Sunday, December 21, 2014

Label Spotlight: Prison Tatt Records

Prison Tatt Records is an eclectic and fiercely independent American record label releasing black metal, punk, and noise records through limited analog runs. What is so striking about Prison Tatt is how completely D.I.Y. the entire operation is. Wm. Berger, mastermind and workhorse, has fully dedicated himself to the vitriolic aesthetic of nearly all those he works with through his label. The label serves as a place for it's single proprietor to join forces with others who carry a similar passion for the darker side of music and noise. Each release outlined below is completely different from the rest, highlighting Prison Tatt's dedication to all forms of strange extremity. In the past I have encountered, loved, and exposed others to a couple of Prison Tatt releases like the recent joint effort with Sibir Records to release Yellow Eyes' beautiful and scathing Stillicide, Intolerant's prideful and scorn-filled Snow Stained with the Blood of Traitors, and Sesso Violento's absolutely brilliant/perverse punked out black metal hell Molestador. The passion of Wm. Berger is exceedingly clear through everything from the packaging of the releases to the handpicked roster of the label.

Smoke - Haat Laatste Oordeel

Smoke is a now unfortunately defunct improvisational black metal duo from the Netherlands. Haat Laatste Oordeel serves as the bands swan-song, and is a fitting end the band's distinct black madness. Eerie and deranged the one sided record careens down its dark path with strange howled vocals and wicked rasps taking charge over the cacophonous rattle that is the music. Improvisation can often times lead to two negatives, timid stagnancy or completely unlistenable chaos, neither of which gains hold over Smoke. Both musicians, K and M, maintain complete control throughout the entire recording. Falling somewhere between the stomping madness of degenerate punk and the cold seer of raw black metal, Smoke channels cavernous black energy. The clattering of drums flies full force against the churning wall of mangled and completely distorted guitar noise. The whole record is a writhing and screeching testament to the power of improvisation. The liberation from structure allows for the two musicians to craft a compellingly dark journey through the franticly pummeled drums and cobweb covered guitar expressions. Haat Laatste Oordeel serves as Smoke's final hour, an end to this duo's improvisational destruction. Both K and M are still very active in other projects, some belonging to the alluring Black Hermetic Order, a collective of projects releasing dark and suffocating raw black metal and noise mainly through K's own The Throat imprint. While Smoke is gone the will of it's creators continues.

Malkuth - Tamahprabha

Experimental black metal stalwarts Malkuth have recently joined the Prison Tatt roster. The trio specializes in a style of black metal rooted partially in traditional black metal aesthetics, swirling guitars, epic chords, and blistering blasts. However, Malkuth strives to reach a new plateau of black expression. Dark, spiraling madness presents itself immediately through majestic and hypnotic dual guitar work. The vehicle is obviously black metal but it's execution is raw, passionate, and shamanic. Melody plays a large role throughout the album, most of the music is soaked in sinister melodies and ancient sounding chord progressions making for a very mystical experience. Tamahprabha can be seen as a path to tread to the deepest reaches of dark eastern mysticism, one can follow the sweeping melodies, the malicious barking, and the palpable evil far into grim hypnotic bliss. Songs are given names that follow mainly the Jain faith, giving the album a feeling of religious significance, as if it acts as an expression of its creator's devotion. The final work of the album, "Naraka" is named for the place of torment in some schools of Hinduism and Jainism among others, and is completely representative of it's horror. The track serves as the opus of the work through its twisting rhythms and it's completely immersive guitar bewitchment. Rawness is the key, behind the cataclysmic racket of of guitar and drum sits a layer of solemn buzzing. The entire album is audible without being polished, raw without sacrificing spirit or musicianship, a perfect balance is struck and a pitch black mesmerism stands firm. Tamahprabha is Malkuth's fourth effort and serves as a companion to Hathir Sakta, released by the band last year.

Tomhet - Caliginous

A grinding and cosmic noise intro begins this, Tomhet's latest full-length, Caliginous. Released in 2012 Caliginous sees Xaphan, Tomhet's sole member, pushing the project deeper and more violently into the depths of depressive black metal. While the album is at it's heart a depressive black metal album it does well to not fall into many of the tropes and cliches associated with the often scorned form of black metal. By not relying to heavily on keyboard flourishes or slow to mid paced sulking Xaphan works to elevate the genre. Almost immediately one can pick out actual riffs amongst the gloom, for instance at the end of the first track, "Contrachristian" a massive and ugly riff rears its head. Also present is influence from harsh noise and dark ambient. The track, "Whispering Leaves" is an oppressive and dismal piece of noise which sits between two works of tortured black metal. "Sounds Like Memories" is a synth-soaked industrial work that brings with it waves of emotional weight. What sticks out about Xaphan's execution of the depressive black metal genre is the stunning amount of diversity brought to the table. Yes, the cornerstones of thick atmosphere, slow tempos, and pained vocals are all there but they thrive amongst waves of outside influences and frankly unique additions to the often stagnant genre. An absolutely scalding vocal performance also sits at the heart of Caliginous, everything from high pitched torturous screams to guttural and disgustful barks find themselves at home on the record. Caliginous is a brilliant and innovative depressive black metal album, a testament to the genres ability to exist outside the confines of the commonly one-dimensional genre.

Nuit Noire - A Beautiful Belief

The often mocked and misunderstood, weirdo and absolutely French genius of Nuit Noire has also found a home on Prison Tatt Records. Now the one man black/punk project of Tenebras, Nuit Noire has been churning out some of the most eccentric, stomping, and whimsical black metal ever recorded. Lyrics (printed in flowery cursive on the back of the sleeve) concern fairies, night, moonlight, trees, and all other sorts of non-traditional subject matter are sure to make any "trve" black metal warrior scowl. The beauty of Nuit Noire lies in Tenebras' ability to craft catchy, melodic, and rousing punked out black metal devoid of any sort of gimmick or showmanship. It's clear that he lives in his own world of fairies and wonder and a feeling of giddy discovery is palpable on A Beautiful Belief. Tenebras' black metal exists outside the spectrum of traditionalism and influence, serving as his way to bring others into his fantastical world. Black metal and punk have equal bearing on Nuit Noire's sound, however the product is barely reminiscent of other works that utilize both genres. There is no scraping hate of Bone Awl or stomping pride akin to Akitsa found here, instead the product is full of frivolity and subscribes to only Tenebras' unique vision. His vocals are, like the rest of the music found here, lighthearted and full of melody and emotion. Emotion is a key componant to Nuit Noire's music and the only emotion found here is one of pure elation. Nuit Noire's goal, one they absolutely succeed in on A Beautiful Belief, is to pull the listener by the hand with them as they frolic through moonlit fields alongside fairies into a world of eternal night and mystery.

All four of the above records serve as examples of the sheer unconventionality of all the projects associated with Prison Tatt. Smoke's improvisational severity, Malkuth's hypnotic, swirling passage towards insanity, Tomhet's dismal yet innovative depression, and Nuit Noire's brilliantly obscure punked out ramblings. Each carries with it a mark of innovation and progress in the world of dark music. Prison Tatt continuously proves to be a unique force in the worlds of black metal, punk, and noise and deserves infinite support. All Prison Tatt releases can be purchased here.

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