Coming as the second EP by mysterious Canberra four-piece Ploughshare, Tellurian Insurgency is a filthy, subterranean beast that would probably smell like mildew, rain and rotting meat if its music could transcend the dimension of sound.
Worlds away from more conventional sonic extremities, these four uncomfortable, shadow-dwelling tracks create their own hellscape, one that recalls the sound of death metal bands like Faceless Burial, Pissgrave, and Portal. Opposed to their debut EP from 2017, Literature Of Piss, Ploughshare reveal better production values here, but the final tracks aren’t as sonically defined or as loud as the eight on 2018’s debut album, In Offal, Salvation, from which the title track was remixed and re-released here.
Stylistically, Ploughshare pay homage to the obscure cultural heritage of extreme metal, with a range of esoteric references written into their lyrics, titles and the band’s name itself, with a limited edition of tapes being made for this EP. Cover art requirements are fulfilled with a weirdly stacked, indecipherable logo, and a seemingly medieval rendition of the ‘indistinguishable beast of flight’, a purely evil entity which is referenced four times. This demonic beast is portrayed capturing a helpless, naked man and absorbing him into its body, while flying away. One could imagine this to be an excerpt from one of the many nightmarish paintings by Bosch, but it was originally created for this release by two mysterious figures dubbed JR and RT. The identities of the four band members are equally mysterious, with no names or finely focused pictures to be found on the surface of the internet…
A surprising amount of experimentation is to be found on this EP, with the incorporation of harsh digital noise and unearthly vocal effects as two of the most popular kinds. Tense and randomly sustained dins serve to bookend various pieces, and are a unique creative choice for the group. This technique comprises the whole of the introductory Abreactive Trance, (the first of two tracks to feature additional vocals from VS, a member of the atmospheric black metal band, Spire). The wildly altered vocals at the end of In Offal, Salvation are a testament to this ethos of noise, presented in the most experimental track on the EP. With the projection of mostly indecipherable lyrics, vocals essentially become a fifth tonal instrument for an enhanced vibe and edge. This is further emphasised through a mixing choice of blending the vocals in at a similar volume as the guitars. Drums and cymbals are some of the loudest things to be heard, offering up a large amount of mid-tempo blast beats with a handful of doom-laden breakdowns. Funnily enough, the individual instruments seem to have been recorded at hi-fidelity, though the overall mix is deliberately muddy, with the application of a final, gentle touch of mastering resulting in a compact release.
The aural profile of Tellurian Insurgency portrays a soft shape when heard on speakers, filling space but not shaking the floor with overly-obvious compression techniques. However, the low depths of its dissonance and down-tuning are properly understood through headphones. Free-flowing layers of studio ambience aid the grime of the band by further eradicating any nearby positive energies, and feedback is used as a segue between the first and second tracks. Pausing only for interludes, fills and tempo changes, Ploughshare’s swirling mass of sound finds a balance with digital and acoustic instruments nestling in between synthesised alterations of guitars and vocals. Brought in after a minimalistic section of rumbling bass, the surprising guitar looping on In Offal, Salvation is a prime example of this. On the EP’s second track, Indistinguishable Beast Of Flight, the background sampling of a squealing pig or rat further proves the extent of experimentalism here. Before this, a snarling, venomous delivery of desperate proclamations provide a welcome distraction from the bludgeoning blasts. Returning to loudness, some tiny, childlike cries are faintly heard, mixing seamlessly with some quirky high-pitched vocals before an abrupt ending. Closing this unfriendly EP with Xeno-Chemical Insider, a final sombre passage of effected strings calms the listener, forcing them to briefly meditate on the brutality of the previous four tracks. Through fighting against the philosophy of riffs, hooks, and choruses, this EP doesn’t deliver any memorable parts, albeit the cries of “the indistinguishable beast of flight”. Listeners are instead drawn back to absorb the vibe, and the creativity of the band.
Abstract, unpredictable forms are a notable characteristic of Tellurian Insurgency, a strange body of work that walks a fine line between musical insanity and focused purpose.
1. Abreactive Trance
2. Indistinguishable Beast of Flight
3. In Offal, Salvation
4. Xeno-Chemical Insider