Law Vindication and Contempt
By Ray Van Horn, Jr.
Let's break the title down:
Vindication and Contempt. First, Vindication. For Mitchell Altum, the
measure between this work from 1997 and his Our Life Through Your
Death(1), is that whatever demons he was trying to exorcise on the latter
recording seem to be realized by now, but only to an extent, which brings us to
the next word: Contempt. Mitchell Altum has a lot of contempt. Seemingly
wanting to impress mainstream society with his intellectual jargon while
rejecting it in the same breath (consider the hilarious "All hail mini-van Wal
Mart-America), Altum is one pissed-off motherfucker. His seething hatred
is not so much tongue-in-cheek as it is a loogie shot at the feet, when one
reads this gem of a rant: "We live in a nation where the majority of the
population define themselves and demonstrate their principles by their favorite
stock car racer, Looney Tunes character, and sub-fad of clothing they wear."
Contempt to its max. On Vindication and Contempt, Altum finds a way to
corral his bitter coldwave craft and advance it. Perhaps one of the best
realizations of coldwave's capacity, Vindication and Contempt is a huge
progression from Our Life Through Your Death, albeit no less
Hollow pleasantly manipulates surf crash samples with
guitar screeching and a digital death march. The computer-tweaked incantations
sound like propaganda, but with all of the components mixed, it leaves for a
dramatic-not pulverizing-effect. No One Will Find Them squeezes one's
pupils a few centimeters with its horrifying edicts, yet the addition of
acoustic guitar to the same elements found on Hollow broadens Altum's
scope and execution, as he seeks the jugular with lyrics like "Let us rape,
murder and rejoice, for tomorrow we die," as whispered echoes call out an
unsettling homage to a "beautiful gun" and blades across throats. Disturbing
beyond reason, the really disturbing part about No One Will Find Them is
that it's pretty fucking catchy.
A Place of Refuge, A Test of Commitment features a
sedate synth melody, another surprise of unimagined depth. Altum's coldwave
progresses because of the carefully orchestrated compositions accompanying the
racket. Said racket becomes more subtle, and therefore far more effective.
You Have No Choice teases and fades with its whirling coldwave that
gives way to a somber synth fugue, again with a tangible melody, proving again
that the best way to make coldwave work is to give it ground to stabilize in.
Not easy, considering it's an unstable medium. Take, for instance, Locked
Locked Down Solid begins with a Spartacus-like
orchestra sample that feels majestic until it is anarchied by Alton's shrill
coldwave and labyrinthine notes. The track is run over by a motor grating grind
with only the slightest traces of notes to them. This track is more akin to
traditional coldwave, which is aggravating in some aspects. Unknown
Command is an orgasmatron with its vibrator delights that ring like a study
of note stagnation through bass treatments. Fluctuating Tensile Strength
has a doom melody that welcomes back a concrete structure and gets Alton's
point across better than the shrill bludgeoning found on Locked Down
Solid and parts of Unknown Command. Fluctuating Tensile Strength has
more feeling with the strings of swaying notes that carry well into
Titan, which crushes the listener into submission with its digital
A clever body of work, Mitch Altum dedicates Vindication
and Contempt to "all the two-bit hobbyists and delusional thinkers who
continue trying to impress their friends and kid themselves." An honest
admission from someone whose anger is anything but two-bit. Something dark
rules his mind, but at least this time around, Mitch Altum finds a way to
properly vent his disenfranchisement. If others would only follow suit...
elsewhere in this issue.
Post: P.O. Box 6254, South Bend, IN, 46660, USA