One of the commonplaces of noise is that of excess, and one of the paths such a concept opens up and which is not often explored is that of the wealth implied in an overabundance of sonic material. The Spirals of Great Harm, like the luscious Apollonian-occultist façade of its cover, invites the listener to explore its depths, where the coiled serpent marks the beginning of the abyss. Whether that abyss leads upwards or downwards depends on what you seek within the temple, and the mythical Egyptian symbolisms and track names connect with references to Dante’s Inferno (according, at least, to the press release) in a veritable excess of links that create a never-ending chain of signs open not only to interpretation but to mapping as well. After all, some spirals, by virtue of their luxury, are also labyrinths.
The aural textures drawn by Skullflower into play emerge from a mixture of the chaos of feedback and walls of sound with the rhythmic regularity of drones, the guitar and electronics simultaneously duelling and complementing each other as the base of a distant, perpetual rumble as much as they constitute a musical element that molds the informal into shapes. Fulfilling two functions at once (as above, so below), these sounds come together not as one, but as multitudes, like the small visual details of the album cover that overwhelmingly assault the eyes. Their very opulence is disorienting, a senselessness born from sensory overload, a harm that leads not to numbness but to the sheer enjoyment of the many stimulations of perception. It is the mythological ambivalence of the snake: death cannot stop the affluence of life, but in rebirth there is nonetheless a kind of loss, the excess skin now shed becoming a petrified icon of another living moment. To listen to these drones and noise as they rise and fall (at an appropriately high volume, of course) is to let the ears get lost in their sonic coils, to pull the rest of the senses into a state where nothing else makes sense because there is just so much of it alive, so many intricate paths within the speaker-busting feedback that there is no need to do anything else, no need to keep this skin with which you’ve entered this labyrinth.
Like many other noise artists, Skullflower also operates with an ironic sense of humor, an abyss that appropriately mocks the light, a laughter as harmful as looking right into the sun. There’s plenty of mythological parting points in the track names, but there’s no doubt it’s quite difficult to imagine the “Tangled Light of Isis”, or what “The Firebright and Linda Show” might have to do with an ascent/descent into hellish circles. Then there’s something like “Yuggoth Within”, a reference to H.P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu mythos in which Yuggoth is a planet at the edge of the solar system populated by beings “from the ultimate voids”. It is, in a way, a black comedy: there are so many meanings that the exercise to pin down something other than nonsense is as humorous as the image of the skin once shed becoming animated, an empty simulacrum of life. And like all black humor, it ends with a subversive note: “Fuck the New Estate”, the last track, grows rich with estranged drones and an almost melodic (almost alive) line of sounds that inevitably lead to silence, to a dearth in sensory stimulation. At the other end of the spiral you find starvation, but it is needless, it is unjust, it is horror – assaulting the world in the name of multitudes of pleasure for the many is perhaps the only path left open in the wake of so much luxury undone by so few. (David Murrieta)