Poetic Lines on the Art of Dying
Current 93’s “Dogs Blood Rising” Turns 30
Written by Conor Wrigley and Sage
Current 93 is a name that anyone with even a menial working knowledge of neofolk or the greater whole of post-industrial music will instantly recognize. Having found its beginnings in David Tibet’s native England in 1982, the project released a handful of experimental albums–such as Nature Unveiled, which was released in the same year as the album featured here—that were soon followed by the now thirty-year-old masterpiece, Dogs Blood Rising. Both of these albums deserve special praise for their unique sound and showcase Tibet’s early ability and desire to experiment through mixing traditional instrumentation with sound manipulation. Tibet would go on to write many of what are now considered essential albums of the neofolk genre and has worked with many well-known artists such as Boyd Rice, Douglas P., Rose McDowell, John Balance, Shirley Collins, and more specifically to Dogs Blood Rising, John Murphy and Nurse with Wound‘s Steven Stapleton.
There is much that can be said about Current 93 as well as the iconic Dogs Blood Rising, but we should begin by exploring the overall importance of Tibet’s considerable amount of work. Tibet’s influence on the lion’s share of the post-industrial underground cannot be understated nor ignored, and for most, the connection to his music has only solidified further with time. Spanning from the spiritual shadow that he has cast over the apocalyptic folk genre–a phrase which he himself coined–to the depths of black metal through his collaboration with former Mayhem vocalist Sven Erik “Maniac” Kristiansen‘s Skitliv project, Tibet has managed to maintain an influence that continues to remain relevant well beyond the normal artistic lifespan of most of his contemporaries. While several others, including the two artists who complete neofolk’s sacred triad in Douglas Pearce and Tony Wakeford, have managed similarly exemplary careers, it is evident that the effects of Current 93’s music have been far more far-reaching than the folk and post-punk genres.
Before the neofolk classics of Swastikas for Noddy, Thunder Perfect Mind, Black Ships Ate the Sky, and so forth, there was a time when there was no such scene, and many of these artists were still experimenting and finding the sound which would later become the trademark of the neofolk and apocalyptic folk genre. It was during this time that David Tibet released Dogs Blood Rising. This album is a stepping stone into many different genres and really pushed forward the tradition of experimentation that Current 93 has since become known for. While the album does not contain the acoustic hymns of Black Ships Ate the Sky nor the pensive yet just-as-experimental sounds of later albums such as Aleph at the Hallucinatory Mountain and I am the Last of all the Field that Fell, Dogs Blood Rising is a remarkable effort that contains both meticulously arranged compositions and many themes which would later come to define the neofolk genre.
The album itself is a decisive reminder as to why neofolk falls under the post-industrial umbrella, though this is not to say that the album is noisy like many of Boyd Rice’s albums under the moniker NON. Many of the sounds are frequencies which have been manipulated to the point that they develop droning qualities. Much of Dogs Blood Rising‘s lyrical content is based on themes that Tibet has gone on to explore at length throughout his career, such as the esoteric side of Christianity as well as a track which was recorded on the birthday of Japanese author and revolutionary Yukio Mishima entitled “Raio No Terrasu (Jesus Wept)”. Though it is important to note that Death in June was also responsible for the popularity of this figure within the genre, this in itself was–at least in part–profound for many early fans of Current 93, as the philosophies that Mishima discussed both as a seditious revolutionary and as an author would later find their way into the music of Ostara, :Golgatha:, and many others.
The album also features a song which would find its way over to Death in June only one year later on their Nada! album, the song of course being “Falling Back in Fields of Rape”, which any Death in June fan will instantly recognize, in part, as “Behind the Rose (Fields of Rape)”. The album does not feature any conventional music, however, as the movements found on Dogs Blood Rising are purely of the industrial tradition, featuring droning loops and pseudo-rhythms that have been crafted and layered underneath Tibet’s haunting, sometimes tormented vocals. The album also features the incredible track “St. Peters Keys all Bloody”, which is an exceptionally dark medley created out of two of Simon & Garfunkel‘s most beloved songs: “Scarborough Fair” (which was, of course, not originally written by the duo) and “The Sounds of Silence”. Perhaps the most curious aspect of Dogs Blood Rising is that Tibet’s vocals are not quite the same here as they are on other albums where he has adopted a distinguished and unique approach that is not easily mimicked by others. Here, in Current 93’s infancy, Tibet’s vocals are at their most visceral, impressively displaying an unnervingly complex range of emotion through very few words.
While Dogs Blood Rising is certainly different than the releases that have persisted throughout the past three decades of Current 93’s career, its importance and place in music history cannot be denied. The lone fact that the album was released in 1984 shows, in and of itself, just how far ahead of its time it was. Even as many classic albums from, for example, Cold Meat Industry have begun to sound painfully dated, Dogs Blood Rising has continued to age gracefully while the compositions found within sound as fresh today as they did thirty years ago. The album also presents a sharp spotlight on Tibet’s versatility as a musician and vocalist, as well as his ability and will to not be confined by one set of boundaries, which is something that has become all too evident throughout his career through releases such as BaalStorm, Sing Omega, I am the Last of All the Field that Fell, and literally tens of others. The album’s significance to the post-industrial genre is without question as it represents an enduring influence that is on par with releases from the likes of Coil, Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, Boyd Rice, and many others. On the 30th anniversary of the album’s release, we at the Heathen Harvest Periodical would like to invite our readers to keep in mind its cultural and historical significance while revisiting or rediscovering this iconic piece of art.