Tristan Shone’s industrial doom project Author & Punisher is easily one of the most unique acts on the current landscape of extreme music; while many acts proudly identify as a “one-man band,” Shone’s array of handmade instruments and impeccable limb independence allows him to weave songs together by himself without relying on backtracks to get the job done, borrowing musical cues from the likes of Neurosis, Godflesh, and Helmet in the process. Leaning heavily into drone and doom on initial releases, Shone’s musical palette and production know-how have broadened the dynamic considerably.
Following Author & Punisher’s signing to Relapse Records in 2017, Shone dropped an EP titled Pressure Mine, which was his most traditional industrial rock recording to date, ramping up the melody, and a more subdued use of atmosphere. The record’s melancholic approach was in stark opposition to the overwhelming aggressive and nihilistic nature of previous works, and Shone was beginning to sound more like Nine Inch Nails than a hyper-distorted Godflesh. A neat experiment showing that more emotional nuance was possible (though 2013’s Women and Children experimented with piano-lead tracks and “clean” singing), the absence of the huge droning synths was missed.
Ultimately, this thematic shift for Author & Punisher would end up being compartmentalized to the EP, and Shone would return to his style of industrial metal for Beastland. Fittingly, on this proper Relapse Records debut, Shone’s palette of brickwalled industrial noise and hypnotic rhythms are more sleekly produced while retaining the weight of anger and dread. With a production team helmed by Braden Diotte (Neurosis, Tarantula Hawk), with mixing from Kurt Ballou (Converge) and mastering by Brad Boatright (Sleep, Sunn O)))), Beastland sounds incredible for a metal album made up almost entirely of synthetic instruments.
From its early moments on “Pharmicide,” which swells in writhing noisy bass and feedback, Beastland aims to disorient and unease. Single “Nihil Strength,” as its evocative name implies, is oppressive and weirdly psychedelic thanks to the sliding synth drones and chaotic, slightly off-key chords. Shone approaches something akin to a monstrous and ridiculously heavy Ministry doing stoner metal riffs on tracks like “Ode to Bedlam” and “The Speaker is Systematically Blown,” the latter track in particular highlighting Shone’s singing voice (which can draw a comparison to Marilyn Manson) to deliver memorable choruses, which do occur sparingly throughout the record.
“Nazarene” is a particularly vulnerable track, almost entirely clean singing (although filtered with effects) and appears to be Shone’s take on retrowave with its somber and melodic synths, and the way the track stops suddenly is disorienting. “Apparition” sees Shone utilizing the spoken word voice affectation heard on “Nihil Strength” and is an exercise in creeping dread. Finale “Beastland” is easily the most haunting track on the record due to its looping melody and satisfying drum and bass work providing a backing track to what amounts to a more atmospheric vocal approach on behalf of Shone. The title track also provides a devastating and satisfying end as the beat dissolves into bursts of noise.
Beastland is a perfect marriage of industrial, doom, drone, and noise and somehow manages to package the sounds in something accessible and succinct. As Shone continues to experiment and define what exactly Author & Punisher is — which is quite the task because nobody else is creating music in this way — he simultaneously broadens the horizons and nails down how this amalgamation works in the context of catchy, memorable songs. Beastland is immediately satisfying, and may actually be one of Shone’s best records to date. One thing’s for sure, Author & Punisher is easily the current torchbearer of industrial metal.
Author & Punisher’s Beastland is out October 5th on Relapse Records. Pre-orders are available at this location.