What the hell happened to Disiplin? Back in the early to mid-2000s, they stood out as perhaps the least industrial-tinged of the entire Moonfog roster, earning their keep as a workmanlike, black-and-roll outfit in the vein of later Carpathian Forest. A mere five years later, and they’ve transformed into a hideously abrasive, experimental black / industrial outfit, cozying up neatly to their new labelmates Tronus Abyss on the Italian label ATMF. Go figure.
While other black / industrial bands generally keep enough of the black to deserve the name (Aborym, Dødheimsgard, The Axis of Perdition, Blut Aus Nord, etc.), on Radikale Randgruppe, Disiplin has birthed an alien entity that is equal parts noise and industrial, with only the faintest remnants of black metal riffing, vocals, and drum patterns. The effect is sheer aural overload, with everything in the red all the time. The result is not quite as overwhelming as Blacklodge’s similarly-minded SolarKult, which perished in its near-gabber excess, but it is still an exhausting listen.
Anyone expecting to hear distinct songs will come away disappointed. An album like this is all about mood, and on that count, it succeeds tremendously in creating an atmosphere of unspeakable mechanical apocalypse. Layers of processed and heavily distorted guitar enter and flee the mix with reckless abandon, and there are usually multiple layers of percussion at work, with reasonably live-sounding drums paired up with skittering electronic-but-not-quite-techno beats. The steel drum kicks in “White Earth” are suggestive of dub – think Mick Harris’s Scorn project with Ildjarn providing a wall of white treble noise. The beat underlying “Soldier of the Black Sun,” on the other hand, is straight out of trip-hop, evoking Massive Attack or perhaps Ulver’s Perdition City.
The vocals are incomprehensible, but we can only assume, based on the totalitarian imagery (right down to the Totenkopf adorning the front cover) that the foul black rasps are spitting tales of scorched-earth bids for world domination. The album title does translate to ‘Radical Fringe,’ after all. Deep in the mix of “The Golden Age,” a clean guitar picks out arpeggios, while vague snatches of what sound like propaganda speeches hiss about in the background. Whether this authoritarian flirtation is meant as a warning or an endorsement, gentle reader, is left in your hands.
This is perhaps an album more to be admired than enjoyed, because even as impressive as the sheer walls of noise can be, as individual songs they can wear out their welcome. A few moments do stand out, like the sinuous guitar line buried in the opening of “Triarii,” or the mournful treated piano of “Oath of Blood,” which is increasingly crowded out by the echoing howls of a vast windstorm. A slower song like “Me Ne Frego” hammers its percussion into your skull like giant pistons patiently ticking down the clock of your doom.
In the end, one’s appreciation of this album likely depends in large part on one’s tolerance for raw black metal or for other sonic overload acts like Skullflower or Merzbow. Radikale Randgruppe is a compelling march through harrowing levels of sonic intensity, and while it occasionally dips into tedium, what it lacks in variation, it more than makes up for in sheer gritted-jaw determination. Blast this one loud if you ever need to clear a room full of hippies.