The more I listen to industrial anything, the more I can see patterns in the way the “music” is played and what the moral of the story is, so to speak. Industrial is bleak and dark, it has to be, but beneath the grime, dust, oil, and blood, there always lies a diamond. The first few times I listened to anything industrial, I was put off by the mechanical, robotic nature of the music. There was no feeling, no emotion in it. Ironically, I thought it needed to be more organic. Fast forward to a year later and now I think I’ve started to understand the music. I still have a lot to learn, each new album, each new artist tells me that, but I no longer find the music robotic and inhuman. I mean it is, but it’s supposed to be like that. It’s not supposed to sound like natural music. It’s industrial music for crying out loud. Take this latest album I’ve been offered, Oppressfield by Sielwolf & Nam-Khar. The music sounds like it should be an alternate soundtrack to a Terminator film (one of the better ones, mind you) but I’ve learned to look deeper. Even if the music is meant to evoke a desolate landscape in the future were much of humanity has managed to wipe itself out, there is a unique story with unique themes represented by the various instrumentations and melodies. What is that story? What is the Oppressfield?
This music is aggressive. What do I mean by that? I mean that unlike some industrial music that merely reproduces and distorts sound to create a picture, Sielwolf & Nam-Khar violently force emotions onto the listener with their use of distortions and instrumentations. Oppressfield is not an album that one can use to relax, though with a title like Oppressfield I doubt anyone was thinking of relaxation. So what does that make it? It’s cinematic rather than introspective, meaning that there is a story at play here. There is a point A to point B purpose here. It’s not a sort of self-discovering, or thematic discovery. This is a story with a protagonist. The listener is the protagonist, and as in many dark ambient/industrial albums, they are the ones that control events. Their perspective is what sets the album in motion. Without interpretation, the sounds are just that, sounds without any deeper meaning or purpose. I can only give testimony to what I felt and how my story went but I will try to delve deeper into the world that Oppressfield has crafted for its listeners.
The Oppressfield. What is it? What does it mean? What does it signify? The album is the journey to this place, but the destination is not necessarily the important thing to focus on in the album. It may be considered cliché but the story is in the journey, not the destination. In this case we already know, vaguely, where we are going but we don’t know the purpose. Are we making this journey of free will? Are we being forced? Deciding that will set the course for the narrative. It’s the proverbial point of no return. I’m going to continue with the premise that we, the collective listener, are not being forced, that we are going of our own volition but it is not something we are doing because we want to. The Oppressfield is a place we have to go. Why? That’s to be found out on the journey there isn’t it?
The journey takes place over the course of what feels like a few months, each song is an episode in which something drastic or course altering happens, when we travel through remnants of dead cities, twisted effigies of an age that ended in destruction, death, and chaos, tombs that house more than just the dead, and monuments to our failures as a race. Each of these will impact the listener in a different way, each will bring up questions about what we are and what we are becoming that maybe we don’t want to have to answer or face. There are consequences to not answering, though.
Finally, though, we do reach the Oppressfield. And what a horror to behold it is! I won’t spoil it for you and divulge exactly what the climax of the album entails but I will say that it’s the best song on the album and it’s the best for a reason. There may be songs after it but it is definitely the climax of the story. Clearly a lot of thought went into making sure that every moment was perfect. The production is good throughout the album but the title track takes the cake. It’s emotional yet it’s mechanical, it’s peaceful yet there’s an underlying sense of dread and horror just below the surface. It’s a jewel of odd instrumentation and atonal rhythms.
Oppressfield was one of those albums it took a while to fully understand and appreciate. It’s a very nuanced album in a genre that doesn’t have a lot of nuance. It’s a standout album that really does take its listeners on a journey. It’s a horrible journey that no one really wants to take but Sielwolf and Nam-Khar really do a great job detailing how that journey could take place and helps the listener forge the reason why the journey has to take place. What will you see on this journey if you are brave enough to start it?
Highlights: Oppressfield, Platinum Insert
If you like this try: Flowers for Bodysnatchers, Monocube, Sky Burial
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