Album Review: Author & Punisher—Beastland

Industrial Metal has become a fairly antiquated term, conjuring up visions of a still-relevant Al Jourgensen fronting Ministry in their Psalm 69 heyday, or Nine Inch Nails fronted by a lean, angry Trent Reznor before he had a fat bank account and an Oscar. While it never quite went away, industrial metal became almost more of an influence than a genre. Over the past few years, though, there’s been an artist who’s been honing his craft—as well as his homemade instruments—to breathe vivid new life into a dying breed.

Tristan Shone: musician, mechanical engineer, and groundbreaking visionary who found a way to combine his areas of expertise into what could be thought of as a one man harbinger of mechanical doom. Originally a guitarist, Shone grew unsatisfied with the inability to bring the music and vision in his head to life, so he did what, as an engineer, seemed the obvious choice: he built machines from scratch to help him create the sounds that became Author & Punisher.

After the first few releases garnered some healthy underground buzz, Author & Punisher is putting out their sixth and highest profile release to date, on one of the biggest indie labels around. Beastland (Relapse Records, 2018) is a visceral, atmospheric, angry album that at times makes it hard to believe is the creation and execution of one man.

From the buzzing drone that opens the album on Pharmacide, an aura of unease fills the speakers. Despite keys, synths, and various machinery responsible for most of the music on the album, there’s an inherent heaviness to Beastland that reveals Shone’s metal roots and lends the album an undeniable hypnotic groove.

The tension continues to build through first single Nihil Strength, with its note-bending synth and earth-shaking beat, before Ode to Bedlam offers a glimpse of melody in Shone’s voice, singing what may come to some as a surprisingly catchy hook. The melodic vocals are elevated even more in The Speaker is Sytematically Blown, with a chorus that will stick in listeners’ heads long after the song is over.

The melodic touches that punctuate Beastland are important—necessary, even—to lend the album a sense of balance that many other extreme music releases lack. The scratchy spoken word passages, throbbing, distorted bass, ear-piercing squeals of feedback, and dischordant riffs are all actually oddly pleasing, but would definitely be less so without the vocal melodies that break up the assault on the senses.

Author & Punisher threads the needle with Beastland, walking a razor’s edge between catchy and cacophony, sounding less like automated music programmed on computers, and more like someone wailing away, creating his vision on cutting edge devices of his own creation. This is what happens when music is created by an artist rather than someone who has learned to write songs solely from electronics. It’s mechanized music with a soul, which makes all the difference in setting A & P apart from any industrial contemporaries.

Beastland is, as the name implies, a beast of an album—consistently solid, and furious to the very end. It would probably surprise no one to see this album—and this artist—blow up in the near future.

8/11 Ringing Ears

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