A scene that was perhaps criminally excluded from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets film adaption is that where Harry and his two friends go to a ghost deathday party. The ghost in question whose death (a botched execution from the 15th century) is being commemorated is named Nearly Headless Nick, and the music provided as entertainment at his party is described in the book as follows;
“The passageway leading to Nearly Headless Nick’s party had been lined with candles, too, though the effect was far from cheerful: These were long, thin, jet-black tapers, all burning bright blue, casting a dim, ghostly light even over their own living faces. The temperature dropped with every step they took. As Harry shivered and drew his robes tightly around him, he heard what sounded like a thousand fingernails scraping an enormous blackboard.”
While certainly not as artfully composed as the subject of our review today, one is unable to shake the feeling that Melbourne industrial outfit Kollaps’ latest LP ‘Mechanical Christ’ would fit right into the gloomy Spotify playlist of the event- and even then it might be a bit too hard to stomach for the ghouls and spirits.
When we talk about industrial here, we don’t mean classic riffs mixed with machine samples, the way legends Ministry and Fear Factory do it. Mechanical Christ makes use of metal plates being scraped, wires being pulverised, acoustic machinery being used and destroyed, mixed with ambient guitars and the tortured vocals of frontman Wade Black, which shiver, snarl and shriek in an almost inaudible lo-fi wave.
Penned about the despair of existence and the sleepwalking nature of so much of society, it’s impossible to listen to the eight-minute long title track, or the slow, almost ceremonial Blood Premonitions, and not re-evaluate the genuineness of your surroundings. The music doesn’t offer any hope – but rather provides the harsh soundtrack to existential wonderings – and that’s exactly the point.
Despite being a bleak journey, there are moments of catharsis that bring the primal energy of thee band swirling to the surface, out of their self-imposed murky prison. Fleshflower rears its head in two minutes of furious, fast minimalist punk, akin to a torture scene from some indie flick (coincidentally, something that band are familiar with, thanks to sci-fi horror fest Upgrade). Similarly, closing track Love Is A War takes an aggressive left turn and sees the band pull out a detuned acoustic guitar for a neo-folk singalong (around a bonfire in an abandoned factory no-doubt), concluding things on a bizarre yet uncomfortably uncertain note. There’s no happy ending to this album, only a dulled acceptance of daily struggle, and sometimes admitting that is the best thing to do.
Mechanical Christ is one of the most challenging yet stunning records of the year, but it takes some faith in the concept, as well as some patient listening to appreciate it as so. Melody is traded primarily for noise, fear and anger here. Traducer certainly does provide the occasional melodic passage in the background, but it’s a dark soundscape that’s designed to make you feel uneasy (like all the other tracks), and once you sit there, it all fits into place. Heck, the LP’s intro track Ankara descends into desperate screaming and screeching. You know what you’re getting into; it just takes the right headspace.
Despite the bleakness, dread and existential questions demanded across Mechanical Christ, as well as the fact that getting through a sitting is one hell of a challenge, the LP has a knack of leaving the listener feeling lighter and more open to new things at its conclusion. It takes some pretty damn provoking art to evoke that kind of a reaction, and what this group have served up here, despite its surface-level ugliness, is pretty damn magical.
Mechanical Christ is out now via Cold Spring and can be purchased here.