NoiTekk Records (NTK 023), 2006
For all its psychoses, this is an album of splintered grace and razor-edged lace. Die Sektor’s debut is electronic aggression scorched by beautiful flames. With its relentless and frantic energies, wildly distorted vocals, and haunting melodies, To Be Fed Upon conveys dislocation, uncertainty, and power to an unnerving degree. It’s heady stuff, catharsis that’s powerful to the point of exhaustion; an emotional deluge that is hard to resist.
Let’s get one thing out in the open: musicians and programmers Scott Denman and Alan Smith are ridiculously talented. For every tortured hymn (“The Beating of Broken Wings”, “When Porcelain Bleeds”), there are moments of almost stunning beauty (“All Turns White”, “Revelation None”, “Through Glass”). It’s these latter tracks that are the real showcase: they’re slow, delicately spaced instrumentals where the duo’s songwriting prowess is given full focus. The piano of “All Turns White” is particularly heart-rending, providing much-needed solace from the whirling storm of needles characterizing most of the album.
This is not meant as a condemnation of the vocals. John Gerteisen’s mangled delivery is something to hear. Filtered to the edge of misinterpretation in the style of classic Mentallo & the Fixer, the vocals are both a juxtaposition and an enhancement to the music. They are the bullets fired from the barrel of the music; the smoke rising from the inferno. Thank goodness for the included lyrics, which might have otherwise been lost behind the veil of distortion. Most of them fall under the topic of first-person serial-killer poetry; before you groan, here’s a sample from “When Porcelain Bleeds”: her lips so sweet / every word cuts like knives / i feel the wounds as if self inflicted / broken porcelain beauty / i still long to touch / i prick my finger to paint her lips. When Gerteisen delivers these mantras, fueled by the driving chord-shifting chaos produced by Denman and Smith, the effect is intoxicating to the point of overwhelming.
Some tracks (“Deathkill”, “To Be Fed Upon”) reduce the tempo to slow-motion intensity without compromising an ounce of the album’s mood. When all systems are go, however, Die Sektor’s ash-choked wings spread to their fullest. “Follow the Screams” is a particularly potent example, unfurling in its first few moments with a wonderfully evocative bass sequence that’s soon bordered by a high-pitched techno-inspired melody, crashing percussion, and fractured vocals. As the track careens forward, elements fall away while others emerge, but the highlight comes around four minutes in: the beats disappear and we’re left with an echo of the melody, only to have the energy return, one layer at a time, until all is on glorious broken display. It’s the album’s prime example of what Die Sektor is, and what it’s capable of.
To Be Fed Upon is a draining listen for me. Cathartic, but exhausting nonetheless. The effect is like watching Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre: it’s a film I love, but it makes me feel dirty, in need of something cleansing – a tribute to how well it works. At eleven tracks, most over five and a half minutes, the album’s a lot to take in during one sitting (I find myself needing a break when watching Texas Chainsaw these days too). The instrumentals ease the album’s grip, but not quite enough to allow me to catch my breath completely. (I can only imagine what Die Sektor might be like when seen live.) I also think the album’s quality drops a bit in the middle, as “Mother Hunger,” “In the Arms of Eternity,” and “Prey to the Razor” aren’t the equals of the rest, but “All Turns White” and the thundering closer “To Be Fed Upon” help bring it back to the rusted heights established by the opening moments. A bit of lyrical and thematic variety would have helped ease the relentless atmosphere, but that’s my own subjectivity talking: To Be Fed Upon is a grimly thematic work that just happens to be layered on very, very thickly.
The album’s artwork sums up the awaiting experience nicely: a trio of skulls pierced by spikes rest on a bed of roses, a human heart driven through by rusted nails and a knife, and razor blades and pills resting in the cracked palm of an offering hand. To Be Fed Upon is an intense and uncompromising electro/EBM experience that surprises with its level of songwriting craft, but its strength really lies in how well it displays its tortured and complex core. For me, it’s a bit too well.