The Quietus - A new rock music and pop culture website


Sense Fracture
Landscape of Thorns Enrico Monacelli , November 15th, 2023 08:21

From Haunter Records, an album that tries to imagine what industrial music might mean in the 21st century

These days I’m not much of an electronic music person. I know, I know: rock is dead, but I’d rather have my MJ Lenderman playing Harvest Moon with a kazoo over most club-inf(l)ected music. Even at my most experimental, it is very likely that there’ll be six strings involved. And don’t even get me started on the whole conceptronica thing…

So, whenever a piece of electronic music of any variety stops me in my tracks, I’m especially taken aback. I have to wonder why, and how?! Most of the time it is a wonderful surprise, don’t get me wrong, but it’s still something that makes me pause and take my time to ask what the fuck just happened.

And it did happen when I listened to Sense Fracture’s new record, Landscape of Thorns, out on Haunter Records. I had to take a step back and wonder why I actually liked it that much.

The why is rather simply. Landscape of Thorns accomplishes a jaw-dropping feat: it embodies what industrial music could sound like in the 21st century. It is also an example of what industrial music could sound like if it finally lets go of the fetish with its previous, “classical” incarnations and tries to face head on the dreadful soundscapes of our permacrisis world. Industrial music with less power electronics “I’ve got a black-and-white photo of a serial killer on my album cover” silly-ass poses, and more actually existing horrors, in other words. It gives a sound to what is really scary about our current world and current lives.

Which is big praise, of course, that almost necessarily elicit the fatal question: how? How did they do it? And how does 21st century industrial sound like?

The answer comes straight at you on the second track, ‘World of M’, right after the sci-fi-y (tad dull) intro: the song opens up with murderous off-kilter rhythmic section and death laser synths and the more it goes on the more the mayhem intensifies – pitched-to-oblivion vocals, cranked-to-eleven noise, pure hell and brimstone choir samples, insectoid synths, more oblique rhythms all that. By the end of it, the only feeling standing is the exhaustion. And this is the magic formula throughout the whole thing: when Landscape of Thorns works is precisely through this mind-numbing intensity that pummels the listener into submission. It goes so hard you are almost incapable of getting it at all – just like… you know… the world we live in.

Chiefs examples of this tactic are ‘Hatescum’, with digi-core maestros Duma, or ‘The New Orchard’, featuring the post-hardcore band Lizzitsky, or the diptych ‘Land Entranced’. In moments such as this, the record is giving modern-day Godflesh. Absolute alien Anthropocene hardcore. What harsh noise should actually mean. It feels like your brain falling apart as it takes it all in.

By the same token, the record can and does get a bit grating at times, with all its alien bleeps and bloops. As the last song rolls in, ‘The Last Migration’, I unmistakeably feel like I’ve had plenty enough – at times, not in a good way.

It’s not an easy ride at all, but, if you’ve got the guts, it’s a ride well-worth taking.