CD + 7″, Les Forces Alliés, 2008
For those familiar with the French underground electronics scenes, the politically driven, industrial harsh punk collective from Lorraine known as Muckrackers probably dispenses any introductions. Familiar with some of their previous body of work, I jumped at the opportunity to buy a copy of this new album, even more so as the limited edition version included a 7″ vinyl collaboration with French artist Sonic Area. After the stunning full-length, “Biz Zum Tod” (and a couple of excellent limited edition CD-R releases), my expectations for this new album were pretty high.
Normally not one to judge a book (or CD) by its cover, it’s hard not to admit I was quite impressed by the artwork on “[Uckange_4]” which follows Muckrackers’ aesthetic of industrial and industrial photography collages. Someone even remarked that this album’s artwork was already well worth the 10€ price tag. Things are taken one step further with the addition of a multimedia data track that, in addition to adding more pristine and inspired eye-candy, provides a rather useful historical background to the theme of this album (though limited to the francophone among us).
Muckrackers describe their music as “Industrial Harsh Punk,” a spot on description. “[Uckange_4]” is abrasive to the limit, uncompromising as well as extremely evocative of the harsh conditions under which the blast furnace workers of the Lorraine toiled. A strong and talented blend of strafing guitars, pounding rhythms, distortion, growling vocals and historical samples allegorically describes the history and decadence of Uckange 4, the last of the Lorraine blast furnaces, and the plight of its steelworkers with a degree of intensity and sincerity that is quite rare to find in music nowadays. It’s easy to perceive the Muckrackers as passionate about their ideals and inspiration sources and, in addition, they have the talent and skill to convey this passion and enthusiasm through their music, which many will no doubt find inspirational. “[Uckange_4]” is also a very coherent album, tracks flowing seamlessly from the explosive beginning of “Konkassor” to the brooding ending of “Blast Furnace Valley.” Despite some stylistic uniformity, there is more than enough variety in mood throughout this release (and in the tracks themselves), which easily holds the listener’s attention and interest and hints at a definite artistic maturation since the previous album.
As if this wasn’t enough, those fortunate to purchase the limited edition (priced at 10€ like the regular edition, it should be noted) were presented with a 7″ vinyl featuring two untitled tracks, one by Muckrackers and the other by Sonic Area, who once more presents a remarkable (if short) piece of evocative and cinematic sound art; definitely a good reason to have grabbed a copy of this album as soon as it came out.
While some may find it too intense or abrasive, “[Uckange_4]” will certainly hold a definite appeal for others (particularly if their musical roots are in the field of punk or grind-metal) and, if historically and socially motivated intense, in-your-face music is your cup of tea, then it is surely a must-have. Despite its underground background, “[Uckange_4]” is also bound to find numerous adherents among the more commercially oriented, casual listener.
[10/10 for the limited edition, 9/10 for the normal]
— Miguel de Sousa