CD, The Eastern Front, 2008
Surma’s initial foray into the desolate world of martial ambient electronics, on the split EP “Viltis” (shared with fellow Eastern Front grouch-merchants, Kreuzer) was exciting listening, hinting at a potential far beyond the pedestrian doom-and-gloom peddled en masse by similar artists in the genre. Thus, the debut album, “Allocutio” has more than its fair share of hype to live up to…
Technically, the record is a superb achievement, a beautifully, carefully crafted exercise in angst. Unique aural identifiers in the guise of Lithuanian radio broadcasts – replete with hissing static – add an extra dimension to the sound, going a long way towards creating an audio “signature” for this artist. The key to this success is its simplicity – traditionals, marches and other old songs are re-arranged and overlaid with harsh, grinding quasi-industrial elements, rather like genre legends Der Blutharsch perfected over a decade ago. Perhaps a further aspect of the appeal of Surma is this sense of reawakened nostalgia.
Emotionally, “Allocutio” is wonderful mood music – the perfect backdrop for funerals, war footage, holocausts and genocides. But it’s more than just a distillation of the negative aspects of the human condition – it is also a panacea, a healing balm spread across the wounds inflicted on the psyche by these amoral and inhumane circumstances.
As far as widespread appeal is concerned, I doubt if any composer of martial ambient has the bottom line in mind when embarking on the creative journey; this album, and others like it, are a pure niche market commodity, one that will be prized by the few brave souls willing to welcome its unhappy overtones into their music collections. It is not something everyone will enjoy, and also not a good starting point for the seeking to begin a foray into darker electronics. The only real negative to be addressed here is the classification of the record: Surma may display characteristics of industrial music, but it definitely is not, an oversight as yet uncorrected by most online catalogues.
— David vander Merwe