Anyone claiming to be into true 'industrial' music should be well aware of www.ironflame.de: a site containing an absolute wealth of information regarding underground 'industrial' music culture. However, as the site's information is exclusively presented in German, the extent of depth and breadth of that information remains a frustrating enigma for those who do not have a fluent grasp of this language. Yet despite this potential limitation, the site has nevertheless received a massive 15000 hits a month soon after its inception in January, 2000. But not to be content with limiting their activities to the web alone, ironflame.de collaborators Stefan Schwanke and Taro Torsay conceived this ambitious musical compilation in order to celebrate 4 years of on-line existence. Originally slated to encompass a triple LP box set, 'statement 1961' has finally seen the light of day as a conglomerate of formats, ultimately containing a 2 LP's, 7" ep & CD. Immaculately presented with stunning graphic layout and design, the 4 panel, double gatefold sleeve is pressed in heavy matt finished cardboard stock, further embellished with spot varnished images. Each musical format is then specially housed within the gatefold sleeve, with the overall cover additionally featuring a 30 page 10" sized insert booklet. The final result is a release that is a phenomenal feast for both the eyes and ears. The numerous chosen graphics also deserve praise as they have been specifically chosen to brilliantly tie together the overall 'statement 1961' concept. Likewise the editors' inside cover declaration provides a personal explanation of the 'statement 1961' concept, whilst highlighting Stefan's and Taro's involvement in the Berlin underground. And with reference to that involvement, it spans back to the early 1980's and represents the primary source of inspiration that lead to the creation of both the ironflame.de website and the 'statement 1961' compilation.
But not to focus on the packaging alone, it is evident that the proposed triple LP set was modified during the compiling and ordering process, as a direct response to the breadth of styles and sounds of the submitted tracks. From power electronics, death industrial, dark ambient, heavy electronics, neo folk and neo classical, many facets of underground music are presented here. Or otherwise in the words lifted from the website, ironflame.de covers "industrial, ritual, atonal, difficult, electronic, music". 32 tracks in all, and all exclusively recorded for this compilation, 'statement 1961' represents a supreme collection of tracks from some of the most important artists within the broad 'industrial' scene. But before critiquing each of the individual tracks, to give a broad overview the compilation has been broken down into the following: LP 1: power electronics & ritual/ death industrial; LP 2: power electronics, industrial & neo classical; 7" ep: neo folk; CD: dark ambient, heavy electronics & experimental.
The act who hold the honour of introducing the 'statement 1961' set (Side A of LP 1) is none other then Con-Dom with an amazing track 'Behind the Wall'. Presenting a track of cyclic layered noise, sampled radio broadcasts and confrontational vocals, it is an intensely structured piece that is one of the most sophisticated you will have heard from Mike Dando yet. On the second track a crossing of the Atlantic to the US of A is made, where Slogun presents his trademark sound via the track 'This is Mine/ Do Nothing'. Although the power electronics sound, may have been done by many groups before (obliterated layers of mid to high end static noise, overlaid with ranted vocals), Slogun ensures he puts an individual stamp on this formula given the intensity of sound achieved, further amplified by the conviction of the vocal delivery. With the third track, Blackhouse round out Side A, here taking a step back from the intensity of the first two power electronic pieces. Their track 'Why I Love the Theatre So' presents a death industrial sound (slow morphing soundscapes and mechanical plodding rhythm), which is not that far removed from sound Brighter Death Now produced during the 'Great Death' era.
Flipping the first LP over, Side B sees CoCasper present 'Splitter im Kopf', a freeform piece of experimental industrial musings, containing washes of sounds, morphing textures and swirling loops. ExOrder follow next and are less harsh then what you might expect from their normal power electronics approach, with their track 'Death Pulse' being just that - a solid slab of death industrial music. Here a cavernous, swirling sound production and slow metallic rhythm forms the basis of the piece, as it is slowly twisted and tortured over a five minute expanse. The MZ412 remix of Folkstorm's 'Indoktrination' sinks into murky depths of massive low bass tones, oozing forward at a catatonic pace. As the track progresses sporadic radio voices can be detected, along with random clatter, yet overall the piece comes across sounding like the ritualised black industrial sounds of MZ412 then anything Folkstorm produced in their short but productive career. With the final track for Side B, nEGAPADRES.3.3 showcases an amazing ritual industrial piece 'Transe of Extropy'. Using looped, shifting/ sweeping tones that ebb and flow throughout, it creates a knife's edge intensity that acts as a backdrop for a sampled male voice discussing male genital modification.
Moving onto the Side C of LP's, Sardh's track 'Martyr' is sweeping in its experimental and improvisational structure, that manages to bridge both a dark ambient and death industrial sound, as the lethargic spoken word vocals provide an additional dimension (whilst bringing to mind Genesis P-Orridge's vocal stylings). On Gerechtigkeits Liga's track 'Monofonie' it strangely contains a sampled and looped rhythm/ beat from an Ice T track, which is further overlaid with noise loops, tribal percussion, vocal chants to create a rough and repetitive ritual industrial piece. Following next is Last Dominion Lost, being a project that features none other then industrial icon John Murphy. Their track 'Hell to Pay (warts and all)' encompasses a writhing slab of industrial experimentation, built on a melange of layered static & noise, offset with aggressive vocals that flit in and out of the mix. The last track for Side C is presented by the Grey Wolves + United States of Hell, and is an interesting collaboration given the style is slightly different to the power electronics approach that would normally be associated with the Grey Wolves. On their collaborative track 'The Writings on the Wall' it commences with a repetitive guitar riff and percussive industrial loop (both of which remains throughout the duration of the piece), however it the evolution of power electronics styled static noise layers that really builds the intensity of this track.
As a historic document of the mid to late 80's West-Berlin underground, track 1 of LP side D presents a piece from the long defunct project Stadion der Weltjugend. 'Fur immer Gropiusstadt' is this track, encompassing elements of dark ambience and neo classical via mixing sparse soundscape and vocal with morose piano tune and moody synth textures. With the presentation of their untitled track, Der Blutharsch continue a path of quirky martial industrial experimentation which has been characteristic of recent albums. Encompassing a rather uptempo martial jig, the piece utilises ample ethnic percussion, military drumming and solemn synth lines, whilst Albin recites commanding chanting vocals in his trademark style. Up next are the infamous Von Thronstrahl with their track 'Reisswolf', which is as strong as any of their bombastic yet sweeping neo classical tracks they have produced in the past. Here stately percussion, majestic synth and piano lines are offset against aggressive vocals stating the track's title, whilst a female voice informs us "to say in your homes". Completing Side D of LP 2, Bearer of Inmost Sun offer their piece 'Letzer Wille', which is a lengthy lamenting march, containing ingredients of spoken vocals, acoustic guitar, flute, horns and slow martial drumming.
Displaying an immaculate level of stylistic focus in the collation of submitted tracks, the 7" ep moves away from the harsher industrial sounds of the LP's, instead encompassing 4 compositions of a neo-folk persuasion. Of the Wand and Moon (featuring Niels Ronne) opens the 7”ep with a fantastic piece, whilst also taking the opportunity to refute prior unsubstantiated accusations (via the use of an introductory sample that states "I have nothing to do with nazi"). The track itself is a slow strummed acoustic number, including flute, chime percussion, chanted/ spoken/ sampled voices and unobtrusive layered noise, all amassing to evoke the groups trademark morose and reflective sound. Hekate continue the acoustic vibe on 'Heimfahrt', yet contain a sound that is far more folk oriented then martial oriented. Here a strong male German voice takes the vocal lead, as the music is built on a bitter sweet acoustic guitar melody underscored with synth layers and percussion.
Flipping to side B of the 7", English group Lady Morphia present a beautiful, yet all too short instrumental guitar piece 'A Faustian Winter' that continues a traditional folk type aura. The last of the four neo folk tracks on the 7” comes courtesy of Belborn. Here the track contains a hefty undercurrent of intense neo-classical synth layers, with main acoustic guitar tune and strong male vocal lead (presented in the German tongue).
Moving onto the last series of tracks, these quieter and more introspective tracks have been compiled more appropriately on the CD format, resulting in a dark ambient monolith of a disc. Bad Sector kicks of this collection, and as always, whatever Massimo produces is of stunning quality. Trademark shifting tones, slow morphing harmonic layers, mild rhythmic elements and sampled voices (spoken/ chanted) are all interwoven to create Bad Sector's 'Receptor (Mix02)'. Apoptose follow next presenting a solid, semi harmonic piece that is far more minimalist then their CD's would suggest. This is particularly highlighted given their track '137Cs' has a deep space type resonance, evoked through the slow shifting glacial tones. Keeping with the universal theme, S.E.T.I's track 'Found Failure', is a swirling vortex of hollow reverberations, that amass in intensity as the piece progresses (likewise utilising sampled radio voices). Steadily being drawn into the deeper recesses of the universe, Predominance's track 'Quantum Statics' is atmospheric as much as it is intense. Monumental in its sonic breadth, the spoken vocals act as a perfect accompaniment to the morphing soundscape. Asmorod equally impress on their piece 'Metal Sea', particularly due to the crystalline sonic clarity of the mutli-layered textures, constituting the best ritual dark ambience to be heard in some time. On 'Traces of Material' Schloss Tegal bring to the fore a sinister and engaging track of cavernous dark ambience, yet is followed by one of the most interesting pieces of the entire compilation, namely 'Formative01:Jurgen Bartsch' by P.A. Browse. Stunning in its sound and concept, a field recording of a rain soaked city is overlaid with haunting choir vocals and slow plucked orchestral tune. Musically brilliant, the male vocals arrive in narrative form, describing an utterly bleak and loveless scene from a family Christmas as seen through the eyes of Jurgen Bartsch as a child (who in later life became a child murderer). On a musical level quite beautiful, yet utterly desolate on the inference of the narrated story. Continuing on, the long established group Autopsia offer a dark and moody neo-classical type track that reminds somewhat of the Twin Peaks theme song. With a sinister tinged melody at the forefront, Autopsia’s piece is further animated with programmed percussive beats, ensuring that the atmosphere differs slightly from a strict neo-classical sound. Reutoff the Russian group that have been garnering positive attention of late, contribute a hallucinogenic mix of dark ambient and muted neo classical textures (tense synth layers, heavy grating percussion and choir voices fleshing out the piece appropriately). In modifying musical approach 'Double Border/ Reignited Bioreaktor' by Sigillium S returns to an experimental industrial guise. Here the sweeping textural sounds take on an almost orchestral quality, additionally highlighted through the semi-melodious outbursts. Yet interest is further heightened with the introduction of the slow rhythmic cut up breaks that expand the overall breadth of the piece. Normally associating Thorofon with the power electronics scene, their track 'Not Unlike Morbid Blood' is far removed from this, being a fantastic mix of neo classical and death industrial sounds. With sampled orchestral layers and slow lurching rhythm, the total sickening vibe is completed with morbidly delivered spoken vocals. Veering into more experimental territory, Illusion of Safety present their clinical piece 'Ground Once'. Clips, pops and mild static are amalgamated into a composition that moves from being minimalist though to quite noisy and extroverted. In quickly progressing towards the conclusion of 'statement 1961', Ultra provides the final track with their contribution 'La Reunion'. Probably surprising to some, the track is an unusual piece of experimental industrial sounds, with a sampled conversation between a man and young girl acting as the central focus (and whilst the voices are not in English I suspect their use implies some sinister or nasty intent....).
To provide one last declaration regarding 'statement 1961', it must be said that from conception, to musical collation, to graphic design and to final packaging presentation, this is simply a landmark release that works stunningly as a collector's item and functionally as a supreme collection of tracks. Statement 2004? Asserting that the 'statement 1961' compilation is anything less then mandatory would be a blatant understatement.