Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

SPK - Leichenschrei


Released 1982 on Thermidor
Reviewed by Lugia, 14/02/2004ce

SPK: "Leichenschrei"
Thermidor T-9, recorded 1981/82, released 1982.
(Artwork from recent CD reissue)

No titles. Sides labelled "Klono" and "Lysso", the latter having two cuts, the former only one.

If there ever was a soundtrack album for The Dark Night of the Soul, it would probably sound a helluva lot like this.

It all starts off with ominous electronics, muffled voices talking about guillotines and icy bodies and death and such. Dark. Very dark. And then we kick into this drums and electronic percussion thing, very much in the industrial beat vein, but the voices just keep on with the same oppressive stance...bits of autopsy tapes, some insane schizoid monologue from a woman babbling about rape, syphilis, mind control...

And we're not even much more than five minutes in...

"Leichenschrei"...the title means "corpse screams"...is one of the absolutely darkest musical visions I know of. It is the ultimate musical bad trip. But then, you can't have ALL your trips be fun and sweetness and light, can you?

SPK's more widely-known work includes things like the more atmospheric and easy-to-deal-with "Zamia Lehmanni" and of course the horrid club-industrial "Metal Dance". But before either of these came THIS. And it is a descent into sonic hell. What other albums of the time do YOU know that couple distorted power-electronic beats and a lo-fi recording of how to make homemade napalm? That's right after the stuff I mentioned above, and comes along with sounds of bone-saws, more muffled voices...and then electronic beats, all askew, crazy, fucked-up rhythms. Yeah, sure, eventually others would tread on this same turf...but SPK were there first, baybee. Coupling all sorts of distortion and electronics with tapes made of mental patients, criminals, prostitutes and the like, and a horrendous hyper-black oppressive atmosphere to saturate it all, Graeme Revell...yes, THAT Graeme Revell...and company lay it all down and scare the living shit out of you!

The first side, "Seite Lysso", is the more rhythmic of the two. There aren't any titles here, just a continuum of heavy, distortional beats and screeches and electronics that gets more frantic as the side progresses. And these people beat the CRAP out of their drums and metal in several places herein; picture a cross between Iron Butterfly on meth and the Stockhausen Ensemble performing some sort of voodoo-driven black mass, and you'd be CLOSE...but not quite on point. Eventually, it all crashes into a lock-groove, "MMM"-style with bashing metal and electronic noise. You MUST stop it...unless you're into pain...

On the other side, "Seite Klono", we're treated to more of the same damaged approach, albeit with a bit more 'atmospherics'. But it's definitely not floaty and blissful. It might be if you're Beelzebub, but for the average listener it's going to be more of the same hell-ride as before. Lo-fi primitive thudding, electrical screeches, guitar-death, and processor-scrambled doom-vocals kick it all off with a track released elsewhere as "Desire", and then bloodcurdling screams get coupled with bug-miked voices which occasionally give up intelligible bits like "...becoming an epidemic now...", "...make it look like an accident...", "...but don't tell them...who we are...", and breaking glass and such.

While this is definitely 'trip music', "China Cat Sunflower" or the like will not be found on this side (or for that matter, the whole thing) in any form whatsoever. Those expecting a NICE trip can fucking forget it! The only flowers here have been doused with Agent Orange and napalm, and set ablaze in a panoply of hideous, melting nightmare colors. The Haight has been nuked from orbit. You WISH you'd taken the brown acid instead of whatever's taken hold of your senses. The BAD Trip reigns supreme! Screeching synths and banging rhythms and the sound of screams fill your tormented mind in post-apocalyptic tribal blood-rage hellishness. By the side's end, we've been dumped in front of the satanic confines of some monastery of insane monks, surely chanting some dissonant paean to whatever unholiness conjured up "Leichenschrei" in the first place.

Suffice to say, only those who can deal with the most potent in bleakness and sensory overload should even attempt to listen to this album. The rest of you are definitely too short for this ride. Mr. Revell and Co. pulled out ever stop on the badness organ for this thing, and even twenty-plus years later, it's STILL difficult as fuckall to listen to. Which means, of course, that it's aged beautifully for industrial music, of which I contend this is the ne plus ultra pinnacle. IF YOU CAN HANDLE IT...then by all means, seek it out. And if you CANNOT...then may whatever god you pray to have mercy on your soul when you put the needle down on this thing!

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