kFactor | Ghastly Monolith (review)

kFactor 'Ghastly Monolith' cover art

kFactor ‘Ghastly Monolith’ cover art

For those of you unfamiliar with Electro Aggression Records (EAR), the indie label has made a name for itself by focusing on two narrowly defined and traditional subgenres of dark electronic music, dark electro and old school EBM. For most EAR releases the bands in question fit neatly into one category or the other, but Brazilian kFactor defies both descriptors. In this case label owner Nader Moumneh has put kFactor into the old school EBM “bucket” of releases, choosing to release Ghastly Monolith in conjunction with releases from Serpents and Astma.

I’m sure there are convincing arguments that kFactor could be considered either dark electro or old school EBM, or perhaps a combination of the two, but I would argue that kFactor’s musical pedigree can be narrowed down to a much more specific time and place, that of 1980’s Belgium. Belgium at the time had many sounds, often overlapping with each other, but a number of acts evolved featuring a cold, minimalist sound, the most famous being The Klinik. Performing in black leather jackets, their bodies wrapped in medical gauze, The Klinik introduced a sense of danger and deviance to EBM with early hits including “Sick In Your Mind”, “Cold As Ice” and “Black Leather”. Another act of the time, Vomito Negro, had a complementary sound with songs including ‘Move Your Body’, ‘No Hope No Fear’ and ‘Baby Needs Crack’.

The members of The Klink and Vomito Negro went on to form a number of influential acts including Insekt, Blok 57, Dive, Sonar, Monolith and many others. As the sound began to diversify, and perhaps become less relevant over time, another protégé of the scene, Johan van Roy, reinvented the Belgian sound with his project Suicide Commando. The band’s first few albums followed conservatively in the vein of acts such as The Klinik, but Suicide Commando truly came in to their own with the release of Mindstrip in 2000 and Axis Of Evil in 2003. With these two albums Suicide Commando introduced trance leads and a harder-edged club sound, essentially repackaging the Belgian sound for a new generation. The band’s sound helped inspire various subgenres still dominating the scene today, variously known as harsh EBM, terror EBM, Aggrotech and Hellectro.

While it’s interesting to hear permeations of the Belgian EBM sound in today’s club music, the original cold and minimal aesthetic is mostly extinct. This is precisely where kFactor enters the picture, single-handedly resurrecting the creepy serial killer vibe of bands like The Klinik but in the same authentic bare-bones framework that fans of the genre fell in love with some 30 years ago. When listening to kFactor I hear Insekt, The Klinik and Vomito Negro and the strains of early Suicide Commando. In this case, less is so much more. KFactor is pure fear, a distillation of a nightmare world, the stalker lurking outside your bedroom window. The most basic of beats, simplistic synth lines, synthetic strings, horror movie samples, this is a continuation of the beloved Belgian tradition.

The 2-CD set Ghastly Monolith offers a fantastic value of original music, along with six carefully selected remixes from Jihad, Pyrroline, Soillodge, Serpents, Astma and tri-state. I highly recommend the release for any fans of the previously mentioned Belgian EBM bands or for fans of any of the Electronic Aggression Records roster of bands (which mostly comprise the list of remixers). EAR has once again proven itself to be one of the most exciting indie labels releasing music today, with each release providing something truly unique and worthwhile. I can’t wait to hear what EAR has in store next, and I’m equally excited to listen to kFactor’s newest rarities collection Lost and Found available from the band’s bandcamp page.

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