Roma & Yerushalayim Reviews

Heathen Harvest
Completely brutal and awesome Industrial release from these two projects. This is a feature-length release in a strange little EP sized package with one of those foam knobs to hold the CD that opens from the left. Drone Lebanon opens things up with the absolutely angry and harsh sounding “Old Cities, New Romans.” The entire release seems to be expressing the notion that Israel, through an overarching foreign policy exercised over the entire Earth, has become the new Roman Empire, in fact acting as an extension of the original Rome. Pretty interesting stuff. Drone Lebanon are an Israeli unit who utilize Hebrew music and iconography in a similar way to the early work of the group Laibach.

Playing both sides of the argument, Drone Lebanon very intelligently shows a good long look at the big picture. Depicting the realities of war and nationalism and brutal and harsh is simply telling it like it is. They also incorporate 80s-style synths much like early artists of the genre (SPK, TG, Monte Cazzaza) in a very effective manner. DL even manage to concoct a nursery-rhyme adaptation that is in no way hokey or stupid sounding. The final track from these guys, “The Third House Will Be Built From Stones From The Arch Of Titus,” works as an excellent sayonara from these guys, building up a tension that the other tracks play off of so well. Ultimately it is somewhat anticlimactic, and it definitely has me wanting to hear more from this project. It begins ends with some guy talking about the second coming of some Messiah guy. Very impressive and weird.

Wertham is a very talented Industrial/Noise guy from Italy named Wertham working with the great, underrated John Murphy (Kraang, Shining Vril, SPK, Whitehouse, Death In June, Knife Ladder, etc…). It is appropriately incredible. The two tracks on here are somewhat akin to a modernized version of the great work that Murphy did with Kraang, super-long psychedelic electro-noise excursions that journey through temples of destruction and beauty. “La Distruzione Del Tempio” harshes the listener for upwards to fifteen minutes, and the pain is quite enjoyable. The second and final track from Wertham, “Aelia Capitolina” is all-to-brief even at the hefty weight of six minutes. For fans of Industrial Records, Broken Flag, Come Organisation, et al, this is a fantastic and indispensable release. Highly recommended for repeated listens on the way to war.

Terror
Interesting split from Israeli label Topheth Propheth. Participators in this record – apocalyptic bourgeois from Israel Drone Lebanon and Wertham from Italy. They both present their emotions about two “sacred” cities of the world expressed through sounds. When I first heard about this album I thought that it would be some kind of a “battle” between two teams of power electronics. But let it be. Drone Lebanon opens this split with his 5 songs and this is the release where this artist presents the biggest number of his works in one album. He still hasn’t released full one, but took part in various compilations etc. But this split was done with Wertham and that says much. And my first impression about Drone Lebanon is really not bad. This creator brings interesting and good quality industrial/power electronics enriched with spices of Eastern folklore. E.g. the first piece begins with a folk song which lasts in background till the very end of it and gives some “spiritual” feeling to sounding noises and shouted vocals. As far as I noticed this is not completely unique case for the artists from these lands for rather often the sound of industrial goes together with folklore. The second piece again – enjoying of sound samples of horns or some similar instrument that later goes under noises and at the end song stays with pure melody like in the beginning. During the third song “Self Hating Jew” agressive vocal and noises are being mixed with even some sort of EBM/industrial beats I should say. As for me personally the last two songs of Drone Lebanon are the weaker part of the album. Their sound is rather sharp and digital. And also the feeling comes that the artist from Israel simply wanted to put a little too much of everything into these five songs. Two songs smell of Eastern landscapes, then we go through dancy beats and at last we arrive to some sort of digital experiments.
Wertham gives me to enjoy two pieces and stands securely in the side of Rome. The colleague from Foresta di Ferro and many other projects John Murphy has helped Wertham adding his vocals in this record. The first song – almost 16 minutes of good power electronics. It’s a pity that there are no lyrics, so the voice simly takes a function of one more instrument. Long, but not monotonic. Somewhat oppressing, but at the same time colorful contribution of Wertham to this split. The second song is more atmospheric. It fits with two tracks of Drone Lebanon from the very beginning of the album, though hides in much darker shadows between heavy rythms, religious samples and roughly trimmed record. Not bad contribution from Drone Lebanon and a good one from Wertham. All in all it is 50 minutes of diving to meditation in-between two “sacred” cities.

Vital Weekly
Two new albums from Topheth Prophet have been launched and once again it is seriously interesting materials that has been sent from the Israeli label. First album reviewed, belongs to some of the most interesting noise/power electronics heard for quite a while. Being a split CD, the album titled “Roma & Yerushalayim” presents two interesting artists from the power electronics scene, Israeli artist Drone Lebanon and Italian artist Wertham. Opening with Drone Lebanon, the opening track sends the listener into religious atmospheres of ritual chant. Shortly after religious act is being overwhelmed by crushing waves of destructive electronics wiping out any sign of musical tone. The combination of Middle-Eastern music culture and crushing symphonies is extremely effective. As the album develops, Drone Lebanon makes a slight change into more technoid sound worlds with the piece titled “Self hating jew” that reminds of early Wumpscut added some excellent black metal-sounding distorted vocals of Drone Lebanon. Other moments of Drone Lebanon takes the listener into ambient atmospheres, though don’t expect any sonic tranquillity from this guy. Second artist on the split album, Wertham, opens his part of the apocalyptic show with a sweet children’s choir, soon after completely destroyed by hordes of high frequency noise. The first piece from Wertham is a long epic piece of ambient noise, consisting of eastern chants, expressive noise moments, distant voices and buzz-drones. Though circulating in the same stylish spheres Wertham is slightly more subdued compared to the harsh sounds of Drone Lebanon. Though both artists should appeal to all listeners of grinding music.

Judas Kiss
Written by Simon Collins

The Israeli label Topheth Prophet has built up a cult reputation over the past few years for releasing thought-provoking and challenging industrial and electronic music, and this new split CD is constructed around a strong concept based on the nationality of the artists involved. Rome and Jerusalem were rival power centres in the ancient world, with starkly contrasting, even antagonistic, value systems. To quote the press release for this album: “The battle between Rome and Jerusalem continues through the ages. Spirituality vs. materialism, two cities, Civitate Dei vs. Sin City. But which is which?”

The first five tracks on Roma & Yerushalayim come from the Israeli power electronics act Drone Lebanon, the solo project of a musician called ch4. This is the first Drone Lebanon to have reached this reviewer’s ears, although there have been several previous cassette and compilation releases from 2002 onwards, and the Drone Lebanon website contains a statement of intent which is a lot easier to copy and paste than it is to summarise or understand, so here you go:

“Drone Lebanon supports the Apocalyptic Bourgeoisie lifestyle of escapistic Tiki lounge epistemology and realistic survivalism ontology, exotic cocktails and bomb shelters, occult office cubicle rituals and shopping mall transgressions, suburban bunkers and heavy-traffic-induced road rage, middle eastern redemption through hyper-hedonism and ultra-consumerism, outbursts of latent Jewish anxiety integrated with common bourgeoisie atrophy.”

Make of that what you will!

I don’t know for certain whether the artist behind Drone Lebanon is Jewish or Palestinian, and I’m not going to risk making a fool of myself by guessing and getting it wrong, but within these tracks, recordings of both Jewish and Palestinian origin are used to add a distinctive local flavour to the music. Opening track ‘Old Cities, New Romans’ is constructed around a recording of Arabic chanting, bringing the noise with frenzied roared vocals, pulverising percussion and punishing waves of harsh, corrosive electronics. In contrast, the fifth track, ‘The Third House Will Be Built With Stones From The Arch Of Titus’, opens and closes with extracts from a preacher discussing the appearance of the Jewish Messiah, in a manner reminiscent of the militant Zionist power electronics projects Barzel, whose Born To Destroy Amalek album also recently appeared on Topheth Prophet and was reviewed by Judas Kiss. Drone Lebanon’s ideological stance, however, is much less clear-cut than Barzel’s, although clearly both projects derive much of their inspiration from the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Perhaps Drone Lebanon’s most interesting track is the bizarrely catchy ‘Self Hating Jew’, which samples a radical Zionist preacher and sets the speech to hard EBM, with vitriolic screamed vocals and harsh noise adding pungency and edge to the track whilst never totally overwhelming the beat and melody. It’s hard to imagine without hearing it, but this track is actually danceable, with some resemblance to German hard electronics acts like Preussak and Wumpscut. All in all, Drone Lebanon’s set is interestingly fresh and varied, and this is a name to place alongside 20.SV, Kadaver and Lietterschpich as part of a small but energetic middle-eastern power electronics scene.

After the wreckage has settled from Drone Lebanon’s airstrike, it’s time for the more familiar Wertham. Marco Deplano, the project’s founder, is joined on this recording by the industrial scene veteran John Murphy, who also performs with Marco in Foresta Di Ferro. Although John Murphy is best known as a drummer and percussionist, he’s credited with samples and vocals for this recording. ‘La Distruzione Del Tempio’ is lengthy – over 15 minutes – and is more or less a monolithic, sustained blast of full-on power electronics, with a sampled recording of the singing of carefree children at the beginning and end, and faint traces of it sporadically surfacing though the inundation of queasy noise. ‘Aelia Capitolina’ is a somewhat more subtle piece, with sampled spoken-word vocals discussing God’s power, muted beats and looped brass in the background, and industrial ambient atmospherics, adding up to an orchestral-inflected sound not too dissimilar to Toroidh or the Polish project Horologium. This is much more agreeable to my ears than the abrasive strains of ‘La Distruzione Del Tempio’, but that’s really a matter of personal taste. In any case, Roma & Yerushalayim succeeds in delivering a good variety of different styles of noise and electronics whilst never being anything less than intense.

Roma & Yerushalayim is available as a limited-edition CD of 497 copies (why not 500 copies? Search me – maybe it’s some Kabbalistic numerological thing), and the colour card sleeve opens from right to left, in proper Hebrew fashion.

Chronicle Of Chaos
The album is thematically united through the notion of Rome’s (Roma) and Jerusalem’s (Yerushalayim) fortunes being inextricably linked.

Young up-and-comer Drone Lebanon represents Yerushalayim, the overriding them allowing them to explore their preferred avenues of Jewish, Israeli and Zionist identity, politics and culture. And I mean explore; Drone Lebanon is not a political band, not in the sense of propagating a particular viewpoint and leave it up the listener to take what they will from the music. Song titles such as “Michael Dennis Rohan” and “The Third House Will Be Built With Stones From the Arch of Titus” mean little to me, but those au fait with his preferred topics may understand them without the aid of online staples Google and Wikipedia. As before, Drone Lebanon performs a harsh and extremely noisy post-industrial. I wouldn’t quite call it a noise album, as it is fairly varied in its approach, but remains uncompromising throughout, even when it calms down. Comparatively speaking, of course.

Wertham only provide two songs to Drone Lebanon’s five, but the amount of time allocated to each band is roughly equal. Unlike their split partners, Wertham are scene veterans that have been around for ages. Although Wertham adhere to the split’s conceptual thread, I don’t think that they are as fully immersed in the politics as Drone Lebanon. That’s by-the by; they still produce power electronics that takes the intense dissonance down a notch, but still far away from anything remotely akin to easy listening. This is clearly an experienced band, as the numbers are cacophonous and long but not boring.

Each band brings their own flavour to the proceedings, simultaneously similar to and distinct from each other, and can be strongly recommended to those with an interest in the genre.

Gothtronic
Again a release from the Topheth Prophet label, this is a split between Drone Lebanon and Wertham, so expect some heavy and dense noise.

The concept of the album is somewhat geared around the idea that the fall of one will be the rise of the other, in this instance its Roma and Yerushalayim.

The album is divided in two parts, with the first five tracks for Drone Lebanon and the last two for Wertham. The expected noise is indeed true! The album opens with ‘Old Cities, New Romans’, in which we first get samples from a Yerushalayim psalm before we get martial drumming and harsh noise and some screaming vocals are added later. A pretty intense piece with a taste of things to come. Well, the noise in the first one is nothing compared to the next song, ‘Michael Dennis Rohan’. This man was has attempted to set fire on the Al-Aqsa mosque but was arrested on August 23, 1969. The song again starts with samples of a Yerushalayim psalm/choir. Then we get some nice sounds which leads you to believe we are turning into a more ambient path. But nothing could be further from the truth, as the song turns into excessively harsh noise. Screaming vocals and high-pitched sounds turn up throughout the whole track. This is pure rage and excellently done! The third track, ‘Self Hating Jew’, track starts with some media samples about hating Jews. Then we get some dark electro tunes, which almost seem like it is going to turn into some endzeit electro track, but then the screaming power electronics vocals turn up again. Without those vocals, the track sound very electro friendly. The fourth track, ‘A lullaby for Larisa and Yigal Amir’s Newborn’, starts with the well-known lullaby, stuck between manipulated sound. Halfway the song turns into a harsh industrial track, before ending in a more drone oriented segment. The last track from Drone Lebanon is ‘The Third House will be built with stones from the Arch of Titus’. This starts out with the now obligate media samples. Then a dark drone comes in and harder sounds are added as the song progresses and eventually the song turns into a power electronics track. That was Drone Lebanon, nice to meet your acquaintance!

The first song by Wertham, ‘La Distruzione del Tempio’, is pretty long, around 15 minutes. It’s a hard industrial track with power electronics elements. All kinds of sounds are added throughout the song. The last track, ‘Aelia Capitolina’, is the quietest track on this album. The track is a combination of media samples and low rumbling sounds.

This is a very good industrial/power electronics release with a nice concept. Most of the tracks are very hard and intense, which is why this release is so good! Highly recommended to the lovers over hard industrial music.

Existence Establishment

You know you’re in for a tough review of a split when you really like one artist and are not at all into the other. Roma Yerushalayim is a split CD that deals quite a bit with politics, politics mixed with religion. The concept here is one that has and will be explored endlessly because it is always changing. Since I know little about the plight of the Israel or Judiasm and even less about the Zionist political situation I am going to refrain from commenting on the concepts here and stick to the noise.

Drone Lebanon is up first and this is my first exposure to the project. With 5 tracks their material spans about 30 min here and I am enjoying it immensely. Their mix of electronic synth music, noise and power electronics is a success on all fronts. Each track has it’s own thing going on here which makes for Drone Lebanon’s side to be a particularly engaging listen. There’s a heavy dosage of raw noise pummeling, absolutely tortured vocals, and… synth arpeggios? Yes, that’s right, they’re in here too and it fits together perfectly. The material is almost like a mix of Irakarah and Haus Arafna.

Aside from the political samples and unique and tasteful mix of electronica elements with power electronics the actualy mixing of the different layered sounds on Drone Lebanon’s side is very well executed. All sounds are crisp, clear, and defined in order to deliver a very harsh and heavy sound. I’d say the production here is on par with something Thomas Garrison of Control might be able to pull off. It’s a well balanced mix of digital and analog sources.

Unfortunately I just can’t get down with Wertham’s material. This is the second release of his I’ve reviewed and as with the first it leaves me wanting, with expectations unmet. The tracks are long, the sounds are lo-fi and clumped together and the compositions are so dense it gives the impression that everything is just crowding in on itself. On top of that the samples aren’t as obscure to me and I really tire of relgious samples unless they are strange or subversive in some way. Wertham’s opener “La Distruzione del Tempio” – I don’t speak Italian, but I’m guessing that might mean “Desotroying the Temple”? – is no less then 15 minutes long and it just drags on and on.

“Aelia Capitolina” is a little shorter with more industrial rhythmic gestures. I enjoy this track quite a bit more but it still pales in comparison to the Drone Lebanon material and it’s mixed and produced to just be so much more understated. I feel like this could have benefitted if some of the layers were a bit less drenched in reverb and more upfront, some nice hard industrial clanging and blasts of noise instead of these vague whispy layers buried under miles of distortion and reverb.

Let me stress that the Drone Lebanon material on here is enough alone to grab this split. They’ve got an original thing going on here and they’re doing with very well. I can see a lot of great potential for them. In the end though, this is one of those splits where one side is great, the other side, not-so-much. You can’t win ‘em all.

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