Infact | First Operation (review)


Infact 'First Operation' cover artwork

Infact ‘First Operation’ cover artwork

Infact, the one-man EBM project of Mario Melzer, first began releasing demos in 1996, followed by just three proper releases (arguably only two) that fans could access easily and at a somewhat fair price. The self-titled Infact was released in 1998 by Johan van Roy’s tape label, COde Products, in both CDr and cassette formats. Infact served as a collection of earlier demo tracks and unreleased recordings. As with any of the COde Products releases, the Infact collection wasn’t available for long before becoming hopelessly out of print and far too expensive. I was finally able to get the Infact cassette in 2012 for 26 Euro, not exactly a bargain for an old demo tape on cassette.

The first proper album of Infact can be considered Go Away!, released in 1998 on Rudy Ratzinger’s Mental Ulcer Forges label. This was followed in 2000 by Fatal Error, again on Mental Ulcer Forges. Most EBM fans, if they know Infact at all, are only familiar with these 2 releases, not with any of the demos or with the COde Products collection. Following Fatal Error Infact, like many other EBM/dark electro acts of the time, simply disappeared, whether to concentrate on work or family or some other unknown reason. Infact hasn’t released hardly anything since then, except for a few stray tracks on compilations.

Just recently, without notice, there was an unusual amount of activity on the unofficial Infact Facebook page, only to be followed by the Bandcamp digital re-release of First Operation, the very first Infact demo, on April 29, 2015. As a long-term fan I never knew that First Operation existed in the first place, so I grabbed it immediately for the asking price of 10 Euro. With many early EBM releases pricing at 100 Euro or more on the secondary market I found this to be an excellent deal and I was very curious to hear how the release would hold up.

If you’re familiar with either Go Away! or Fatal Error you know what to expect here. Infact was heavily influenced by the older sound of Suicide Commando (Critical Stage and Stored Images) with tortured vocals, synthetic strings and an underlying sense of dread. At the same time, Infact introduces more aggression, punishing rhythms and a lot of noise elements, not unlike early Dive. As part of the Rudy Ratzinger (:wumpscut:) circle, I think it’s fair to assume that Infact was also heavily influenced by the burgeoning Bavarian noise scene of the time, which included acts such as Noisex, P.A.L., and the many acts on Stefan Alt’s Ant-Zen label.

What the listener is presented with is some very harsh EBM that’s quite nearly on the edge of becoming pure noise at times, but which never quite loses control. It’s a balancing act, both for the artist and the listener. The noise elements at times seem on the verge of taking over, but then are brought back under control by the constraints of an EBM framework. What I love about Infact and early Suicide Commando, is the sense of tension the music creates. This is not music for the dance-floor, but rather a soundtrack of despair, hate and fear. I was recently watching The Walking Dead and thinking that this would be a perfect accompaniment.

Difficult to put into words, but if you don’t know Infact already the First Operation demo is as good a place to start as any. The release does not have the polished sound of later releases, but that’s also part of its charm. The source for this release is not stated, but it’s safe to assume it’s either a master tape or possibly even one of the original released cassettes. Tape hiss has largely been removed, but you will hear tape stretching at times and at least one complete drop out. It doesn’t sound perfect by any means, but it’s a product of the limitations and technology of the time of a new band just starting out. The technological limitations are likely part of what made EBM so interesting to listen to; there was a lot of diversity and creativity by necessity, and there was no right or wrong way to create music.

For long-term Infact fans you are able to hear the roots of this unique act and if you listen closely you will likely hear bits and pieces of music that were cannibalized later for Go Away! and Fatal Error. First Operation is highly recommended for fans of Infact, older Suicide Commando, :wumpscut:, yelworC, amGod and similar dark acts active prior to 2000. If are more familiar with newer (post-2000) trance-based Aggrotech acts such as Combichrist, newer Suicide Commando (Mindstrip and later), Psyclon Nine and others, do yourself a favour and listen to Infact, a smaller act in the scheme of things but influential in their own right. My favorite tracks include “Last Day”, “Dead net” and “Error”.

For more reviews of harsh EBM, Aggrotech, or related genres, please see:

(This review was originally published for the webzine Reflections of Darkness. You may find the original review at this location.)

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