Atlantikwall – Atlantikwall
Atlantikwall – Atlantikwall (2016)
For its first 80 seconds or so, there's not much to distinguish this albums from the average bandcamp experimental flotsam. A hand-patting drum beat, some looping high pitched sounds, all fairly manageable. Then some weird, off-beat crunching synth rolls in, the vocals hit, and all that's out the window. The vocals are really what did it for me. It's like waking up to find yourself bound to a stake, surrounded by a coven of witches chanting sacrificial rites by firelight. It's hard to catch specific phrases, but there's talk of constellations, church bells, places where "darkness accentuates the light", wild creatures lurking at the edge of forests, etcetera. And this goes on for over ten minutes.
If the firelit witch-chanting of the opening track is too much to bear, listeners may take refuge in the second, "Passage Colours", which is more along the lines of witches chanting by daylight. Or, maybe the hymn of some ghastly deck-swabbers aboard a zombie pirate ship, its captain gazing out into the shimmering distance of a blazing subtropical horizon for its next quarry. The third track, "Rebuild the City Lies", is the first from which I can reliably extract lyrical themes, and the picture is no more comforting than supernatural malevolence: politics and power. The artist cycles through verses rattling off various appellations and manifestations of power – for instance, "priest, rabbi, sufi, master, imam, rama, brahman" – following each batch with "accuse them, excuse them". Like most of the others, the track swirls into a blur, the vocals fading below the murk. A fitting analogy for those insidious forms of power that manage to slip behind a veil.
The second half of the album is instrumental, but the mood persists. The name Atlantikwall naturally invites certain mental imagery of the military fortifications Nazi Germany erected along the west coast of Europe during World War II and these instrumentals certainly suit evocations of those brutal implements of Hitler's total war. This music is tense and terrible, uncompromising in its vision, and asserts a grim reminder: sometimes, the strongest and highest of barriers only serve to trap evil within.