Season of Mist
30 August 2013
by Ruth Booth
It’s survived war, Wall Street, detonation by Edward Norton’s split personalities. The American Dream just won’t die. There’ll always be some wide-eyed kid who mistakes a sunset for streets paved with gold. Jumping on the corpse just makes the thing move. So I wasn’t enthused to hear GOG’s – aka Michael Bjella’s – new experimental ambient noise album is about The Death Of The American Dream (wake of Capitalism flavour). That’s more because if that’s what it’s meant to be, then Ironworks has grown far beyond purpose.
As GOG, Bjella’s work has a tendency towards the dark and fuzzy side of post-metal ambience. Repackaged from last year’s vinyl release, Ironworks ramps up the intensity, partly due to the percussion – a massive fanbelt machine dominating the forge where the album was recorded.
It’s that clattering that you hear under lead-off track ‘1870-1906’, as the melody vibrates through a mesh of fuzz and rippling static. The effect is transfixing, almost hypnotic, like being drawn inexorably towards annihilation. Rather than simply relentless backdrop, the machine proves remarkably versatile – witness the nightmarish screams that punctuate the cult chants of ‘Tasks which Destroy Body and Soul’.
Yet it’s when Bjella entwines machine with piano where the most poignant, and beautiful, moments occur – as with ‘A Promised Eternity Filled With Cancer’. Perhaps it is some lofty metaphor for the battle between art and industry. Yet it’s the weaving of the two that roots the record. The bleakest track on there (‘Into Her, She Carved The Word Empty’) is where not just that melody is missing, but that thumping metallic heartbeat too, leaving only echoes and the sound of dust blowing in the wind.
And heartbeat it is. The disused forge where this was recorded was home to generations of Bjella blacksmiths. What comes through in that record, more than any sense of crushing of the human spirit, is the beating of blood and sweat and legacy. Dreams are remarkably slippery things, after all, and prone to evolution. Ironworks feels less like the death of the American dream, more the transmutation of one to another, like base metal to gold.
Sounds like: The intersection of Richard Harrison’s Drone Hill 225, Chord and NIN
Standout Tracks: A Promised Eternity Filled With Cancer, 1870-1906, Into Her She Carved The Word Empty