A Journal Of The Dark Arts

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden (Sacred Bones)

Pharmakon - Bestial Burden album coverbody horror

I started having ulcers when i was 11, thanks to an overcritical band instructor, cementing in place a lifelong hatred and mistrust of the flesh. There is a particularly unsettling feeling, when yr vessel turns on you – you feel betrayed; lost. It’s a painful reminder that we’re all wounded animals, rotting our way to the grave, and so many of our oh-so-important human thoughts and institutions are a shallow attempt to gloss over that abyssmal truth.

The initial inspiration behind Bestial Burden almost killed Margaret Chadiet. Poised to depart for her first European tour, doctors discovered a large cyst pressing down on one of her organs, which had to be removed. Chadiet’s nervous system couldn’t comprehend that her flesh was seriously compromised, as she lay in hospital, listening to her dying neighbor calling out for his daughter, who never came. Bestial Burden is the soundtrack to Chardiet’s recuperation, her soundtrack for this nightmarish and surreal experience, which wonderfully illustrates the dichotomy between mind and body, flesh and spirit.



Chardiet takes you on a journey through the body, with heavy, kicking industrial percussion playing the part of a pulse, while wheezing electronics replicate the respiratory system, and the rushing of blood. It all begins with “Vacuum”, 1:15 seconds of multitracked hyperventilation and pulsing drones ramping up the intensity. It’s the best album opener since “Only Shallow” on Loveless, perfectly setting the mood and simply and understatedly introducing the album’s philosophy.

It jumps right into the double-header of “Intent Or Instinct” and “Body Betrays Itself”, which seamlessly flow together, and is one of the album’s highlights (it’s only a half hour long, so pretty much the whole thing is a highlight). The music occupies the crossroads between power electronics, industrial music, and black metal, with Chadiet’s tortured banshee wail. It’s an attractive and powerful combination, that i wish would be explored more often, as it seems to have great potential. Chadiet’s arrangements are sparse and effective, giving each element its space to breathe, with an absolutely infernal mixing job from Cult Of Youth‘s Sean Rogan.

What makes Bestial Burden so successful and engaging is the physical, tactile nature of the sounds; the breaths, the coughing, the pulsing percussion. While noise music’s tendency towards unconventional sounds and structures is one of its joys and greatest potential, it frequently runs the risk of being unrelatable, unrecognizable – too alien and overwhelming. Of course, that’s a sensation too, but it often flattens noise’s emotional range into the 2D Merzbow/Massona-worshipping wall of sound, and ceases to make an impact. Listening to Bestial Burden, i was reminded of the animals snarls of Ben Frost’s By the Throat – another example of a noise artist at the top of their game, which is 10x more powerful and terrifying due to the close-miced samples of snarling wolves that peppered that record. Noise (and abstract music of all kinds) has so many possibilities, when it is rooted in the tangible.

I was also strongly reminded of the fleshiness of the Swans’, as well as their ambient side project, Body Lovers / Body Haters, so fans of that band should definitely make sure to pick this one up. I was also reminded of the solo noise of Prurient, as well as some of the grimy electronics that have been coming out recently on Gnod‘s Tesla Tapes, so fans of both make sure to check this one out, as well.

Bestial Burden is being lumped in with this month’s (every month really) focus on Horror and the dark arts. Horror is such an amorphous, difficult thing to define, frequently boiling down to “you know it when you see it” and causing all manner of arguments among its acolytes. One definition i’ve run across is that the sensation of Horror is one of repulsion, that the sensation of coming across a “monster” is like being plunged into a pit full of slugs, or having the lower part of yr body coverd in maggots (something which Cardiet has also done). By this criteria, Bestial Burden definitely fits the bill, sonically illustrating what it feels like to be a stranger in yr skin, and maybe that flesh has it out for you. It’s the sound of our human minds reflecting on our animal instincts. We’re the only animals that have this kind of self reflection, have knowledge of our own mortality, which means, in a way, to be Human is to live in a kind of Hell.

One of the most impressive things about Bestial Burden is how much love it’s been getting from the press, which is pretty surprising for such a difficult, uncompromising work. It’s a major success for noise-influenced music, introducing people’s ears to such visceral sounds and such an uncompromising concept, greatly advancing the cause. One reviewer said this record sounds, “like hell”, while another recommends listening while squatting in a grimy part of yr apartment, wearing only a pair of soiled underwear, and sniffing inhalants, so, yeah, we were pretty much destined to love this one.

This is one of those reviews that i never want to end, even though it’s a stark and disturbing listening. Chardiet’s sounds just sound SO GOOD! Time to go hunt down a copy of Abandon!

Highest possible recommendation! Outstanding!

Pharmakon – Bestial Burden
Pharmakon FB
Sacred Bones FB


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