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The Below ft. Aaron Sutcliffe (Sweden) – 90 Seconds to Midnight (sample track and video from the EP Immutable Decay)

There’s dystopian and then there’s DYSTOPIAN. Just about everything Swedish industrial post-punkers The Below writes and records can be safely lodged in the second category. Theirs is the sort of thing that makes films like Soylent Green, The Day after Tomorrow and Cloverfield look like a Disney princess movie or a Nora Ephron rom-com.

They have passed this way previously, like the interstellar object Oumuamua in 2017, and exactly a year ago as it happens, with ‘Artificial Lights (Dystopian Haze)’, a single and video which now turns up on this five-track EP ‘Immutable Decay’.

I said at the time that both the song ‘Artificial Lights (Dystopian Haze)’ and the accompanying video, set in Lviv in western Ukraine, were as Orwellian as you could imagine, relating the theme of fear and the experience of living in bomb shelters after the Russian invasion of that blighted country.

Now we’ve got an entire EP’s worth and it ain’t getting any lighter, rest assured.

Apart from this sample track, others touch on equally party fare (not) such as the realities of the conflict in Gaza (‘No place is safe’).

I can’t figure out what ’17 Days’ refers to; the lyrics are lost in an accumulation of sound that could represent industrial decay, pollution, a nuclear strike or any other nightmare you might wish never to have. Is it how long you can last without any food? The length of the Cuban Missile Crisis? (No, that was 13 Days). The gap between your first exposure to radiation from a nuke, or from Polonium-210, or to novichok, and when you curl up and die?

It could be any of these things. The only thing I know for sure is what the music tells us – it will be brutal.

As for the sample track and video, ’90 seconds to midnight’, it could have been cut from ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘The Omen’ with its cast of priests, coffins, graveyards, flattened trees, derelict factories, cockroaches, worms, ants and seagulls feasting on a landfill site.

Again the lyrics are indistinguishable but I’m guessing it’s a reference to the Doomsday Clock which is counting down to a midnight extinction level event and that’s pretty much how close we are if you believe the boffins.

For all these tracks The Below are joined on vocals by Aaron Sutcliffe, also known as Yo-Haan of S.P.O.C.K., which has nothing to do with Star Trek, Captain. His vocal is coarse and direct without ever descending into punk parody.

Musically, it sounds like they’ve dispensed with standard instruments and instead wired up an entire demolition company’s machinery and connected them all to a metronome.

Look, you wouldn’t invite them to your child’s birthday party and this isn’t going to be to everyone’s taste but I guess if you’ve got something really profound to say about the state of this sad world this is easily the best way of saying it.

If it doesn’t catch your attention nothing will.

This EP marks the first of two scheduled releases for the year. Don’t have nightmares.

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