Terror is a difficult concept to synthesize for a multitude of reasons. Though on the whole, because of our diverse backgrounds and wide range of experiences, the experience of terror on a human psychological level could potentially be best described as various. How each of us defines the terrifying differs greatly due to the factors above and, simply put, what is horrifying to you may be laughable to me, and vise versa. So to call the work of Dutch composer/multi-instrumentalist/audio torture artist Maurice de Jong (Mories) uniformly terrifying would be generally shaky ground on which to stand, particularly given the divergence in sonic direction of his many projects (De Magia Veterum, Seirom, Temple of Will, Aderlating, Caput Mortuum, and Cloak of Altering to name a few). But it is difficult to define the sounds conjured by perhaps his most famous solo project, Gnaw Their Tongues, as anything but. Utter sonic disorientation. Shrill, unconscionably harsh blasts of impenetrable noise. Unrelentingly bleak vocal stylings. All of these elements combine to create the music of souls being crushed by the weight of existence; a sonic landscape so hell-bent on detailing the pure insanity of the universe that disorientation isn’t a mere side-effect of the music or lyrical themes presented, but instead a personal and perpetual habitation. The band’s ninth full-length record in nearly as many years, Genocidal Majesty, displays the full grandeur of Mories’ vision of a broken and perplexing world with such clarity and utter insanity that it is difficult to view it as anything less than a grand statement of total annihilation, and one of the projects most consistent and sonically devastating efforts.
Opener “Death Leaves the World” displays the record’s sinister tone immediately, setting this release apart from its predecessor Hymns for the Broken, Swollen and Silent in a few notable ways. While that record included a few spaces for the listener to catch their breath (think “Frail as the Stalking Lions” and “Your Kingdom Shrouded in Blood”), Genocidal Majesty’s opening salvo includes no such space. From beginning to end, the entire track is slathered in an overwhelming, unrelenting electronic buzz and noisy shriek that leaves absolutely no room for rest. Mories’ disembodied screams writhe and wretch beneath the impenetrable ice of this sonic surface, drowning in an agony that only Gnaw Their Tongues can emulate. The electronic elements here are fierce and aggressive, reaching the levels of ear-piercing madness perfected by The Body and Full of Hell in both their most grating individual and collaborative works. Subsequent track “Spirits Broken by Swords” recalls the deep sonic fuzz found on Abyss of Longing Throats, but transcends its sonic foundation through the inclusion of the record’s secret sauce: The Body’s Chip King. While having famously collaborated with a multitude of artists in extreme music, one would be hard pressed to find a more fitting sonic home for King’s despondent, horrifying wails into the ether. His vocals fit the flood of sound contained in this track impeccably well, and serve as an equally potent element of album highlight “The Doctrine of Paranoid Seraphims”. This collaboration is a stroke of genius, and may we see much more like it as Gnaw Their Tongues continues its march into the abyss.
One particular element that, in general, makes a Gnaw Their Tongues album so mesmerizing is its variety and seemingly infinite listenability (when one is in the mood for such things). Genocidal Majesty continues this tradition to an extent, filling the suffocating production with buried bits of creative, ethereal, and complex songwriting that causes one to feel like they’ve never fully unlocked its secrets. The swirling, epic melodies in “Cold Oven” and the absolutely gnarly drum tone in the album’s title track are just two of many excellent and subtle songwriting and production choices made by de Jong on this record, and the more listens one invests the more hidden sinister delights one will find. But unlike several other records in the project’s extensive discography, Genocidal Majesty never once feels disjointed. This album is one of the most cohesive records Gnaw Their Tongues has yet produced, with each track bleeding into the next while held together by a thread of noise and fuzz that makes all of the disparate elements contained beneath the surface feel whole and unified in purpose and direction. This aspect in particular is an improvement over the project’s last (albeit still fantastic) record, and finds Mories working with an unlocked level of aesthetic control and consistency.
There really isn’t much to knock this record for. Its runtime is manageable, and the pace of these songs makes the unrivaled harshness fly by in a veritable gust of bombastic evil. Each song has unique elements that help them stand out from the others in a record that could have easily been nothing more than a one-note snooze-fest in less capable hands. Instead, we are gifted an album that is as cohesive in overarching aesthetic as it is diverse in songwriting detail, on the whole creating one of the best albums in Mories’ disgustingly prolific career. If you find yourself drawn to the things that haunt you; the aspects of the universe that emanate mystery, darkness and that peripheral, abiding stench of nothingness, you’ve found the soundtrack to soothe your soul. Whether you find yourself enthralled or unnerved by Genocidal Majesty, it is a record worthy of the time it takes to explore its many dark corners. An uncompromising blast of pure terror, and one of the most fascinating records of the year thus far.
Genocidal Majesty is available for purchase in digital format through the band’s Bandcamp page.