We haven’t been very nice to martial industrial over the past year or two. As a genre, it’s borne the brunt of our criticism unlike any other; even to the point where discussion was had over whether or not “martial is dead.” While the reasons for this debate have been discussed at length elsewhere, there’s something a little sad about the thought of an entire genre—especially one so personally influential—dying a slow death as you helplessly look on. All things must come to an end, of course, and times change, and the kind of ambiguous symbolism that was either intriguing or alarming not too long ago brings up an entirely different set of issues today.
Kyrie Eleison sounds like a time capsule that was carefully tucked away around ten years ago, when there was so much going on in the post-industrial scene that felt new and interesting and transgressive. No doubt, this has much to do with the fact that both tracks on the EP were composed between 2003 and 2009; the title track, albeit in a somewhat different form, was featured on 2009’s Okzidentalisches Grammophon. Time has softened its edges slightly. Although the newer incarnation lacks some of the raw power heard in the former, it’s still a fine example of the sample-heavy musical bricolage that has come to define the genre.
Though time has softened its edges slightly, a sense of impending doom is loosed from the moment we hear a priest chanting “kyrie eleison”: Lord have mercy. One gets the sense that this is a prayer to sanctify a mission, and as voices burst through the chanting to bark orders and demand compliance, some of the mystery surrounding that mission is dispelled. “The ceremony is over,” someone mutters in the background, but it’s not, and neither is Die Weisse Rose’s holy war. It’s a soundtrack to inner struggle and unseen warfare; a litany for those who continue fighting long after the battle has been won, and it’s a fine example of the sample-heavy musical bricolage that has come to define the genre.
That said, it’s probably best to dispense with the notion that Kyrie Eleison is somehow unusual or unique in any technical sense. On the contrary; in just over ten minutes it manages to employ nearly every single martial trope, from air-raid sirens to bombastic monologues to the ponderous drums that drive “(Black) Birds of Passage.” The distinction here lies in how well these tropes are used. After hearing innumerable uninspired tracks indistinguishable from one another, clips of Hitler shouting and the same insistent beat, it becomes easy to forget the sort of genuine talent that spawned all those lackluster projects in the first place. Kyrie Eleison is a brief but strong reminder of how good martial industrial can be when it’s done right.
Released in a limited edition of 200, there are still a surprising number of available copies floating around. To pass this one up would be unwise; especially for those feeling nostalgic for martial industrial’s finest hours.
A1) Kyrie Eleison
B1) (Black) Birds of Passage