Mörder Machine was one of several Marco Corbelli side-projects during the duration of Atrax Morgue. The Mörder Machine name was used twice in 1998 for two albums that were originally released on Corbelli’s own Slaughter Productions label. The first album was DeathShow and the sequel was Happy BirthDeath, and they are the basis of this Old Europa Cafe box set, along with two unreleased recordings on CD and cassette. The box also comes with two postcards and a DVD containing four live Atrax Morgue performances that span a period of eight years.
Happy BirthDeath opens in a purgatory of dark-ambient fog which is cut into by crude electronics as Corbelli chants in the background like a threatening presence. Is Corbelli suggesting he is the ‘Living Dead’? The album hastily intensifies and descends into deathly power electronics by the time ‘Night Is Coming. Forever.’ rolls around as Corbelli’s vocals are doubled and dragged across beats and harsh frequencies. Imagine the soundtrack to the ritual scenes in Eyes Wide Shut, but made explicitly for a wilful execution.
Corbelli simultaneously embraces repetition and improvisation on ‘Hell Is Here’ and ‘Lorna Green’, which I believe is about the pornographic actress of the same name who appeared in several movies in the early eighties. It’s worth noting that the original release had a calendar with his birthday circled next to a death symbol along with an image of Corbelli as an infant. Lorna Green’s time as an actress spanned 1981-1983; what personal significance does she hold? The background samples her films as a synthesiser sound oscillates ominously. With each track, the sounds pulsate to create a slow death with all its horror amplified—death industrial personified.
Another addition to the original release was an illustration suggesting the best way in which to hang yourself; this release really isn’t for the faint-hearted.
The suffocating sequel DeathShow pulsates with a fractured digital beat on ‘I’m So’; it descends into a dark ambient nightmare as Corbelli’s infected vocals radiate fear and anxiety. The layering progresses on ‘What’s a Human?’ as those vocals combine with echoing chants and beats build to a maximum intensity. Sharp, infected synthesisers then punctuate the vocal abstractions.
DeathShow disintegrates as it progresses; rhythms distort and vocals gain more prominence while the simple electronics sharpen into power electronics and get uglier. This is impressively brought to fruition in ‘I’m So (Reprise)’ and ‘Deathshow’ wherein the electronics become straight-up deathly and threatening. The sounds flit between wall-like rumbles and death industrial hums towards an eventual combinination as Corbelli’s vocals retch violently across everything. Through the lens of Mörder Machine, Corbelli wishes nothing more than to sardonically express his disgust and desire to become one with the stretched-out infinity of his own harsh sound frequencies.
DeathShow builds up to splattering pulsations that assert themselves massively. Sounds form rhythms that dominate entire tracks and eventually step back to allow other sounds to take the lead. Here, Corbelli is in control. This is no simple cathartic release of anxiety or depression, but an intense journey through the mind of Marco Corbelli at his most depraved.
Each Mörder Machine release is a filth-laden soundtrack for the cycle of birth and death in which Corbelli could be seen as a murderer narrating his own god-playing actions and the eventual arrival of death. In this world that he has created, he can freely fantasize about his own end—about life murdering life. Ultimately, it’s difficult to determine whether the two releases combine to elaborate on the duration of a life-span, or its slow death. Is the glass half-empty? Is it half-full? Or, in Corbelli’s case, does the glass lie in jagged shards upon the floor?
The live DVD contains footage of four entire shows that span approximately eight years. The first, from 1995, is just Corbelli working behind keyboards and effects to graft cut-up noise with graphic videos of death, surgery, serial killers, and all manner of perversions. Fast-forward to three years later and Corbelli is beginning to become an imposing stage presence donning a long black leather trench coat and sunglasses. His vocals are now more prominent as he begins to evolve away from nervously sulking behind keyboards and into an imposing frontman. The flickering video quality with its sudden jumps and rolls gives the performance a haunting quality that can’t really be avoided given Corbelli’s eventual fate. The following 1998 performance, recorded only a few months later, shows Corbelli as a more confident frontman switching with ease from his keyboard set-up to prowling the stage. This is where his identity really starts to become his own theatrical master; visual influences are being shed. By 2003, his artistic aesthetic has reached full maturity. He has begun using a wider range of vocal sounds while taking on a strange albeit entirely in-control presence. It is perfection as only Marco Corbelli could imagine it. Witnessing this incredible artistic evolution behind one of industrial’s most infamous and central figures is what makes obtaining this DVD an absolute requirement. I would argue that it’s difficult to grasp the full context of Atrax Morgue without seeing it at least once.
The unreleased reels were discovered by Corbelli’s friend Davide Tozzoli after his passing. They are rightly described as, ‘his last recordings, a cold and uncompromising analogue testament’. The recordings return to the primitive noise of Maurizio Bianchi (with whom Corbelli collaborated), totally pure and futuristic in a very retro way that only Italian industrial has mastered. There is a cold aggression present that is both refreshing and impressive through its simplicity, relentlessness, and purity. The Tape (Reel II) is of the same analogue simplicity yet more aggressive. Both reels raise an interesting question: Was Corbelli planning to regress the Atrax Morgue sound as a platform to further remove himself from the death industrial/power electronics sound he’d pioneered and perfected (a regression before progression strategy)?
Anything Corbelli created during his lifetime has become wildly collectable, with each release taking on the quality of a fetish object with some becoming reissued and repackaged in lavish box sets like this. As his legend grows, I can’t help but ask myself: Who was Marco Corbelli really? Urban legend suggests plenty. Photographs exist that show him crossdressing, posing with knives, and constantly toying with, invoking, and tempting Death. I find myself impressed with his crossdressing bravado, his prolific output, and more than anything, his work ethic. When listening to his work, it is difficult to avoid being infected by him and getting stuck in cycles of obsessive thought. How do you avoid these things in the present day when listening to anything by Atrax Morgue, after all?
But do I want to avoid these things?