First impressions are everything. Anja Millen’s cover character is masked and mysterious, intimating a dark and dangerous album. The title of the album implies a lethal blow. And while of the Adder’s Bite won’t kill anybody (we hope), it may frighten and entertain in equal measure.
While Millen’s image is reminiscent of Dave McKean’s Front Line Assembly cover art, the music has more in common with the instrumental productions of FLA side project Will. Modern readers may imagine a darker version of Murcof or Vieo Abiungo. The strings are responsible for the somewhat sinister mood. Were it not for the presence of offsetting instruments (such as the bells of “Vengeance”), the mood would be entirely bleak. But like the best industrial artists, Abstractive Noise (Greece’s Panagiotis Pagonis) mixes dark and light, hope and despair, melancholy and wistful yearning. Very few modern musicians operate in this field, although a few do come to mind (Haxan Cloak, Access to Arasaka, Totakeke, Mentallo & the Fixer). As the industrial field has moved in the synthpop/techno direction, the scene has lost much of the sense of danger that provided its original appeal.
of the Adder’s Bite restores this sense of danger. Consider for example the two rusty swing noises, one loud and one soft, that haunt “Machine (phase 1) and “of the Adder’s Bite (2nd movement)”. In the first, the abstractive noise serves as percussion, in the second, mood. The latter piece concludes with what sounds like a steel drum being slammed shut, and the ensuing track begins with the sound of chains, providing the impression that something wicked is going on beneath the surface. But then the bells arrive again, braced by staccato strings and accompanied by foghorn brass. Looking again at the cover image, one asks, “Is this character hero, villain, or chameleon?” The impassive face gives little away. Likewise the artist’s description of the concept: a male trapped inside a woman (or world) who is also a machine. Suffice it to say that the album is filled with dramatic tension, displaying a sense of claustrophobic inevitability that firmly reflects its stated concept.
Abstractive Noise amplifies the mechanical associations with a host of percussive approaches, with live drums on the opening piece and factory-style percussion on the second merging in the third. But the best use of percussion can be found on the album’s strongest and busiest selection, “Trap”. The piece begins with static and deep chords, then bursts into a steel/kettle drum segment, augmented by cinematic cello. In the center of the piece, the strings steal the tempo, but then the drums reassert their claim. Finally the deep chords and static return, making the track a perfect bell curve. This attention to detail, present throughout the album, is one of its hallmarks.
According to Pagonis, in the end the protagonist comes to realize that there is no escape. But there are certainly worse fates. Not everyone survives an adder’s bite, but those who do see things much clearer, as the clutter of contemporary existence is erased in the forge of pain. (Richard Allen)