What is it about self-destruction that draws a crowd? While standing in the audience at a 2011 Brighter Death Now concert in Germany, I picked up a sense of schadenfreude in the air. On stage was Roger Karmanik, obviously in an intoxicated state, laughing to himself while producing his signature haunting drones and harsh electronics. For a moment I caught his eye. There was something in his stare that unnerved me. I’ve seen this look before. Over the years I’ve worked with a number of individuals who have struggled through depression, through self-destruction. Some survived, others did not. Here was a man on the brink. Who else in the crowd could recognize it? Some are cheering him on, others nod sullenly in accordance.
At about the same time as this performance, Very Little Fun was released on Karmanik’s own Cold Meat Industry and distributed throughout the globe via Tesco Distribution. This three disc compilation (a limited edition 4 LP edition was also available, but not reviewed here) gathers material recorded between 1998 and 2005, some of which previously released on limited edition records or live recordings, others available now for the first time. For those familiar with BDN’s discography that would be right after the Great Death series up until Kamikaze Kabaret. This period in BDN’s history would include a slightly more aggressive sound, verging into Power Electronics territory, at least on the full length releases. “Very Little Fun” compliments this period with a dense collection of Karmanik’s most oppressively depressing material to date. For the inquisitive collectors out there, here’s a break down of what I’ve identified as previously released material or variations. It should be noted that some of these are different mixes or instrumentals of the versions presented on “Very Little Fun”, for example the track “37” has a different vocal mix:
- “No Salvation” – No Salvation / No Tomorrow (Anarchy + Violence: none, 1996)
- “Never Again”, “Why” – Why (Jinx: JINX 12-004, 2002)
- “Voices” – A Celebration of Misfortune (Jinx: JINX 12-003, 2003)
- “Slow Death” – Nunsploitation (Cold Meat Industry: CMI110, 2003)
- “Hunger For Love”, “37/Thirtyseven” – Destroy (Anarchy + Violence: none, 2004)
- “There Is Nothing Left In This World” – Breaking Down Nihil (Der Angriff: Angriff Nr. 37, Indiestate Distribution: IST 073 CD, 2009)
With all the emphasis on doom and gloom there is plenty of aural violence to be had here. Tracks like “Kill Useless People”, “Oblivion”, and “Girl Equals Doggy” crush your defenses with pulsating analog synthetic rhythms while oscillating frequencies penetrate your open wounds. Karmanik discharges his vocal assaults with an insane desperation. “Kill Useless People” in particular ranks as one of the finest pieces of Industrial music put on record and should be included on any sampler that hopes to illustrate what the genre entails. These aren’t dance floor rhythms for pop culture rejects, but convulsing death throes at the hands of a dominating force. “No Salvation” refuses to let you go, repeatedly bludgeoning the listener with thick distorted synth pads and sociopathic delivery that puts Throbbing Gristle to shame. And just as you’re about to slip into unconsciousness “If You Believe” slowly draws you in from the previous track with nodding drums, only to slap you awake with a sonic splash of feedback.
As is the case with manic depression, peaks of paranoid rage are matched with valleys of hopelessness. “My Cutter” distresses you with wavering drones and beats like a frail heart pumping out blood from self-inflicted slits in flesh. “Northern Supremacy” looms above like a Nordic night sky over a pile of frozen corpses. Roger K. wavers between playful psychotic and collected personas on “37” as a suicidal soundtrack creeps to completion. But the dark dying star of the collection would be “Next Train”. Very few tracks draw out distinct memories for me, but this is one of them. I’m taken back to my antisocial teenage years, haunting the Winter streets of New York City and sitting in empty train stations well past regular operating hours. Sharp feedback stings like bitter cold wind, and repetitive synths tick and tock like the arms of a clock counting down the seconds until the next blighted train arrives. Your inner voice tries to rationalize your situation, you negotiate with yourself, but with each passing minute brings a dose of anxiety.
When a project reaches into the b-side archives, one can usually expect a bloated grab for money or attention. This could not be further from the case, Very Little Fun delivers on all accounts. Even the minimalist matte digipak packaging reminds me of my favorite early CMI compilations like The Absolute Supper and Megaptera’s Beyond the Massive Darkness. This is the definitive Brighter Death Now collection and a hallmark in Industrial music. Roger Karmanik has thrown down the gauntlet, dealing a fatal blow to any doubters of BDN’s bleak supremacy. My only concern circles back to aforementioned night in 2011. The man standing before me has poured it all out, for everyone to see, and it’s not pretty. How much more of that can one endure? What does the future hold for Brighter Death Now? One might think that only Karmanik knows, but that may not even be the case. Count me in amongst those who are solemnly reverberating in support. I struggle with a selfish hunger for more of what’s been delivered and mastered, and yet I also sympathize with the feeling of ending on a high note. For now, the end is here.
01) Happy Happy Happy
02) Shall I Die?
03) There is Nothing Left in this World
06) Bar Death Now
07) Kill Useless People
08) No Salvation
09) If you Believe
01) Never Again
04) My Cutter
05) Collector of Remains
06) Hunger for Love
07) The Face of God
08) Out of Control
09) Girl Equals Doggy
01) Next Train
03) Northern Supremacy
04) A Dagger in my Body in my Garden
05) Ad Hominem Abuse
06) The Other Death
07) Slow Death
10) The End is Here
Written by: Raul A.
Label: Cold Meat Industry (Sweden) / CMI209 / 3xCD
Industrial / Death Industrial / Power Electronics