Null Cell – Eternally Ill
Machine Man Records
Release Date: 08/12/2020
Running Time: 33:02
Review by Dark Juan
Hello. This is Dark Juan and I exhort thee to listen to my Gospel. There is no God, there is only the Dread Lord Satan and you are all going to be consigned to an endless fiery hell unless you seek His redemption through service to the Dark Master via the means of preaching his twisted faith. Then, and only then will you get to attend the Lounge Bar in Hell where the One That Walks Backwards has kindly assembled the greatest band there has ever been – comprising Robert Johnson and Randy Rhoads on guitar, Keith Moon on drums, John Entwistle on bass and the incomparable Ronnie James Dio on vocals with backups from Amy Winehouse and Layne Staley. Now, I don’t know about you, but I’d fucking sell my testicles to see that line up playing…
None of which has, as usual, a damned thing to do with what I am actually doing, which is being wired on French blend coffee, and slowly suffocating to death under a wall of canine flesh, composed of Air Chief Marshal Sir Zeusington Zeus KCVG, VC, MM, DFC and bar, Croix De Guerre and the Dread Lord Igor Egbert Bryan Clown-Shoe Cleavage-Hoover, where they have decided that I am warmer than the frigid environs of West Yorkshire and I don’t actually need to breathe. Thereby, in their mad doggy heads I fulfil two requirements for their survival – warmth until I expire from the gentle releases of poison gas (mainly Igor) and then I will be a viable supplementary food source after my untimely death. Mrs Dark Juan is currently laughing at my lack of comfort and cheerfully inviting me to try and do her fucking job when she is under a pile of silly dogs. But she’s an artist and doesn’t need a comfortably situated computer to write nonsense on.
Again, I digress. It’s the caffeine. I can’t type fast enough to get the thoughts out of my head. You are actually reading this babble so you can be informed about the latest platter of splatter I am listening to, being Null Cell’s “Eternally Ill” album, released last December through Machine Man Records. Null Cell is a one-person project encompassing the sounds of metal, industrial and EBM (Electronic Body Music, if you don’t already know, fact fans) composed of the very annoyingly talented Isabella Chains of Omaha, Nebraska. Now, listening to this music, it makes me think that Omaha, Nebraska (never been there, I’m British and the furthest I ever got was Iceland. Wonderful place and lifelong friends made) is an arctically cold, industrialised wasteland in the arse end of America, filled with slaughterhouses and meat-packing plants and endless production lines, manned by grey skinned, emaciated drones carrying out endless robotic tasks until they drop and are replaced by equally grey faced and clearly defeated humans. Yep, industrial music speaks to me in a manner which a lot of music doesn’t, and as far as I am concerned, it is the musical accompaniment to the machine apocalypse which is going to kill us all…
The album opens with ‘The Rabbit Hole’ which is a distorted and percussive assault on your senses, somewhat akin to being attacked with an automatic and rapidly firing 40mm grenade launcher – mercifully short but goosebump inducing before there is a short pause and then the first track proper kicks in, ‘Texas Chainsaw’ which blends slamming industrial beats with super distorted, chopped up blues rock guitar and screaming, slowly building into an impenetrable wall of sound with heavy as fuck industrial keyboards until the fade. Think ZZ Top being anally violated by Terminators playing Suicide Commando albums. I shall leave you with that mental image. You’re welcome.
Null Cell have successfully gained my attention.
Now, I know I am writing for a primarily metal audience here, but I have to recommend Null Cell to your attention too. Electronic music can be just as heavy as metal and this is not so much an album as an atmosphere with musical additions. Null Cell’s sound on this release could best be described as Skinny Puppy’s pure electronic industrial output combined with Ministry around their “Mind Is A Terrible Thing To Taste” era output, where the guitars and the more metal elements began to creep through. Add this to “Pretty Hate Machine” and “The Downward Spiral” Nine Inch Nails beeps and squelches and you have a rough idea of what this record sounds like. It is rather more electronic industrial than metal, however, relying more on stabbing, shiny keyboards than slashing guitars and dementedly howling vocals. Isabella employs a harsh, almost spoken word style of vocal, which comes across almost like a particularly demented preacher exhorting his flock to follow the right path lest they all perish in storms of fire and brimstone. This level of controlled aggression makes for something rather scarier than some long-haired Herbert hitting notes that cause bats to crash into trees on a regular basis and is somewhat reminiscent of Nivek Ogre in delivery. In fact, the more I listen to Null Cell, the more I find myself comparing “Eternally Ill” to Skinny Puppy’s “Too Dark Park”, “VIVIsectVI” and “Rabies”. This, you will be utterly unsurprised to note, is a Very Good Thing. Especially if you like late 80s electronic industrial music. Track three, ‘Thrashing Creature’ is a particularly virulent song, mixing elements of the sounds of Belgian industrialist pioneers Front 242 and Cabaret Voltaire with the muscular guitar driven industrial metal of Die Krupps. It’s fair to say I haven’t heard a single person’s musical project this virulent since I first heard Unter Null’s “The Failure Epiphany”.
And here we have the usual quandary we face whenever Dark Juan goes screamingly off-piste with his choices from the ever-metal.com review list. I am reviewing this record for a heavy metal website and what I am listening to, although it is very extreme music, isn’t really heavy metal, and I am faced with the question of whether I should score it entirely on the merit of the music, which is fucking kick ass killer industrial EBM with plenty to interest the passing metaller if they can get past the fact it is predominantly electronic music, or whether I mark it down for not being metal. The thing is, this album shares the sheer power that metal has and the same sense of not belonging to the mainstream and being alternative. My views on alternative cultures sticking together are well known to you all.
A decision has been made by The Patented Dark Juan Blood Splat Rating System because frankly it got fucking bored of listening to the writer gibbering to himself and awards Null Cell a thoroughly flagellant 9/10 for an album of music suitable to flog your submissive to vigorously and at some length. An album for the more adventurous fan of extreme music.
01. The Rabbit Hole
02. Texas Chainsaw
03. Thrashing Creature
05. Dead Skin
06. The Ceremony
09. Missing Moments
10. Boiling Point
Isabella Chains – Fucking everything on this record including the production, mate. Multi-talented people get right on my tits because I can’t even do writing right! Bet Isabella is spectacularly good looking as well just to REALLY rub it in. No head like an amusingly shaped ice cube for Isabella, I bet…
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