Gnawed is a death industrial/power electronics project from Minneapolis, Minnesota that has been quite active in the last five or six years. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to pronounce this moniker right, but from the few things that I’ve heard in the past, anything that Grant Richardson creates is almost sure to be right up my alley.
Feign and Cloak is Gnawed‘s second full-length CD and has been released on the heels of—considering the relatively short story of this project—a fairly large production of tapes and CD-Rs. The album has been released by legendary, long-running, and prolific American dark ambient and industrial label Malignant Records.
The gritty black-and-white pictures and black-paper rips on the artwork reek of murky, dark power electronics and clearly anticipate the sounds on the CD. It might look a little clichè, but I like it—it’s fitting and recognisable. A simple, familiar aesthetic is always good in my book.
I must say that after a first listen (admittedly at quite low volume—shame on me), I was quite unimpressed with Feign and Cloak, but then it quickly made me change my mind. From the very first second Gnawed engulfs the listener with a crooked mass of pulsating, brooding synthesizers, low-frequency hums, feedback, unintelligible and extra-flangered, pitched-down vocals, metal-junk abuse, and industrial loops. As you can imagine, that’s a complex noisy approach that I’ll never get enough of.
Feign and Cloak might be the least American-sounding of the few recent power electronics records from the United States that I have had the opportunity to listen to. The classic European inspiration here is quite strong and predominant, with much of Richardson’s vocal performance making me think about Mike Dando and his work in Con-Dom (just listen to ‘Pestilence Beholden’, for example). His use of semi-dark ambient synth carpets calls to mind Genocide Organ, while the overall filthy texture of the production makes it also close to the best efforts of the Grey Wolves.
All of Feign and Cloak‘s tracks are quite well-structured and juxtaposed, with solid variation in the quality of sounds and lots of interesting twists. The layering is clear and functional, and even if some of the more piercing sounds are quite raw, it’s nice to be able to discern everything. Every crunchy distortion, every high-pitched microphone feedback has its place. Bravo to Gnawed for taking the time and effort to actually build tracks that are dynamic, evocative, and uncluttered.
Old-school, omnipresent, and fairly simple power-electronics synth lines—with various tones and roles—reign at the forefront for the entire duration of Feign and Cloak. It’s nothing that I haven’t heard before, of course, but it just works so well. The sheer variety of synth sounds and the knowledge/fetish with which they carefully fill the gaps between makes them very enjoyable.
The insistent, loud junk metal and noise loops give an old-school industrial rhythm to some of the songs (see ‘Burning the Hive’ or ‘The Scale’) and powerful vocals work like frosting on a cake, deserving extra praise for the exceptional use of panning to give them life. The more overly dark-ambient moments with low-frequency synth and distant, echoed, squeaking junk metal work pretty well too. There really isn’t much more that I could ask for in a contemporary power-electronics record.
…except lyrics. Next time, I’d encourage Malignant Records to print them. Gnawed’s screams and mutterings are almost completely unintelligible just like they should be, but I’m sure that there are many people who will want to know more. How the hell am I supposed to sing (scream) these songs under the shower-head otherwise?
A special mention must go to the fact that according to the liner notes, some scrap-metal sounds for one of the tracks were recorded in the ‘Basement of Hate’ by a member of Cock E.S.P., and that others were supposedly recorded in the sewers—nice touch.
Feign and Cloak is recommended to all fans of 90’s European power electronics and to whoever is curious about new American cult of nasty power electronics.
01) Time Undone
02) Burning the Hive
03) The Scales
04) Feign and Cloak
05) Pestilence Beholden
06) The Wings and the Carrion
07) The Drowning Fire
08) Torch to Cedar