15 Essential Noise Albums
Jay Gambit is Crowhurst. He plays noise as well as metal, sometimes at the same time.
Hardly just metal machine music, the genre of noise music has many forms. Power electronics, harsh noise, Japanoise, cut ups, walls, black noise — the subgenres can be staggering. As brutal as death metal, as dark as black metal and as extreme as grindcore or powerviolence; noise music is becoming a force to be reckoned with in a way it hasn’t before. I’m hardly an expert, but here are the 15 albums I would suggest to someone who’s new to the genre.
WOLD – Screech Owl / Raw Black Noise
Wold’s Screech Owl is black metal stripped down to it’s most raw, primitive form and then heavily concentrated to form the most potent sonic brew imaginable. The vocals are delivered in a standard fashion for black metal and the synths and drums are all there . . . but it’s got the sonic quality of a harsh noise album.
Facialmess – Dub Made Flesh / Harsh Reggae
Harsh noise takes many forms, the effects oriented genre of dub is a bigger influence on the genre than many may think. Facialmess’ love letter to the sound systems of yore is perfectly paced and flows like a true rocker. This still keeps the hardware-oriented, cut up sound of noise but retains a healthy dose of dub sampling around.
Scant – Contrary To Reason / Doom Noise
If you like Sunn 0)))’s tone worship but wanted to strip away any pretense or theatricality and just wanted to keep it to pure sonic focus you’ve got to check out Scant. Few artists, even within the genre, have such a grasp on the meditative qualities of what is considered to be “harsh”. Crumbling textures at a glacial pace. Released on the Chondritic Sound label, which means quality — that label does no wrong.
Pedestrian Deposit – Austere / Gothic Noise
Right off the bat, this is my favorite noise album ever. It feels like the noise version of a Lycia record in the sense that it’s got a cold warmth to it. Intensely intimate, Austere is emotionally gripping and has the qualities of a Gorecki or Rachmaninoff album in it’s orchestration. Simultaneously gripping and crushing, Austere will leave you drained in the way that the most heartbreaking films do.
Einstürzende Neubauten – Kollaps / Industrial Noise
Kollaps is one of the albums that started it all when it comes to true industrial noise. The album came out in 1981, and retains the classic industrial feel that early works by Throbbing Gristle (especially 2nd and 3rd annual reports) has. A ton of metallic percussion steeped in echo throughout the album gives the “factory noise” feel. The addition of tape loops, electronic drum sounds, feedback squeals and tortured howls make this a genre-defining classic.
Bloodyminded – Within The Walls / Raw Noise
Remember the first time you heard Take As Needed For Pain by Eyehategod? Within The Walls is sonically all that, distilled down to its most pure and chaotic elements.
The Gerogerigegege – Yellow Trash Bazooka / Grind Noise
Close your eyes and imagine five Japanese grindcore bands playing at once. Yellow Trash Bazooka is pretty lighthearted in the way that early Boredoms material is, which is to say that there’s a humorous tone that carries throughout the record as it pummels its way into more and more ridiculous intensity. The further you get in the album, the more apparent it’s influence on acts like Agoraphobic Nosebleed and other drum machine grinders.
Ramleh – Hole In The Heart / Post-Metal Noise
Ramleh’s Hole In The Heart is a true masterpiece. From the opening note, the guitar tone rivals anything I’ve ever heard in it’s density and hypnotic nature. The mood throughout verges on the edge of collapse, distortion and fuzz squeezing out any humanity while uneven loops throughout leave the listener dizzied. From front to finish, Hole In The Heart is one of the most well thought out records on this list. An absolutely pensive journey, one to undoubtedly leave you feeling unwell.
The Goslings – Grandeur Of Hair / Experimental Noise
This record is the answer to those that say that noise can’t have drums. The Goslings prove that you can make a noise album that’s musical — and they do so by giving bass lines that cut through the blown out atmosphere and trashed up drums at all the right times. During the best moments of this album, it feels like if Lightning Bolt was covering Loss.
Gnaw Their Tongues – All The Dread Magnificence Of Perversity / Atmospheric Black Noise
I have heard this record described as one of the most terrifying abstract collections of sounds ever laid to record and I wouldn’t say they were wrong. At it’s most linear, the album is grand and supreme in its ability to evoke feelings of urgent horror. The best way to describe this is if you took all of the parts of black metal that were supposed to be scary and then had them recognized aesthetically by the creators of Silent Hill. True nightmare music, and at a runtime that approaches 90 minutes — there’s no filler at all. Just dread.
C.C.C.C. – Loud Sounds Dopa / Japanoise
Japan’s influence on the world of noise music can’t be understated, and Japanoise is a genre all it’s own. It’s visceral and psychedelic and goes beyond the pummeling textures overlaying swirling abstract synths that have all of the warmth of tube amplification and radiate under guitar feedback that would make Jimi Hendrix sweat. This is one of the most supreme examples of the genre at it’s finest – presented in full purity, live without overdubs.
Winterkalte – Structures Of Destruction / Drum N’ Noise
If Justin Broadrick were to open a gym, this is what would be playing over the loudspeakers. It’s weird to think of noise as something so uniform, especially when there’s so much of the philosophies behind it built on the abstract — but this is one album that blends dissonance with order in a way that’s truly driving. It’s not triumphant, it’s not warm, it’s not really even scary — but it’s rigid, blown out and visceral as all hell.
Alberich – NATO Uniformen / Rhythmic Industrial
Power electronics has grown as a genre beyond simply relying on vocals and feedback, blooming out to full on musical compositions that harness the power of hardcore punk and the aggression of industrial music. NATO Uniformen is the pinnacle of the new wave of power electronics and death industrial. The sounds on this record are lush and warm while the melodies have pinpoint precision and intensity.
Hunting Lodge – Will / Detroit Industrial
When it comes to the people who helped shape the American noise scene, you can’t ignore Richard Skott and Lon Diehl of Hunting Lodge. This album doesn’t feel like it was made in 1982. It feels like the best of the current harsh noise scene condensed into one record, while touching on classic industrial key points. Will feels like the audio equivalent of being tied to the railroad tracks in the center of town and laying there helpless while a crowd forms – waiting for the rumbling of an engine that you hear before them. This just got a gorgeous reissue from DAIS Records too, which you should check out.
Deathpile – G.R. / Power Electronics
Arguably the most iconic album on this list is G.R. by Deathpile. While it’s hard to reference this record without looking like artists like Whitehouse, what sets Deathpile apart is that it never lets up. Every single second feels vital and deliberate and delivers an arch both sonically and with bluntly delivered yet clearly well researched lyrics which tell the story of the Green River Killer. There’s a reason this album is so powerful that it’s been imitated time and time again for over a decade.