Usually, I guess, when you emigrate to the other side of the world, and start a new life 10,500 miles from your home city, continuing your existing band/musical project may not be high on the list of priorities as you settle down. But Ed Oxime has had other ideas after doing exactly that, with a new Concrete Lung EP appearing that suggests that things are "as you were".
Not that, I have to say, I'm exactly surprised. The music of Concrete Lung has never been anything even close to an easy listen, built chiefly around grinding, almost-mechanic guitars and slow, funereal rhythms that are without fail crushingly heavy – and this EP continues that mould, and while it is another impressive EP, it doesn't half make you work hard to appreciate it at first.
This is at least in part because the opening track is probably the most uncompromising track the band have yet released. No less than eight minutes of quasi-symphonic industrial doom, complete with sampled choral vocals that weave in and out of the mix to spectacular effect, and a filthy, fuzzy distortion cloaks the rest of the mix that makes the track sound even more menacing. That fog only lifts for an impressive mid-section where all the guitars and vocals are stripped away, leaving the martial beat and choir to swirl like an ominous, early morning mist.
Things lighten up a tiny bit after that. Self – Shriek (Intensity) blasts through like a hurricane, a ripping mix of buzzsaw guitars and a driving beat, with a sandblasted, furious vocal from Ed roaring within. The dissonance of the distorted classical sample that closes out the track is a most impressive trick, too. Rot and Seethe has another ominous, brooding intro, and the main core of the track is a staccato, punishing beast that reminds me of something else, but I can't quite put my finger on what. Waste follows in a similar vein to Self…, and indeed is possibly the most straightforward song here, more than any track here owing a fair debt to early-period Godflesh, and like a lot of that band's material from that period, it does a great job of building a seemingly unstoppable momentum.
Again, the track closes out with an interesting sample – a lengthy rant from a rain-soaked street preacher, that seems perfectly mixed into the grinding, jagged closer Flux, another track of bruising intensity that makes good use of phased, multi-tracked vocals later into the track (on headphones it is really quite disorientating, as it comes from nowhere), and continues to pummel your ears with vicious riffage. Also of note is the "secret", untitled track that follows, a squall of feedback, screeching electronics and howled vocals, almost like some kind of avant-garde chamber music piece that uses the vocal roars as part of the instrumentation, something made all the clearer by the distorted woodwind instruments that tear out of the gloom as it closes.
There is something about the dark, brooding heaviness of the sound within Concrete Lung that invokes both the past and the present. As I noted in my review of previous album Versions of Hell, this is both music that nods back to it's influences (Godflesh, as always, loom large, but they are by no means the only band that rise from the sonic attack), and also looks at the now. This is still the bleak, grey present and future of society reflected back at us. In a time where a negative outlook is given on just about everything, this seems to be a band, and music, that befits the society that we as a whole have created, and we are now reaping the whirlwind. Music for a dystopian present, if you will, never mind a future.
The final thing is the interesting attitude to the distribution of their music. There is no digital version available of their music (at least not commercially – in the spirit of openness, I have been supplied digital promo copies of this and previous releases, although I own the previous releases anyway!), and this looks to be a policy that isn't set to change. I can understand why they do it, but to me it seems now to be fighting against the tide a little, and makes it that little bit harder too for people like me to promote them. I'd love to post links to a song online (legitimately uploaded, not a poor-quality upload from a "fan"), to demonstrate how great this is – but instead you'll have to take my word for it and go out and buy one of the few copies that are to be released.