Solvent Cage’s 2011 album The Day of the Locusts begins with a rumble. Not so much the rumble that happens underneath you when the earth is about to crack apart, but more the sort that happens within you when you begin to face your own dislocation from the world and from the things that people imagine hold it together – the beliefs, the hopes, the bonds. Here all of that is shaken and shattered by almost an hour of dark, harsh noise, taking you on a nihilistic journey that begins in those first moments of inner turmoil and finishes in a titanic battle between the inner self and the outer world and in which, you feel, both will be locked forever.
In The Day of Locusts, Peter James’s solo noise project, Solvent Cage, takes you on the journey in spite of yourself. You are drawn into its vortex long before you are even aware that you have moved at all. What at first seems like a black, unshifting, void, dense with its own nothingness, is in fact always moving somewhere: the sounds dragging you along, drowning you and deafening you, like a tsunami might do, with all its garbage and debris. It’s aggressive, angry, always restless and yet the thickness of the sound can disorient from the movement that is happening within it. At first you feel perhaps a little unsettled, maybe even overwhelmed – but, before long, you realise how frightened you have become. And by then it’s too late to get out.
By time you have arrived at the album’s title track, its fourth, those sounds have grown into something much bigger than what the stifled, subliminal thunder of the beginning would have led you to expect. Now it seems like the whole of humanity, the voices of everyone that has lived, lives and will live, are clamouring around you. Or within you, if truth be told. You can’t help but notice the biblical associations of its title here – but here the apocalypse rages within, and the fire is the fire of internal combustion.
By the following track, ‘Swallowed by the Sun’, this sense that Armageddon lies within, rather than without, becomes even more acute, as you begin to notice that the music has become populated not so much with more and more sounds from outside, but with its own overtones. These ring and echo and pulsate throughout the music, everything bouncing off, and then absorbing, everything else. The sun that is swallowing it is its own destructive energy.
‘Insurrection’ is the album’s longest track and, not surprisingly, its most violent. Here the noise is at its harshest, its most dense – impenetrable and frighteningly defiant.
The album doesn’t really end. Its final track, ‘At War with God’, is an aggressive interplay between the right and left channels, each upping the ante on the other with snippets of noise, growing in brutality, but neither ever getting the upper hand on the other, until both are faded out, without really finishing.
The Day of the Locusts is grim, terrifying music. But it’s also powerful – strong and assertive and because of that, even with all its nihilism, finds its own way to be affirming. The music leaves you feeling that the war it describes is going to rage for a long, long time. But then it is, after all, a war of minds – because minds are the only place, in this music, where gods or apocalypses or locusts ever really existed.