by Ben Hudgins
Last year’s debut from Dødsmaskin (Norwegian for “Death Machine”), Fullstendig Brent (Completely Burnt) is a concept album meant to sonically document the witch trials that took place all across that country during the mid to late-seventeenth century. The album paints its pictures with a palette of dark ambient, field recordings, orchestral passages, and pitch-black sound sculptures that routinely explode into thunderously crushing death industrial. These martial moments then fall away into stygian caverns so deep that their denizens have never felt the warm touch of the sun. There’s a bone-chilling emptiness here, but always, always a crackling, slowly burning background; it’s the sound that unpins this entire recording.
Female misery is represented across all the tracks, especially on “Christoffer Orning,” the record’s nearly eleven-minute centerpiece. What research I was able to do indicates that this refers to Amtmann Christoffer Orning, an infamous witch hunter who was, “responsible for the great 1662-1663 string of trials – the worst of its kind in Norway”; who, “felt genuinely pursued by Satan and the witches”; who “seemed almost paranoid at times.” The track itself prominently features cries for help and howls of pain under torture set to a hellacious soundtrack that grows and grows in ferocity, gradually smothering the listener in a colossal wall of noise. The anger, confusion, and despair here are absolutely palpable.
Each of the five pieces stretched across just over forty minutes of recording time features a full gamut of dark sounds, and the extended track lengths offer the opportunity for them to evolve and mutate. The pieces each begin softly (again, always with the crackling fires in the background), and additional textures are slowly brought in. Layer upon layer builds up, usually to an abrasive, violent crescendo before once again softening. While this may sound as if Dødsmaskin is giving the listener some respite, it’s really nothing of the kind. This is simply a brief break in the abuse in order to prepare for the next interrogation.
For you are guilty of commerce with the Devil and you shall confess.