Attrition – The Black Maria (Two Gods)

The group’s first non-live or compilation studio release in almost a decade, ‘The Black Maria’ finally arrives into their comprehensive discography since their formation back in 1980. Its introductory track, ‘The Promise’, is a pulsating heartbeat with the words, “Be silent!” – a dystopian mandate. The single follows with ‘The Great Derailer’; now remixed and remastered, it first appeared on the 2020 EP of the same name and has been performed in Attrition’s live sets; an EBM track showcasing the trademark duality vocals of founder Martin Bowes and returning group co-founder after 20 years, Julia Niblock. Neoclassical strings build, twinned with operatics, also sung by baroque backing from Emèse Árvai-Illes (Black Nail Cabaret), Elisa Day (Hetaira Decrépita), Yvette (Vaselyne) Alia Miroshichenko (Subterranea), with samples and lyrics that conjure up the cultish magnetism of a despotic deity.

‘The Switch’ sees Bowes speak a rhyming sequence of verbs with a mantra-like repetition over a low frequency synth. ‘The Pillar II’ is an ancient, simmering fizz of aching synth and lamentable yet burgeoning violinic strings; its haunted sadness mixes contemporary classical opera with modern industrial mechanical noise, with a sample at the end that resonates on the importance of freedom for humanity. The chaotic mix of EBM and neoclassical is also observed in remastered 2021 single, ‘The Alibi’; commissioned for Coventry’s City of Culture in the same year, it features grand piano from guest contributor Annie Hogan (Marc & The Mambas) .

‘The Zero Hour’ is reminiscent of William Bennett’s (Cut Hands) ‘Sixteen Ways Out’ and was formerly known as ‘The Voice of Truth’; the ambient vocal sample is overtaken by tribal drum bashings that crescendo to the end. The title track interestingly closes the release; a hybrid smash of industrial-classical set to a reverberating bassy synth riff. This outstanding release now provides a home to the group’s lingering recordings from the past few years but also leaves the listener hungering for more.

‘The Black Maria’ is out now on vinyl, CD, cassette and digitally.

© Ayisha Khan.