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THEOLOGIAN - Pain of the Saints

Format: do-CD
Label & Cat.Number: Malignant Records TUMORCD76
Release Year: 2015
Note: the first THEOLOGIAN release (the following project of LEE BARTOW after the demise of NAVICON TORTURE TECHNOLOGIES) on Malignant Records, an "Anti-Theist manifesto" against Christianity & Catholicism => powerful industrial synth / guitar drones, pulses, loops & samples that mirror the torture the christian church & religion caused to many people, emotional blasts and anthems for all those agonized souls... epic release with about 158 min. playtime
Price (incl. 19% VAT): €15.00

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"5 years have passed since Navicon Torture Technologies' 2009 masterpiece finale, The Gospels of the Gash, and the last time Lee Bartow recording something specifically for release on Malignant, so it is with great honor and pride that he is welcomed back into the fold. During this span, primary releases on Crucial Blast and Handmade Birds have established and solidified his "new" project, Theologian, as a consistent and fruitful source for epically scaled and sprawling industrial soundscapes, and the 2CD set Pain of the Saints continues that trend, laying forth a dizzying 2 ½ + hours of music. Once again, Bartow has sculpted an impeccable and highly detailed excursion into tortured yet brilliant realms, where contrails of burning frequencies and blackened atmospheres intersect with densely concentrated rhythmic pulsations, ethereal, blissed-out shimmer, and the majestic monoliths of smoldering, post-apocalyptic desolation. There's a lot to absorb here, but the focus is precise even as the palate of sounds is broad and varied, a true testament to the deft skills of someone who's spent the last 15 plus years creating some of the most inventive and revolutionary sounds in modern industrial music.

Largely produced in collaboration with Fade Kainer (STATIQBLOOM, BATILLUS), and featuring the core trio of Lee M. Bartow, Matt Slagle, and Kainer, Pain of the Saints also includes contributions from David Castillo (PRIMITIVE WEAPONS/WHITE WIDOWS PACT), Joan Hacker (FACTORIA/HEROINE), Christiana Key (DELPHIC ORACLE), Matthew Melnick (DARKSIDE NYC/ex-DISASSOCIATE), Eric Morgan (A PALE HORSE NAMED DEATH), Jessica Way (WORM OUROBOROS/BARREN HARVEST), and more.

Lyrically and thematically it represents Bartow's rallying cry against Christianity and more specifically Catholicism — an "Anti-Theist manifesto" — and sonic diatribe exposing hypocrisy within the church and a broader questioning of what sainthood means. In his own words, "...in many cases, it seems almost like a prerequisite for Sainthood is to suffer at the hands of the Church. It was common to imprison, torture, execute anyone with ideas that ran contrary to what the Church dictated, to brand them as a heretic or a witch, or an apostate, and then end their lives using some of the most brutal methods humans have ever conceived. Then, the ultimate hypocrisy: to turn around and dub these victims of the Church as saints, centuries after having murdered them."

In luxurious 8 panel DVD Digipak with stunning artwork, mastered by John Stillings." [label info]


"Theologian is an iconic post-industrial and transcendental noise project founded by Lee M. Bartow. Notable materials have been signed on crucial blast, annihilvs. On a conceptual level the whole Theologian music universe is surrounded by a dynamic system of symbolical references, from hermetic beliefs, neo-occultism, black magic to cyber-like cult conditioning, psych confinement, post-modernism delirium.

In this new album published on Malignant, Theologian carries on the construction of complex, harsh, assaultive and mystical sonic soundscapes. The compositional line is structured on a vast corpus of abrasive sound textures where heavily treated and distorted noises meet cinematic sound samples, occasional percussive ritual motifs and ecstatic droning e-guitar chords. The project explores once more the disturbing qualities of psycho-neurotic sounding effects and darkly isolationist-shamanic electronic excursions in a real independent and stylistically autonomous way.

As in the legendary drone noise ambient projects such as Troum or Maeror Tri, a few pieces delivered in this album demonstrate a certain interest for fractured, disemboweled melodious phrases which bring to the ensemble a hauntingly mournful inclination. Cryptical sonic experimentalism, turbulent power electronics and noisy in-trance electronic inferno that will spark the interest of listeners of Death Industrialism such as Atrax Morgue, Mauthausen Orchestra and Maurizio Bianchi to the expressively blackened dreamscaping ritualism of Maeror Tri, Voice of Eye and Deutsch Nepal. Seriously recommended."
[Philippe Blache, IGLOO MAGAZINE]

"The works of this American artist have always followed a self-imposed regime of writing artistry, contextualized in respect to his actual psychological reactions to the world. If he has chosen noise as the material on which to labor his faith it is a matter of relative incidence, because I believe Lee Bartow is in fact a prodigious poet.

“Pain Of The Saints” came out on Malignant Records at the beginning of 2015. Lee Bartow is helped here by Matt Slagle and Kainer, plus many other collaborators. This release is comprised of two discs, with pieces counting around 10 minutes each. The length of his tracks is in direct correspondence to the way he conceives a song, in the same way one would write a poem. When Baudelaire or Aloysius Bertrand renounced versification, enacting the so-called prose poetry, they were searching for a more significant manner to express feelings in deep relation to images. On Theologian’s record such a strong stream of consciousness is being deployed with the help of industrial noise textures that are arranged like a continuous flux waving towards the endpoint. As said, image is impulsive and depicts psychological states like on the first song “Savages”, but it can also be a concrete a-metaphoric industrial rhythm, which can be heard on “Infection”.

Another feature that approaches this music to literature is the careful and conspicuous naming of the pieces. It is the title first which introduces one into the text or into the melody in this case; titles open and close a text, and resume the subject. “Serpentine Angels” evokes the serpentine movements of the flying creatures described in the Old Testament as punishers in the name of Yahve. It is the story of Moses that magically sets a bronze serpent on a pole, “and if a serpent bit a man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live”. This bronze serpent announces the Messiah by the image of the Luciferian reptile.

And if we came to Jesus, Lee Bartow shows off a passion for (anti-)religious fetishism reasonable to understand if we situate his work in a network of correspondences. Artists in this bleak musical genre often use religious imagery to provoke and invite to reflection, but in some cases, the spiritual metaphor reflects – even aggressively – some complicated inner experiences or deviations. “Piss And Jism” encloses the name and figure of Jesus in an anomalous sexual rite, reproduced by filthy and corrosive sharp noises concentrated in a homogeneous, neurotic melody.

The diverse artifices that embellish the tracks help maintain the attention, which can be rather difficult due to the aforementioned length and solicitude of the melody. Bartow moves in different registers with naturalness and sagacity, and the song “Gravity” displays a completely different spectrum of sounds, with a superbly illustrative driving force, which seems to actually alter my center of gravity, like when you dream of flying above the earth. Likewise, in “Without Trust, Your Love Is Meaningless”, the constant rave beat is cut through by a beam of sharp, high-pitched sound and so favors a certain alarming disposition, as if being on drugs.

The word play, derision and intended irony is all made for a liberating purpose, as a cure for false morality. This title “Of Foulness And Faithfulness” recalls a Swiftian satiric tale that resounds formidably heavy, hammering all the way to the core of the brain in an old Swedish industrial vibe (Negru Voda is surely a reference). It is both primitive and hieratic, like the combination of mediocre intelligence and blind devotion. Actually, it is really natural for the American noise musician to work with rather antagonistic material, under dichotomic psychological states, calculated or spontaneous, manipulating grim, abrasive textures or tender, almost evanescent ambiances. The final three songs from disc one detach themselves as droning, spectral musical movements, inviting self-forgetfulness and a certain objective melancholia.

Disc one ends with “Sainthood Is Suffering”, which somehow resumes a tendency of the artist towards a personal interpretation of a futuristic sacral music. Generously remembering Vatican Shadow, the ritual cadence of the modern rhythms is juxtaposed on grey-toned broiling textures. As you fall into the pit of the song, you realize horrified that this is the declamation of a saint without a god. One who has martyred himself by necessity and passion for self-mortification, as an evasive method to elude an existence to which he has found no foundation or explanation.

Disc two seems to concentrate more on the semantic field of sainthood, although the intention is reversed on the apparent falsehood and hoax of the religious martyr.“The Lies Of The Past Become The Prayers Of The Future” de-sacralizes the worship of relics, seeing them as objects used by priests for their own purposes.

The melodic noise textures constructed by Theologian have an intrinsic sense of desperation and deferent lucidity, so that the more openly one is infused with them, the more they are likely to partake in a genuine simulacrum of pain or pure death. “Suppuration” gasps with that floral stench martyrs are said to have, in such a way that a strange and occasional immanence of sainthood envelops the space around. It is an ambiguous, but tender self-lacerating illusion of letting out you the evil that man made. All the more ambivalent as Bartow’s intertextual intention is to demystify the actual object in case: the saint; as well as other clerical vices or actions, like on “Witchfinder”, using diaphanous, luminous excursions of sound.

There are remarkably disgusting portrayals of monks or nuns in books like “In The Name Of The Rose” or Diderot’s “The Nun”; here too the image seeks to express the diachronic, depraved and slimy, hypocritical man of god: on “Their Gelded And Rapacious Hearts”, Bartow diagnoses the entrails and ego and takes into sound a vicious aggregate of the vilest bile.

The Saints of the desert, in the first centuries after Christ, have established the basis of monasticism. The forms of deprivation which they experienced are likely to seem extreme or simply sick to modern spirit; patriarchal literature has enough stories. These artists of pain possessed perhaps the strange vanity to suffer more than their role model, Christ. “Depravation And Blessed Prey” relates to the martyric stasis, resonating as hallow, transcendental melodies, moments of abandonment and oblivion.

Like any of us, alluding pain to fainted endeavors of surpassing self-deficiencies, mocking is always the easier route to take with regard to such subjects; yet at at the same time this proves the existence of the struggle we can not abandon. On “With Eternal Derision Or Redemption”, Bartow tells the story of the modern artist and musically congregates nihilism and sarcasm alike, on the post-romantic melodic infamies we all like. Perhaps taming the senses is the only cure and form of asceticism proper to this century, resumed by indifference to the leviathan world we live in. “It Was You Who Taught Me Indifference” develops this subject, as it features agoraphobic engagements with harsh, cutting steel-like sounds, which can be finely combined with an alternative pharmakon, induced pain, presented on “Self-Flagellation As Faith”.

Theologian no longer borders on power-romance music, that displayed a fascinating, but too personal quantification of the spirit. Bartow has universalized pain from the artistic point of view. Apparently, this huge album is a work of criticism (of Catholic sainthood); however, great records or works of art begin from an idea and come to a different, sometimes antagonistic result. Despite perhaps the artist’s first intentions, the saint appears as a raw model for anyone who seeks to understand his/her subjectivity, because in the end pain may be the only exception that allows us to take a step beyond our limited self." [Iaha Crax / SantaSangre]

"The profane and blasphemous agenda of Lee M. Barlow (the principle agent behind Theologian, working with a few willing supplicants) looks backwards at the dual histories of metal and industrial culture. Yup, it is commonplace to find vehement opposition to Christian doctrine in the reversal the symbols as sigils of a black magic. Yet, this opposition is rarely a full-frontal denial of God as the blank void of atheism has no place for the transcendent and the spiritual, both of which manifest proudly in this rich and diverse iconoclasm. Aesthetically speaking, we suppose this could be trace even further back to Carl Orff, whose work has become the de facto audio signifier for all things Satanic; and probably further before Nietzsche, Lautremonte, and Baudelaire to the charisma of heretics, ignoble witches, and self-designated messiahs. So in a polemic for the will to power and the deification of the self, it's not all that much about what's said, but how it's said. And the aesthetics of Theologian speak mightily through blunt force, wielded as a relentless production of blackened synths and grim industrial drone. Pain Of The Saints conjures a sonic turbulence that is almost wholly drumless, which stands as a departure from much of the other Theologian albums which rely on heavy Teutonic beats to propel the vitriol and wailing. It's nonetheless an exhausting and exasperating journey, blasting through one miasma after another of aggressive amalgams of guitars, synths, and voice, two whole discs worth!" [Aquarius Rec.]