REVIEW: Various Artists - "The Challenge From Beyond (A Tribute to H. P. Lovecraft)"

By Wilde

Chain Border

The Challenge From BeyondLike the title says, this one's a comp dedicated to HP Lovecraft. Lots of trippy industrial on here, as well as a liner rant from Robert Price. The liner art is a bunch of understated HPL-style horrors (although it looks a little like a tarantula and a mealworm in low light). If not necessarily purely Lovecraftian, this is in any case an interesting look at the darker side of industrial and ambient.

Decoded Feedback - Re-Animation - Opening the compilation is industrial heavy Decoded Feedback. For openers we have cheesy synth vox, subtle bass, a fast electro beat and organ synths. This track's mostly minor key stuff (gee, so much unlike the rest of this comp). Heavily distorted vox abound here; the vocalist is doing the whole "eee-vil" hissing thing. It's very Psychopomps, although a bit more delicate. Decoded Feedback are a fairly well known band, giving this comp a bit of weight it otherwise might not have had. Later in the track, a bit more of a beat is added, with bass synths.
Decoded Feedback Web: http://www.interlog.com/~defcode

Hexedene - Dreams in the Witchhouse - Some backward masked drums lead, with radically flaked out guitar and protracted overprocessed either synths or vox (hard to tell). Then onward we go into sitar, tribal drums, and high female vocals. Eventually it changes to a vaguely Indian beat with heavily processed drums and flanged synths. The fem. vox come back, weaving in and out (no apparent lyrics). Lots of buzzing synths here.
Hexedene Web: http://www.sonic-boom.com/mission-control

Society Burning - Hold Your Breath (Dreams 1 & 2) - Distorted vocals, like radio, and low synths kick this one off. It has a very minimalist start (like Tangerine Dream), then accelerates into fast industrial breakbeat with minimalist synths. More synths are added as the track goes on, and a very fast tempo is the rule here. This somewhat reminds me of some of Squarepusher's more accessible stuff. Synths are periodically added and removed, with lots of spatial stereo field effects. They really cranked the sequencer on this one; it's pure acid cyberpunk. Dream 2 is very Tangerine Dream again. There's a sense of open space, with rather angular synths, but periodically infected with echoes of the chaos of Dream 1.
Society Burning Web: http://www.netherworld.com/~twitch/sobu.html

Xol Dog 400 - C'thulhu - This track opens with seagulls and crashing waves. Then it goes into the fast, pounding synths and mechanical squeaking. The beat is the only thing that varies. More beat layers are added as the track goes on. The bass fades in eventually, under fast scratchy synths. Then the pounding and seagulls are back. More of the same for almost 6 minutes, then back to the beach. I zoned.
Xol Dog 400 Web: http://www.xol-dog-400.de/

New Mind - Fading Giant - This one's heavy from the get-go. Featuring a slow, thumping beat, fading, flanged vox, and minimalist synths, the track title describes the track. It follows up with boinging synths, then on into the odd flanged high synths. Suddenly the beat drops out to a minimalist bass thump, and the synths get into the heavy glide. Then the original beat comes back with hi-hat cymbals and flanged high synths (like overly high vocal synths). This is ambient as hell, albeit a mite funkier than industrial usually gets.
New Mind Web: http://www.sonic-boom.com/mission-control

Burning Blue - To Ramble in the Hills - Here's a high pitched 80s style synthpop beat, which turns into minimalist thumping industrial. TRITH has low standard goth style vox, with some synth strings/woodwinds. Coming into the chorus, the bass synths cut in. This reminds me of Rosetta Stone sans guitar.

Suspicion Breeds Confidence - Thaumaturgos - A high feedback squeal starts this one out, panning between right and left. This turns into a high synth with exactly the same effect. A light tinkling beat and synths back it up, along with a synth effect not unlike an alarm clock. The high pitched squealing continues past the point of being annoying, with low muttered, distorted vox under it. Weird beat structure on this one. I'd call it the most Lovecraftian of the tracks so far. Listen to it once.

Seven Trees - Fallen Idols (Legends Speak Mix) - Some low distorted radio samples lead, then some strings, with an extremely slow beat, then some synths come in under, with more distorted samples. The track then goes into a harp/harpsichord melody line. This eventually turns into straightforward synth piece with a militaresque beat, albeit still slow. Later, the beat fades, slows down into a thumpier feel, with louder distorted vox overlaid.

Oneiroid Psychosis - Nightgaunts - The main theme here is deep strings with light piano overlay, and very light fading choral synths with a buzzing synth bassline. Sounds like atmospheric music for a film about a child confronting the bogeyman. Eventually some tiredgoth whining vocals are added. Suddenly the track grows a faster, irregular beat, as well as guitar synths. Shades of Queensryche/Led Zeppelin abound here, very pompous. The guitar goes away briefly, then fades to tinkling piano.
Oneiroid Psychosis Web: http://home.att.net/~psylabs/op-frame.htm

Inertia - Sectorial - Thumpy buzzing, chirping insectile synths are the rule here, with very low, distorted vox. Eventually the synths take on a familiar minor-key industrial feel. The synths are later interspersed with hydraulic sounds during the run.
Inertia Web: http://www.cryonica.com/inertmenu.htm

Stone 588 - Conversations with Chaos - Here we have, well, chaos, by Ipso Facto's house band. It's swirlygirlygoth, only crunchy.
Stone 588 Web: http://home.earthlink.net/~ipsofacto/s588.htm

D-Drik & Iktus - Tok'! - All there is here is a gradually increasing buzzing synth tone, which cuts out halfway through the track, followed by some mechanical clunking and another tone, which cuts in and out interspersed with random electronic noise. Then there's a distorted roar, which fades out.

Railgun - The Whisperer in the Darkness - This starts with a yell, followed by insectile buzzing and hissing, and eventually another yell. Various echoing spacy synths are extant here, as well as what sounds like scrambled radio samples. Then of course there's the expected synth pulsing, beat, and occasional vocal samples cutting in. This track makes a little more use of the cymbals than most of the industrial I've heard. There's a bit of a Vangelis vibe here, but heavier. Halfway through we have some screaming, buzzing, and deep laughter. After this, it develops almost an 80s robotic dance vibe (shades of Herbie Hancock). There's an increasingly complex synth riff, then back to the basic industrial theme, followed by more synth noodling.
Railgun Web: http://users.lanminds.com/atomick/railgun/

Forma Tadre - Corona Mundi - This one's all spacey ambience with no beat. There are lots of light synths fading in and out, and some tinkling. It's very Tangerine Dream/Vangelis.
Forma Tadre Web: http://nexon.com/forma.tadre

Overall, this is a very good comp, mixed about 2 to 1 industrial for ambient. It's a little more spacey and bleak than most rivetheads are used to, but it's definitely quality. Besides, HPL himself was all about spacey bleakness anyway.

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