Gridfailure – Irritum (2018) REVIEW

Nothingness, invalidity, and worthlessness can all interpret the meaning of irritum though when I fired up Gridfailure’s shrill dark ambient full-length ‘Irritum’ I felt something closer to anxious futility as it’s crackling layers curled and melted the hair in my ears. Admittedly my knowledge of dark ambient post-industrial soundscapes is incredibly limited to Lustmord, who I have followed since maybe 1996, 80’s Nurse With Wound and the OST for Eraserhead. I find dark ambient works to be a great alternative to classical music in terms of utility, where they can create directional background music for creativity or extended self-directed learning. The sound and fury that drive ‘Irritum’ isn’t so meditative, though. In fact the majority of the album is angel-dusted with hardcore shouts, acoustic guitar twangs, and a moderate sandblasting of harsh noise.

‘Irritum’ doesn’t have the pretty synth of albums like Content Nullity‘s self-titled 2009 LP but it does share that same instinct for when to move past a moment onto a new texture or idea and the album offers greater variation than a lot of harsh-ass dark ambient stuff I’ve heard. The sampling and performances here often break through the thickly distorted layers of sound in some organic ways. The clattering acoustic guitar and muffled hardcore shouting of “Internalizing” creates a mutant stream of a man’s primal rage and insanity spilling out through an old broken radio. Those muffled and distorted shouts are disturbing for the sake of the hellscape that is “Haze of Traumatic Recurrence” but hearing them tuned and manipulated to resemble an instrument pulled me back in for a few listens.

For an album composed of harsh layers of machine noise, harrowing screams, and the occasional acoustic guitar (or harmonica) ‘Irritum’ feels insistent and exhausting. To call Gridfailure’s music a “horror soundtrack” would be overlooking the psychological terror it so effortlessly expresses through bloodied extreme noise experimentation. It doesn’t want to spook you into shock with a murderous villain at your heels, rather it seeks to degrade the mind with visions of the impending, unavoidable, and very real looming apocalypse. I had initially yearned for some percussion a la The Body ‘I Shall Die Here’ but after a few listens I was more drawn to the string-rattling guitar chugs of songs like “Externalizing” which better enhance the unsettling themes of ‘Irritum’ than an atmosludge beat would. I appreciate how harsh and engaging this was as a guy who can’t typically sit through more than 10-15 minutes of harsh noise stuff. The organic instrumentation does a lot to push things beyond the constant screeching distortion and muffled howling of it all.


Artist Gridfailure
Type Album
Released February 23, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on their Bandcamp! Follow Gridfailure on Facebook
Dark Ambient, Experimental, Noise

Grating yourself to live. 3.0/5.0

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