CD-R, Clinical Records, 2009
The Texan duo of J. Stillings and L. Kerr have been operating as Steel Hook Prostheses for just over ten years now, churning out some rather sick and twisted death industrial and power electronics on various record labels. As would be expected over such a period the band have released a number of exclusive tracks on various obscure compilations, so have finally decided to gather these otherwise hard to find pieces together on one CD, “Exploring The Outer Lesion” on Clinical Records. Eleven tracks of harsh brutality and terror, the collection exhibits a good balance between focused identity and stylistic variety, although without the liner notes it isn’t clear if they are arranged in chronological order or otherwise, therefore artistic progress over the years can’t be judged.
The album kicks off with the ominous rumblings of “Anesthetic Cruelty”, which features some lovely wobbly and unintelligible vocals, then into the haunting ambience of “Extrusion”, which builds up with harsh distorted screams and heavy grinding sounds. “Surgical Modification” is another fairly minimal track, this time with a slightly spacey synth drone giving quite an unsettlingly empty feeling, and then “Violent Struggle Beneath The Pillow” is horribly suffocating and claustrophobic, if a little too slow to represent a violent struggle. “Carcinoma” is a nasty short piece of discomfort and pain, gnawing away inside your head like the cancer it suggests, followed by the infectious sounds of “Sepsis”, which curiously lets off in the middle for some disease-ridden dark ambient.
Some of the stronger tracks seem to have been strategically placed towards the end of the album. “Choosing Death” features a striking monologue on the subject of euthanasia interspersed with some vicious vocals over a crackling and scratching background, and then “Human Fodder” features extremely violent and tortuous noises causing considerable aural aggravation. “The Pinnacle” is unrelenting in its insistent rhythm and tormented howling, topped off wonderfully with a very disturbing first person account of talking to a severed head and other foul, murderous activities, recounted in a rather calm and reflective tone. Finally there is, I am to understand, a cover of “Hunting For Humans” by ambient industrial stalwart Schloss Tegal, which neatly bridges the gap between them and SHP, a sinister voice intoning the title over threatening drones and abrasive buzzing.
So in all we have an interesting selection of Steel Hook Prostheses’ works, which though not as powerful as their “Atrocitizer” album I reviewed last year, does show some very effective uses of harsh electronic sounds in portraying some of the more unpleasant and horrific occurrences in life.
— Nathan Clemence