, foreshadows the approaching darkness with brooding synths, demoralizing drumming, and gut wrenched screams. “Desperate Situation” brings back the anxious metallic percussion and double bass drums from the prior recording and joins them with arpeggiated synths and harsh breakdowns. Even now, almost 15 years after first hearing “Murder Music” and “Dark Side of the Life” I still get shivers when I hear their doom guitar and bass breakdowns, screeching electronics, and desperate female screams. “Ruin” reins it in a bit with hypnotic percussion and somnambulant electronics, as if to put the listener into a suggestive state. And then comes the highlight of the two recordings, a second rendition of “Cosmic Death”, this time with an expanded electronic sound. With your psyche exposed from the prior track, “Cosmic Death” creeps in with a carnal rhythm and plants its destructive seed. In time, the roots expand and overwhelm your central nervous system, ultimately draining you of vitality. “Humanism 1” comes from the “Constructive Music 1990” compilation and is a return to the corporal sound of their earlier work. “I Get My Slogan”, what is to become a classic DT track, finishes off the album, and listener, like a psychopath with wild hatchet swings and a bloody pounding.
Overall the recordings are above expectations in terms of audio quality, if a little light on the low end. As expected, the Dissecting Table sound tends to run into the higher frequencies, but there’s a fair amount of synth and string bass to compensate. But this is nitpicking, all the tracks come through clearly and felt evocative of the live experiences. It’s worth noting that both discs are audio only, no video, even though disc 2 was pressed as a CD-ROM. Though I’ve never had issues playing CD/CD-R discs on one of my older audio systems, this one wouldn’t read. It played without issue on a newer system, and on the PC it read as an audio data disc.
I initially hesitated in using the term “Death Industrial” with this project, as the genre would be later defined by a more brooding, slow paced sound, such as the work of Brighter Death Now. Though presented at times at a much faster pace, the desperate and fatal essence is shared, and I’ve settled with that being an appropriate fit for Dissecting Table. In contrast to the tie dyed and star eyed hipster noise rockers that were to come in the Nineties and cropping up even today, these documented expressions of nihilism offer no hope, only fatality. Ironically, these performances were anything but final, instead they were the opening salvos of what was to become Ichiro Tsuji’s robust brand of unique Japanese aural terror. Steinklang should also be commended for recognizing how monumental these early performances have been to Industrial Culture, and another welcomed addition to the Steinklang International series of releases.
Written by: Raul A.