- A liberating journey pushing the limits of noise, drone and metal.
- A sweeping epic of metal, noise and drone, madam data's Gospel Of The Devourer, released this summer on the celebrated New York label PTP, is a dense, all-star affair, featuring contributions from the likes of King Vision Ultra (AKA Geng), Moor Mother and Mental Jewelry. It spans 12 tracks over the course of an hour, but feels far more epic, with lengthy track titles unspooling a story of intergalactic battle. Titles like "we flayed the body of the ancient enemy and made his body into food for the stars and the birth of new constellations" are as striking (and often as beautiful) as the music, which rises and falls in intensity with a filmic sense of narrative, as an abstract tale of spiritual war unfolds in screeches and squalls.
Sonically, Gospel Of The Devourer takes a broad view of noise music, bringing together related extreme traditions like metal and powerviolence. We have screeched vocals, some unintelligible, others spoken clearly. There are ear-piercing noises and low rumbles, distorted guitars and, occasionally, mournful synthesizers that provide dazzling bits of melody. When those funereal chords come in on the second track it's clear that this is something more than just another noise album, while interludes like the fifth track, "those in the twilight nebula sat, watching and biding their time," offer respites that feel both comforting and eerily desolate.
Though there are voices throughout the album, Moor Mother's appearance on track ten is the most memorable. On "In the emptiness beyond emptinesses, between the galaxies, between the Weight and the Light, the last hunter writes into the ultraviolet rings of the final supernovae," her voice rings out like a clarion, her words tumbling out over a scorched-earth landscape of guitar feedback: "Space out / Travel in daydreams / I'm spiraling / I'm spiraling." Of all the brilliant moments and collaborations Moor Mother has had over the past couple years, this one stands out. From there, the album reaches its frightening, lurching climax—more evil than Sunn O))) has ever sounded—before a wounded synth announces "the end of space and time" on the closing track, with a slow, belabored march that drags us into oblivion.
While the story is told in grandiose, military terms, if you read between the lines of the track titles you'll find a tale of radical liberation. Gospel Of The Devourer contains a narrative that will reward dedicated study, and that's without even considering the remarkable music underpinning it. What might first be read as a sci-fi story of war could also be taken as a parable of freedom from the physical self, from the constraints of the physical world, the violence it contains and the flawed ideals that prop it up. This is "an ethnography of the vacuum," as one track title mentions.
Gospel Of The Devourer is dedicated to "trans people everywhere," with all proceeds going towards Philadelphia's The Coalition For Black Trans Economic Liberation. This gestures towards another radical facet of the record: where so much noise music (and even metal) is wrapped up in personal angst, shock horror or dodgy politics, this album inverts these themes, using its mystical spiritualism and bellicose language to tell a beautiful story that seems to depict the creation of a new world, or at least the destruction of an old one. It's a heart-rending, uneasy listen that breathes new life into old tropes: it's hard not to feel triumphant when the tremolo guitars come in on "We pursued him on a gossamer thread of stars"—a moment of brilliant clarity before the record re-enters the primordial muck.
01. A soldier came to us from the army of the Pretender, a deserter - "follow me", it said - "and I will show you where he bleeds"
02. we followed: as centuries passed, our guns became curse-rifles and our ships turned into demons, yet we turned our backs on war 02:17
03. but in the purple light of the heavy star a blow was struck, and we cursed our hands as they grew into talons, and sang out regret as we choked our enemies with our own entrails
04. Alongside the battle, those in the twilight nebula sat, watching and biding their time. They were farmers and machinists, midwives and poets; they too knew Death.
05. It came to be called the War of Accretion; and its violence tore asunder the laws of Gravity itself
06. and the grief of civilisations rang out into the depths of time
07. We brooked no heroes, yet they whispered of the Saint who massacred a trillion soldiers on the cusp of Orion
08. We pursued him on a gossamer thread of stars, through the heart of the dark galaxy, and there impaled him on a spire of crystallized time
09. Flowers grew along the paths where the bodies of the fallen had sprouted vines to tear apart their enemies
10. In the emptiness beyond emptinesses, between the galaxies, between the Weight and the Light, the last hunter writes into the ultraviolet rings of the final supernovae:
11. "An end to endings: a war to end wars: the lie. An ethnography of the vacuum, writ in spinal fluid and dark matter. We have come to know that we are not luminous; only opaque beyond understanding, unending and inevitable"
12. and at the end of space and time, we flayed the body of the ancient enemy and made his body into food for stars and the birth of new constellations