Catastrophic Anonymous is the first album by the supergroup project “VMO”, an acronym for Violent Magic Orchestra. It’s core members are Pete Swanson (electronics, formerly of Yellow Swans), Extreme Precautions/Mondkopf (mix, synthesizer, beats), “brutal orchestra” Vampillia (instrumentals and vocals) and Kezzadrix (VJ). The group also have banded together a group of guests from the extreme music scene, including Chip King (The Body) and Attila Cshihar (most known from his work with Sunn O))) and Mayhem)- who both provide their unique breed of vocals on various tracks throughout.
VMO’s sound is, well, ENORMOUS. A truly intense mashing of noise, black metal and EDM/IDM, that at times, while harrowing, manages to reach levels of genuine beauty. This no doubt is due to the involvement of Vampillia, who’s own blend of music is just that- dark, heavy, loud, but most of all- gorgeous.
The album opens with the moody “The Beginning of Fortune” that is the first of three songs to feature Chip King (The Body). It really manages to set the tone, its slower, brooding, droning. Chip King’s barking vocals sound truly pained, and it all becomes a swirling cacophony as the track progresses and gets louder. The production is truly reminiscent of that of black metal, crusty and loud- but every now and then a little flurry of a piano, an electronic sample, an orchestral hit, will join the mix and catch the listener off guard. It all makes for a harrowing, rewarding and face-melting experience, and really sets the mood for the rest of the project.
“One Day Less” is the calm center of the album- and also the turning point where the album somewhat leaves the black metal style into its more electronic half. Sure there may still be the black metal elements- most clearly through the drum work- but here is where the guitars let up and let the synth and orchestral work more clearly come through. It really forces the listener to pay attention again. The best work in this half, again is a Chip King featuring track- the dark, droning “Brick Wall“- which, to put it bluntly, sounds like a fucked up black metal version of Vangelis. It’s truly fascinating and will prompt a lot of re-visitation from fans.
Truly though, for this listener, the most amazing moments of this album are “Divorcer” (feat Attila Csihar), with its head splitting drums, amazing vocals and moment of absolute gorgeousness in its middle section that is just plain impressive to hear incorporated so perfectly. The other is the lead single “Halved” again featuring Chip King, which goes for an almost punk sound- but also is one of the tracks to most clearly show what the band is going for- that perfect meeting of black metal and EDM- and it works better here than anywhere else.
Because of its nature, it’s hard to recommend this album to everyone. An appreciation of extreme music is still required, even if this particular project is somewhat more accessible than most. It’s also something that, while short, still demands your full attention to appreciate. This isn’t the album you put on any old time, but for those willing to spend some real time with it, it’s no doubt going to be one of the most rewarding listens this year. If you’re a fan of Vampillia or The Body, I highly recommend it (not to mention it’s a much better collaboration than their previous collaboration “xoroAHbin”, which was rather forgettable). Overall though, great stuff, if you’re the kind of person it reaches towards.
8/10– VMO’s debut album has been worth the wait.