Genre: Martial Ambient / Martial Orchestral / Dark Ambient
War Office Propaganda
Scontrum Act II is a continuation of our coverage of the Scontrum series of professionally recorded CD-R’s issued by the War Office Propaganda label from Poland. This unique series of releases each features four bands performing music themed around the activities and events that took place upon the Eastern Front during WWII. Having already reviewed Scontrum Act I we now continue our series of reviews with a fresh review of Scontrum Act II.
For the realization of Scontrum Act II WOP has recruited the talent of Polish musicians Totenhaus, Nawia, and Spirits of the River. All three of these artists are up and coming musicians in the postindustrial music genre though they may not yet be well known amongst industrial music purveyors. Totenhaus has released a handful of limited edition albums via Beast of Prey Records in Poland and Nawia has appeared on another WOP compilation as well as having released a limited edition full-length album. These industrial new comers are blooming and those looking to keep up with were the genre is heading are advised to follow these artists output.
Scontrum Act II continues the musical journey initiated by Scontrum Act I. Following the lead of the first Scontrum release the three above-mentioned artists each contributed a handful of songs to this unique release focused upon warfare on the eastern front During WWII. Like the preceding release, the music on Scontrum Act II is predominately-postindustrial sonorities with heavy dark ambience and martial ambient influences. The musical narratives offered by each artist are once again abstract in nature and devoid of lyrics. Each song tells its tale through music allowing the song to invoke different stories and memories in each listener. Some songs are rambling journeys through isolated atmospheres of random mechanical churnings and darkened ambience while others move through more rhythm driven anthems accented by martial percussion. Regardless of the format, all of the music on Scontrum Act II offers a refreshing reprieve into new industrial music forays.
Totenhaus launches the assault of Scontrum Act II with four dark ambient / industrial songs. “Anxiety” begins the assault on Scontrum II with a brief but effective dark ambient composition. The song starts with a steady background of monotone rumbling noise that remains steady throughout the compositions. As the dark rumbling advances on without interruption or fluctuation random sounds of a metal object striking a wooden surface and the sounds of an electronic tone combine across the desolate dark ambience creating a very minimalist soundscape. The sensation of waiting for something to happen is established. Images of soldiers dug into trenches while enduring the cold weather comes to mind. The type of waiting and not knowing what will happen next is invoked. It is the type of waiting and anxiety that only war can produce in men’s souls.
Totenhaus’s three other contributions titled “Simulacrum,” “Opaque” and “Callous Song,” remain in a similar current as they manifest dreamy ambient soundscapes marked by feelings of anticipation, isolation, and remorse. Totenhaus successfully contributes four tracks that capture the more elusive emotions invoked by conflict and war. These feelings are not as direct as the adrenaline filled moments of engagement, the fear of facing mortality or the swelling pride of victory. Rather Totenhaus seeks to capture more elusive personal moments often not acknowledged but by those who endure them and live to remember them.
Nawia contributes tracks five and six. The tone of Nawia is notably different from Totenhaus’s contributions and the music begins a new journey for the listener. Nawia’s contribution begins with the song “Dywizjon 303.” The Dywizjon 303 was an assigned squadron of the British Royal Air Force that fought the air war with Nazi Germany. Many people have forgotten today that the Dywizjon 303 scored the highest number of hits on enemy forces during the war and that the squadron was comprised solely of Polish pilots. Nawia pays tribute to these war heroes in the song “Dywizjon 303.”
“Dywizjon 303” begins with industrial generated rhythms mixed with military percussion and symphonic synthesizer waves that build into an industrial anthem. The songs swells forward driven with disjointed industrial rhythms and military percussion while piano and sampled symphonic orchestration yearn towards the sky. The song is heavily laden with moaning choirs and aspiring sounds that strive to communicate the heroism and sacrifice of the Polish pilots who fought for freedom from Nazi occupation and persecution. Nawia does a superb job of pulling in eclectic musical elements that help distinguish the song from similar war anthems attempted by other industrial musicians.
Nawia’ second contribution titled “Stalingrad 41” takes on the horrendous battle of Stalingrad. The Stalingrad battle of WWII is noted as the largest single conflict in human history. During the Nazi siege of Stalingrad, hundreds of thousands of lives were lost and it would in the end, be a determining battle of WWII. Had the Nazi war machine been successful in felling Stalingrad the Russians may have never pushed the Nazi’s out of Russia nor liberated the Eastern Front. Using military percussion, electronics and piano Nawia once again produces an energetic yet dark song dedicated to great sacrifices rendered during the gruesome battles of the Eastern Front.
Spirits of the River contributes tracks seven through nine starting with track seven-titled “Something Coming.” Spirits of the River once again redefines the mood of the music and the album with the song “Something Coming.” “Something Coming” begins with a horror movie sample played across reverberating drone music and muted dance percussion. The music slowly builds as the sample fades. The mood is at first dark and ominous as the swelling drone grows louder and the industrial dance rhythm slowly and deliberately builds. These looped rhythms and drones dominate the track for a couple of minutes until a very rapid drumbeat infuses the song adding a danceable quality to the dark dreary music. The character of the music changes drastically as dance beats drive the dark ambience along with a sizable dose of industrial looped sounds. It is hard to see how this song fits in with the theme of WWII but the music is a nice shift from the somber mood established by previous acts.
The following tracks by Spirits of the River titled “Merman” and “Hands of God” remain in a similar vein with looped industrial atmospherics merged with rhythmic elements to create slowly building industrial songs that slowly consume the listener and leave you imbedded in the music. The last two contributions of Spirits of the River do lend themselves to a slightly more martial feeling as they are largely devoid of the danceable beats that distinguished “Something Coming.”
Scontrum II is yet another excellent release by WOP who continues to release amazing new artists and thoughtfully themed releases that seek to explore historical events through the medium of music. In addition to being a great collection of music this limited edition CDR comes packaged in a handmade wooden casing that is sure to please even the most demanding collector.