Sunday, 17 October 2010

Stalaggh Review

I once had a recurring nightmare which involved an allusive and sinister ye olde alchemist/serial killer who, using arcane methods, bottled his victims’ insanity in a bottle and sold it to me. Upon opening the bottle, which was supposed to be a potion of flight, I was subjected to a world of utter madness comparable to being at a black metal disco with Tim Burton and Vincent Van Gough. The reason I have mentioned this rather bizarre insight into my psyche is because it turns out the alchemist actually exists, in the form of a band with a name lifted directly from an old ones’ scrabble game. Stalaggh are a black metal/ industrial/ noise band known for their avant-garde techniques, albeit avant-garde in the same way that mass murder can technically be called therapy because it quells the dark voices.

The name is actually derived from the German term for P.O.W camps – Stalag or Mannschaftsstamm- und Straflager to put it in full for all you lovers of Mary Poppins type words. The suffix GH or Global Holocaust (just because referencing camps of organized death isn’t provocative enough) is added to form their name, Stalaggh. Now according to their Myspace page (the source of all knowledge pertaining fecal stains on the underpants of human culture) Stalaggh represents the total annihilation of human life, which is exactly the sort of thing you would expect from ‘musicians’ who are supposedly ‘extreme’. Oh you know the types, bands such as Bloodbath who write lyrics such as “I've had one desire since I was born. To see my body ripped and torn. To see my flesh devoured before my eyes” to try to illicit a response like an attention seeking teenager dressing as though her entire collection of clothing fell into a wood chipper. Stalaggh adopts the same tactics and takes it to the logical conclusion.

Stalaggh wanted to portray the hatred and pain of the holocaust in a realistic manner, and so like any right thinking people would do they hired mental patients to create the vocals on their albums. That may not seem so bad in itself, but the ‘vocals’ actually consist of horrific, eardrum perforating screams of mental anguish. Forget representing the total annihilation of human life – the only thing being annihilated is my ability to hear. From all accounts producing a Stalaggh album counts as much as a form of medieval as actually listening to one. When producing Projekt Nihil the ‘musicians’ and the mental patients were confined in a small studio basement with the whole thing being recorded; which sounds like the premise for post-modern horror movie, only with more carnage and slit wrists. Projekt Terror resulted in the same 300 levels of madness, except one of the ‘musicians’ was almost killed – presumably the very same reason why he chose this line of work. For Projekt Misanthropia the band visited an abandoned warehouse with the sole purpose of extirpating everything inside and recording the noise this created. Later they played it over the patients’ wails, just in case there was anyone left who could still hear whisper quiet noises.

On its own the music is pretty much unlistenable, not due to being a disturbing subject matter but because it is the human noise equivalent of a rusty nail scrapping down a chalkboard. However if you watch the music video then it becomes particularly poignant, transforming into an endurance test for the soul. The video is archive footage comprising of various atrocities carried out in the name of fascism and misanthropy, the exploitation of which I would label as trying too hard under usual circumstances; but these aren’t usual circumstances. Combining the anguished wails and disturbing footage makes for a deeply unpleasant experience as though you are a tenant in a property owned by Jeremy G. Smart. In that sense they are an extreme band but the fact of how hard they had to try is somewhat detrimental, like owning a World’s greatest lover mug that you bought yourself.

After their Stalag based trilogy the band decided that creating offensive music based on that one chapter that is always missing from German history books just wasn’t satisfying enough and thusly became rebranded as Gulaggh. For those idiotically unaware a Gulag (remember the extra gh stands for Global Holocaust!) was a state sponsored hard labor camp and essentially is what I plan to turn the Job Centers into once I take office. The new trilogy will be called 'Vorkuta', 'Norilsk' and 'Kolyma' which are all names of the most notorious of the camps north of the Artic Circle. Gulaggh have upped the ante this time however, the music is classical rather than in the style of an anarchic 90’s shooter industrial nightmare; and also they used 30 children from a youth asylum to record the anguished vocals. Yes you read that correctly. The only conceivable way that this could be topped would be if the next trilogy were an all drunken hobo ensemble giving a rendition of the musical Cats.

Observant readers will have noticed that throughout this review that instead of simply referring to Stalaggh’s members as musicians I have added the cynical quotations – an effective tool in a critic’s arsenal of language. Now I didn’t do this purely because I am sat in a Rupunzel-esque ivory tower looking down on Stalaggh’s own brand of music with contempt simply because it doesn’t feature Twelve-bar blues chord progression. No my irascible stance originates from the irrefutable fact – you would be hard pressed to refer to Stalaggh as musicians in any shape or form as their tracks essentially are what you would get if you tried to capture an EVP in Aokigahara forest with a few morose guitar riffs and presentiment drum beats sloppily layered over the top; like adding intravenous fluids to an already rancid Kladdkaka. It’s somewhat telling when a supposedly music track features less notes than a SMS alert.

In conclusion Stalaggh are inarguably abysmal and do not work as artists, story tellers or even human beings. As I mentioned previously the audio-visual combination does succeed in creating an unpleasant atmosphere (or atmosfear for all the pun fanatics out there) with a feeling of overwhelming dread, but consequentially due to its unlistenable nature any tension created is immediately vitiated due to the fact you are now copiously bleeding from the ears. Obviously blinded by their cupidity to be as extreme as possible, when if logic had prevailed and they put an iota of brain power behind the concept whilst simultaneously making it somewhat listenable they could have succeeded in creating one of the most foreboding depressing bands to have ever exist; and probably be revered by a demographic other than nihilists whom dwell in the cesspits of the forum society. But instead they went all out and in turn became as ‘extreme’ as a Pepsi max advert featuring Tony Hawk and Bam Margera. Everything points to fact the people behind Stalaggh are either criminally insane or sadists; exploiting both mental illness and the horrors of the holocaust to create their own brand of music. The fact that they won’t reveal their names or faces to the public shows that they acknowledge what they are doing isn’t exactly moral, similar to when your puppy hides behind the sofa out of shame after voiding its bladder all over your new Mahal rug.