Gnaw Their Tongues
Collected Atrocities 2005-2008
Crucial Blast Records
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Screams from the past
Gnaw Their Tongues, the one-man act from The Netherlands that is fronted by Mories (Maurice de Jong), has been spewing forth its discomforting blend of experimental noise and black metal with incredible prolificacy since 2005, with seven full-lengths and countless EPs, splits, and compilations having been released over the ten-year period of the band’s existence. They are also, in my opinion at least, one of the finest purveyors of this kind of sonic punishment.
If the name of the album didn’t give it away, Collected Atrocities 2005-2008 is a collection of material from Gnaw Their Tongues’ early days, bringing together many now long out of print recordings including the Horse Drawn Hearse, Preferring Human Skin over Animal Fur, and For All Slaves… A Song of False Hope EPs as well as a stack of other equally rare material. Spanning two discs and about two hours and twenty minutes of running time, this is both an impressive compilation and an incredibly daunting listening prospect.
For those who may not be familiar with Gnaw Their Tongues, I would say that it is best to think of them less like a band that plays songs in the traditional sense and more like purveyors of sonic experimentalism that also sometimes overlaps with what you would expect from a traditional band. I realise that probably sounds a little wanky, but there’s a highly evocative audio/visual quality that is practically synonymous with Gnaw Their Tongues; the horrors of the noise and music bring with them mental pictures of your own making which are complementary and, I would submit, inseparable from truly experiencing the act’s output. As a side note, I’m not sure what it is that Gnaw Their Tongues does in the live arena but if there isn’t a visual accompaniment then it would be an opportunity lost.
The material on Collected Atrocities tends far more toward the exploration of drone and noise than it does black metal, though melody and the odd semblance of traditional 4/4 structuring does appear here and there. For the overwhelming majority of the time, though, it’s densely layered nightmarish soundscapes that are punctuated with noise, screams, and the occasional sample for good measure. It’s a punishing and often draining experience, but it’s not one that’s unworthy of your investment due to the incredibly meticulous attention to detail that has been paid to its construction.
If there’s one complaint to be made about Collected Atrocities it would have to be that two hours and twenty minutes of such oppressively dense material is nigh on impossible to get through in one sitting. That said, the quality of the tracks that have been assembled on this compilation speak for themselves and, if I’m being fair, any album - compilation or no - that runs for this kind of duration would be a hard slog to get through in one sitting so this is really just a minor quibble as opposed to a genuine complaint, per se.
Ultimately, Collected Atrocities is a fantastic compilation of challenging and masterfully constructed noise, drone, and black metal that serves as a great introduction for those unfamiliar with the act and also as a worthy addition to the shelves of those who missed out on this rare material when it was originally in print.