Darrin Verhagen's final release on his own Dorobo label is the black slab masterpiece, black | mass, a box set of three releases that span the wide gamut of sounds and personas that he inhabits. The first part of the trilogy is Black Ice, a power electronics howl of Merzbow-ian noise under his EPA guise. Seven tracks spend nearly forty-five minutes scouring your brain with razor-edged peals of static and white noise. Obscene monoliths of charged particles lurch through the wires of your stereo system, coruscating with a nearly visible discharge of energy. Waves of noise batter against your tympanic membrane, each impact hammering against your shell until you burst like a piece of rotten fruit.
"With The Smell of Sulphur" howls and shrieks with irregular pulses while "With Small Shards of Glass" roars with the undercurrent of distorted voices as if the combined noises of all the dead are being funneled into your ear canal through one single pipe. The twelve minute "With Shredding Rubber" elongates the final seconds before a car crash into a mutated and distorted squeal of kinetic energy. Somewhere near the halfway mark, my brain implodes and I start to hear moments of silence, holes in the sound where echoes of tiny symphonies live, as if my terrified brain has imposed its own noise gate on the sound that is busy recreating
General Sherman's infamous March to the Sea on the tender ganglia of my brain. (And I'm completely sure I've gone deaf in the four seconds of silence at the end of this track.)
Standing shoulder to shoulder with the granddaddies of the genre, Merzbow and Brighter Death Now, Verhagen's EPA explores the melodic fury of white noise, offering an unrequited scream of processed static and volatile energy to those brave enough to have their ears lacerated. At high volumes, this record will kill you. At low volumes, it becomes a white noise generator, a haunted shriek of compressed sound like a hurricane that has sucked up an entire rock festival and its 100,000 attendant fans and is churning everything into a singular mass of focused energy. Black Ice makes you appreciate the restrained fury of Verhagen's other works, providing a cataclysmic counterpoint to the minimal electro-acoustic work under his own name and the contained cinematic fury of Shinjuku Thief.
Mark Teppo - Igloo