Compulsion | PO Box 19577 | Kilbarchan |Johnstone | PA10 2WX | Scotland | UK

Theme - Sacral Blood Warning

With its ravaging and reverberating electronic pulse 'Cut Wide Open' is a powerful statement of intent from this current iteration of Theme as they explore an uncompromising sound combining elements of punk, post-punk and post-industrial, as they have done on previous albums. Theme, who evolved from the guitar noise outfit Splintered, have been around a long time. Earlier albums flirted with electronica, atmospheric soundtracks and eastern drones while the last few albums have focussed on abstract improvisation melding their genre crossing sound enveloping a number of disparate styles from acoustic folk to nocturnal soundscapes, with a number of guest vocalists. Now stripped back to the core duo of Richard Johnson and Stuart Carter, this time on Sacral Blood Warning they set much of the above aside as well as the collaborative ventures for an unrelenting, heavy and savage sound that explores noise and electronics with punk spirited vocals that are forceful and wordy as they explore, uh, themes of divisive discourse, free speech and trigger warnings in this age of social media. That at least accounts for the first half of Sacral Blood Warning, a heavily limited release intended to stoke label interest for a future full release.

Sacral Blood Warning is an impressive release that journeys from the more noise based tracks of the first half through darkened drone via improvised and noise rhythms to the final expansive piece that co-opts Coil-like electronics with their ongoing penchant for psychedelics. Sacral Blood Warning, like their previous album No Emotions Catered For, revolves around wordy monologues. The vocals remain the pivotal focus of Sacral Blood Warning but drenched in noise and processing the meanings are often lost in the fug of electronics and noise layers. "Are you listening?", the punk vocal asks on 'Pit Of Impunity' shrouded in shivery effects as bursts of frequencies shimmer and electro sequences stutter and shudder. 'Reconstriction', meanwhile, unfurls from unwieldy layers of textured frequencies and juddering rhythms. In customary post-punk fashion for Sacral Blood Warning, the vocals cascade. "Wide awake, so it's claimed", as electronic beats pulse and ricochet and sequences batter before the whole thing is sucked-up into a vortex of sound. Most others have posited power electronics as the catalyst for this but for me up to this point at least Theme are working in territory that furthers the punk poetic spoken word of Map 71 - who had their Gloriosa tape album released on Richard Johnson's Fourth Dimension label - and the electro-punk sequences of Suicide. 'Exit Stance, Part 3' is rhythmic noise, as it lurches from abrasive mangling and processing into explosive frequency noise cut with rhythmic disarray with vocals distant and effected and almost reduced to another layer in this dense noise assault. As mentioned before, Sacral Blood Warning is unrelenting, heavy and savage. And it is but only up to this point as from 'Dark Sunshine' onwards Theme divert the sound into other areas. That's hardly surprising as their preceding album, No Emotions Catered For ranged from percussive improvised songs, atmospheric noisescapes to lilting acoustic folk, all filled with vocals, spoken, chanted, processed and cut-up. Only the textured noisescape of 'Logic Is (Not) The Answer' from No Emotions Catered For would fit seamlessly on Sacral Blood Warning. Sacral Blood Warning, for the most part, is much more intentionally abrasive.

The undulating noise drone of of the aforementioned 'Dark Sunshine' is cast against crashing and crushing powerhouse rhythms. Amidst the uncompromising brutality of Sacral Blood Warning it comes across as quite understated. As vocals surface in spoken tones from underneath the blackened din it is quietly effective and rates as one of my favourites on Sacral Blood Warning. The seemingly improvised 'Faces Of Betrayal' on the other hand is less focussed and less effective. Here free-form piano discordance is left to run amok as a distant effected voice ruminates over the chaotic melange of disembodied chords, tinkering notes and haunted sidereal electronics. There's a return to electronic based sequences on 'Exercise In Desolation' with vocals moving from whispered tones to slight processing over hollow echoing pummels, with the whole thing heightened by bursts of grainy noise textures. Theme have a lot to say but the vocals are often distant, processed and cut-up resulting in their meanings being lost within the layers of sound - the accompanying oversized booklet features a collage of text but I'm not even convinced that these are the lyrics.

The best from Theme on Sacral Blood Warning, however, is confined to the final elongated title track. It's a journey of sidereal psychedelic electronics as a backdrop to the half-sung, half-spoken vocals. Evolving from Coil-like warped electronics and processed tones over incessant pensive thuds it delves further and deeper setting of in an expansive sojourn of 23 minutes through atmo drone and psych electronics. It's the ideal clincher to an album that is as unexpected as it is is uncompromising.

On Sacral Blood Warning it seem less is more for Theme. Direct, uncompromising and often abrasive it also seems more coherent than the expansive wayward sound excursions of No Emotions Catered For whilst continuing the forceful, wordy monologues and layers of vocals that typify this and their previous album. Sacral Blood Warning is co-released by Idioblast and Fourth Dimension. Interested labels are encouraged to contact Theme direct at richo_j(at)