Funny thing, in my bookstore I carry a small variety of the kind of CDs we review here at Chain D. L. K. but in a town as conservative as Corning, N. Y. I don't get much call for this kind of music. A customer asked me if I had any black metal, and I told him no, but I did have some dark ambient and noise. The he asked me if I had any Theologian. I told him I had it in my review pile but it wasn't for sale. He was a little disappointed but bought something else along the same line anyway after I played a bit for him and left a happy camper. Now I've recently reviewed some noise CDs and wasn't anxious to jump back into noise right away but his request sparked my curiosity.
I discovered that Theologian is Lee M. Bartow, or Leech from Navicon Torture Technologies, a project I'm familiar with having reviewed the 'Pure~Skin' album a few years back. I thought there was something familiar about this'¦anyway, being that the album was released November of 2012 (too many releases to review here, not enough time) I figured I might as well check around and read some other reviews, something I don't usually do. I found that 'Chasms of My Heart' had practically universal acclaim, and many of the reviews were much better and more in-depth than I could possibly muster. Still, I have to say something that may not already have been said, and present my own perspective of what Theologian is doing on this album.
First, 'The Chasms of My Heart' is a powerful album that transcends a lot of the stuff that many noise/power electronics artists are putting out these days. It's not power in the sense of volume, brutality, or sonic elements, but rather in the refinement of craft and sense of purpose. There is a focus here that many in the genre seem to lack. The opener, 'Abandon All Hope' employs blended tonal black noise drones, a ritualistic, distorted industrial beat, and chanted-sung distorted vocals. You won't be able to understand them. You don't have to; it's all in the feeling. There's a pain there that can't be healed. You will feel it.
You may not associate the title of 'Starvation is a Legitimate Weapon of War' with what you are hearing but it's one brilliant piece of homogenized noise ambience. No disruptions, no diversions, just a pure sonic roar dying down to a whisper in the span of four and a half minutes. 'My Body is Made of Ash'¦I Live as Ash' is subdued, yet so rich in content you can't help but be impressed; sort of the perfect blending of noise and power electronics, and yet, there is something innately musical about it. And when the industrial percussion loop kicks in with the white noise rise, it will have the hairs on the back of your neck standing on end. Very 'machine tribal'. 'We Can't All Be Victims' begins with simmering ambient noise drone then a repetitive electronic rhythm, and a squall of noise that is likely guitar generated. Black shoegaze? Maybe, but not slow enough. Higher tones emerge as it intensifies. I swear I hear voice in there too somewhere. More ritualistic overtones on the beat-oriented 'I Don't Exist' with intermittent buzzy drone tone and a nice helping of black ambience. It crackles with energy and distortion. I approached 'Bed of Maggots' with some trepidation due to the title, but here is where Theologian's brilliance really comes to fore. Beginning with an atypical filter resonance modulated sequenced synth riding a crest of noise over low dark ambience, it builds into somewhat of a roar that morphs into a laser-like focus of noise and electronics that sear the soul. 'Title track 'Chasms of My Heart' has a percussion loop that's like some bizarre parade march with sustained vocal wailing somewhere in the background. It's hard to tell the voice from the electronics here. The atmosphere here is richer and thicker than I could possibly describe. Final track 'Every Road Leads to Abandonment' is an explosion of heavy, crushing beat, searing electronics and rich noise. Yet there is an eerie musicality embedded in it.
I have been leaving certain sonic elements out of the descriptions giving you only the barest sketch, for what purpose would there be in revealing all? That's for you to experience. If nothing else, 'The Chasms of My Heart' has convinced me that there can be creativity and depth in the power electronics/noise genre, not simply'¦well noise. What Lee has created here in his Theologian project is quite extraordinary. Other artists in the genre take note; this is the standard by which your work ought to be measured.