First, this isn’t music. There’s music in here; well, there are musical instruments that are being struck, beaten, or farted through at least. This, as the “band” describes their aural pieces, is “Misanthropik Nihilistik Audio-Terror”. In a previous incarnation, this collection of allegedly top musicians from the Dutch and Belgian black metal / industrial scene were known as Stalaggh, their name referencing the Nazi POW concentration camps that informed their trilogy ‘Projekt Nihil’, ‘Projekt Terrror’ and ‘Projekt Misanthropia’. The ‘gh’ stands for “Global Holocaust” and features as an addendum here for their ‘Gulaggh’ “projekt”, again another trilogy, this time based on Soviet Union work camps. And whatever Stalaggh / Gulaggh have chosen for their subject, controversy has long been their shadow. Apparently, the “band” have, in the past, recorded the screams of patients from mental institutions (including ex-prostitutes, rape victims, and patients in children’s asylums) for their work (legally, allegedly) as they wanted the pain and suffering to be real and not acted. They needn’t have bothered. They could’ve recorded me having to listen to this shit instead.
Opening with a recording of Stalin ordering his enemies to be sent off to the camps, the next three quarters of an hour consists of ever-mounting tortured screams and off-key music scattered across a hellish soundscape designed to recreate the experience of the Soviet Union Gulag camps. On the first listen, the depiction of the ever-mounting torture is more a surprise than a shock and so the intended effect is achieved, to some extent at least. The effect rapidly diminishes and the listener soon numbs to it. Just like the soldiers in the camp would have been numbed by the endless pageant of torture that they were exposed to on a daily basis; just like we have become numbed by the portrayal of war to war itself; just like we have become numbed by the depiction of violence to violence itself; just like we have become numb to capitalist ideology and the numb reproduction of that ideology. Etc., etc., etc…
Stalaggh’s rebranding as Gulaggh is a masterstroke in deception. There’s nothing new here. Give one listen to any one of the Stalaggh works and you’ll hear the same merry medley of escalating screams and discordant instrumentation. The album’s subject is irrelevant because it is its form that is at its core, and its form is the manipulation of style for its effect. That I’ve spent more time thinking about the album and what to write in this review than listening to this shit is testament to its effect. Art is supposed to make the listener think about its subject and its relevance, or irrelevance if you like. ‘Vorkuta’ – as do all of Stalaggh/Gulaggh’s works – signifies the futility of existence, of existential angst, of the absurdist notion of deriving meaning from a meaningless world. Caught in an endless cycle of regurgitation disguised as production and creativity, this is our (post)modern condition. Limited edition or specially packaged copies of this will soon be (or possibly already are) selling on e-bay for ridiculous amounts, no doubt with elitists battling it out for the possession of cultural capital. But no one will listen to this more than once alone. This will be no more than an ornament atop the fireplace, a discussion piece for pseudo-intellectuals everywhere. Just like this fucking review…
Review by Jason Guest
27th Jan 2013
COUNTRY OF ORIGIN:
"‘Vorkuta’ – as do all of Stalaggh/Gulaggh’s works – signifies the futility of existence, of existential angst, of the absurdist notion of deriving meaning from a meaningless world. Caught in an endless cycle of regurgitation disguised as production and creativity, this is our (post)modern condition."