Gnaw Their Tongues: ‘Les Anges Frémissent Devant la Mort’

Broadly speaking, of Gnaw Their Tongues, we could describe the music as immersive depictions and textured environments of Hell. From the Boschesque ‘The Grand Magnificence of ‘Perversity to the Lovecraftian (in the sense of ‘Mountains of Madness’ – all snow an blizzard) ‘The Abyss of Longing Throats’, we see wildly crafted environments of densely populated monstrosity and particular scenes of emotionally detailed suffering and violence. The project essentially crosses the boundaries of virtual reality (in its conceptual tactility and immersion) and music. Indeed, it draws attention to a real difference between ‘music as immersion’ and ‘music as song’ or ‘music as idea and argument’. Music, in Gnaw Their Tongues, like in Scott Walker’s later material, can only be understood in the sense of aural scenes, sonic experience, a binding of emotion and imagination that detaches the listener from the external world and plunges them profoundly into that world generated within themselves. A world too that derails logic and the laws of nature – blurring the rational mind, its strict separations in a Cthulhuian chaos of unknowable delirium.

And in this sense, we can talk about their extraordinary release, ‘L’ Arrivée de la Terne Mort Triomphante’ – extraordinary in the sense that it transcends their usual open-world landscapes and bears a linear interpretation, a sense of progression, a story. Extraordinary too in its capacity for allegory, feeling as it does expressive of a world now flooded in disorientating informational flows, culture wars and randomised moments of collective hallucination. The album from the outset, through strings and choral orchestras appears to summon into existence an environment, a civilised environment, or a city perhaps – a once grand city, but now it is old, ageing, decaying, creaking under the weight of its own achievement. There is something strong about this city – sluggish, slow and swaying, it resists its own destruction, its evident obsolescence.

The first track ‘L’ Arrivée de la Terne Mort Triomphante’ introduces this city – raising it from the silence that preceded the start of the record and it is here perhaps at its most functional. And yet there is monstrous sound within the city – the arrival of a chaotic base of screaming slime and gastropodic invaders played over by sad string laments – the city mourns itself. The monsters may even join in here – lamenting the city as they undermine it, sad to be in disagreement with it. And there is a wind, a cold wind portent of a theme that persists throughout the album.

By track 2 ‘Les Anges Frémissent Devant la Mort’, probably the album’s centrepiece, The City – the civilised city – is not in so great a shape. It rises tall, towering above its invaders, but it sways, teeters and sighs. It is old and it is tired. The invaders are more confident, full-throated, like a living, seething mire at the base of a crumbling tower. An old whispering voice – high-priest of chaos or a city elder beseeching the hordes. Interspersals of quiet and calm, distant monsters and sudden reappearances and the wind, always the ominous wind.

Tracks 3 and 4 can be seen in the same vein as track 2. The mad over-run of monsters, machine sounds and bombs, relentless assault like a jackhammer. Perhaps even close-ups within the city – inner horrors, particular savageries, the exterior city no longer seems so present, so important.

In the final track, ‘Le Trône Blanc de la Mort’, we begin with sombre strings, a sense of defeat in which there rises a kind of fog or wind – like the base of a tornado. There is a surrender here – the yelling continues, but at the same time, the fog, the wind, continues to rise. Only slowly do we notice it, building, building, and gradually it is beginning to swallow the whole scene, the invaders included. It is like the slow grind of history – cultural disappearance – everything insignificant beneath the unrelenting gaze of time. Once apparent, the noise becomes more savage – now like the shower scene from Psycho – God (the artist) butchering an image he couldn’t complete. And another layer of wind, much more prominent, far less subtle than the first, drowning out the monsters. The monsters are consumed by it – the city is obscured by it, the sound pounds and then everything is gone. The album ends as the universe vanishes in an echo, the wind wrapping everything into a microscopic dot – the Big Crunch that expels the listener from phantasmagoric experience.

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