It is nearly impossible to avoid the influence of Cold Meat Industry in the underground music of today. For some strange reason, the once-obscure industrial atmospheres and ideas that spawned this great label still haunt the online community that surrounds this underground scene (as we speak). Dark ambient explorers, the hooligans of power electronics, post-gothic soundtrack creators, dungeon synth fetishists, and harsh noise wall addicts have all been influenced by Cold Meat Industry. Those of us who have followed the label from its inception may find ourselves asking today: Why won’t it just stay dead? It has gone from obscurity to recognition, to being closed down and deceased. And now, people are getting influenced and hungry for those cult acts of old. You can use the word post-CMI these days to describe it if you like; you may even be tempted to refer to it as retro or old-school, but it’s clear that the interest in Cold Meat Industry has grown in recent years. There is simply no way of denying it. And as all the fans of the label know, all of the tickets for the Cold Meat Industry festival this weekend have been sold out. Those few tickets remaining are being sold right now to the highest bidder. This may be a bold statement, but I know—here I am, an older fan pushing propaganda onto the younger generation about how the ‘good ol’ days’ were so much better. But were they really? To be honest, I don’t know—but I will try to examine and dissect this vintage phenomenon once and for all.
It all started with punk music and a Swedish man who was into it—a man who would suddenly decide that he found punk boring after his first encounter with the proto-industrial pioneers Throbbing Gristle. After this, he became interested in creating strange electronic-based mood music. He started with his own eerie project called Bomb the Daynursery and followed it up with his own cassette label, Selbstmord Organización, in 1982. It should also be mentioned that he was part of the Swedish cult act Enhänta Bödlar and released the project on his label. He then stopped Bomb the Daynursery and the former label in order to develop Lille Roger.
After having several drunken episodes with close friend Lina Baby Doll, thoughts of opening another new label began in order to release this new project. The name for the label?
Cold Meat Industry.
This name came from a track by Swedish kraut/space-rock band Njurmännen, which he and Lina also were a part of. August 1987 saw the very first Cold Meat Industry release exposed to the public, the legendary cult 7″ Undead by the aforementioned Lille Roger. Several cult debut releases followed during that period (1987-1990) by In Slaughter Natives, Memorandum, and Maschinenzimmer 412, and in 1988 they opened a mailorder service to accompany their first catalog.
To showcase upcoming bands, it was then decided that the first sub-label would open in 1991. It was called Sound Source and was dedicated to releasing professional-looking cassettes for such classic acts as Archon Satani, Megaptera, Deutsch Nepal, Consono, and Raison d´être. These acts would prove to be among the most important of Cold Meat Industry’s infancy. This sub-label was closed in 1992 with the release of Inanna‘s second album, a double-cassette entitled Œuvres Complètes Tome I – XVI. Most of the releases on Sound Source were, in fact, debuts for most of the label’s acts.
The creations of additional sub-labels did not end. In 1995, two new sub-labels was created: Death Factory for international industrial acts (Tombstone, Sutcliffe Jügend, Valefor, etc.), and Cruel Moon International for medieval and progressive folk music (Ataraxia, Soil Bleeds Black, Proscriptor).
Finally, in 1994, a label fan named Joakim Viktorsson created the first website (unofficial) in 1994. He would later design and build the official website which we all now fondly remember!
Cold Meat Industry would go on to continue their route towards dominating underground music for the next two decades, but sadly ceased activity in February 2014. The remains were then sold to fellow industrial label Tesco Organisation in Germany.
So, the question (or questions) remains: Why did Cold Meat Industry become the worshiped, cult-like underground phenomenon that we know it as today? Why and how did it attain the great success which followed? And finally, why did it suddenly cease activity?
After thoroughly considering these questions, listening to the classics, and then listening to the classics once again, my mind has settled on the three specific elements that would lead to this magic mixture: art direction, audio production, and independent uniqueness.
Design and Sound
These are the two specific qualities that most people would mention regarding Cold Meat Industry’s overall aesthetic. If you were a fan of the label in the early days, you would instantly recognize a Cold Meat Industry release (in, you know, an actual, physical record store) by the cover art. A kind of strange transparent, layered, grainy image represented in cold and dark colors; something between a blisteringly cold and dark Scandinavian winter meeting dark medieval dungeons. A typical example of this would be to look upon the cover-art for their budget showcase compilation called …and Even Wolves Hid Their Teeth and Tongue Wherever Shelter Was Given, Morthond‘s This Crying Age, or the debut of Raison d´être, Prospectus.
If you, for some strange reason, are still in doubt, you need to give the above records a listen. I, again, would mention that a diehard fan could recognize a Cold Meat Industry release in those days within the first five seconds of the album’s opening! We are not talking about bands and releases being completely similar (like some sort of goa trance or laid-back lounge label), but we are talking about a label which had an idea for visual and sound aesthetics in the highest possible way. In fact, I believe that more often than not, most of the bands that appeared on Cold Meat Industry’s roster were fairly unique, not really having much in common. The only thing they clearly had in common was their Scandinavian heritage and a love for obscure industrial music. You had the black-metal, satanic-inspired MZ.412, the orthodox Christian doom-industrial of Mental Destruction, the new-age inspired ambient of Raison d´être, the heavily occult leanings of Consono, and even Scandinavian witches like Aghast!
I want to describe four projects from the Cold Meat Industry roster which were there in the beginning and stayed with the label until the very end (which makes them quite essential for those just discovering the label):
Brighter Death Now
It may not have been one of the most sold-out acts on Cold Meat Industry early on, but it is surely the act with the strongest and most loyal cult following. I can confirm that Bright Death Now was the very first death-industrial act. After Lille Roger was laid to rest in 1987, Brighter Death Now was resurrected from the remains of Bomb the Day Nursery (notice the letters?). Back then, I once read that Brighter Death Now was being described like early Coil meets Lustmord; I also read that he was inspired by playing P.I.L. way slower than it was intended on his record player. Nevertheless, Brighter Death Now made a marriage between early ritual industrial and power electronics. The slow and atmospheric moods meet a relentless and aggressive monster. Later on, it became more of a psychedelic and thumbing industrialized power electronics in the company of the maestro of surreal psychedelics, Mr. Lina Baby Doll.
Whilst working in a record store, one of my good friends said, ‘Hell, all is shit from Cold Meat Industry…but, Raison d´être is actually pretty good!’ Someone else said that you could practically listen to the project’s music until the day you die without getting tired of it. I’m not entirely sure about that, but I do know this: I loved this act from the very beginning; it was strangely nostalgic and seemed somehow familiar. The keyword here is universal. We’re talking about melancholic and highly spiritual dark ambient music with a neoclassical edge. You can listen to it in the past and in the future, on Earth or in some distant galaxy. It doesn’t really matter as the end-result would always be the bloody same. Why is that, you may ask? Because it’s damn bloody good with its ethereal, gothic, Gregorian, medieval, spiritual, meditative, melancholic, and mesmerizing ritual chants! In other words, throw all of your Delirium records into the trash bin! The man behind this project became so successful on Cold Meat Industry that he became the producer for most of the label’s future releases and re-releases. Nowadays, most dark ambient acts sound like Raison d´être spawns, but sadly miss the spiritual element.
An interesting industrial band exploiting satanic black-metal camouflage; or as they have been described elsewhere, ‘the inventors of the so-called “black industrial”, a dark and haunting music which mixes industrial noise, ritual ambient, and black metal atmospheres’. Their first two releases showed a sound close to the junk metal clattering of SPK, Test Dept., and Einsturzende Neubauten. Their first release on Cold Meat Industry was their third overall and showed what the future would hold for this band. In Nomine Dei Nostri Satanas Luciferi Excelsi showcased a band with a black metal look playing experimental industrial noise/ambient. They gained an instant cult following, not only from the industrial scene but also from the black metal scene. Rumors had it that they had guys from some black metal band doing band photos for them. They followed this satanic approach and ended up being one of the true evergreens of Cold Meat Industry (and still are to this day). Most of their discography can be obtained via Cold Spring in the United Kingdom, who have reissued all of their classic albums.
This project was born in 1991 through Peter Andersson, a former member of the Swedish band Njürmannen. The mysterious name was taken from a classic Amon Düül II song and built its music around surreal, hypnotic sound structures, whispering voice samples, ethnic influences, and mechanized ritual aesthetics. He also released his debut on Sound Source (like Brighter Death Now and Raison d´être), the legendary Deflagration of Hell tape in 1991. His first CD release was Benevolence on Cold Meat Industry in 1993, which again showed the brilliance and uniqueness of the label. He would continue releasing several albums on Cold Meat Industry and donating tracks for the label’s various compilations. In the future, he made several projects with several different Cold Meat Industry acts such as Janitor with B.J. Nilsen (Morthound) and Bocksholm with Peter Andersson (Raison d´être). He would also join Roger Karmanik on live Brighter Death Now performances playing bass.
If you’re still confused as to where to start with Cold Meat Industry’s back catalogue, go after the early compilations which excellently showcase the bands (specifically, Karmanik Collection, …and Even the Wolves Hid Their Teeth and Tongue Wherever Shelter Was Given, or Absolute Supper), all of which are easily obtainable via Discogs.