Stalaggh - Projekt Misanthropia Review
by Mark Hensch
Stalaggh's Projekt Misanthropia is by no means a conventional album, and as such, there is no way I can possibly analyze it in any conventional fashion. I've heard nervous whispers and frightened conversations about this act for some time now, and having heard it myself, the one conclusion I've made is that never before this album has fear been properly conveyed in an album.
The thirty-five minutes of recording featured on this disc are nothing short of aural torture. There is not even another phrase for it! Never before have I heard such exquisite agony, such hopeless despair! Projekt Misanthropia as a disc almost writes its own press release; the number of sick and perverted methods used to require a sound this soul-crushingly harsh are many indeed. First and foremost, the members of Stalaggh (long rumored to be a cabal of the Dutch/Belgian BM scene's finest) are sworn to absolute secrecy. This complete masking allows the various "members" to engage in acts so unwholesome, foul, and outright wrong no music has ever been made like it before. Such horrors are best manifested in the band's legitimate take on misanthropy---describing their sound as the only true representation of the depravity, hatred, and sickness of Earth, the band have stooped to unfathomable lows in crafting their music. Extreme music lore has it that Stalaggh manipulate the vocals of the mentally-ill and convicted murderers in an effort to add realism to their chaotic hatred and despair. Something so violently counter-culture in my first opinion could be naught but shocking hype; after hearing the finished work, there is no doubt in my mind concerning the truth in the band's various media outputs.
With all this in mind, what to do with Projekt Misanthropia now? Digesting the CD, can a reviewer like me laud it for its daring originality, or is it better to condemn for its unyielding isolationism? The answer, I think, is a little of both. Projekt Misanthropia is easily one of the most polarizing, strange, and raw albums I've heard. I'd even dare say it is years ahead of its time. The horrendous, frightening, and even sad howls of people utterly consumed by illness of the mind and soul is beyond anything I've ever heard in terms of blatant extremity, yet in some perverted way it makes sense. Stalaggh have taken these surprisingly varied moans, wails, and shrieks of anguished hatred and turned them into a sort of cacophony symphony, replete with passages of thundering percussion, abrasive noise, and hypnotic guitar chords. The most frightening aspect of this work is not the fact that honest human suffering was used to craft it, but rather that it can be so memorable, even catchy, in places. Finding ones self humming a slithering chord briefly interspersed amongst the cries of the damned is exceedingly unnerving, and raises issues of personal ethics. So manic and chaotic is the sound, the mere thirty-five minutes will warp into and around itself, feeling infinitely longer. I have never used the phrase deprivation of the senses in a review before, but this is a sound place to start. Even by listening to something like this, I wonder if enough is enough.
After mulling it over, I think he answer is a resounding no. The spirit of music in my opinion has (and will always be) the complete destruction of convention and tradition in some form or the other. Such rebellion and danger is essential to solid songcraft in this or any era, and Stalaggh are merely the product of an age where that much more annihilation of current thought is required. I'm also inclined to see a twist of irony here in the band's mantra. By giving the mentally-ill, the deranged murderer, or the self-mutilating misanthrope a chance to voice their very real, very personal hatred/sadness, Stalaggh are finding a sort of twisted beauty in the very humanity they seemingly seek to destroy. Yes, such pain in another human is both terrible and godless, yet we as listeners can find something higher in it too. I have a feeling I'm simply interpreting the disc in a much more positive light than was intended by its authors, but I'm going to conclude with a single thought. A disc like Projekt Misanthropia is essential insofar as it makes us realize how low we as human beings can sink. The work is not always pretty, and surely never fun, but one might learn something along the way. Projekt Misanthropia is truly out of this world, and must be experienced firsthand. I guarantee you won't enjoy most of it, but the suffering of others won't have been for naught and there is a strange comfort in that if nothing else. Much like the events of say the Holocaust, the sounds on offer here give us realistic and honest human suffering so that we can step back and respect it, understand it, maybe even cure it. After this, maybe we at last have a start.
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