CD, Malignant Records, 2008
“Atrocitizer [noun] – any person or group of people responsible for the perpetration or conduct of atrocities [e.g. Mass Murderer, Genocide]”.
So the liner notes of the second full album from Texan power electronics duo Steel Hook Prostheses describe a familiar theme in the genre, alongside photos of tortured prisoners and disabled children. Fortunately the music contained therein stands out admirably above such over-used imagery and shows some interesting variations away from the typical sounds of power electronics alongside a strength of performance which viciously beats down much of the competition.
“Dehumanization” opens the album with an unsettling buzz and an almost melodic, relatively speaking, chord progression, and as the heavily processed and seriously ferocious vocals suddenly kick in violently, it’s clear something special is happening here. A mere pop song at 3:30, the opener is then followed by “Murderous Science”, an initially calmer piece, with a disturbingly distorted voice sounding like some kind of disabled evil robot, giving way to J. Stillings’ powerful roar and a gratuitous account of tests on prisoners, many of the words actually intelligible at times! “Tepid Discharge” is then pure dark ambient, with an insistent heartbeat, leading to the suitably ethereal opening of “In Dreams We Are Malevolent”, which predictably enough quickly becomes a terrible nightmare for a sensitive sleeper.
Again, “Skin Melt Threshold” shows how good S.H.P are at being creepy and horrific as much when quiet as when noisy, as does the next piece, “Scarifier”, with its ominous bass line and sinister voice fading in from the distance. “Trauma Bonding” is quite enjoyably nauseating, with an oscillating undercurrent and sudden swishes of high end, and “Grand Declaration Of Obedience” offers no respite, with one of the most claustrophobic and clinging sections of sick ambience on the album. The title track appears with a crushing rhythm and dense drones, and a curious feeling of clearing away debris, which is probably quite appropriate leading into closer “The Excruciation Sequence”. This is even more musical than the opener, with melancholic chords, subtle background drums and a tragic sounding vocal performance, providing the perfect closing to a highly accomplished album, with very little to complain about, so I won’t even mention any misgivings I might have had earlier.
— Nathan Clemence