From Chicago comes the post-industrial onslaught of 5 R V L N 5 (pronounced “surveillance”), whose debut album, The Black Mark, serves as a soundtrack to founder/songwriter Chuck Clybourne’s innermost turmoil and darkest experiences. Of course, with a sound that blends the relentless dirge-like pace of doom metal with the caustic mechanical fury of industrial and noise, one need not know the details of those experiences to feel the impact they can have on the human psyche.
For instance, “Fallen Angel” opens the album with a throng of powerful percussive blasts amid a scathing drone of synthesized bass and sampled voices, creating an atmosphere of dissonance and disquiet until the tempo builds in speed and intensity, the voices introducing a melody that in tandem with the keyboards take on a symphonic quality as Clybourne’s vocals become more vicious and unhinged. On the other end of the record is the appropriately titled “Funeral Song,” in which mournful piano melodies atop a steady factory-like rhythm lulls the listener into a state of despair before things turn monstrous; metallic clangs, insectoid synths, and feral screams enter the fray while an insistent mechanical bass gradually careens us off the edge and into a bleak sonic void. “World of Filth” is also notable for its brutality and brevity, the dirty march of overdriven electronics and guttural vocals ending far too abruptly, the semblance of a bass line making itself known just in time for the track’s end, as if to deny the listener the satisfaction of a melody within the chaos, while the accompanying vocals of Lara Noel on “Flesh” in tandem with Clybourne’s howls evoke a harmonious if unsettling quality made all the more so by the sustained squeals of synth arpeggios and a distorted guitar that is eerily reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails’ noisier moments.
Indeed, fans of the likes of Godflesh, Statiqbloom, and Author & Punisher will likely find much to enjoy on The Black Mark, while those without a taste for such harshly experimental and cacophonous sounds as 5 R V L N 5 presents will struggle with this exercise in blunt force audio trauma… take heed and tread carefully.