Every time an industrial black-metal band sends in a new album for approval from the International Society of Heavyosity (headquartered in an abandoned metalworking factory in a frosty region of Scandinavia unknown to most mortals), it must demonstrate sufficient grimness in the eyes of the society’s Black Ribbon Governing Council. No doubt the Norwegian industrial black-metal trio V:28 received high marks for VioLution: Choking on Black Liquid Death. As you might expect of the final installment in a trilogy about the inevitable destruction of humankind, VioLution is bleak in all ways, from its programmed drums and titanic walls of black-metal guitars to its screamed vocals and general atmosphere of defeatism, conveyed in the very song titles of “Can You See the Light Now?” and “Surrender to Oblivion.”
A less enterprising band might render the apocalypse with a monochrome barrage of blast beats and atonal tremolo picking — it doesn’t take much imagination to connect relentlessly destructive music with the end of the world. V:28 can blast with the best of ‘em, but the band paints its end-time in a full range of black and grey hues, and VioLution is a far more engrossing whole because of it. “Shut It Down” throttles out one horseman after another from its surprisingly melodic mechano-death pummel. The track’s straight-up aggression transitions to the depressive ambience of “The Absolute” (complete with a mournful clean vocal from Ulver’s Garm), signaling the move from rage to gothic sorrow that would surely accompany the realization of one’s impending doom. And “Pattern of the Weak” — a clanking, smoke-spewing war machine that moves forward indomitably, grinding up bodies in its relentless double bass and guitar cogs — would be the sound of resigned acceptance.
VioLution integrates V:28’s machines and men completely, achieving the ideal balance of choked atmosphere and chugging metal gusto. It’s a heavy, violent record, but it’s shaped by melody and guitarist/programmer Kristoffer Oustad’s dynamic arrangements as much as brutality. That helps take the edge off the album’s digitized iciness. So does the band’s vocalist Eddie Risdal, who sounds like he’s offering a final confession with every hoarse scream on the album’s gothic doom closer, “When Entropy Decreases.” This grimy, soot-covered record is almost soulful.