Review: 6TH CIRCLE “Pacified/Conjuring” [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

Review: 6TH CIRCLE “Pacified/Conjuring” [Sentient Ruin Laboratories]

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Score 80%
Summary
80 %
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This compilation of 6th Circle’s first two demo releases, Pacified and Conjuring, on one record was definitely NOT what I expected. Initially described to me as ‘satanic electro-industrial’, images of late 90s club nights sprung to mind, conjuring nostalgic memories of the likes of The Electric Hellfire Club or the Pyschopomps. And, while there is definitely shared ground with these acts, 6th Circle is entirely its own beast. Sure, the record is chock-full of analog synth goodness and primitive EBM rhythms, interspersed with cult movie samples and atmospheric pads, but it goes far past that.

Admittedly, there are some industrial clichés to deal with, like the inevitable Bladerunner samples, but despite these and some muddy low-end mastering (especially on “Era of the Pig” and “Slave”) the do-it-yourself, live ethos of Matt Auxier (the mastermind behind 6th Circle) shines through: “Possession”, for example, could all too easily be a flawless, polished and computerized product, but the slight wavering and dissonance of actual recorded instruments makes for a far more human result. And what a result – cinematic, haunting and memorable all at once.

And it is this approach that really sets 6th Circle apart from other acts in the electro/EBM scene – all too often, bands rely on software as compositional tools instead of interfacing directly with their instruments themselves, thereby sacrificing musicianship for digital purity. This hands-on method not only recalls the glory days of industrial music (also aptly echoed in the Front 242/Nitzer Ebb drum sequences on so much of the album) but evokes a deeper sense of immersion within the musical process itself. In this way, 6th Circle can be very favourably compared with industrial music’s current favourite son, Author & Punisher. While 6th Circle may not go quite as far as developing and engineering his own noise manipulation devices, the result he achieves is no less authentic in its expression of commitment to the music itself.

“Asmodeus” is a perfect example of the layered, post-industrial and dystopian celebration of all things wicked that 6th Circle is becoming known for.

In my introductory paragraph, I mentioned the Psychopomps and The Electric Hellfire Club, as these were my expectations; upon repeated listening I refined these comparisons extensively. While the demonic themes (especially on the ‘second’ half of the record, from the Conjuring EP) perfectly align, the music deserves its own special mention. Now, no matter what 6th Circle track pops up in my playlist, the immediate association I make is with one of my favourite late-90s compilation CDs, Hard Industrial Work from Cleopatra Records. Pacified/Conjuring could easily slot in alongside any of the excellent artists featured on this release, from T.H.D. to Birmingham 6, from Lights of Euphoria to Controlled Fusion. There’s enough heaviness, enough lead synth melody, enough dance-focused rhythm and more than enough tinny electronic percussion to qualify this comparison.

My only complaint is the muddiness mentioned earlier: I am all for densely layered, textural music, but there are moments where too much gets lost in the final master. On the positive side of this approach, however, the treatment of the vocal track as texture more than lyric suits the music perfectly. The variety of treatments his vocals receive also suits my personal tastes in industrial and EBM – all too often, acts end up following the standard recipe typified by the ‘hellectro’ harshness of artists like Hocico or Agonoize. While this did lead to some breakaway successes, like the black metal flirtation of Psyclon Nine and guitar-led performances now favoured by Dawn of Ashes, it also led to a generation of homogeneity within the scene.

In the end, I can only praise 6th Circle. Not only for the trip down memory lane, but also for the attitude displayed: by going backwards in time (in terms of production and musical style) Matt Auxier refreshes and begins a new chapter in a musical genre that was fading into bedroom-producer obscurity. He joins a small number of up and coming artists (like Wisconsin’s KLACK) who openly display their love for the music by embracing its history while still creating something fresh and exciting.

Tracklisting:

  1. Era of the Pig
  2. Slave
  3. Punished
  4. Burn Walk Away
  5. For Your Time
  6. Possession
  7. Agreas
  8. Asmodeus
  9. Paimon
  10. Zepar (Immaculate Infection)
  11. Balaam

Runtime: 43:16

Record Label: Sentient Ruin Laboratories

Release Date: May 15 2020

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