Author: Bloodshot Grub
Artist: Author & Punisher
Album: Melk en Honing
Label: Housecore Records
The first time I heard Author & Punisher, specifically sole member Tristan Shone’s 2012 album Ursus Americanus, I was reminded of a scene in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. During the climactic fight scene, the sash of the Thuggee mine’s overseer is caught by the slow-turning wheel of a rock crusher and the overseer is slowly pulled under. An Author & Punisher album is very much the auditory equivalent of that, stretched over 40-50 minutes.
Shone’s industrial millstone continued its relentless grind in 2013 with Women & Children, and continues still with Melk en Honing. Shone, a mechanical engineer, builds his own instruments, metal “drone machines” that surround him as he performs. The auditory output of these machines is a layer of thick drones and machine-like textures over a pounding, distorted pulse. The sound design, full of rich and visceral distortion, is the main draw, and is complimented very nicely by a clear and dynamic mix that cleverly makes room for every sound amidst all the distortion. At the same time, musically, very little has changed from the prior two albums. There are a few new sounds, but little that hasn’t already been well-established as part of Author & Punisher’s musical concept. The distinction from prior albums is primarily result of the expanded and very effective vocal performance.
Ursus Americanus featured Shone’s voice mostly as an additional textural element and on Women & Children he expanded the range of vocal sounds while maintaining their more supportive role. Melk en Honing puts Shone’s voice up front, equal in importance to his drone machines. His range is notable. “The Barge” features droning chants and the sort of industrial-style shouts you might hear on a Skinny Puppy album. “Shame” has the shouts as well, but also a keening wail. “Void, Null, Alive,” has melodic but eerily-harmonized singing. Whatever sounds are coming from Shone’s throat in any given moment, they add a great deal of emotional depth to the music.
Unusual for industrial music, there’s an organic quality to the music that belies its electro-mechanical origins. On “Shame,” the pulse seems to pull back with every iteration, the result being that the listener is dragged behind it rather than carried by it. The pulse is steady, even obstinate, but never feels entirely quantized.
There are no guitars, and the drone machines only occasionally land on anything resembling a riff. Author & Punisher’s frequent labeling as industrial and/or doom metal is inaccurate. Though undoubtedly metal-influenced, this is purely industrial music, but it is nevertheless slow and very, very heavy and wouldn’t be at all out of place sitting next to Godflesh or Primitive Man. If you enjoy that sort of visceral weight and getting sonically pulped beneath rock crusher sounds like your idea of a fun afternoon, let Melk en Honing catch the tail end of your sash and pull you under.
- Bloodshot Grub