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Inner Dawn Foundation : Saturnalia '17 (Demo EP)

The production rather than the talent of Russian avantgardists Inner Dawn Foundation hampers this EP release.

Welcome to the world of bonkers Muscovite collective Inner Dawn Foundation, who like to describe themselves as "ultimate and horrible progressive death/doom-death since 2006", some of which - particularly the 'horrible' part - can be very true. I discovered that when sticking the old-school-as-it-comes self-released cassette (#1 of 33, no less, and there may well be a reason for both of those not-very-large numbers) into my aging Pioneer deck for a first impression. Which was that the rest of my household, cats included, were in no way enjoying the experience - I don't really care what my neighbours think, but I'd imagine they held a similar opinion. So I did the decent thing: retreated upstairs, ripped it to my PC and plugged in my Sennheisers. Well, at least it limited the area of effect.

To be honest, this is a weird one, however you want to measure it. IDF released two EPs in 2017: 'Sometimes They Come Back' in July, and 'Saturnalia' in December. Yet, listening to them back-to-back (especially 'The Same Words...', which appears on both), you'd imagine 'Saturnalia' to be the far earlier and more primitive of the recordings. Perhaps it was some kind of dusted-off ancient demo: I can't think of any other rational explanation for why it took the retrograde step of sounding like it was captured by a single microphone that the drummer was sitting on at the time.

'Sometimes...' put a genuinely avantgarde, experimental vibe out there, replete with mad saxophone and weirdly echoey and disorienting, seemingly-wordless, clean-ish vocals, unpredictable tribal-style rhythms and swirling effect-heavy guitar textures: heavier and more deliberate, but not a million miles removed from the sort of live jamming Hawkwind used to do with Nik Turner. 'Saturnalia' crushes all of that into a flattened, swampy morass anchored at the bass end of the register, with close to zero clarity and separation between any of the instruments. Which means you'll be hearing a lot of percussion, since the drums are loudest and closest, and the sludgy Keeper-like bass riffing comes in second. The guitar, frankly, struggles to make any headway at all - and pretty much vanishes entirely when it has to complete with the vocals for some of the very limited higher-frequency space.

Underneath it all, it sounds like IDF are doing more-or-less the same thing, unfortunately minus the sax, which ought to be a lot more enjoyable than it actually works out here. Though I will give it a plus point for the much punchier vocals, which howl rather than whisper across the soundscape: those are rather excellent. The rest: well, it's quite busy (and still plainly shows the band members do know how to handle their instruments), yet, paradoxically, quite monotonous given how difficult it is to pick out much detail beyond the constant synaesthesiac battering of the rhythm section.

At its worst - in opening track 'Apocatastasis' - it sounds at random times as though each musician has picked a different track to play and there's a prize for whoever can finish theirs first (top tip: put an each-way bet on the drummer). But since that does mean 'returning to a primordial condition', it may just be that those entropic twists are an intentional part of the imagery, albeit one that's badly sabotaged by the diabolical mix. At its best, in the turbulent finale of 'Zatmenie' ('eclipse'), there's something like a return to the aforementioned Hawkwind-ish form. However, you do need a lot of patience to sit through the preceding 35-odd minutes just to get a brief flashback to 'Master Of The Universe'.

Well, at least I'm not at all disappointed to have discovered the band, and I will certainly be keeping an ear out for them in future. And, from the perspective of being a music collector as well as a reviewer, it is remarkably cool to have the number one pressing of any album, so I'm certainly appreciative of having being sent that! I just haven't really got any handle on what gap 'Saturnalia' is meant to be filling, when 'Sometimes...' is a far superior presentation of what Inner Dawn Foundation are capable of, in every dimension (vocals, possibly, excepted). It may simply be an attempt to emphasise the abstract of 'horribleness', in which case it succeeds up to a point - but I really would like to believe a band capable of far more inspired musicianship and sonic attack wouldn't resort to such a lazy technique as bottom-of-a-dustbin production to put that across.

So, just maybe, if you like your diet so raw it's still twitching on the plate, you might find some appropriate musical accompaniment to that in 'Saturnalia'. For everyone else with an interest in the more avantgarde end of the doom spectrum, I do recommend checking out the IDF Bandcamp, but with a view to picking up 'Sometimes They Come Back' instead.

Editor's note: After contacting the band, we have been informed that the chronology is correct. 'Sometimes They Come Back' was a much earlier recording, held back for a long while as it had not captured all of the instruments correctly. 'Saturnalia', recorded following a period of line-up changes and issues, is a demo that represents the current stable version of the band.

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Reviewer's rating: 6.5/10


Tracklist :
1. Apocatastasis
2. The Same Words Written Over And Over Again
3. Zatmenie

Duration : Approx. 41 minutes

Visit the Inner Dawn Foundation bandpage.

Reviewed on 2018-03-26 by Mike Liassides
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