Pact Infernal and Berlin’s Horo label announced the release of Infernality in a big way, with a superlative mix (streaming below). The debut album has been given every advantage, and we expect it to make a crater when it lands. The excitement will continue with a remix EP two weeks later.
Movie trailer fans will recognize “Purification” for what it is: a pounding overture, with tribal drums, swirling drones and a sense of pure unbridled anticipation. This track sets the stage for the entire album. Intimations of darkness are present in the titles, and the music follows. Already in “Initiation” the drums grow deeper and louder. At 64 b.p.m., this is not for music for dancing (although this will follow) ~ it’s music for lurking, for descending dark stairs, for walking with purpose into the night. The album seems to come more from the perspective of the stalker than the stalked. Rife with internal power, it charges the energy while admitting that some sort of infernal pact has been made. By “Philosophy”, the pace has increased, as has the confidence level. Now you may dance.
While Infernality contains aspects of dark ambience, drone and grime, its main influence is industrial: no surprise as Berlin continues to be one of the main players in this scene. The combination of clanks and clouds draws comparison to classic acts of a prior century, including Will and Download. Neither of these were dance acts, although each managed simultaneous gothic and rhythmic sensibilities. The martial drums and sullen keys have survived the passage of time intact, but Pact Infernal offers a new take on the multi-headed genre. One hesitates to call this a breath of fresh air, as this breath is dank, diseased and foul. Perhaps better to say that the aforementioned acts seemed futuristic in their time, and Pact Infernal seems futuristic now.
Despite the presence of stable beats, the breaks between the beats provide some of the album’s most intriguing moments ~ for example, the conclusion of “Principles”, which adds a host of new elements just as the track is dying. And if you’ve ever wondered what Raison D’être might sound like with beats and bass, “Death & Rebirth” provides the answer. This time, the beginning of the track is the ghost in the castle, while the center is the approaching army. The whispers of “Infernality” are followed by sublimated shrieks, the tension mounting as the volume rises. But at this point, it’s important to note the difference between Pact Infernal and other industrial artists of the 21st century, which is that Pact Infernal knows how to hold back. These titles and timbres are menacing, but not as overt as one might guess. The album unsettles like a suspense film, but avoids the jump tactics of a horror film. This is the secret of its power: that anything might happen at any moment, but even at the end, the monster remains unrevealed.
The closing tracks are as effective as the openers; the time Pact Infernal spent honing its craft through a series of EPs has paid off. The pounding “Retribution” (eleven deep!) is one of its strongest, while “Rites of Passage” offers a fitting coda in its final minutes: a descent into pulse, distortion and drone. The voice is unintelligible, the menace unimaginable, the beast intact and proud. (Richard Allen)
Release date: 16 June; Remix EP 30 June