[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
This one took a while to see daylight, not that any of us minded the wait. Short, concise and vindictively drawn, this new record of Sophia’s picks right up from where they left off back in 2003 and holds back not an iota of spite. Yes, there are new members this time out but Peter Bjargo keeps everything a nice grey shade of disgust; the world is given little merit in this place where the clouds forever roll overhead while acrid rains pool at one’s feet.
The drums thunder, those horns strain into a detuned cacophony of malaise and the mechanical sounds brutally pound on humanity’s skulls. In fact, one of the pieces on here seems to have been based around the sound of rail cars moving over a specific section of track; 1,2…1,2…1,2…3,4. Those hoping for a return to the symphonic days of ‘Herbstwerk’ or ‘The Seduction of Madness’ would be advised to just go play their copies as ‘Unclean’ takes the previous aggression of the last two albums and builds upon them; the songs(?) are stripped down, lean examples of composition at it’s most primal. No soaring vocals have Sophia, it’s quite a feat to have remained this on point after so many years have passed.
Then again, I think we all knew when we first heard this album was being written that it was bound to be special. I wonder if Bjargo’s membership in Karjalan Sissit had anything to do with “The Drunk”, a leering and lurching stab of thudding violence which does it’s name proud. “Where Steel Meets Flesh” is another one of his works where all I can do is smile at the anger on display; this isn’t a juvenile sort of rage either. The cold contemplative thoughts of a man who looks around him and just knows he will not escape his fate, but then neither will anyone else. If you think for a moment Sophia have mellowed with age then you’re wrong, good god so wrong. ‘Unclean’, despite it’s brief run time is the stony face of indifference under which the veins of contempt run as they pump wave after wave of nihilism out of a scorched and blackened heart.
We have mechanized rhythms leading the way for much of the time and behind those, just a little out of focus, are the poisonous atmospheres Sophia have always been adept at using. If you look at the cover of this it should be pretty clear what everything’s about; we’re not listening to a series of meditations on what the nature of being unclean is here, we are descending moment by moment and note by note into deeper layers of dust, dirt and grime. Eventually the filth will drown out every last vestige of light, leaving the listener condemned to their own solitary cell of conscience.
The journey getting there will be sweet, however.