Review: Angel of Decay “Covered in Scars” CD

This is the debut full-length from Angel of Decay, the current focus in a long line of projects from Jonathan Canady (perhaps best known for his work as Deathpile), herein exploring over an hour's worth of dark ambient minimalism in eight tracks created using two vintage analog synthesizers, an effects processor, a cassette multi-track, a $5 mic, and a CD burner. Which only goes to show that when you have a strong artistic vision and you know what you're doing, you don't need a house full of fancy digital devices to achieve quality results. Not that any of the tracks are too terribly active, but opener "Blood on the Cement" is among the more persistent pieces in terms of streamlined repetition and consistency in its reliance on generally quiet drones and rising/falling movements throughout. "Severed Living Dog's Head" is a much more active and threatening track (actually my favorite piece by far), using more low-end hums and whirrs but allowing a thicker sense of movement to present itself while truly disturbing foreground textures add to the atmosphere with brighter details that sound sort of like a weird metallic grinding/twisting sound. The shorter five-minute run of "Sick Time Frame" then reverts to the quiet, restrained malevolence of the brooding bass currents for its duration, signaling a rather lengthy settling into this delivery to come. "The Crash" is by far the longest track at 14 minutes, once more consistently building around minimal humming layers of oppressive low-end that seem to have some added little menacing details from time to time as they shift back and forth throughout the composition if you jack the volume up in headphones, though it's hard to say for sure - it could all be illusory. "Her Head Was on the Floor" is then almost strikingly similar in tone and construction, though tending to provide a little more contrast in terms of the way the layers thin out more often, and with a more obvious sense of movement as one brighter drone cascades across the foreground and back again. "JFK Circus" is once more along those same general lines, a little harder on the ears in terms of massive bass presence and reverberated layering, and using its own subtle nuances to differentiate itself from the other tracks, but by and large the same general approach. "Face Print" then finally changes things up a little bit more with some searing little high-end hisses and a more spacious approach that lets added intricacies shine through, while some of the lower hums and drones in this piece almost possess a smidge of musicality (in the most abstract manner possible). And finally, the title track takes a little under seven minutes to close things out in a manner that's almost like a thicker and windier take on what was going on in "Face Print" - placing the emphasis on the shuffling back and forth motions as opposed to the monotonous low-end hums. The disc comes in a great looking digipack with a satin finish and some awesome illustrations from the mighty John Bergin, so aside from the fact that there's a menacing quality to the visuals, it has a bit of a different look from most of what you'll see from the noise scene. Even better is that inside is a matte insert that folds out to reveal loads of handwriting, abstract sketches, and filthy textures. Now, admittedly track titles like "Severed Living Dog's Head" and "JFK Circus" may seem somewhat silly, but where most experimental noise artists fail miserably, Canady has a knack for succeeding, as all of the text on the insert accompanies the tracks with (often rather violent) descriptive text that he jotted down when waking up from various nightmares - hence the song titles reference visuals from the dreams. So not only does the music stand on its own just fine, but these pieces of text provide additional detail and insight to the release, which is great. The only aspect of this release that I view as a minor setback is the fact that so many of the songs are so similar to one another. The almost hypnotic consistency helps carrying the elevated running time of the complete album, but more tracks such as the incredible "Severed Living Dog's Head" would've really added some threatening ferocity and attack to the disc without shedding its true colors or deviating from the path. A strong and intriguing debut for sure, but I'd like to hear the selections provide a little more variety to go along with the diverse range of documented nightmares that inspired them.

[Desolation House]
Running time - 68:45, Tracks: 8
[Notable tracks: Blood on the Cement, Severed Living Dog's Head, Face Print]
Angel of Decay -