CD, Malignant Records, 2008
Power electronics is a difficult beast. In the live setting, a confrontational performance by intimidating mentalists can be quite something to witness, the enraged screaming over invigorating noise drones and blasts something to really make you feel alive! But given the simplicity of the music, more ordered and repetitive than pure noise, it is quite a challenge for different artists to stand out from one another and to make albums which can be enjoyed at home. STROM.ec come from Finland, a nation producing more than its fair share of power electronics artists, no doubt due to the long winter nights, fierce independence and rampant alcoholism. This is their fifth album, somehow under construction for over seven years, giving the (wrong) impression they may not be the most prolific of artists in their field.
The opening tracks get things off to a convincing and powerful start, and the frequent switches between harsh noise and disturbing ambient are actually rather more unsettling than the expected constant barrage. “Helvetin Esikartano” has very fast and aggressive Finnish vocals, the title translating to “The Forecourt of Hell”, while “Security Council” takes a more considered approach, using the ring modulation effect on English vocals to give a maddening Dalek voice! The lavish DVD style digipack case helpfully provides lyrics and translations, together with much delightfully grim, medically themed art works, and so it becomes apparent this is a tirade against the idea of the nation state, a defiant call to individualism. No lyrics are given for “Valis”, the third track and first with no power electronics, instead five minutes of freakish psychedelic industrial ambience, as with the harsher “Treatment Protocol”, opening with an ominous sample informing a patient or offender that on release, their life will not be their own!
The fifth track, “Pulsating Cranium”, features a more rhythmic backing, and fearsome lyrics worthy of some cult, gore-obsessed death metal band, before the two parts of the title track enhance the sickening mood with more horror soundscapes to unnerve the innocent listener. In stark contrast, Part 2 is a very harsh piece of straightforward power electronics, smashing viciously through the speakers in three minutes of pain and torment. Finally, the closer and second track with Finnish lyrics, “Vitaalinen Olomuoto” or “The Vital State”, is a twenty-one minute epic, building up from grinding industrial drones, to searing noise bursts, before broken electronics madness ensues. An ambient interlude leads to a nightmarish passage with torturous crashes and groans, before the Finnish death robot turns up to scream at us horribly once again! More noise then some very minimal ambient interspersed with a lot of violence, before a final cathartic noise drone to leave us feeling painfully violated.
In conclusion, STROM.ec show effortlessly how they can make harsh and aggressive power electronics as effectively as you want, but the important thing is how well they mix that up with dark ambient and experimental industrial passages, trying new ideas and never allowing things to become formulaic or stagnate.
— Nathan Clemence