Written by Kirk
QOHELETH – Contaminants of War
> Experimental/musique concrète/noise rock
> North Carolina, US
> Released September 22
> Philip K. Discs
Do you believe in fate? Divine providence? Heavenly intervention? Or do you believe that things happen without rhyme or reason, purely by happenstance? QOHELETH would have you believe they wrote their music by accident and play it by instinct, but is that really true? From a passive perspective, this would appear to be a universal truth. This is just noise rock, musique concrète designed to test the limits of experimentation and/or the limits of the audience’s patience, right? Or is there something else going on here?
It’s been two days shy of two years since we last heard from QOHELETH. Their last album, Warmonger, is without a doubt their most deliberate and incendiary release to date, a scathing commentary on the state of life in America in the aftermath of the Trump administration. What hope is there for peace in a country that was built on violence, a history it has continued to feed for over 200 years? How much blood does the American dream cost, and can any of us survive it? These are just a few questions Warmonger asks.
But that’s not all! Accompanying this new album was a bonus EP, Contaminator, which further explored the thoughts and feelings of the most insanely sane minds in Charlotte. If you managed to get your hands on a physical copy of the album (the band still has a few tapes left on their Bandcamp page, and Cruel Nature Records still has a few copies, too), there were hints that certain tracks from Contaminator were intended to be played simultaneously with certain tracks from Warmonger, but no further information was provided. That is, until today.
Heralding the return of avant-garde record label Philip K. Discs is the latest release from QOHELETH, Contaminants of War, a brand new edit of those pieces from Warmonger and Contaminator that were designed to be listened to synchronously. Still believe these guys write by accident and play by instinct? How about your feeling on fate and divine providence? Are they holding steady or shaken to the core? Let’s dig into these songs and see where we stand.
Things open with “Fallen Blades”, an amalgamation of “Sharpen the Guillotines” off Warmonger and “The Cutting Blade Must Fall” from Contaminator. A bit of a lumbering juggernaut at a hefty 6:06, the song bursts forth with a wonky guitar riff over bursts of spasmodic drumming and echoed laughter (similar to “Speak to Me” from Dark Side of the Moon) as these elements—along with additional field recordings layered over, under, and between for texture and effect—weave in and out of your speakers to create a hypnotic effect through which Jon Michael can be heard chanting in the background. The song careens off the tracks in a hail of feedback as we transition into “Suite No. 1”, the first of four ambient loops created to juxtapose these sonic chimeras. “Love of a Dying World” comes to life amid a post-punk backdrop articulated by crashing cymbals, offbeat drums, and a haunting invocation from guest collaborator K, giving this song an eerie, haunted vibe, composed of equal parts “Dying Nuance, Dying World” and “Dying Love”.
Pounding at both the front and back of your senses is “Suite No. 2”, sounding something like an industrial machine factory has been timed and tuned to replicate one of those old wind-up music boxes. We then find ourselves face to face with “Unclassy”, pieced together like a mosaic made up of “Killer Class” from Warmonger and “Classless” from Contaminator, a steady, heavy drum beat punctuating an undulating bass line and angular guitars like some cyber post-punk noir extravaganza. Guest collaborator E.B. Taylor’s spoken word part is thrown almost to the front of the mix, making it sound even more sinister and pissed off.
“Suite No. 3” comes clanging and banging from Stage Left as we find ourselves in the midst of “Undead”, the unholy fusion of “This Story is a Dead End” and “Dead Ends, Dead Men”. You’ve probably noticed by now that the songs have been getting progressively heavier with each passing suite, more focused and intense. Juan Carlos Lopez’s spoken word piece sounds even more ominous, almost like a prophecy of devastation and destruction. “Suite No. 4” returns us to the mind palace of the industrial music box as it meets its climax in “Undone,” equal parts “The Means Undid the Ends” and “Upend the Outcome”, creating a nauseatingly dynamic sense of pandemonium that builds and builds until it bursts. And then we find ourselves floating away in a sea of noise in “Hammer. Spike. Brain.”, a Frankenstein’s monster composed of “Jael’s Spike” and “A Hammering Headache”. Slowly, the noise fades into the distance and gives way to an oddly satisfying miasma of drums, piano, and feedback punctuated by a disjoined vocal melody that slowly gives way to resolute silence.
THE BOTTOM LINE
So, do you still believe in fate? That all things happen for a reason? Or that bands who write by accident and play by instinct really do as they say? Or is there more at work here in the weird world of experimental noise rock than we realize? To be honest, I don’t really know; it’s hard to determine how much of it is by design and how much is a happy accident. But regardless of all that, the music of QOHELETH never ceases to impress. What’s also impressive is the care and attention put into their releases—this album comes in a limited edition hand-painted metal canister that includes a DVD containing content from the YouTube channel Minus 6 as well as a video card that gives access to even more exclusive video content. I only ask of you one simple thing: Stay weird!